The Huawei brand name has been going quite strong lately with their very interesting offering like the Huawei Mate 20 they introduced at the end of 2018. The flagship is a remarkable smartphone in almost every aspect especially when you look at the Mate 20 Pro device. In its own right, it was one of the best smartphones your money can get in the market at the time. You even have to consider the fact that the Huawei Mate 20 had to go head-to-head with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and Galaxy S9.
The follow-up to the Huawei Mate 20 series then has to be something really special. Replacing it is a tall order. But so is replacing the older Huawei P20 series. The Huawei P20 series, introduced way before the Huawei Mate 20 series was Huawei’s flagship for the first half of the year. It was also the last Huawei flagship featuring the older HiSilicon Kirin 970 platform. Despite the older processor though the P20 series optimizes the artificially Intelligence (A.I.) aspect of the processing chip to make its triple-camera set-up one of the best in the market. Its value-for-money price point does not hurt too.
Replacing the Huawei Mate 20 series is a little premature if you ask us. But the Huawei P20 is about a year old now and it is sort of time to replace the Huawei P20 with a brand new photography flagship, the Huawei P30 that we have here. The new flagship series from Huawei with the fresh Kirin 980 like the one found in Huawei’s Mate 20 series.
The Kirin 980 is obviously more powerful than the older chipset and that means that the new Huawei P30 has even more power than before. That also means the image processing is also even better than before. It should be, right? It is not that simple though sometimes.
So is the brand new replacement for the Huawei P20 worth your attention? Should you upgrade your Huawei P20s for the new P30? Is it any good? That is what we want to know too, so let us look into it; shall we?
There is really nothing much to talk about in this department really. A smartphone is just a slab of glass held together by an aluminium frame these days. So is this one.
It looks very similar to the Huawei P20 actually. It has three cameras at the back so it looks a little more like the Huawei P20 Pro than the Huawei P20 device. But do not think for once that this is just a rebadged Huawei P20. It is not.
It is a completely new device with a smaller than ever notch that houses a 32-Megapixel front-facing camera. Everything about this device is a little extra compared to the older Huawei P20. The display is slightly larger too at 6.1-inch compared to the 5.8-inch of the Huawei P20. The display also dominates almost the entirety of the Huawei P30’s front so there is no other material except for glass that features the front of the device.
The glass just very slightly curves to taper the aluminium frame at the side of the device. That frame is body coloured, so the one we got was blue thanks to the Aurora colour scheme we have here. We will talk about the colour in a little bit, we will not spend 40 minutes talking about it though so do not be too bothered.
The frame houses all the usual suspects of buttons and holes for microphones and also the SIM and Nano Memory card/SIM tray. Other than a very nice finish on the aluminium frame and the buttons, there is nothing much else on the frames. So we have to move on to the back of the device.
The back of the device is still glass, not a Gorilla Glass though. It houses an NFC chip as well on the top instead of the awkward front side of the old Huawei P20 series. It makes a lot more sense too.
There is a protruded housing too at the back that is the camera modules. The Huawei P30, unlike the P30 pro only has three cameras and so all three lenses are put together in that housing. The thing is, the housing actually protrudes out quite a little bit. Without a case then your smartphone rests on the glass housing of the triple-camera module if you lay it on its back. It will rest at quite worrying angle too at that. The only solution then is to get a case to cover the back and protect the housing, which is a shame.
It is a shame to cover the back because of the beautiful colour we have here, the Aurora. Of course Huawei provides a cheap see-through silicon case you can use to protect the device. To really protect the device though you might want to get something sturdier. If not, you might want to get the wireless charging benefit with the wireless charging case from Huawei.
The Aurora though is very pretty. The gradient feels fresh and different compared to the ones we are plenty used to these days. The colour itself too is eye-capturing. It is alluringly different. You can get the device in Aurora White and Black colours too if this one is not your thing.
Internally the Huawei P30 share plenty of similarities to the Huawei P30 Pro. Both packs the all essential powerful HiSilicon Kirin 980. The same one found inside the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro too incidentally.
