Huawei P30 Review
Huawei will be bringing the Android Q update to the P30, in addition to “popular current devices”, despite the ongoing trade ban. However, there’s no word yet on when the update will happen. This Huawei P30 review is for the sister phone to the ingenious Huawei P30 Pro, which is the firm’s flagship phone for the first half of 2019. It costs a little less than the P30 Pro and it isn’t anywhere near as exotic so the question remains: do you buy the P30 or the bigger, better and more expensive P30 Pro instead?
- Build Quality
The Huawei P30 has one of the best cameras we’ve seen in a phone, with features like incredible optical zoom and night mode that other handsets could only dream of, but other than that it feels more like a decent mid-range handset than a flagship. It is less exotic than the Pro but still packs in plenty of technology.
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First things first, let’s work out what the similarities are. Both phones are Android smartphones running the latest version of Huawei’s Android 9 Pie-based OS, EMUI 9.1, and both are available in the same range of two-tone colours. Both have the same level of performance and both phones have three cameras at the rear and one facing forwards, all with Leica-branded optics.
Let’s now focus on the differences. To start with, the Huawei P30 has a smaller screen, at 6.1in versus 6.5in in the Pro, although the resolution is the same across both screens. The P30 lacks the 5x optical telephoto lens of the P30 Pro, it IS NOT as water-resistant, doesn’t provide curved screen edges and tin terms of battery, it is smaller (3,450mAh versus 4,200mAh). The P30 doesn’t have wireless charging or reverse wireless charging either if that is important to you.
Design, Key Features and First Impressions
The P30 is available with the same colour options as the P30 Pro, that is pearl white, “breathing crystal”, amber sunrise, aurora. The black model looks particularly nice with its gunmetal, shiny gleam and, while the screen at the front doesn’t have the swooping “3.5D” curved edges of the P30 Pro, that doesn’t affect the overall look.
The P30 has some subtle tweaks to draw your attention on. On the rear, the camera housing is a little longer, due to the fact that there’s one more camera than previous models and it sticks out a little more, too, resulting in even more of an annoying rocking action when you rest it on a flat surface. But let’s face it, who buys a phone these days and doesn’t buy a protective case for it? If you’re in the habit of texting and browsing your phone while it’s sitting on your desk, you’ll want to buy a case right away, which eliminates this problem.
Sticking to aesthetics, the top and bottom edges have gained a slightly more squared-off profile than previous models, but, thankfully, there are far from the Sony-style sharp-edges so the phone sits neatly inside your pocket without annoying corners poking out. We also like the fact that the display is a touch smaller. By current flagship standards, the P30’s 6.1in screen could class this phone pretty much into the compact phone domain.
We like the fact that Huawei has kept a 3.5mm headphone socket in the P30 (the P30 Pro doesn’t have one). You’ll find the socket alongside the USB Type-C port and speaker grille on the bottom edge, with the power and volume rocker on the right edge and the dual-SIM/nano memory card slot on the left. Getting rid of the microSD has allowed them to expand with Nano memory cards, should you wish to.
The Huawei P30‘s screen resolution may be smaller than that the P30 Pro’s, but rest assured, it is just as good. It has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, uses an AMOLED panel and has a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 for a pixel density of 422ppi. That’s definitely not the highest resolution you’ll see on a smartphone at this price range, but it does the job very well and it is perfectly sharp. Furthermore, it is incredibly bright, with highlights peaking at around 824cd/m2 in auto-brightness mode. Crucially, contrast is effectively perfect as it’s an AMOLED display so you can rely on the fact that blacks are true blacks.
In terms of colour performance, the P30 gives you two modes to choose from: Normal and Vivid. In Normal mode, you get a more muted set of colours and 93.8% of the sRGB colour space. Vivid mode is best for watching movies or TV and covers 91% of the DCI-P3 colour space. With HDR10 support as well, Netflix and Amazon Prime content looks fabulous. Although it is not quite a match to Dynamic OLED screens, the fact of the matter is that you won’t even notice it.
The one niggle we have with the display is that the blue-light-reducing “eye comfort” mode isn’t all that strong. Even with the colour temperature slider slid all the way over to the “warm” side of the slider, the effect isn’t all that dramatic. This is a personal preference, though, we like a more orangey look to my blue-light reduction mode and this doesn’t quite cut it.
Performance and Battery Life
Let’s cut to the what really matters, performance. Internally, there’s nothing at all wrong with the Huawei P30. It uses the same chipset as the pricier Huawei P30 Pro, the 2.6GHz octa-core Kirin 980, with only the RAM (6GB) and storage (128GB) differing. Which is fair when you consider the price difference.
The chipset is the latest and greatest from Huawei’s home-grown Kirin range and comprises three CPUs: one dual-core CPU running at 2.6GHz, another dual-core CPU running at 1.92GHz, and a low-power quad-core CPU running at 1.8GHz, all manufactured with an 8nm fabrication process.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen the Kirin 980 chip in a phone. The chip made its first appearance inside the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and it’s just as good here as it was in that phone, allowing for the Huawei P30 to provide a snappy, responsive feel and superb performance across all benchmarks. As a matter of fact, since the Huawei P30 also has the same resolution display as the P30 Pro, the numbers are pretty much identical.
