Huawei P30 review: How badly do you need a headphone jack?

Huawei P30
  • Huawei P30
  • Huawei P30
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Great camera
  • Headphone jack

Cons

  • Sub-par performance
  • No wireless charging

Bottom Line

You miss out on a few things like wireless charging but, for the asking price, we’d still rate the Huawei P30 as an incredibly competitive package.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 1,099.00 (AUD)

The Pitch

I don’t think it’s difficult to make the case that Huawei’s P30 can only really be judged relative to its flagship counterpart. There’s just too much shared DNA. And in many ways, the sibling to the P30 Pro is largely defined by its differences.

There are plenty of things you can do with the P30 Pro but it’s the things you can’t that stand out. It’s cheaper and it does boast a headphone jack - but that’s about it.

As far as premium-priced tech goes, this is a pretty nice smartphone but, all too often, it feels like you’re inheriting all of the weaknesses of the P30 Pro and few of the parks.

Specs

Display size: 6.1-inches

Display type: OLED

Processor: Kirin 980

Operating System: Android 9 with EMUI 9.1

Fingerprint Sensor: Yes, in-display

RAM:  6GB

Storage: 128GB

MicroSD slot: None. Uses NanoMemory format instead

Durability: IP53 dust and splash protection

Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack

SIM: Dual

Battery: 3650mAh

Connectivity: Cat 21 LTE, Wi-Fi (802.11ac), NFC, Bluetooth 5

Rear Camera: 40-megapixel (Wide angle, f/1.8) + 16-megapixel Ultra-wide angle (f/2.2) + 8-megapixel Tele lens (f/2.4)

Front-Facing Camera: 32-megapixel (f/2.0)

Colors: Breathing Crystal, Aurora

Dimensions: 149.1 x 71.4 x 7.6 mm

Weight: 165g

Price:  Stats at $1099

Available From: Amazon, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Optus, Vodafone, MobileCiti

Design

The first thing that struck me about the P30 was how large it was. I mean, to be clear, the Huawei P30 is smaller and lighter than the P30 Pro is. Despite that reality, however, it often actually come across as the larger phone. It’s less rectangular and more in line with where most modern phablets handsets are at.

Otherwise, there aren’t too many differences to be noted here. The look and feel of the P30 is a minor update to the same look and feel of the P20 and P20 Pro. You’ve still got a chunky triple-lens camera on the (all-glass) back. You’ll still get a teardrop-notch style display on the front and an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

Credit: Huawei

However, it’s the details that separate the two premium P-series devices. The triple-lens camera on the back of the P30 isn’t as capable as the Pro. The display, though still OLED, doesn’t boast the sleek curved edges of the Pro. The teardrop notch comes accompanied by a speaker grille rather than the acoustic surface speaker you get with the Pro.

And, looking beyond these details, the Huawei P30 Pro also boasts several flagship features that aren’t found in the cheaper P30. This includes the IP68 water resistance, support for wireless charging and Huawei’s 40W super fast charging. That said, the P30 retains a headphone jack where the P30 Pro lacks one. That’s about it.

Camera

Again, it’s hard to not talk about this aspect of the P30 without comparing it to the Pro.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Though both devices do make use of Huawei’s new SuperSpectrum sensor, the reason why the P30 isn’t capable of matching this is due to the absence of a periscope prism and Time-of-Flight sensor from the camera configuration. The sum total of these omissions sees the P30 reach up to 204,800 ISO. For comparison, the Huawei P30 Pro can reach up to 406,900 ISO.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The Huawei P30 also can’t match the P30 Pro for zoom. Where the P30 Pro offers 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and 50x digital zoom, the mainline Huawei P30 can only offer 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom and 10x digital zoom. This is still well above what most competing smartphones from Apple, Huawei and Samsung can offer - but if you’re after the absolute best, you won’t find it in the P30.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

For the above reasons, it’s safe to say that the P30 camera isn’t as capable or versatile as its Pro-grade counterpart.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

However, that being said, it’s still a solid improvement on last year’s P20 Pro - and that phone’s camera is still better than most of the smartphone cameras released this year.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Throw the P30’s camera up against the triple-lens setup on the back of the Galaxy S10 or Google Pixel 3, and it’s tough to call a winner. Throw the P30’s camera up against pretty much any phone landing at that same $1099 price-point and it’s hard to find anything close.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Long story short: The Huawei P30’s rear camera isn’t the greatest but it is still one of the greats.

Performance

When it came to performance, the story here isn’t radically different to that of the mainline P30.

Huawei’s latest incarnation of EMUI is better than it used to be, and the gestures here are arguably the best on Android. However, as an experience, it still falls short of the bar set by smoother and more intuitive offerings from Google’s Pixel phones and Samsung’s One UI.

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 for no clear reason and support for picture-in-picture playback remains frustratingly inconsistent.

As for the benchmarks, the P30 scored about where we expected it to. And given the shared hardware with the P30 Pro, it shouldn’t surprise that it often came out with pretty close to the same results.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

It even managed to take the lead when it came to Geekbench’s Multi-Core CPU test. However, all the same (and like the P30 Pro), the P30’s processor tended to lag behind the Snapdragon powered competition (especially in the GeekBench Compute test).

Still, the battery life offered by the Huawei P30 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 Bottom Line

Although it does lack many of the flagship features that make the P30 Pro so alluring, the Huawei P30 still feels fairly competitively priced at $1099. If you’re happy to settle for the inferior (but still exceptional) optical zoom offered by the P30’s triple-lens camera and keen on a headphone jack, the Huawei P30 feels like a steal.

[Editors Note - Obviously, this is a weird time to be talking about buying pretty much any Huawei product. The company's been blacklisted from working with software giants like Microsoft and Google plus hardware companies like Qualcomm and ARM. Huawei do insist that existing products will continue to receive security updates and after sales services. But, as good as some of those products are, it's hard to fully endorse them knowing that the company's future prospects are so uncertain.

This review was written & scheduled to go live before the trade blacklisting happened and, for the most part, we do still stand by our assessment of the product in question. However, as it stands, there's currently an undeniable element of risk to buying something like the P30 Pro. Hell, the MateBook 13 was pulled from the Microsoft store within days of the blacklisting. The notebook is now available again - but it's uncertain how much of that is due to Microsoft wanting to clear out existing inventory as opposed to some positive movement in the overall Huawei situation.

If and when the situation is resolved, we plan to update this review. Right now, however, it feels like any recommendation of a Huawei product has to have a big asterisk next to it.]

Across most fronts, this smartphone falls short of first-place - but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Huawei P30 provides great performance (even if it’s eclipsed by the other options), a great camera (that isn’t as good as its pricier counterpart) and plenty of features (even if the P30 Pro has more).

And in a world where the price-tag of a premium handset continues to rise, something second-best like the Huawei P30 begins to look better and better. You miss out on a few things like wireless charging but, for the asking price, we’d still rate the Huawei P30 as an incredibly competitive package.  

Credit: Huawei

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