The Huawei Kirin 980 in the Huawei P30 packs the usual octa-core set-up that we are so used to by now. At the maximum, two of the cores clocks in at 2.6GHz while another two runs at 1.92GHz. There rest of the cores are low-power cores running at 1.8GHz for an improved battery consumption while idle. What is different on the 980 compared to the 970 that the previous P20 has though is that it now has a dual-Neural Processing Units (NPU) embedded into the processor instead of the single NPU on the P20 series.
That should mean more power for the AI assisted camera. It also means that there are more assistant based task that the P30 can work with. We will talk about those later though.
The AI assisted camera is also still co-engineered with Leica. There are three lenses instead of the Huawei P30 Pro’s four. We will explore this a little deeper later too.
Another difference between the Huawei P30 and the P30 Pro brother is its 128GB storage. The Huawei P30 Pro starts at a larger 256GB. Despite that slight difference, RAM remains the same with the two Pros at 8GB.
|Processor||HiSilicon Kirin 980 (8 Cores)|
Octa-Core @ 2×2.6 GHz, 2×1.92 GHz, 4×1.8 GHz
|RAM||8GB (As Tested)|
|Memory||128GB (As Tested)|
Expandable up to 256GB via NM card
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Mali-G76 MP10|
|Display||OLED panel 6.1-inch (~422 ppi) Full HD+,|
19.5:9 ratio (1,080 x 2,340 pixels), DCI-P3, HDR10
|Operating System||Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.1|
|Battery||Non-Removable 3,650mAh Li-Ion|
Fast Charging (22.5W)
Wi-Fi WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0 (aptX HD)
Triple Leica Co-Engineered Lens:
40-Megapixel (f/1.8, 1/1.7″ 27mm wide-angle)
16-Megapixel (f/2.2, 17mm ultra wide-angle)
8-Megapixel (f/2.4, 80mm telephoto)
3x optical zoom
Dual Pixel/Laser Autofocus
Dual LED Flash
4K Video recording (30fps)
Full HD video recording (30fps)
|Miscellaneous||IP53 Dust and Splash Resistant|
In-Display FingerPrint Sensor
3.5mm headphone jack
Dolby Atmos sound
The Huawei P30 is essentially an Android smartphone so it has the latest Android 9.0 Pie in it. It has to right? It is an Android flagship anyway. Like its many predecessors though it runs a custom User Interface (UI) on top of the Android. It is the latest EMUI 9.1 from Huawei.
EMUI 9.1 on Android 9.0 Pie
If you have been using a Huawei device for a while the UI should be no different from the ones you are used to. There is plenty of familiarity to the EMUI 9.1 that you may not notice that much of a difference moving from the Huawei P20 to the Huawei P30 let us say. If you are going to move away from Huawei P9 though, there might be certain subtle differences between the two versions of EMUI.
For one, the EMUI 9.1 on Huawei P30 has some new icons. We say new, but it really is just updated icons with slightly different looks. The EMUI 9.1 also supposedly comes with a new desktop mode; which we did not get to try unfortunately.
Despite all the subtle differences, the UI remains familiar to users. The subtle changes also affects the UI slightly. Everything feels slightly lighter than before. That is not to say that the UI was heavy before. It was still a light UI to begin with; the new one is just a little lighter. It looks a little more refined too and just a tad bit smoother than before. There are still the same amount of Huawei bloatware that you will find with the Huawei P30 though. Then again you can disable them if you want to.
The settings page feels pretty similar to the old one as well. Things do look a little more tidy though, just very slightly.
Thing is, with each new UI coming from both Android and Google, the experience improves all the time. With each update too, simplicity takes the center stage and minimalistic designs gets championed.
There is one very big noticeable change though with EMUI 9.1 on the Huawei P30 compared to the Huawei P20. That difference is on its forehead, or rather on the top of the display. It is a subtle notch that is called the Dewdrop display; pretty much the direction of the new Android smartphones these days. That also means you get more space for your notifications save for the middle part of the top of the Full HD+ display.
