In just a couple of days the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro series will be available in New Zealand. There is a great number of special deals to be had from telcos and retail stores - and if you are in the market for the best camera performance and phone design you shouldn't ignore these devices.
The Huawei P30 series incorporates lots of features that were recently added to the flagship Huawei Mate 20 series, plus innovations in camera technology making it ideal for those looking for a new device.
I have had the Huawei P30 Pro as my daily device for the last two weeks and will write my observations based on this device. Let's start with the obvious: the large 6.47" FHD+ OLED screen with 2340 by 1080 pixels is a pleasure to the eyes. Thanks to OLED technology the screen is clear and bright with strong black and good colours all around. It's a great mobile device to watch a movie or TV series while on the go - either your daily commute or short flights.
The notch now uses a lot less space than before - just a small tear drop area for the front facing camera. This is thanks to Huawei using the screen as a speaker, replacing the top speaker. Surprisingly the in-call sound is still clear and easy to hear, exactly like you would expect from a standard speaker. When placing a phone call an icon shows on screen pointing where the sound will come out - an area in the middle of the screen, about an inch below the top.
The P30 screen also houses an on-screen fingerprint scanner - this one positioned in the middle, close to the bottom of the screen. I felt this position a lot more comfortable to use when compared to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which has the fingerprint scanner higher up on the screen. The fingerprint scanner is fast but I still feel the facial recognition gives you the best experience - if you select the the option to turn the phone on when you bring it up and select the option to automatically unlock when it recognises your face then you will have minimum friction when using the phone. You can of course check a box to unlock the phone but wait for a swipe up on the screen to dismiss the lock screen - this way you can see notifications instead of going directly to the home screen - choices for everyone.
The Huawei P30 Pro doesn't have a headphone jack, so you will have to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones (or the USB-C in-ear headphones provided). In previous models Huawei seemed to have a problem with Bluetooth in general but this is now gone - I have noticed Bluetooth working well with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and this is still the case with the new Huawei P30 Pro. Bluetooth is important because Huawei is also bringing to New Zealand its Huawei Watch GT (which I will look in another review) and this device relies heavily on a stable Bluetooth connection.
In terms of design, the Huawei P30 Pro is likely to please a vast majority. As mentioned it starts with a smaller notch on top, and continues with a nice curved glass front and back, with a discreet metal band around the body. In terms of colour, I was given the crystal coloured one (which looks like a creamy bright white), but consumers have the options of blue and black devices as well. Overall these look beautiful and elegant.
For those wondering about app performance, the Huawei P30 Pro is powered by a Huawei Kirin 980 Octa-core Processor (2 x Cortex-A76 Based 2.6GHz plus 2 x Cortex-A76 Based 1.92GHz + 4 x Cortex-A55 1.8GHz). In benchmark tests it performed just above the Huawei Mate 20 Pro - which was already a top performer. Applications switch quickly and start quickly too - probably thanks to the 8 GB RAM as well.
Huawei is making it really easy to move between devices, something that I used to dread when testing smartphones and going from one to another. The Phone Clone app allows you to copy data and apps from another device - I was really happy that the vast majority of apps started working straight away on my new phone, without having to login again. In my case it copied everything from call logs and SMS to digital content and apps - including even the movies downloaded on Prime Video on the previous smartphone.
A screen time management setting allows you to see how much you are using of your smartphone every day - including how many times it's been unlocked - an eye opener, no pun intended. You can even set limits and have the smartphone let you know when it is time to stop using it - including turning the screen from colour to greyscale at night to discourage usage.
The battery packs a huge 4200mAh capacity - which depending on your usage patterns can give you quite a good time of standby and continuous usage. But don't worry, the super fast charger can get you back up and running in almost no time, thanks to its SuperCharge technology, delivering up to a max of 40W power during charge cycles. It's so good that you can actually charge other devices using a reverse wireless charging technology.
As expected for a high end device you can count on NFC being built-in so you are good to go with Google Pay (assuming your bank supports it). You will also be in for a treat when it comes to wireless connectivity, with support WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (wave2) and both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Bluetooth 5.00 (BLE) supports a range of Bluetooth services, including aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA Audio.
One feature I have not tested is the splash, water and dust resistance. According to its specifications, the Huawei P30 Pro conforms to the IP68 ratings. This means the device is protected against "harmful ingress of static water at up to 1.5 meters, for up to 30 minutes". Basically it means it can be dropped on a pond or bowl and will not be affected - providing the water is not moving about violently (like waves on a beach). This means the occasional splash of water while walking on the rain, or drop into a puddle should be ok.
Now we have to talk photography. This is one seriously good camera phone. I mean, whoa... The front facing camera has 32 megapixels and f/2.0 aperture. This is serious for a selfie camera. But the Huawei P30 Pro shines even more when it comes to the main camera setup: a Leica Quad Camera with 40 megapixels (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6 aperture, OIS) + 20 megapixels (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2 aperture) + 8 megapixels (Telephoto, f/3.4 aperture, OIS) plus a Time-of-Flight (TOF) camera supporting three autofocus modes: laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus.
Huawei also moved to a RYYB sensor, allowing it to reach an extreme ISO rating of 409,600 on the Huawei P30 Pro (and ISO 204,800 on the Huawei P30). This bring incredibly focused and crisp photos when in darker situations, including night time.
But most importantly, the use of some AI plus those three main cameras allows you to take wide angle photos, 5x times optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. You can see results on the series of photos below (click image for larger version) taken during a recent event here in Wellington.
The Huawei P30 series is certainly this years contender for best camera smartphone and best smartphone all around. As I wrote at the start, you should not overlook these devices when considering your next purchase.