Huawei P30 Review

The Huawei P30 is the more affordable option in Huawei's current phone line-up. But with the Huawei P30 Pro offering better on paper camera specs, a larger screen and key features, such as wireless charging, does it do enough to carve its own space in the phone market?

Verdict

The Huawei P30 doesn't match the P30 Pro when it comes to camera performance, but if fares surprisingly well everywhere else. The phone has a premium design that gives key rivals, like the Galaxy S10 a run for its money. Under the hood it has great hardware that will meet 99% of buyers needs. The only downside is that it's Emotion UI software is still flooded with bloatware.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Solid battery life
  • Above average camera

Cons

  • Full of bloatware

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £699
  • 6.1-inch FHD+ display
  • 3 x rear camera, engineered by Leica
  • 32MP selfie camera
  • Kirin 980
  • 3650mAh battery

A few years ago, £700 would have netted you the top-dog in any phone makers’ lineup but since Apple made £1000 the new norm for a flagship, things have changed. Which is the reason that, despite carrying a price tag of £699, the standard P30 plays second fiddle to the £899 P30 Pro in Huawei’s current portfolio.

This may put off buyers who compulsively need to have the very best when it comes to their phone purchase but if you’re willing to look lower down the line then you’ll find that the Huawei P30 is an excellent handset. One that, if I’m honest, is likely to exceed most smartphone buyers’ needs.

Make no mistake, the technical compromises that Huawei has made are the right ones, and as such the P30 remains one of the best phones for hardware that you’ll find at this price. I just wish I could say the same about its software.

Editors Note: Due to the recent retraction of Huawei’s Android license, future Huawei and Honor phones won’t be able to access Google Play Services and as a result many Android apps including YouTube and Gmail. Both Huawei and Google have confirmed Huawei and Honor phones, like the one in this review, will continue to have access for this time being. Until we know more about the situation we’re leaving the scores on all our Huawei reviews, however as the situation changes we’ll revisit this.

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The Huawei P30 still looks and feels like a flagship phone

To make one thing clear: the Huawei P30 looks great. The handset features an elegant mixed metal and glass design, which in my opinion is every bit as classy, and glassy, as the Galaxy S10.

From a distance, the device also looks all but identical to its more premium sibling. Alongside that elegant bodywork, the devices share dewdrop front cameras and rears displaying a gorgeous mix of hues. The iridescent blue colouring of my review unit (dubbed “Breathing Crystal”) is particularly attractive, changing hue depending on how the light hits it.

It’s only when you place the P30 and Huawei P30 Pro next to one another that you’ll notice any serious differences. For starters, the P30 Pro is slightly bigger. But, more importantly, it has curved glass on its front. Personally, I’m not too fussed about the Samsung Infinity Edge-inspired curves on the Pro; if anything, I find that they make it harder to get a solid grip on the phone.

Outside of this, the P30’s core offering is every bit as premium as I’d expect from a flagship phone. The USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack and speaker configuration along the bottom edge is convenient and will be a boon for serious music-listeners who are yet to cut the cord with their headphones.

The buttonless design also features a nifty surprise: an in-screen fingerprint scanner. Testing the P30, I was initially worried about the in-screen scanner; in the past, they haven’t worked very well. But, having spent a solid week with the phone, the unit here is wonderfully accurate and easy to use. Even whilst caught in a rain shower, the scanner read my fingerprint without issue.

Build quality is excellent, although the glass rear did compel me to get the device into the included clear silicone case as soon as possible. Like all glass-backed phones, I’m not convinced the P30 will survive a serious drop or bump unscathed. The only significant downsides to the design are that, unlike its pricier sibling, it doesn’t have Qi wireless support, plus the rating for dust and water-resistance sits at IP53, not IP67. The latter means you’ll want to keep the device at home during any aquatic adventures since it will only survive exposure to rain, not full submersions in water.

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The Huawei P30 includes excellent hardware

The next question on any buyer’s lips when picking between a Pro and non-Pro phone is: what hardware sacrifices have been made? Here, the answer is a little more complex, although the P30 still holds its own better than expected.

The most obvious difference is that the P30 has a smaller 6.1-inch FHD+ resolution OLED display than the Pro, which is 0.4-inches larger. These specs are solid and compare well against competing phones such as the Galaxy S10e, which has a 5.8-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen.

In real-world use, the P30’s screen is excellent. To the naked eye, colours are vibrant without being overcooked – if anything, they’re slightly cool. The FHD+ resolution isn’t the highest around, yet icons and text look uniformly sharp.

Max brightness levels are excellent and, coupled with the deep blacks offered by the OLED tech, mean that the P30 can play HDR content on YouTube – at the time of publishing, the software hadn’t been updated to work with Netflix HDR content. HDR (high dynamic range) lets you see more detail in movies, particularly during dark scenes, making content more immersive. The only handsets I’ve seen with better screens are the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus, which remain the industry leaders for display quality.

Performance is top-notch thanks to the inclusion of Huawei’s latest Kirin 980 CPU and 6GB of RAM. For non-techies, these are excellent specs that make the P30 the equivalent of a sports car in the world of phones. The P30 is more than powerful enough to deal with pretty much any task you throw at it.

