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HUAWEI P30 and P30 Pro hands-on: Zooming into the future

We go hands-on with the HUAWEI P30 Pro!

Published onMarch 26, 2019

After the headline-grabbing reveal of the foldable Mate X and the all-round stellar reception for last year’s Mate 20 series, HUAWEI is looking to strike gold once again with its latest P-series phones — the HUAWEI P30 and HUAWEI P30 Pro.

Having sold an impressive 16 million P20 phones in 2018, the P30 duo has big shoes to fill. With more cameras, features, and an eye-catching design, the P30 series looks well primed to rival Samsung’s Galaxy S10 lineup.

Cameras galore

HUAWEI P30 Pro rear cameras (7 of 60)

HUAWEI has long used its P-series to debut new camera tech and the P30 — or more accurately the P30 Pro — continues that tradition with the company’s first quad-lens setup, once again co-engineered with Leica.

Starting in the middle of the vertical module we have a 27mm 40-megapixel sensor with OIS and an f/1.6 aperture. HUAWEI calls this a “SuperSpectrum” sensor, which is a marketing-friendly way of saying the sensor is now based on an RYB (red, yellow, blue) model, rather than RGB (red, green, blue). HUAWEI says the shift from green to yellow helps the sensor absorb more light for improved results in any conditions, but particularly in lower light situations.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro has a ludicrously versatile camera.

You can read our explainer here for more detail on how the RYB sensor works, but the key thing to know is that the yellow absorbs additional red light as well as green light. HUAWEI says it had to go back to the drawing board with its digital image signaling processor within the Kirin 980 to make this all work, as it uses an algorithm to split the different colors up.

HUAWEI has also upped the maximum ISO from 102,400 on the P20 Pro to a whopping 409,600 ISO on the HUAWEI P30 Pro. All of this, combined with a much wider aperture, means the camera is capable of gathering far more light information and, in theory, improving image quality. Combining OIS with HUAWEI’s AIS technology also means Night Mode is better than ever due to reduced hand-shake issues.

Read more: Night mode could make 2019 budget phone cameras awesome

The P30 Pro’s top camera is arguably the least interesting of the bunch, though it’s notable for HUAWEI ditching its patented monochrome sensors. Instead, HUAWEI has opted for a 16mm 20-megapixel sensor with OIS and an f/2.2 aperture for capturing wide-angle shots.

HUAWEI P30 Pro camera module and TOF macro (25 of 60)

The bottom camera is a 125mm 8-megapixel periscope lens with OIS and an f/3.4 aperture. It may look square, but it’s actually a prism which diverts light at a 90-degree angle through magnification lenses housed horizontally within the phone. If that sounds familiar that’s because it’s similar in design to Oppo’s recent periscope cameras.

The result is a marked improvement over the P20 Pro’s zoom capabilities. The P30 Pro delivers up to 5x optical zoom (up from 3x on its predecessor) and, thanks to the periscope lens and HUAWEI’s AI, up to 10x hybrid zoom (double that of the P20 Pro). If you want to go even further, the P30 Pro also supports up to 50x digital zoom, or conversely supports super macro shots to as little as 2.5cm.

Rear 3D ToF cameras are here, but front-facing 3D cameras are just as important
HONOR View 20 in Blue on a wooden table, only half in shot.

The fourth and final lens is a tiny Time-of-Flight (TOF) sensor placed underneath the flash. The TOF sensor gathers depth information by bouncing infrared light from its flood illuminator off of objects and back to the camera and measuring the distance between them. HUAWEI says this enables more professional bokeh-style portrait shots with objects becoming blurrier the further they are away in each shot.

Using its AI and augmented reality tech, the Chinese giant claims the P30 Pro’s camera is capable of measuring length, distance, volume, and area with an accuracy of up to 98.5 percent. This will be put to use in an app called AR Measure which measures objects in real time, although the app will hit the Google Play Store sometime after launch.

In addition to the returning Master AI scene recognition we’ve seen from HUAWEI for a while now, AI also comes into play with a new feature called AI HDR+ which it hopes will tackle overexposure when there are variable light sources.

An example shown to Android Authority was a shot of a bright sunset. In normal circumstances this may underexpose other sections of the image, but AI HDR+ would pick out different elements, like green fields, and light them accordingly.

HUAWEI P30 Pro taking photo (29 of 60)

The P30 Pro’s camera extends beyond stills. Much of the technology packed into the camera suite enhances the phone’s video capabilities too, including the extra light from the SuperSpectrum sensor, the combo of OIS and AIS for improved stabilization, and even the new long-range video mode with up to 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and 16x digital zoom.

If you’re feeling experimental HUAWEI even plans to introduce a Dual Video mode in an OTA update that takes advantage of the camera’s versatility to record in two different modes at once (for example, both zoom and ultra-wide). Will it be useful or just a gimmick? We’ll have to wait and see.

Opinion: Smartphone stills are getting so much better, but what about video?

Unfortunately, the regular P30’s camera — consisting of a 40MP main sensor, a 16MP wide angle sensor, and an 8MP telephoto lens — isn’t quite as feature-packed as its Pro sibling. Only the latter has OIS and even then only supports up to 3x optical zoom.

