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Huawei P30 Pro review

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Huawei has repeatedly expressed its USP as being photography, and the P30 range continues in that tradition with a quad camera that includes a whopping 40MP main lens and an optical zoom of 5x, or 10x using some of the hybrid AI jiggery-pokery.

But is that all the P30 Pro has going for it? We’ve been playing with a pre-release unit for the last few days and here’s what we discovered.

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Design-wise, the P30 Pro is more akin to the Mate 20 Pro released last autumn. The curved screen edges make it incredibly comfortable to hold, and the sympathetic dewdrop camera is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than those ruddy pinhole things.

On the reverse, the camera arrangement is back to the vertical strip arrangement of the P20 range, with the fourth lens below the flash. There’s no headphone jack (natch) and the SIM slot, which also accommodates the NM card is next to the USB-C cable on the bottom. In fact, the only other breaks to the edges are from the buttons on the right-hand side where the volume and power buttons sit.

If you’re thinking “well then where is the fingerprint sensor?”, it’s under the screen, of course, and far better performing than before. Speaking of the screen, Huawei has always been good in this department but this is absolutely breathtaking – crisp, clear and with the bezels hidden in the curves so it looks a true “full view”.

Android 9.1 Pie is present and correct, thanks to Huawei‘s overbearing EMUI interface. Although we’ve learned to love it more over the years, we’d still rather that it was a bit closer to stock – but different strokes for different folks.

Part of the problem is that many of the promised enhancements to stock Android, such as 3D modelling and using it as a car key are not available at launch and whilst we’re happy to nod to them, we won’t be able to assess the phone on them if they’re not here. In fact, some won’t arrive until EMUI 10 at the back end of the year.

Small gripes aside, the performance is zippy, thanks once again to the Kirin 980 processor clocked at 2.9GHz and Huawei’s AI which controls the battery use, somewhat overzealously at times, and (Huawei tells us) will keep it running like new for 30 months – longer than you’ll probably have the phone.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. The P30 Pro is more of the same. And sure, you can spin it as “building on the success of its predecessors” but when push comes to shove, it’s because it’s a very incremental upgrade. A lovely one, but with Huawei hoping to once again sell in record-breaking quantities, the truth is that it just isn’t quite different enough.

The main selling point is that camera, yet further refined with a time-of-flight 3D lens and using a RyyB spectrum to let more light in than an RGB. There’s little doubt that the optical 5x zoom is more than impressive, but the 10x hybrid zoon didn’t really impress us in early testing – though when we get to the full review, we may have had time to change our minds.

The other big deal that Huawei loves to mention is battery life, and although the P30 Pro’s battery is smaller than the Mate 20, Huawei says that from a stamina point of view, it’s been optimised to actually perform better.

Part of that is down to the AI battery management, which we’ve found to be more trouble than its worth on previous models, but we’re told that the P30 range is more able to work out whether you really need those notifications or not. Personally. we’d prefer if the phone just asked us.

We’re perhaps being unusually harsh on the P30 Pro. It’s not because it’s not a stunning phone – it really is – but it’s a grand, and it’s not got that much new to recommend it if you’re not a complete camera-phile.

Now it’s out in the world and we have a lot more time to test it, we’ll be keen to see just how many hidden wonders it holds, but our initial impression is that it’s not one to sell your P20 or Mate 20 for – but if you’re new to the world of Huawei, or your contract is up, it’s a brilliant bit of refinement

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