We were concerned about the Huawei P30’s battery life but in the end that, too, turned out to be excellent. Despite being down 18% on capacity compared to the Huawei P30 Pro, the P30 still managed to eke out a time of 18hrs 32mins in our video rundown test. We would consider that to be pretty good and a better result than the Mate 20 Pro. It’s admittedly a good notch behind the Huawei P30 Pro, though but then again, the price difference has to show somewhere and this is one of the areas where it does show.
However, and without taking anything away from the P30, this is a result that translates to a good day and a half of moderate use without having to plug it in and, if you’re careful with it, the battery can go for even longer. To us, that is simply great giving its price range.
The big selling point of the Huawei P30 is the camera. This is likely why you’re considering buying the phone. The three-camera setup the P30 boasts is impressive enough, but the range of photographic effects and tools on offer here are what cement the phone’s dominance. The headline attraction is a 40MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, backed up by 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide and 8MP f/2.4 telephoto snapper, and together they’re capable of taking some amazing pictures. The 40MP sensor uses Huawei’s Super Spectrum technology, which means it gathers RYYB light instead of the RGB that most sensors do; which according to Huawei enables the P30 to capture images with more natural-looking and vivid colors, and to take greatly improved low-light shots.
When we took pictures at night, or in dark indoor settings, we often found the camera took pictures that picked out the subject much better than other phone cameras would, both for close-up and wide shots. This is the work of the camera’s night mode, which requires longer exposure to take better pictures. The other benefit of the Super Spectrum sensor is that it captures more color detail, with the Vivid or Smooth color modes enhancing naturally bright colors. However, we found the night and enhanced color modes didn’t work together very well, with colors boosted a little overzealously in low-light conditions. The first image shows the night mode on compared to the second one without night mode.
Another impressive feature of the Huawei P30’s camera setup, and certainly the most fun to play with, is the zoom facility. As well as capturing ultra-wide shots, you can zoom in up to 30x in pictures or 10x in videos. It is not quite the 50x photo zoom on the P30 Pro, but impressive nonetheless. Using 30x zoom we could see details that were imperceptible in 1x zoom, and although the picture quality suffered, and slightly shaky hands could easily ruin a shot, we were still impressed by how much detail was retained.
Of course, you’re not always going to be taking pictures at night or from huge distances, and the standard picture mode is perfectly dependable. Almost every picture we took looked great, from high-quality wide shots to close-ups with the perfect level of background blur. It was a little fiddly taking close-ups as the camera could take a while to focus, but in all fairness, we tested it on some demanding shots, including ‘busy’ compositions featuring multiple subjects.
The P30 supports a range of video resolutions and frame rates, from 720p HD to 4K Ultra HD at 30fps, although if you want to shoot at 60fps your only option is 1080p Full HD, and video effects aren’t available at higher resolutions. The front-facing camera boasts a whopping 32MP sensor and took selfies that would still be packed with detail even when blown up to poster sizes. Pictures taken with this camera looked amazing, and far more natural in terms of both colors and background blur than shot from rival phones.
There’s also a suite of effects that you can use for selfies, including a ‘stage lighting’ effect which turns the background back and highlights your face, creating professional-looking headshots. We are really impressed by the quality of pictures taken with the P30. If it wasn’t for the existence of the P30 Pro, this phone would definitely be a contender for the best smartphone camera.
Movies, music and gaming
The Kirin 980 chipset powering the Huawei P30 is rather powerful so the phone can run all kinds of high-end games with minimal lag or other problem. The widescreen made action games easy to play, as we could use on-screen joysticks without getting our thumbs in the way. The minimal design of the phone meant we weren’t accidentally pressing side buttons all the time. Although the position of the rear camera meant we kept accidentally putting our fingers on the lenses and smudging them.
The screen space was also great for streaming media, with the bright display helping content to look great. The slightly duller colors didn’t matter as much for films and TV shows as for photography, and all in all the screen quality was wonderful. Music sounded good through the speakers, and the stereo sound was pretty high-quality, it won’t disappoint anyone but you do need to use a pair of good headphones to really appreciate it.
The Huawei P30 competes much more closely with the P30 Pro than its predecessor, the Huawei P20, did with the P20 Pro last year. It has a great set of cameras, shares some of the P30 Pro’s new technology, has the very same core chipset and looks absolutely fabulous, even in black.
The Huawei P30 would have the best camera on the market if the P30 Pro didn’t exist, it can take high-quality and detailed pictures using a range of handy modes and effects, and it’s one of the easiest-to-use cameras we’ve tested. Its price bracket, then, the Huawei P30 stands alone. It’s a much better smartphone than many will give it credit for. If you’re looking for a great camera that can make calls too, then you’ve found your match, as the Huawei P30 is a five-star handset for photography.