There are no physical fingerprint sensors anywhere on the body of the device. That has been moved underneath the display itself and is pointed out on the lock screen to help guide your finger placement. That proves to be quite fast as we will discover on a little later.
The Missing Ingredients
The only thing we find a little irksome is the fact that there are still navigational buttons. They are not physical buttons and are still soft buttons that is displayed on the display. While that may not be a huge thing; we are getting used to buttonless set-ups lately with super minimalist UIs out there. We are quite disappointed to find that we cannot remove the navigation buttons to get a complete full screen experience with the Huawei P30. But that is a little nit-picky.
There is still no app tray or menu to be found here. Unlike OPPO who as put in an option to enable app tray and menu somewhere within the settings, Huawei is still one of those that is quite resistant to that change. Not that it mattered that much to those who are used to it though. Me? I just put everything in folders and put all the folders on a single home page.
The Huawei P30, as mentioned shares the same processor as the Huawei Mate 20 and the Huawei P30 Pro. The HiSilicon Kirin 980 with dedicated dual NPU is paired to 8GB of RAM. This recipe should mean that the Huawei P30 should blaze through whatever you can throw at the smartphone. The smoothness of the UI may be a small testament to the power of the smartphone. Despite that, the UI itself is very light as it is and may not be a fair representation on just how powerful the HiSilicon Kirin 980 is.
Call Quality and Connectivity
As expected from any modern smartphone, the phone functionality has to be done well. There is no excuses anymore in this part technically; designing a product that does not make calls or receive up to 4G signals properly is as good as designing a bad product. Not in this case though.
With the new generation of antennas, the Huawei P30 is able to keep its signals up in most situations. Most smartphones starts facing a slowdown in data downloads and uploads as the signal bar drops. Not the Huawei P30 though. At least in our experience the Huawei P30’s data download and upload speeds remains quite high even if 4G data signal is half full. It does the usual 3G HSPA+, EDGE, and 2G too so not having 4G signals does not affect your connectivity. You still can make calls and send text messages. We were running on Digi’s 4G network most of the time.
The same can be said to the WiFi antenna on the Huawei P30 too. Well, most of it may be thanks to the processing power of the Kirin 980 but it is still impressive that its internet speed on Speedtest is faster than most of our review units on the same WiFi network.
Making calls is a very standard affair on EMUI 9.1. Just tap the phone app to launch the dialer and start calling away; nothing special here. Of course you can choose to call with either network if you do put in a second SIM card into the P30. The only issue with that is that you get no extra space for a memory card – an NM card of all cards.
Calls are pretty straightforward too. The call quality is crisp and clear most of the time with very little dropped calls. Even if the signal is below half bars callers are still able to pick up the conversation with not too big of an issue. Dropped calls are mostly due to network providers fault though.
It may not have the dual window mode of the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone. But it still can do that thanks to Android itself. The issue is that we almost never used the dual-display mode on the Huawei P30 so we cannot really comment on how smooth it is. What we did do is open plenty of apps on the Huawei P30 and kept them open most of the time.
The Operating System (OS) of the modern world are clever enough to keep open apps idle and pause them from any activities to help with multitasking. That does not mean that 8GB of RAM has not meant anything to the users though. 8GB of RAM on the Huawei P30 served us pretty well. We had nearly 20 apps open and switching between five apps on and off from time to time. While there are some lags when you switch between more than 5 apps at the same time; it has never been that noticeable. Most of the time, switching between apps is an instant affair with the delay coming from ourselves most of the time.
We also tried keeping about 30 tabs on Chrome open. That happens without a hiccup and switching between pages feels seamless and smooth. There is the super occasional lags from time to time but they are very minor and, as suggested, pretty rare.
The biggest benefit of a more powerful processor is gaming. The Huawei Mate series did excel in that department. That also means this should excel too since they pack the same processor and the same amount of RAM.
