Noel Campion uncovers plenty of good things under the lid of the Huawei P30, a big-hearted update on the larger P20.
One of the best smartphones of 2018 was the Huawei P20 and, not surprisingly, the new P30 has managed to take all of what was great in its predecessor and improve on it.
The P30 isn’t a dumbed down version of its bigger and more expensive sibling the P30 Pro either, sharing a lot of the same hardware DNA, features and style.
I won’t lie, I love big phones like the P30 Pro, but there’s so much to like about the smaller P30 that I really enjoyed my time using it.
Although the P30 is smaller than the Pro, I don’t think you can consider its 6.1-inch screen small. The P30 has a stunning OLED screen instead of the IPS display of the P20. And, instead of a notch, there’s now a teardrop cutout for the front-facing camera.
This is tiny and you soon forget it’s there, but like a notch, you can choose to completely hide it. If you stretch to fill the video in apps like YouTube you will see the dewdrop, but I really didn’t find it annoying. In Netflix, it doesn’t go all the way to the top and so you don’t see the teardrop cutout.
Unlike the P30 Pro, the P30 doesn’t have curved sides. Personally, I prefer this and the result is a design that still manages tiny bezels and a near all-screen experience. Turn the P30 around to the back and you have a choice of two colours here in Ireland, Black and Breathing Crystal.
My review model was the latter and it looks incredible. The back is glass but unfortunately, although most won’t care, there’s no wireless charging. My review device didn’t come with a case, but the retail versions do come with one in the box. However, unlike the P30 Pro, the P30 comes with a pre-installed screen protector.
The rear is where you’ll find the vertically stacked triple camera setup and a dual-tone flash placed beneath. Missing from the P30 is the incredible periscope zoom lens found on the Pro that can reach up to 50x. Instead, you get 3x optical, 5x hybrid and 30x digital.
Although the P30 Pro has better specifications overall, the P30 trumps it in at least one way — it has a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Staying with audio for a minute, there’s only a single bottom firing speaker grill so no stereo audio. You do get Dolby Atmos, but you’ll have to plug in headphones to fully appreciate it.
The internals is similar to the P30 Pro with some minor tweaks. It comes with 128GB, 6GB of RAM, the same Kirin 980 processor, but a smaller 3,650mAh battery.
Face unlock is present and is incredibly fast, but there’s also an optical in-screen fingerprint reader. I really didn’t find this great at first, but thanks to a firmware update, it’s now relatively fast and reliable.
And then, there are the now famous Huawei cameras co-engineered with Leica setup that the P series is famous for and with good reason.
The main camera is a whopping 40mp with a SuperSpectrum sensor that can capture 40% more light than a traditional RGB sensor.
Essentially, it does this by using yellow pixels instead of green which can capture more light. The main camera has an f/1.8 fixed aperture instead of the P30 Pro’s f/1.6. In auto mode, the P30 takes incredible photos of night screens or low lit environments.
However, Night mode which was first introduced on the P20 is even better now, producing results that are hard to believe.
As a way of showing a friend of mine this feature, I took a photo of the space under his stairs.
I opened the door enough to fit the camera and his remark after showing him the photo was, “so, that’s what’s under there.” In reality, Night mode on the P30 can see more than you can with the naked eye and it’s an awesome feature to have.
The other two cameras offer zoom and ultrawide lenses. In particular, I love the 20mp ultrawide for big vistas or tight spaces. It can also be great for taking more creative photos at unique angles.
The 8mp 3x lens is always handy and the 5x is near lossless. However, the 30x digital zoom is nice to have, but the quality isn’t great.
That being said, up to 20x does produce near acceptable results.
One mode that only became available during my time of testing via a firmware update is Dual-View.
This allows you to capture video using two of the lenses simultaneously. In Dual-View mode, you can capture both an ultrawide angle clip and a zoom shot — offering a panorama on the right and a close-up on the left of the screen.
Some of my favourite camera modes are Portrait mode, which allows you to change the style of blurred backgrounds and Aperture mode that blurs the background behind non-human subjects that are within 2 metres.
A lot of other smartphone cameras don’t offer an Aperture mode and will only blur the background if the app detects a face.
You can also change the amount of blur after you’ve taken the shot.
Despite my minor disappointment that there’s no wireless charging, the P30 does support Huawei’s SuperCharge. However, instead of the 40W SuperCharge like the P30 Pro, you get a 22.5W charging brick instead.
The Huawei P30 is a joy to use and I absolutely love the design and form factor. The battery is fantastic and good enough to keep you going through a day of heavy use. The camera setup offers best in class features and flexibility.
Unfortunately, thanks to the ongoing trade war between China and the USA, Huawei is being targetted by the Trump administration. So, should you still buy a Huawei phone like the excellent P30?
In short, yes. Both Google and Huawei stand by existing handsets like the P30 Pro and P30. Google has stated: “Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”
However, the future of up-coming phones like the Huawei Mate 30 Pro is uncertain.
A company the size of Huawei isn’t going away anytime soon and hopefully, all the politics get sorted so that we can continue to enjoy innovation and essential competition from companies like Huawei.
The Huawei P30 is available now from free on contract or €579.99 on PAYG.