P30 Pro review: Huawei’s best flagship yet

Under the hood is Huawei’s beefy Kirin 980 and 8GB of RAM, so the phone has no issues with multitasking through intensive apps or games, and 256GB storage. It runs Android 9 Pie with Huawei’s EMUI, which is always improving (the gesture navigation is now easy to adapt to whether you’re coming from iPhone or recent Android) but my complaints from last year remain.


Huawei’s mix of iPhone and outdated Android UI design makes for a bit of a hodge podge, and the oversized icons and other elements can leave things looking toy-like. The always-on screen is a bit of a lemon as well, only showing icons for new messages but not for the vast majority of app notifications. But my main issue is that many of Google’s AI-powered features — like Search and Lens — are straight-up replaced by Huawei’s, meaning I have to give a lot of data permissions to both companies if I want to make the most of the phone.

Elsewhere there’s an in-display fingerprint reader, which is snappy but still not as fast as a rear-or-side-mounted sensors, and a big 4200mAh battery that will charge to 70 per cent in half an hour thanks to Huawei’s powerful (and huge) fast charger included in the box.

But arguably the biggest selling point of the P30 Pro is its Leica cameras, which allow for both impressive optical zoom and stunning low-light shots.

The standard 40MP wide camera takes impeccable photos in ideal lighting conditions, with great detail and smooth HDR. There’s optical image stabilisation here to keep things sharp, and the autofocus and tracking are very competent. I still preferred to keep Huawei’s Master AI off in order to maintain natural colours, but it’s not as wacky as it was in the Mate20 Pro.

The cameras make for an impressive looking setup, especially with the refraction from the periscope prism making it seem as though the lens is set impossibly deep into the body of the phone.

The cameras make for an impressive looking setup, especially with the refraction from the periscope prism making it seem as though the lens is set impossibly deep into the body of the phone.

If you shift back to a wide angle or switch to macro mode for ultra closeups you’ll be using the 20MP lens. With no OIS and a bit less detail these aren’t as impressive, but it’s nice to have the option if you need to fit a lot into the frame, or are trying to focus on an insect or document just a few centimetres away.

The 8MP periscope lens is set at 5x optical zoom, and shots at that distance are phenomenal for a phone camera. Detail and colour are preserved, and OIS helps stave off blurry artefacts. Obviously, compared to a phone with 2x optical that’s zooming digitally to 5x, the P30 Pro comes out emphatically on top.

Other zoom levels are handled by mixing the periscope image with the main shooter, which can lead to some weirdness. For example at 3x you might notice the centre of the image is sharp while the edges are blurry, while 10x can look nice but takes a very steady hand. The camera technically goes up to 50x, but results are not good. I think it’s fair to say that the P30 Pro’s photography isn’t as consistent as the iPhone’s or as seamless as the Pixel 3’s, but its best is definitely better and it has tools at its disposal you won’t find anywhere else.

Most impressively, all of the cameras work in Huawei’s new Night Mode, which can capture detail even in very challenging dark conditions. The tradeoff is that you and your subject need to stay still for around eight seconds for the shots to process.

Of course the’re also the usual bag of tricks, like portrait shots that separate the background to simulate bokeh (thanks to a fourth time of flight camera lens). This is very well done on the P30 Pro, though additional effects, like turning the bokeh circles into love hearts or swirls, will be a matter of taste. The 32MP front camera takes great selfies at a fixed focal point, but attempts at bokeh are bad.

Overall this is a stellar flagship phone, with its few limitations (no stereo sound or headphone jack, somewhat uneven software) well and truly overshadowed by excellent hardware and performance. Its great battery life, big brilliant display, excellent cameras and waterproof body mean it’s priced like a flagship too, at $1599. If you’re happy to compromise a bit on those four things, Huawei also offers the P30 (without the Pro) for $1099.

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