We tried playing Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile, SkyForce: Reloaded, some Sudoku, and Injustice on it. While Sudoku might not be the most hardware intensive game out there, it does test out our patience and stretched the battery life of the device by keeping the display on for extended periods. The most intensive game that we played on it, we would say, is PUBG Mobile.
The game though ran very smoothly with little lag. The response time may not match what the BlackShark II could offer. Still, the device is powerful enough to run the game very smoothly. We did not say that you could be competitive against dedicated gaming smartphones, but against normal players, you should do just fine.
Back to the subject of its gaming performance though. The colours produced on the display pops and looks beautiful. Thanks to the HDR display also any graphic intensive games look good and proper; PUBG looks fantastic on this display.
The only issue is that the speakers are a little weak despite them being stereo. The good part though is that it still retains a 3.5mm jack for earphones or headphones.
We made it sound more interesting than it is, that is our fault. But hear us out. The NPU can potentially do plenty of things for the smartphone. The potential is actually great; it could potentially make our smartphone the center of our homes. The problem is just that, it is just a concept.
Huawei has its own assistant in the smartphone. They did not really talk about it or press further on the assistant. Not like when the Huawei Mate 20 was introduced; because we hardly use it.
In our opinion, this is a big missed opportunity. There is however some understandable limitations; the smartphone itself cannot hold that much data on its own. But the Huawei P30 series, the Kirin 980 can handle more than what is thrown at it. Most of the time then we relied on Google’s Assistant to get things done – as usual on an Android smartphone
Security and Privacy
This is what plenty of internet pundits are a bit concerned about these days. It is not just a fad though, it is actually a thing that you should take seriously. On the Huawei P30, you get the whole slew of security measures you might be used to at this point on smartphones. You get the usual pin, pattern, and password lock. The camera is good enough for a 3D scan of your face for the usual facial recognition. Thanks to the AI too, it is slightly more secure than the usual facial recognition in 2D format. Then you get the fingerprint sensor. Where? Underneath the display is where.
The under-display fingerprint sensor has been one of the most impressive technological advancements in the smartphone world since the introduction of pattern password protection. Well, it is just a normal fingerprint sensor.
It is not though, implementing an under-display fingerprint sensor can actually be quite difficult. As we found out from the first generation of production ready under-display fingerprint sensors, they are hardly accurate and can be quite irresponsive. They are not very secure too, all you need to do is to get the owner to unlock the display once. As long as the user does not wipe off the display, you may be able to unlock the device by very lightly touching the fingerprint sensor area to give the stained oil a little more heat. That is why manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei does not get on-board; not until the technology matures like it is now.
That said, using the Huawei P30’s under-display fingerprint sensor feels natural. It feels like using the old sensors that is propped up to the front of the display. Pretty much like the Huawei P20 if I remembered it correctly. Except the placement of the Fingerprint sensor makes plenty more sense, a little more central to the lower part of the display.
Fingerprints are detected correctly all the time and gets more accurate as you use it. So if you set four fingerprints on it, you might want to use all four finger to unlock the device more often. That way you can unlock your Huawei P30 quickly and easily. It is that clever and accurate.
Probably the biggest trademark of Huawei smartphones, if you ask anyone who uses one, is its battery life. The Huawei P30 continues that tradition with a battery life of more than one full day. That is more than 24 hours we are talking about. At some point we even got the 3,650mAh battery to last us nearly two days. Most cases though we got about 30 to 36 hours of battery life out of the Huawei P30 on a typical use basis. Our typical use case is made up of some phone calls, some text messaging, plenty of browsing, some photo taking, playing a game or two in the train. Oh yes, we listened to some music with Spotify too as well as some videos from YouTube.
Benchmarks, as we have always insisted on every review, tells only half the story of how a smartphone performs. There are some rigging that might happen too with some manufacturers so we cannot fully rely on the data presented by the benchmarks sometimes. We are not completely against it though; for those who wants to look at the benchmark data please do so at the gallery below.
By far one of the biggest changes that we have seen from smartphones in the past two years is its display form. Last year we saw the Huawei P20 with a very weird iPhone-esque notch that covers most of the top part of the display. We did not like that.
