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Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: True innovation in a stunted ecosystem
Huawei P40 Pro Plus
What we like
What we don't like
Huawei’s P series devices have always been best in class. They’ve offered stellar performance and battery life, and, most notably, they’ve had some of the most innovative camera systems on the market. The Huawei P40 Pro Plus is no different.
Generally, the P series gets two models: a standard and a pro. While the standard model brings new features like a new Kirin SoC or new design, it’s the pro models that bring the wow factor. For example, last year’s Huawei P30 Pro introduced the first 5x optical telephoto camera with an innovative prism mechanism. Combined with fantastic performance, wonderful battery life, and wildly good low-light imaging, the P30 Pro was a huge hit.
But this year, Huawei took a page from Samsung’s playbook and opted to introduce standard, premium, and ultra premium models. The Huawei P40 Pro Plus has an almost identical design and feature set to the P40 Pro, but brought something we’ve never seen before in a phone: 10x optical zoom.
But for a full 400 euros more than the P40 Pro and no access to Google Play services, is this feature worth the cost of entry? This is Android Authority’s Huawei P40 Pro Plus review.
Design and display: Refined luxury
- 158.2 x 72.6 x 9mm
- IP68 water and dust resistance
- 6.58-in Full HD+ (2,640 x 1,200), 19.8:9 aspect ratio
- Punch hole AMOLED
- 90Hz refresh rate
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus has a nearly identical design to the Huawei P40 Pro, which is to say it’s gorgeous. The display is curved on the left, right, and bottom of the device, but the aluminum frame flows over the corners of the phone to protect it from drops. Huawei says it designed the display to mimic water at the breaking point of surface tension, and I think it looks beautiful.
Curving the display on the bottom of the phone was an interesting choice, but it actually makes a lot of sense for modern smartphones. Because gesture navigation has become the default navigation method in Android 10, a curved display makes it easier to swipe up from the bottom to go home and open the app switcher. I think it’s a great design.
This display was made for modern interface design.
The device is certainly a bit thicker than some other flagships, such as the OnePlus 8 Pro, but it feels weighty and premium, not unwieldy. The ceramic back also curves, so while there is decent grip with the flat, thicker rails, the phone still feels relatively thin.
The power button and volume rockers are mounted to the aluminum rails on the right of the phone. They jut out a bit more than the buttons on most smartphones, but I really liked the tactile feeling. They are nice and clicky. On the bottom you’ll find a USB-C port, SIM card tray, and speakers, and on the top you’ll find an IR blaster — something I’m glad Huawei has kept around — but no headphone jack.
The P40 Pro Plus’ display is a 90Hz OLED at an FHD+ resolution of 2,640 x 1,200, and it looks quite good. While it’s not quite up to the new 2020 standard of 120Hz, I didn’t mind the 90Hz refresh rate. There’s a punch-hole selfie camera in the top left corner of the display.
An optical in-display fingerprint reader is hidden under the display. It was fast and accurate during my time with the device. Considering the phone offers face unlock with an IR camera, though, the fingerprint reader may go unused.
Performance & battery: Plenty fast
- Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G chipset
- 8GB RAM
- 512GB storage
- NM card slot
- 4,200mAh battery
- 40W SuperCharge wired
- 40W SuperCharge wireless
- Reverse wireless charging
As you would expect from the company’s new top phone, the specs on the Huawei P40 Pro Plus are stacked. While it doesn’t have the most RAM, and its battery capacity doesn’t quite match devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, LG V60 or Asus ROG Phone 2, specs like the 512GB of storage, 40W wired and wireless charging and reverse wireless charging will raise some eyebrows.
Ultimately, a smartphone doesn’t need 12GB of RAM to run smoothly. 8GB was more than enough for the P40 Pro Plus, and Huawei is already quite aggressive with its RAM management. In our analysis we found that 6GB is around the amount of RAM you’ll want for an Android phone to run smoothly, with 8GB being the sweet spot. This hits that metric.
The 7nm Kirin 990 SoC performed very well, and it is currently Huawei’s flagship chip. It has similar performance to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. The P40 Pro Plus has the 5G version of the 990, which supports sub-6GHz bands.
In the benchmarks we run as part of our testing suite, the P40 Pro Plus scored decently, but fell behind phones powered by the Snapdragon 855 Plus and especially those running the Snapdragon 865. The P40 Pro Plus scored 488,792 points in AnTuTu, 3,691 in Geekbench 4 Single, and 11,894 in Geekbench 4 Multi. For comparison, the OnePlus 8 Pro scored 4,195 and 13,142 in Geekbench 4 single and multi.
