REVIEW: Huawei P40 Pro
Huawei took the wraps of their photography-centric P40 series last week via a livestream where we were introduced to 3 new models. The 6.1″ Huawei P40 with a rear triple camera set-up and 3x optical zoom, the 6.58″ Huawei P40 Pro with a quad camera system and 5x optical zoom and finally, the Huawei P40 Pro+ with a penta camera set up and 10x optical zoom.
The Huawei P40 and P40 Pro are set to launch in Ireland on April 7th with the P40 coming in at €799 and the P40 Pro at €999 with the availability and pricing of the P40 Pro+ to be announced at a later date. You can read more about the specs of the P40 and P40 Pro+ in our announcement post for all three handsets but today, I’m going to be focusing on the P40 Pro for our review.
As expected, the Huawei P40 Pro is an extremely well smartphone. The shimmering silver rear of the handset has a smooth matte finish which, thankfully doesn’t show up many fingerprints but still has a sturdy yet expensive feel. It’s definitely an eye-catching finish and a nice evolution from last year’s dual tone finishes. Huawei also thought it wise to bring back the physical volume buttons which were notably absent from last year’s Mate 30 Pro.
There’s no denying how striking the front panel of the P40 Pro is. With its bezel-less edges on the left and right hand side of the display and minuscule top and bottom bezels, Huawei really has created something that pushes the boundaries, quite literally.
The display has also been upgraded from last year’s P30 Pro with an increased resolution of 2,640 x 1,200 pixels and improved refresh rate of 90hz. This definitely makes for a much smoother web browsing and Instagram scrolling experience along with reduce screen tearing when playing graphics-intensive games.
The display is also capable of supporting HDR10+ content but there’s no official way to test this out just yet with the Amazon Prime Video app only supporting SDR content at the time of this review.
Huawei has improved the fingerprint scanner that’s built into the display so it’s now 30% faster and 30% larger. That being said though, we haven’t actually needed to rely on the scanner all that much during our review as the 3D face unlock is so fast, even in low light, there’s no need.
Now, like all P series devices from Huawei, it’s the camera that really makes this phone stand out from the crowd. Starting with the front facing camera, you’ll see its situated in the rather large pill shaped cut out at the top left of the display with this housing the 32MP Auto Focus camera, a depth-sensing camera and the usual ambient and proximity sensors. It’s the 3D depth-sensing camera in particular that helps you unlock the phone with your face almost instantaneously.
With the introduction of auto-focus (AF), the sensor is now more than capable of capturing fantastically detailed selfies, even with difficult backlit scenarios. Skin tone looks natural but Huawei has still included their infamous Beauty effects – we did make sure these were turned off for the testing though.
Looking at the rear cameras, like last year’s P30 Pro, Huawei has included a 4 camera set up with a main 50MP wide-angle lens, a 40 MP ultra-wide angle lens, a 12MP telephoto periscope lens and a depth sensing Time of Flight (ToF) sensor.
The wide-angle camera also offers a high-resolution mode that fully utilises the 50MP image sensor. If you’re not looking to capture your images at this insane megapixel count, you can use the ‘normal’ photo mode which produces 12.5MP still images with pixel binning, which combines four pixels into one.
When using the main sensor for every day shots, we found it difficult to capture a bad photo. With all of Huawei’s AI technology and dedicated photography-focus software algorithms, each photo offers fantastic white balance, exposure, detail and colour production and, if you jump into the Gallery immediately after taken a photo, you can see the tech at work with the much improved end photo emerging on top of the original photo.
The AI smarts of the new handset can also help you remove passers-by in photos along with reflections. We found the reflection removal worked especially well but we didn’t have as much luck removing passers-by from other photos.
The real standout for this camera is night photography though. Yes, the P20 Pro and P30 Pro had impressive low light capabilities in their own right but Huawei has improved the sensors for not only the main sensor, but also the ultra-wide angle and telephoto sensors as well. What that means is, when using just the normal ‘Photo’ mode, you can capture amazing detail in low light scenarios using both the normal and wide angle cameras.