The Huawei P30, as mentioned earlier features a Full HD+ display with 2,340 by 1,080 pixels. The 6.1-inch display is smaller than the Huawei P30 Pro’s 6.47-inch display but larger than the older Huawei P20’s 5.8-inch display. The resolution has not really changed since the Huawei P20 too actually, which is not actually a bad thing.
It is an OLED display with HDR and 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut. While that sounds like some technical jargon, the letters means that the display should be a superb looking one. To be fair, it is quite amazing.
I would say that the OLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S10e is the best looking one in the industry – may not be a popular opinion, but it is what it is. The OLED display on the Huawei P30 is not too far away from that. The colours pop, as per an OLED display. The colours are not over saturated too, unlike plenty of older OLED displays. There is a slightly colder tone to the colours on the display compared to the Samsung’s. That is not technically a terrible thing though, just that you get a very slight blue tinge on the display. Again, that may not be a bad thing.
Unlike the Huawei P30 Pro though the display is not used as the speaker, so it still has some speakerphone holes hidden on the top of the notch. Right, the notch.
The notch that blemishes the Huawei P30’s expansive display is surprisingly unobtrusive. Of course Huawei had to be a little clever with the placement of YouTube videos, their own video player, and Netflix (which we did not get to try on our unit). But the whole experience of using YouTube and their video player proves that the notch is pretty much kept hidden most of the time. If you wish to fill up the display though, you can just pinch and zoom on the YouTube app while watching a video. Then you will see the notch. It is still not that obtrusive, especially if you compare it to the older Huawei P20.
The party piece of any Huawei P series for the past few years has been its camera really. They are the first smartphone manufacturer to popularise the dual camera set-up. They are also the first manufacturer to put three cameras in a single smartphone unit with the Huawei P20. They were not the first smartphone manufacturer to put four cameras on a smartphone though.
The Huawei P30 is not the one with the four cameras if you have not figured that out yet. If that was what you were looking for in the first place, you have to look at the Huawei P30 Pro. The Huawei P30 is the one with three cameras. The three cameras though are not a bunch of 12-Megapixel shooters anymore. 12-Megapixel is so 2014 anyway.
The Huawei P30 instead packs a 40-Megapixel main shooter with f/1.8 aperture. That is supported by a 16-Megapixel ultra wide-angle shooter at f/2.2 aperture and an 8-Megapixel telephoto lens that helps with up to 3x optical zoom. Yes, 3x. These are also co-engineered with Leica which means that they should be quite somethings.
Then there is the 32-Megapixel front shooter that is housed in the notch. With the help of the NPU, both cameras are touted to be some of the best in the market currently. While that might be some marketing brainwashing, we do believe them though; after playing with the camera of course. No selfie photos though, I look terrible – I am not the best at taking selfies.
On normal review units we will usually take anywhere between 10 to 100 photos and select a few of them to put out on the site for review. On the Huawei P30 and the short time we were playing around with it we took over 500 photos in a span of five days; that is how much we enjoyed the camera. Plus, the option to zoom up to 30x does help us with some press shots in events too.
The photos that comes out of the Huawei P30 is nothing short of amazing. Although time and time again we might say that the most important part of any smartphone cameras or any cameras for that matter is the software that processes the images, a little help from high-resolution sensors is always appreciated.
The photos come out even better than before. The scores on DxOMark may be marginal compared to what it is. To our eyes though, images comes out very pretty with very natural colours. There is a new type of RYYB image sensor too that replaces the green light sensor with a yellow light sensor. In theory that is supposed to help its low light performance. The thing is, it does help with some colour balancing of the photos too. Instead of the usual yellow tinge we see in other cameras, the photos come out a little more natural with whiter whites.
The 32-Megapixel sensor out front is great too. It does not have the now popular dual lens like the big Samsung Galaxy S10+. It is still more than enough though. selfies still come out good-looking and natural, unless you do not want it to, then you can beautify yourself with the AI assistant.