Just because performance is slightly lower in benchmarks doesn’t mean day-to-day use is lacking. The combination of the Kirin 990 and 8GB of RAM led to very good performance. Most importantly, the specs drove the 90Hz display just fine, and everything felt smooth.
The 512GB of storage is also nice to have, and you can expand it even further with one of Huawei’s proprietary Nano Memory cards.
Huawei has been using 40W charging since the Mate 20 Pro, and it remains pretty incredible. Considering some smartphones are still on 25W and 30W out of the box, Huawei is ahead in this aspect. If you want to charge even faster, though, you’ll have to pick up a phone such as the Oppo Find X2 Pro, which can charge at a rate of 65W. That’s fast.
While the P40 Pro can charge wirelessly at a rate of 27W, the P40 Pro Plus takes it even further, adding an option for 40W wireless charging. To do this, you’ll need to purchase Huawei’s dedicated 40W wireless charger, but charging at that speed is pretty incredible. Only OnePlus and Xiaomi have been able to come close to this metric with 30W wireless charging.
And if you want to top off other devices, the P40 Pro offers reverse wireless charging.
As with most flagship Huawei phones, battery life on the P40 Pro Plus is stellar. The phone lasted me just under two days. I unplugged it around 9:30AM and it didn’t die until about 5PM the next day. It delivered about seven hours of screen-on time for me. While that isn’t quite as good as the LG V60, the rapid 40W charging makes it perfectly acceptable. If you’re able to last close to two days and charge up in no time, that’s pretty great.
Camera: Truly innovative
- Main: 50MP RYYB, f/1.9, 23mm
- Ultra-wide: 40MP, f/1.8, 18mm
- Tele: 8MP RYYB, f/2.4, 80mm
- Tele: 8MP, f/4.4, 240mm
- Time of flight (ToF)
- Selfie: 32MP, f/2.2, 26mm
- Ultra HD / 4K at 60fps (front and rear)
- 720p HD at 7,680fps
- 1080p Full HD at 960fps
The P series has always been Huawei’s photography-focused flagship, and that’s evident here. There are a total of seven cameras on the P40 Pro Plus, each with its own focus. While the majority of the sensors mirror the camera array of the P40 Pro, the P40 Pro Plus has something no other phone can tout right now: 10x optical zoom.
It’s true that other phones can achieve extreme zoom ranges, with devices such the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra achieving up to 100x digital zoom. But there’s a difference. While many devices such as the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 advertise things like 5x zoom cameras, many aren’t true optical zoom. The difference is that optical zoom has no loss in quality, while digital zoom will either dump resolution in exchange for a tighter field of view, or just artificially add detail to a digital crop.
Huawei is one of the few companies that has been consistent in its focal length claims, using innovative methods to achieve lossless long lenses. The P30 Pro was an achievement in its own right: It was one of the first phones to achieve true 5x optical zoom with a prism mechanism, which reflected the light 90 degrees to a tilted sensor for extra z-distance.
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus builds on this concept, but instead reflects the light five times to increase the optical focal length to a 240mm full frame equivalent. Because focal length is based on the distance from the optical center of the lens to the sensor, bouncing light creates a longer optical path, and thus a longer focal length. This is the first phone to sport true 10x optical zoom, and the mechanism is brilliant.
Images taken at 10x are quite good, though they are definitely a bit softer than images at 1x and 3x. Considering the 10x lens has a much smaller aperture of f/4.4, the phone needs to artificially add more ISO to make the image come out clear. Still, 10x optical zoom is impressive.
10x optical zoom is a game changer.
Besides this lens, you have a 3x optical telephoto lens, a standard lens, an ultra-wide lens, a time-of-flight sensor, and a selfie camera around front.
In general, the P40 Pro Plus produced fantastic images, with colors, contrast, and sharpness coming out great. The one exception to this would be reds, which tended to have a hue shifted more towards pink and its luminance blown out, especially compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The wide camera also generally had a slightly different color grade than the standard lens, coming in with a slightly more yellow tint and slightly less contrast.
Zooming through up to 20x produced sharp, good looking images, but just like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, 100x zoom mode was extremely blurry and really nothing more than a gimmick. Add that to the fact that it was very hard to keep steady handheld at this zoom range, and you’ve got a bit of a mess. In contrast, the Galaxy S20 Ultra had quite good stabilization at 100x zoom, but both were equally blurry.
As was the case with the Huawei P30 Pro, low-light performance was fantastic on the P40 Pro Plus. Even taking photos in a room with almost no lighting, the P40 Pro plus was able to capture what was in the scene, just in its default mode. There is also a dedicated night mode, which will boost dynamic range and sharpness of an image.
