Over the last couple of years, the development of smartphone technology has been a little stagnant. It’s not that the new phones aren’t good, but they’re often only modest improvements over the previous models.
This will likely change this year as the first foldable phones are due to hit the market. Last year, one of the few companies to release a truly unique was Huawei with its P20 line, which included the first three-lens rear camera. The controversial Chinese company’s P20 Pro has a 20 MP wide-angle lens and 8 MP telephoto (which worked together to create a 5X hybrid zoom) as well as a 20 MP monochrome lens for black and white photography. And then later in the year, the company released its Mate 20 line, which improved on the design by swapping the monochrome lens for an ultra-wide angle one capable of a 0.6X magnification and adding more advanced camera AI software. (The flagship Mate 20 Pro had the best camera system of any phone in 2018 and was my choice for the best Android smartphone of that year.)
Like the Mate 20 Pro, the top-end P30 Pro, which I tested, has a 40 MP wide-angle lens (with the focal equivalent to a 27 mm lens on a 50 mm camera) and 20 MP ultra-wide (16 mm) lens. But the P30 Pro’s 8 MP telephoto lens (125 mm) has a 5X magnification as opposed to Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro’s 3X one. As such, the P30 Pro is able to boast a 10X hybrid zoom. While hybrid zooms are a combination of optical and digital zooms, the enlarged image still looks clear. (The phone can actually do a 50X digital zoom but I wouldn’t recommend it, as, at that magnification, the image is quite pixellated.)
The P30 Pro has preset magnifications for 0.7X, 1X, 5X and 10X and as you can see in the example below, the pictures look very sharp even as you zoom in for more details. And the built-in AI scene detection usually did a good job of giving a good default white balance. (Of course, you can turn off this AI and there’s a professional mode where you can fiddle around with more settings.
The P30 and P30 Lite both have a similar camera setup — but with lower specs.
Unique to the P30 Pro, however, is a fourth 3D time-of-flight camera. Despite the name, it doesn’t take a three-dimensional image or, well, fly. It’s a range-imaging camera that’s included here specifically for use in portrait mode. Using infrared light, it measures the distance between objects within a scene to better delineate the subject from the background. In terms of portraits, the TOF camera can better determine how far away the subject is from the camera and gives a slight, natural-looking blur to the surroundings to help your model stand out in the frame.
But what really impressed me was the P30 Pro’s photography in low-light. You can manually set the ISO to as high as 409,600 to better capture the surrounding light, which frankly can even make black look overexposed. Even more interesting was the night mode feature which uses a low exposure to capture the shot. Remembering an old photography textbook that said you shouldn’t shoot photos handheld when the exposure is longer than 1/30 of a second, I had assumed whatever I was shooting was would be blurred by camera shake. (The exposure tended to take between six and 10 seconds.) But I was rather surprised by the result. The images were generally quite clear and could handle contrast incredibly well.
The cameras can also shoot 4K video and you can still take advantage of the 10X hybrid zoom — however, if you are shooting it at that magnification, the frame will likely be a little jumpy, unless you attach it to a tripod. A software update will also come at a later called dual-view video that will let you shoot video from two of the lenses at the same time.
The P30 Pro’s front-facing is also impressive. It has a 32 MP wide-angle lens, which is better than many phones’ rear cameras.
In terms of design, the P30 line looks a lot more like the Mate 20 series than its predecessor. Like both previous lines, the P30 Pro has an aluminum frame covered on both sides by glass. The phone has a 6.47-inch capacitive OLED touchscreen with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 pixels. Like the Mate 20 Pro, the phone’s display is a 19.5:9 aspect ratio but not it’s not as high-res as the former flirts with a 4K resolution. But it’s still a beautiful, bright display that offers realistic colours.
As with the Mate 20 series, the P30 phones have dispensed with the physical fingerprint sensor and moved it into the display itself. It’s an interesting way to increase screen real estate but it’s a little more finicky to set up and I’m not sure I’m sold on the solution. I mean, I never really found a fingerprint sensor particularly obtrusive.
The P30 Pro uses the Mate 20 Pro’s faster Huawei Kirin 980 chipset octa-core chipset with a clockspeed of up to 2.26 GHz. It runs on Android 9 (Pie) and is available with either 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage or 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. My test model had the latter and it offered a very smooth experience for videos, games and other memory-intensive apps.
The sound quality is good, though perhaps a little tinny, or at least treble-y at times through the phone’s own speakers. But it’s not distorted. And if you have a decent set of earphones, it’s not an issue.
One “improvement” I personally find a little annoying is that the P30 Pro has removed the P20 Pro’s LED notification light in favour of Huawei’s Always on Display (AOD) feature. It can be configured to show the date, time and alerts. However, it won’t acknowledge notifications from third-party apps, making it kind of useless. And third-party AOD apps can be a bit of a hassle to set up. And sometimes the in-screen fingerprint sensor seemed to interfere with said apps as they fought for dominance over the lock screen. But I guess you could just turn on face recognition to unlock your device instead.
Ultimately, it’s a rather small complaint about a pretty impressive phone. And if you’re worried about that whole thing about how Huawei might spy on you for China through your phone … well at least with that 32 MP selfie camera, you can be assured your hacked nudes will look impeccable!
The P30 Pro is available at most major wireless retailers. Videotron has the best price for the 128 GB model on a two-year contract for no money down on a 16 GB data/month plan. Rogers also offers for no-money down on a two-year plan through its in-store Upfront Edge promotion. Rogers and Fido offer the best price for the phone without a contract for $1,099. Videotron also has the best pricing for the 256 GB model no money down on its two-year 16 GB data plan and $1,199.95 outright.
Android 9 (Pie) and EMUI 9.1
Dimensions and weight
158 mm x 73.4 mm x 8.41 mm; 192 g
6.47-inch 19.5:9 (2,340×1,080) capacitive OLED touchscreen
Huawei Kirin 980 octa-core processor
Dual NPUs(Neural-network Processing Unit)
2xCortex-A76 Based 2.6GHz+ 2xCortex-A76 Based 1.92GHz + 4xCortex-A55 1.8GHz
Storage and memory
128 GB ROM/6 GB RAM or 256 GB ROM/8 GB RAM
Rear: Leica Quad Camera
40 MP (wide-angle lens, f/1.6 aperture,OIS) + 20 MP (ultra-wide-angle lens, f/2.2 aperture) + 8 MP (telephoto, f/3.4 aperture, OIS)
Huawei Time-of-Flight (TOF) Camera
supports autofocus (laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus), supports AIS (HUAWEI AI Image Stabilization).
Front: 32 MP, f/2.0 aperture
Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby AC-4)
mp3, mp4, 3gp, ogg, amr, aac, flac, wav, midi
Huawei SuperCharge (Max 40W）
Supports reverse wireless charging
Ambient light sensor
In-screen fingerprint sensor
Colour temperature sensor
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019