Huawei P30 Pro review: A photography powerhouse that leans into and elevates its natural strengths

Huawei P30 Pro
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Expert Rating

    4.75 / 5

Pros

  • Quad-lens camera
  • Glossy aesthetics
  • Great gesture controls

Cons

  • EMUI
  • NanoMemory
  • No headphone jack

Bottom Line

The P30 Pro doubles down on the things that worked about its predecessor and pushes the envelope for smartphone photography even further.

Would you buy this?

Camera - How Does The Huawei P30 Pro Compare To The Competition?

Up-front, it’d be hyperbole to say that the Huawei P30 Pro’s camera kit represents the same leap forward for the brand as the P20 Pro did. It’d be more accurate to characterize it as an extension of that lead.

Where the P20 Pro saw them leverage zoom and low-light as areas where they could shine (“Huawei’s smartphones lets you take the shots that others can’t” ), the P30 Pro follows those strengths to their natural conclusion: excellence.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The sum result of this journey is what feels like the closest smartphones have yet been able to reach upwards into the world of traditional photography. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s a big enough upgrade that Instagram diehards will want to sit up and pay attention.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Where the P20 Pro offered 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom and 10x digital zoom, the P30 Pro ups the ante to 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and 50x digital zoom.

Credit: Huawei

At the time of writing, there is literally no other smartphone on the market that offers the kind of long-distance and close-up photography that the P30 Pro is equipped to deliver.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Similar to what Oppo showcased at this year’s Mobile World Congress, the P30 Pro uses a unique periscope design that leverages a prism to achieve improved zoom capabilities.

It also utilises a new SuperSpectrum sensor, which Huawei have co-developed with Leica. It’s capable of delivering up to 409,600 ISO (directly accessible via the camera’s Pro mode).

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

As with the Mate 20 Pro, the ultra wide angle lens here also helps you get wider shots where needed. The difference between the low-light performance here and the regular SuperSpectrum sensor is still noticeable but not as harsh as it was in previous Huawei devices.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Honestly, the P30 Pro’s camera blows my mind. It’s astonishing in the most classical sense of the word and by far the most compelling part of the package here. If you’re the kind of user who can find a use for its extensive capabilities, it more than justifies the price of admission.

Performance - Huawei P30 Pro Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

When it came to everyday use, we came away really happy with the P30 Pro. Every tap feels snappy and every swipe feels immediately responsive. Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for the EMUI Android skin.

Credit: Huawei

Although I will still stand by my assertion that Huawei’s gesture-based alternative to the Android navigation bar, almost all the qualms I had about EMUI in the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro still apply here. There are a few under-the-hood improvements relative to EMUI 9.0 but the difference feels negligible. Held alongside the significant improvements that Samsung have made with their One UI skin across this year’s Galaxy S range, EMUI 9.1 both looks and feels lacklustre.

As always, it is easy enough to customize and modify EMUI to your liking. All the same, I hope Huawei take a serious look at improving the out-of-box experience here sooner rather than later. Apps sometimes unexpectedly close and support for picture-in-picture playback is frustratingly inconsistent. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I have no idea. Please fix this, Huawei. It drives me up the wall.

And it doesn’t help that the Huawei P30 Pro rarely found itself at the front of the pack when it came to benchmarks. It frequently beat out Samsung’s S10 and S10+ but rarely managed to best the capabilities of the Snapdragon 845 chipset found in the Razer Phone 2 and Google Pixel 3 XL. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In a world where the Huawei P30’s software experience was less finicky and more intuitive, it might be able to get away with not having the most powerful processor on the market. However, as it stands, it’s got neither the best performance, nor the best UX. It’s good but it’s lacking in meaningful improvement on the last two devices - and it feels like there was so much that could have been improved.

Still, the battery life did live up to the high bar set by its predecessors. In terms of everyday battery-life, we’d easily make it through the usual 9-5 work day and often into a second day of active use as well. Even if we accidentally forgot to leave the device on charge overnight, we’d still plenty of juice left to work with the next day.

We’re talking fourteen or more hours of average use here, though - as always - your mileage may vary. Particularly, if you watch or film a lot of video content or crank the brightness way up.

The Huawei P30 Pro features 40W SuperFast charging, faster wireless charging and reverse wireless charging.

The Bottom Line - Should you buy the Huawei P30 Pro?

At the end of the day, the make-or-break factor here is the camera. And if you’re after the smartphone with "the best camera" and are happy to work with the quirks (and within the confines) of EMUI, the Huawei P30 Pro is probably going to be the premium flagship smartphone for you.

However, outside of the camera, the P30 Pro does feel a little too iterative for my liking. If you prefer a smaller form-factor or a smoother software experience, the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10 are probably going to serve as fine alternatives. Both offer inferior cameras and battery life (relative to the standards set by the P30 Pro) but, aside from that, they offer better bang for your buck in the areas where the Huawei P30 Pro doesn't quite excel. The latter even offers a headphone jack.

Still, if you’re looking to spend more than $1000 on a device, you need to have a compelling reason to do so. And if you care about the quality of your smartphone’s camera above all else, the Huawei P30 Pro’s quad-lens array provides just that. Again: If you're looking for the smartphone with best camera, this is that. But that high level of praise can't always be extended to the rest of the package.

While the camera on the Huawei P30 Pro is exceptional, everything else comes across as merely medium-good to great by comparison. And as good as the P30 Pro is, that feels like a shame. Where other smartphone brands are addressing their weaknesses, Huawei have opted to lean on their strengths. They've put all their eggs in the one basket, and the pros and cons of that approach aren't hard to dwell on. 

There are things you're getting here that you can't get from any other phone on the market but it's not hard to imagine how the Huawei Mate 30 Pro will refine and improve upon this blueprint. The compromises here are small but they're compromises nonetheless. It's one thing to impress. It's another to satisfy. On the powerful camera alone, the Huawei P30 Pro impressed me but it rarely left me thrilled in quite the same way that the Mate 20 Pro did. It's excellent but in a way that's sometimes a little too familiar. Like I said before, it's an encore - and that's the problem with encores is that they're sometimes plagued by diminishing returns. Once you've set a high bar, you have to top it.

The P30 Pro doesn't feel like the best smartphone Huawei are capable of making right now, but it does have the best camera they're capable of making right now. Whether that's enough is gonna be on you.

Credit: Huawei

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