During testing it blitzed through 3D gaming, playing demanding titles such as PUBG at its highest graphical settings stutter and chug-free. The P30 also handled photo editing and video editing with ease, purring along quietly, and displayed zero issue with multiple-tab web browsing.

The absence of Qi wireless charging is on paper a shortcoming, but battery life is excellent so it hardly feels like a deal-breaker. The P30’s 3650mAh cell easily lasted a day and a half of use.

Even if you have to top up the charge, the fast-charging tech will make short work of it. Plugging the phone into the mains at 0% battery, it hit full charge in just over an hour – which is impressive when you consider that the more expensive iPhone XS takes over three and a half hours to hit 100%.

With lighter use, you should easily be able to stretch the battery to two days, which again is excellent. All-in-all, the Huawei P30 gets all the basics right when it comes to hardware and performance.

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The Huawei P30 doesn’t match the P30 Pro’s camera, but it’s still excellent

The only big shortcoming relates to the Huawei P30’s camera tech. It comes loaded with a tweaked version of the P20 Pro’s camera setup. Specifically, round back you’ll find a tri-camera system that combines a main 40-megapixel wide-angle sensor, alongside a 16-megapixel ultra-wide and 8-megapixel telephoto sensors.

The system is impressive and ticks all the right boxes for regular users. If you simply care about snapping photos in Auto mode for sharing on social media then the P30 will prove more than good enough. The use of a custom RYYB (red, yellow, yellow, blue) “Super Spectrum” pixel arrangement, as opposed to the standard RGB (red, green, blue), also appears to help improve low-light performance.

You can see some samples taken on the P30 below.

This is because the double-yellow arrangement, which can be combined with the other colours to make greens, lets the camera take in more light. Nevertheless, it falls behind the Pro in a few important ways.

The Huawei P30 Pro comes with a more advanced quad-camera setup. In general, the main sensors are a step up, featuring wider apertures and a higher 10x optical zoom distance. But it’s the addition of a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor and OIS (optical image stabilisation) that really set it apart from the P30.

The ToF sensors let the Pro capture more 3D, spatial information, which it can then use to better crop portrait shots with a bokeh effect. This is where the person is in focus, but the background is blurred. OIS is a well-known, more common bit of camera tech that aims to improve low-light performance by intelligently compensating for minor vibrations and hand movements.

The Huawei P30’s camera is excellent; but the P30 Pro’s is noticeably better, especially when you shoot with the two head-to-head. The wider aperture and inclusion of OIS and the ToF sensor mean low-light performance on the P30 Pro is industry-leading, especially with the custom night mode. I’d go so far as to say it beats the Pixel 3 in low light, which was the previous top-dog in this area. Portrait photos also look cleaner and display fewer anomalies than those taken on the regular P30.

As a result, camera performance is one of the big reasons to pick the P30 Pro over the regular P30.

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The Huawei P30’s software is still an issue

The only other issue I have with the P30 is one that’s shared with pretty much every Huawei phone I test: its software.

In my opinion, Huawei’s hardware is excellent, industry-leading even – but its software is dire. Emotion UI makes superfluous – or, at times, outright baffling – changes to Android’s user interface. If you’re coming from a regular Android phone then it will feel completely alien as a result.

Key offences include removing the Apps tray and moving Settings around in bizarre, nonsensical ways. The end result is a menu system where even basic options, such as turning off roaming, aren’t where you expect them to be. These issues are a constant annoyance on the Huawei P30.

To make matters worse, the phone is full of Huawei bloatware. It features duplicate applications for contacts, calendar, music, and pretty much any service you can think of that Android already has covered.

Being fair to Huawei, it isn’t the only company to do this. But when even Sony, which used to be a key offender, now lets you opt out of having its apps installed during the start-up process, the bloatware feels like a key irritation that could have so easily been avoided.

The software could also hinder the P30’s long-term appeal. In the past, Emotion UI has been a key factor in causing Huawei phones’ performance to drop with long-term use. I won’t be able to confirm if this is the case here without longer-term testing, however.

It could also slow down how quickly the P30 can be upgraded to newer versions of Android, since Huawei will have to tweak EMUI to work with Google’s update on every new release.

Should I buy the Huawei P30?

Despite these concerns, the Huawei P30 remains an excellent Android smartphone – and one any buyer with cash to spare should consider. It may not be top-dog in Huawei’s current lineup, but it remains an excellent handset that will meet, if not exceed most people’s needs.

It offers an excellent screen, top-notch battery life and blisteringly fast performance that will enable you to blitz through even the most demanding of tasks. If this isn’t enough to tempt you then, in addition, it looks outright gorgeous.

Were it not for its sub-par software, I’d list the P30 as one of the best Android phones available at this price – and a perfect alternative to the Galaxy S10e. I’d also argue it beats the full-fat Galaxy S10 in a few key areas.

But if you want the best of the best, then the P30 Pro offers next-level camera tech, which for people who use their phone’s camera on a regular basis and care about getting the best imaging quality available justifies the extra £200.

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