The selfie camera produced great images, with very good color and sharpness. This camera also has autofocus, something not common in selfie cameras. And with an IR camera next to the selfie camera, you’re able to take portrait selfies as well. In lower-light scenarios, image were a bit softer than I would have liked, but it’s still decent. In backlit scenarios, the phone uses semantic segmentation to brighten faces, which works fairly well.
As far as video goes, the Huawei P40 Pro Plus can capture 4K video at up to 60fps, or 1080p video at 960fps. You can also capture 720p video at an insane 7,680fps.
Video quality at 4K 60fps has very good stabilization, and you can zoom up to 10x in this mode. Unfortunately, this is all digital zoom, and makes the video look noisy when you zoom to 10x. I don’t know why they would do this instead of just reading the 3x and 10x lenses.
Just like the Huawei P40 Pro, the camera app on the P40 Pro Plus is very good. It offers a huge amount of features and settings. There’s a full-fledged Pro mode that gives you access to things like metering modes, ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. There are additional settings for things like light painting, monochrome mode, and document scanning.
The app feels like a good mix between simplicity and feature set. I’m a fan.
Software: Stunted growth
- EMUI 10.1
- Android 10
- No Google Play Services
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus runs EMUI 10.1 based on Android 10. Unfortunately, this phone does not have Google Play Services. That means no Google Apps or Google services. Google ecosystem users will be missing many of the apps they might use every day. Huawei has its own app store, called AppGallery. While there are some popular apps on there, such as Snapchat or Microsoft Word, many popular apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and many others aren’t available yet.
This is easily the Achilles heel for the P40 Pro Plus. Just as it was with the Mate 30 Pro, it’s hard to recommend a phone without access to the core apps and services Android users are accustomed to. I was able to partially get around the app limitation by making web shortcuts of websites on the home screen, but most web UI’s just don’t work well on a mobile browser. This helped curb my issues a bit.
EMUI is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s not too bad. By default, it tries very hard to look like iOS, stacking all your apps on the home screen by default. If you dig into the settings a bit you’ll find an option to use an app drawer, so you can definitely make it work similar to most Android devices. As my colleague Ryan Thomas noted in his P40 Pro review, elements like the share sheet are eerily similar to iOS as well.
Unfortunately, customizing your device with a launcher is a bit more difficult on the Huawei P40 Pro Plus. There just aren’t many available on AppGallery, though you will find Apolo launcher on there. Unfortunately, Nova and other popular launchers are nowhere to be found.
Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: Specs
|Huawei P40 Pro Plus|
6.58-inch OLED, 2,640 x 1,200 (19.8:9)
In-display fingerprint sensor
HiSilicon Kirin 990
Octa-core CPU (2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.86GHz, 2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.36GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.95GHz)
Mali-G76 MP16 GPU
50MP f/1.9 (RYYB) with OIS
40MP f/1.8 ultra-wide
8MP f/4.4 10x periscope with OIS
8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto with OIS
40W wired charging
40W wireless charging
Value and competition
- Huawei P40 Pro Plus: 8GB RAM, 512GB ROM — €1,399 (~$1,580)
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus costs a whopping 1,399 euros. That’s 400 euros more than the P40 Pro’s 999 euro price tag, and 600 euro more than the P40. At that price, Huawei is asking for more than just about any device on the market right now. Its closest competitors would be the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and the Oppo Find X2 Pro.
Compared to those devices, the the P40 Pro Plus matches or exceeds them in image quality and build quality, but the lack of access to Google’s app store and ecosystem is a glaring issue that’s impossible to omit. And unless you specifically need the 10x optical zoom camera or 40W wired and wireless charging, there are a ton of phones that can match this device punch for punch, for much less.
Even against its own catalog, Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus is a strange device. 400 euros seems like an enormous premium to pay for the 10x optical telephoto camera, ceramic build, and 40W wireless charging.
Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: Should you buy it?
As with almost any new Huawei phone, the lack of Google Play Services makes it incredibly difficult to recommend. Smartphones are portals to apps and services more than anything. With that access restricted, it makes the experience of using a Huawei device incredibly frustrating. Even if you don’t use Google apps very often, the Google Play store is the best way to get most popular apps you would normally use. Until AppGallery can match the Google Play Store in selection, you’re going to be missing some of the core experiences offered to most other Android phones.
While the P40 Pro Plus undoubtedly has one of the best camera systems on the market paired with incredible build quality, you may want to skip this series and either grab a competing device or wait to see if Huawei’s relationship with the United States is eventually repaired.
In the meantime, information about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro has begun to emerge. The phone is looking to be pretty powerful on its own, but Huawei is also reportedly making a foldable device that closely resembles the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. A lot has transpired between Huawei and the United States since the original ban, but we’re excited to see what Huawei has created regardless.