Huawei P30 Pro Review: Photographer’s new weapon

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2018 was a big year for Huawei. The Chinese phone maker climbed to the number two spot among manufacturers both locally and globally, and much of the reason for this was its strong showing in the mid-range and flagship spaces.

The P20 and Mate 20 series in particular went down a treat, so the pressure is on for the P30 Series to match or even better the reception of its predecessor.

This brings us to the P30 Pro, the higher specced of Huawei’s trio of new P series branded phones, and at launch Huawei dedicated plenty of time to the camera functionality onboard, even boasting about the record DxOMark score it received.

While we’re not ones to question DxOMark, we decided to put the P30 Pro’s camera through its paces, as well as see if as much attention has been given to the rest of the flagship phone.

New and familiar

There’s something oddly familiar about the P30 Pro. Place it next to the Mate 20 Pro or P20 Pro, and the differences are hard to spot. This shows that Huawei has a particular design aesthetic that it’s sticking to for its flagship phones, which is far better that the copy and paste tactics it used when the brand first landed locally.

That said, you’ll start to see that the P30 Pro is an entirely different beast to other Huawei devices the moment you power it on. The larger front screen notch from previous generations has been replaced by a dewdrop style that’s far less invasive and easier to adjust to after a few hours of use.

Aforementioned screen is a slightly curved 6.47″ affair that features a small but defined bezel on the edge and ditches the power button altogether. The button is now on the side, with a fingerprint sensor beneath the display to offer up an all-screen experience.

The increased real estate is nice, but the best improvement to the display is the sensor, with it far more accurate and quicker than the version on the Mate 20 Pro in our experience.

The Fab Four

We’re not gonna say which lens is which, but The Beatles reference is for good reason as Huawei has introduced four lenses on the back of the P30 Pro. The most notable addition is the ToF (Time of Flight) 3D camera, which is specifically designed to offer up better bokeh effect while snapping pictures.

As for the other three lenses, a massive 40MP wide-angle, 20MP ultra wide-angle and 8MP periscope option are added to the mix. We’ve encountered similar quality from the former two, but it’s the periscope one that’s more notable. This as it allows the P30 Pro to take up to 50 times digital zoom shots.

We’ve tested this function out quite a bit, and the detail it’s able to capture from objects normally out of zooming distance is impressive. It proved particularly helpful when taking night-time shots of the moon, showcasing the craters on its surface.

This is something we have not been able to do on other smartphones, but isn’t the reason why you should be smitten with the P30 Pro’s camera setup.

It’s the phone’s low light photography capabilities. The ISO is a staggering 409 600, which even gives some DSLR cameras pause for thought. The images it yields are far better than other flagship phones we’ve used in the past and for photographers wanting to add a smartphone to their arsenal, the P30 Pro would be our weapon of choice.

Power house   

We could wax lyrical about the P30 Pro’s camera for some time, but we also need to touch on some of the other elements of the phone. This brings us to the internal components, with Huawei using a very similar setup here that it did in the Mate 20 Pro.

To that end the 7nm octa-core Kirin 980 chipset is found, and paired with a generous 8GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. Naturally this mix delivers a speedy performance while multitasking and switching between power-intensive applications. There were also no signs of strain or excess heat during the initial setup or benchmarking stages.

Speaking of the latter, we have a new reigning king for devices we’ve run AnTuTu (V7.1.0) on, with the P30 Pro registering a score of 290 186. To put things in perspective, the previous champ, the Mate 20 Pro, mustered 270 969.

As always we need to take these tests with a grain of salt given Huawei’s past history for trying to influence benchmark numbers, but the experience in-hand and during testing certainly match.

Final verdict

Over the past three years Huawei has shown that it knows how to make a truly premium flagship phone, and the P30 Pro is the best iteration of that to date. From design, display, camera and performance, you’re hard pressed to find fault with the device, and even the ones you may encounter are easily glossed over thanks to the overall experience.

When you factor in the fact that the P30 Pro costs R18 999 (recommended price), this phone begins to look all the more tempting. No it’s still not cheap, but represents potentially the best value for money on the flagship market at the moment.

If you’ve recently bought the Mate 20 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S10+, then there’s no need to switch, but if your 24-month contract is due for an upgrade, the P30 Pro should be your first consideration.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.