For the telephoto lens, Huawei has also introduced vastly improved ‘Night’ mode capabilities so you’re now able to capture fantastic low light images using the 5x optical zoom. Below is a sample photo using just the normal photo mode for the main wide-angle lens and, believe me, it was extremely dark when we took this photo.
The telephoto lens, with its improved sensor and AI now captures even clearer photos and are definitely a step up from last year’s P30 Pro.
Both the above photos were taken from the same spot (photo below taken with Huawei P40 Pro)
The 40MP Ultra Wide ‘Cine Camera’ in the P40 Pro (and P40 Pro+) uses ‘SedecimPixel Fusion Technology’ to support 16-in-1 pixel binning, producing super pixels AKA much sharper video and photos and it also boasts light sensitivity up to ISO51200 along with 7680fps Ultra Slow-Motion video capture.
Being able to capture video at 4K60fps with the wide-angle lens really is fantastic, even though I wish the actual width of what’s being captured was up there with the likes of the S20+ and iPhone 11 Pro. Having said that, the images from the wide-angle lens are definitely some of the most detailed and well balanced images we’ve seen from a lens of this type to date.
The telephoto camera can also capture high quality zoom footage as well as 4K time-lapse videos. Huawei has also added a feature called ‘Audio Zoom’ which allows users to zoom in on an audio source and amplify its sound at the same time. Having tested it out ourselves, it definitely works better than we thought it would but we’re not really sure of its practicality in everyday use.
Like the P30 Pro, the P40 Pro has a 4,200mAh battery but with the new Kirin 990 processor, we were getting equally as good, if not better battery life over last year’s P30 Pro, even with the new 90hz display enabled. 40W wired charging makes a return but, with a very special Huawei wireless charger, you can wirelessly charge the new P40 Pro up to 40W as well which is insane. We were easily getting 1 and a half days of medium to heavy use which is fantastic for such a specs heavy handset.
The P40 Pro runs on Huawei’s latest version of EMUI 10.1 which is based on Android 10.There are some nice new multi-tasking options with the ability to have an app float as a window above your current app along with the usual split screen function. Huawei are also touting enhanced cross device compatibility and functionality but you will need one of their Matebooks to really take full advantage of these features.
Still, it is hard not to ignore the elephant in the room. The P40 Pro lacks Google Mobile Services due to the continued ban of Huawei coming off the back of the US-China trade war. So, as a result, it does not have Google Play Store and its library of apps.
Instead, the P40 Pro comes with Huawei’s own app store, the AppGallery. While there are some notably big name apps to select such as Microsoft Office and Snapchat, there’s no avoiding the other major apps that are missing like Facebook and Instagram.
Yes, you could download third party app stores such as APKPure that will allow you to download the APK (Android Package Kit) to install the other apps not available on the AppGallery. Using both these options will still only get you so far and apps such as Gmail and Google Maps are harder to come by and even if you do manage to download them, you can’t sign into your account.
This sort of inconsistency and downright awkwardness to have the apps you’re used to using accessible on your phone could be a dealbreaker to many and, even for those who manage to get the majority of the apps they need, including Google’s own suite of apps, being unable to sign in to your Google account really is a major roadblock.
The Huawei P40 Pro definitely has one of the best camera set ups available on the market right now. When it comes to software though, potential buyers really need to weigh up how important Google’s apps are to their everyday lives and if they feel they could live without them. If so, this phone is a no brainer. If the answer is the opposite though, this phone just won’t be able to deliver the experience you’re after which is a shame given how much Huawei has gotten right.
We really hope Google is approved their exemption from the US Goverment to work with Huawei and re-install Google Play Services on their latest handsets including the P40 Pro. If this does happen, the Huawei P40 Pro is THE phone of choice.
Availability & Launch Offer
The Huawei P40 Pro (along with the P40) will range in Ireland both in Silver Frost and Black.
The P40 Series will be available to purchase from 7th April with an impressive launch offer that includes; Free Huawei Freebuds 3 (value €179), €50 Huawei Points card (to use in their AppGallery), 12 month’s free 50GB Huawei Cloud Service, 3 month’s Free Huawei Music streaming service in addition to Huawei’s VIP Service. This service will allow you to contact Huawei representatives directly to ensure you’re getting the best from your new handset. You can learn more about it here.