On the front, the 32-megapixel selfie camera is identical on both the P30 and P30 Pro and it benefits from the AI HDR+ technology found on its front-facing counterpart.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro has a ludicrously versatile camera setup that builds on the already impressive Mate 20 Pro with further AI smarts and upgraded hardware. With Samsung dropping the ball slightly with less-than-spectacular results from the Galaxy S10’s camera, the P30 Pro could be in prime position to capture the hearts (and cash) of amateur smartphone photographers.

New, familiar design

HUAWEI P30 Pro vs HUAWEI P30 (35 of 60)

In addition to the camera, design has become an integral part of the P-series’ identity. The P20’s signature all-glass, gradient-centric aesthetic was borrowed by the Mate 20 and various HONOR phones like the HONOR View 20, and once again looks stunning on the P30 and P30 Pro.

HUAWEI says its designers were inspired by natural phenomena resulting in a number of new nature-inspired colorways. Amber Sunrise echoes its namesake with orange and red shades, while Breathing Crystal shifts between light blue and light green like the daylight sky.

Last year’s popular Twilight model returns in spirit as Aurora and once again mimics the Northern Lights. Pearl White is slightly more traditional but still shifts to off-white and purple in a certain light, or if you really prefer traditional colors there’s a fairly standard Black variant.

Huawei's signature all-glass, gradient-centric aesthetic looks stunning on the P30 and P30 Pro.

The most significant design changes for the P30 series come via the display. The P30 Pro now has curved edges on both the front and rear glass much like the Mate 20 Pro and more famously Samsung’s phones with Infinity Displays. This gives the phone a seamless side profile and increases comfort in the hand.

The vanilla P30 has to live with just the rear curves, but unlike last year it does feature an OLED panel with the same 2,340 x 1,080 resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio as the Pro variant. Both models also have a waterdrop-style notch (no punch holes here), although only the regular P30 has a front-facing top speaker.

HUAWEI P30 back glare (4 of 60)

The missing speaker on the P30 Pro is replaced by an “electromagnetic levitation” audio system that uses screen vibrations to create sound. HUAWEI claims this effectively cancels any feedback and limits sound leakage. This is only used for calls, though, with the single bottom speaker handling audio for media.

Speaking of audio, the P30 does enjoy one huge advantage over the P30 Pro with the surprise return of the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Feature frenzy

HUAWEI P30 Pro screen from lower angle (54 of 60)

All of the camera smarts and stunning design elements mean nothing if the rest of your phone’s hardware isn’t up to snuff, but the P30, for the most part, has all the top-end specs and features you’d expect from a HUAWEI flagship. You can read our specs breakdown for closer look at the core hardware.

Looking at the specs sheet and bevy of features as a complete package, it’s interesting to see just how many bases HUAWEI has covered for the inevitable comparisons with the Galaxy S10.

In line with recent trends, the fingerprint sensor has been relocated inside the display. It’s still an optical sensor and not ultrasonic like the S10 reader, but HUAWEI says its made improvements since the Mate 20 Pro that we’re excited to properly put to the test — especially so soon after the Nokia 9 PureView’s crippling in-display fingerprint issues.

Related: Best phones with in-display fingerprint scanners

The P30 Pro features reverse wireless charging powered by its 4,200mAh cell. HUAWEI expects the results to be similar to reverse charging on the Mate 20 Pro. It’ll be fascinating to see how the P30 Pro compares with Samsung’s Wireless Powershare technology in light of our Mate 20 Pro vs Galaxy S10 tests. The Pro also supports 40W fast charging and 15W wireless charging. The regular P30 drops to 25W fast charging, an 3,650mAh battery, and has no wireless charging at all.

HUAWEI P30 Pro reverse wireless charging (49 of 60)

Huawei’s love-it-or-hate-it Android skin moves from EMUI 9 to 9.1 and enjoys a few minor software tweaks. We’ll know more on the changes when we have a little more time with the phones. Confirmed new features include the ability to unlock and start your engine for selected Audi vehicles, treadmill data syncing (in partnership with LifeFitness and Precor), and OneHop support which lets you immediately sync files with compatible PCs with a quick tap.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 vs Exynos 9820 vs Kirin 980 (Video)
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.

Underneath the hood the P30 series is no slouch. HUAWEI has stuck with the tried-and-tested Kirin 980 SoC with its dual NPU. We’re already seeing a significant leap in performance from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, so it’s a shame we aren’t seeing new silicon from the Chinese giant, but hardly a surprise considering those upgrades are usually reserved for the Mate series.

The P30 comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, while the P30 Pro has 8GB RAM and up to 512GB of storage. The storage on both phones can be upgraded, but unfortunately HUAWEI has refused to give up on its proprietary Nano Memory cards which, unsurprisingly, are still far from industry standard.

HUAWEI P30 Pro logo (52 of 60)

The HUAWEI P30 and P30 Pro are an impressive duo with killer cameras and dazzling design. We’ll be putting the pair through the paces for a review very soon. For now, be sure to let us know your thoughts on the HUAWEI P30 and P30 Pro in the comments!

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