Low-Light? You Mean You Have Normal Eyes?
The low-light performance is breathtaking though. We never expected it really; we thought that this was a slight exaggeration on Huawei’s part. Any photographer will tell you that low-light photography is a huge challenge. Any photographer will also tell you that good lighting is always key to great photography. But in low-light conditions you have no choice; that is why it is difficult. There is no possible way to capture details in that fashion.
Not a problem on the Huawei P30 to our surprise. We thought that the Samsung devices did quite well in low-light photography. Until we picked up the Huawei P30 that is.
Even in complete darkness, the Huawei P30 is able to pull light into the photos and inject some colours and detail into the subject. Of course, do not expect normal quality details from the photos. There is still some grains in the photo but they are minimal at worst. The subject, somehow, is nicely lit and detailed somehow. Considering that there were no lights shining on the subject, this is some kind of sorcery. According to Huawei’s sorcerers, this is thanks partly to the new sensor and mostly to the new NPU that detects even more scenes than before and optimizes dark images from some very clever sensor derived data.
Smooth, Smooth Videos
There is another function to the NPU too. The NPU on the Kirin 980 also does some incredible electronic stabilisation on whatever videos you try to shoot. While the algorithm on the Mate 20 can be a little annoying, on the Huawei P30 it is seamless and clever. It still records up to 4K 60fps, so nothing to complain about.
Videos, as expected comes out with very natural colours and very stable. It feels more stable than plenty of smartphone cameras too. The best part is that stabilisation works even on 4K mode. The closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S10e with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) does not.
There are plenty more modes that we could have played with in the video mode, but we did not try all of them. What we were concerned about was with the main function; that is what we used most anyway.
Should Have Gone Pro? Not Really
The Huawei P30 will set you back MYR 2,699. That is the same money you pay for a Samsung Galaxy S10e. Some might say that this should be a no brainer – you should get the Samsung. It is not that simple though after using the Huawei P30.
The form factor is larger, thanks to the larger display. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10e, which is my favourite S10 by the way, it gets a little unwieldy; only slightly. The S10e looks a little better too in its form, somehow. That is in now way saying that the Huawei P30 looks ugly. It just looks a little too familiar with older devices. We do think that the colour options are quite spectacular though, except for the black; that is just a classic colour that they should already have in their stables anyway.
The Huawei P30 does not feel as good in the hands too somehow, just a little awkward. That has never been the point of the Huawei P series anyway, they are photography champions in their segment. That also means it should be horizontal most of the time. In that sense, the placement of the camera is great; much better than plenty of its competitors.
In that sense too the Huawei P30 does a better job at photography than its competitors too. That is also, by far, its biggest attraction. In this case also plety of people out there would also say; “why not go for the Huawei P30 Pro then? That is a quadraple camera set-up, better than the P30 by one lens”. It is not that simple too.
The Huawei P30 Pro is rather expensive. You have to go over MYR 3,000 to get your hands on one. The Huawei P30 is under that by quite a margin. While it is tempting to get the Huawei P30 Pro over the Huawei P30 just for that one extra lens and extra 20x zoom, it is really unnecessary. What are you going to do with 50x zoom anyway? Catch your neighbour from across the road cheating on his or her other halves? That is not really your problem anyway.
The Huawei P30’s camera is impressive enough on its own too. Not as high resolution as the Huawei P30 Pro, but enough that it is already an impressive thing on its own. The Huawei P30 really is in a class of its own; you can hardly compare it to the Huawei P30 Pro. You cannot really compare it to the Samsung Galaxy S10e either because this is an entirely different product that should be judged differently.
Unfortunately though, we have to choose. Its closest competitor is also unfortunately the Samsung Galaxy S10. Which one would have my money?
The short answer is still the Samsung, but that is because the Samsung Galaxy S10e is a lot more versatile and a better all-rounder. If I have to bet on photography as a living though; I would choose the Huawei P30. No, not the Huawei P30 Pro, that is a little over the top and unnecessary for me. So far then, this is my favourite Huawei P30 in the series.