The Huawei P20 Pro was our favourite smartphone in the world for much of 2018, and was only defeated by Huawei's next big flagship, the Mate 20 Pro. Is it now time for the changing of the guard again?
Huawei just fdldzxdc the P30 Pro, and it finds the middle ground between those devices, pulling together specs and design elements from both superstar handsets to create one of the most compelling early handsets of 2019. Did we mention that it now has four back cameras? That's wild.
We've just posted our full review of the P30 Pro, so here's a look at how Huawei's latest compares with last year's stellar P20 Pro.
Design: Big upgrade
We were so initially wowed with the backing designs of the Huawei P20 Pro that we kind of gave a pass to the front, but in hindsight it was a bit confused. Putting the fingerprint sensor on the bottom gave the phone a big chin, while still keeping a notch at the top. It was fine, but hardly the most cohesive approach.
Of course, the back more than made up for any qualms there. With the Twilight gradient finish and other versions to follow, it dazzled in a way that previous smartphones hadn't. And the P30 Pro carries that torch, thankfully, with Pearl White, Breathing Crystal, Aurora, and a fiery Amber Sunrise finish available this time around. Oh, and there's plain ol' Black, if you want.
And on the front, the tiny teardrop notch and smaller chin are definitely an upgrade. It might feel a little 2018 in the Android flagship space given Samsung's move into punch-hole territory with the Galaxy S10 line, but it still looks pretty good to us.
Screen: Still 1080p
You'll gain a little more screen real estate with the switch from a wider notch to a teardrop, and the screen here is also larger at 6.47in compared to 6.1in on the P20 Pro.
However, Huawei has stuck with 1080p resolution again for this AMOLED, and the pixels are a smidge more noticeable on that larger panel. It's a little disappointing since the Mate 20 Pro swapped to a higher-resolution Quad HD panel with sterling results, but the P30 Pro's screen still looks lovely overall.
Camera: The big 10x
Here's where the P30 Pro really asserts its claim to the smartphone throne. Last year's phone had three back cameras, delivering 3x optical and 5x hybrid zoom, but Huawei's gone one bigger this time around: four back cameras and 10x lossless zoom.
It's achieved via what comes out to a 7.8x optical zoom paired with further data from the main sensor to get it to Huawei's claimed 10x mark. And the results looked very impressive. You've certainly never seen anything like it on another smartphone, since zooming that far usually just gets you horrifically pixelated results.
It's handled via a 40MP 27mm f/1.6 ultra wide-angle main sensor, a 20MP wide-angle 16mm f/2.2, and an 8MP 5x optical periscope zoom lens, along with a new time-of-flight (ToF) sensor that delivers additional depth data.
Meanwhile, the P20 Pro was ahead of the pack for a while until the Mate 20 Pro lightly improved upon it. The P20 Pro had a 40MP main RBG sensor, 20MP monochromatic sensor, and an 8MP telephoto sensor on the back, and was the smartphone camera champ for much of 2018.
Performance: More power onboard
The P30 Pro is a generation ahead of its predecessor, naturally, using the newer Kirin 980 chip instead of the previous Kirin 970. Both are pretty powerful chips, but the Kirin 980 packs in a lot more transistors and can more easily handle intensive tasks, as well as keep pace with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and Samsung Exynos 9820 chips seen in other new Androids.
Everything felt pretty speedy during our testing, and EMUI 9.0 (based on Android 9 Pie) has some nice enhancements over previous versions. The P30 Pro also has more RAM, with 8GB vs. 6GB in the P20 Pro.
Battery and perks: Some upgrades
Battery life is about the same. The P30 Pro has a 4,200mAh battery pack, but has to contend with that larger screen, while the P20 Pro had 4,000mAh on hand. The P20 Pro was built for a strong day-and-a-half of uptime, and the P30 Pro can do the same depending on how hard you hammer it.
The P30 Pro offers wireless charging, and also has the same reverse wireless charging feature as the Mate 20 Pro, letting you top up a friend's phone on the back. The P20 Pro has neither.
In terms of storage, the P20 Pro came in 128GB and 256GB varieties with no option for expandable memory. The P30 Pro matches those internal storage counts and adds a third 512GB option, but also allows for Huawei's own Nano Memory cards if you end up wanting more down the line.
Verdict: Should you upgrade?
The 10x zoom camera setup truly lives up to its potential, and the Huawei P30 Pro has become our new favourite smartphone. It feels a little more incremental of an upgrade this time around, since last year's phone was such a dazzling shift for Huawei, but the enhancements here prove to be very significant indeed.
If you already have the P20 Pro, will you want to upgrade? Quite possibly, yes. There are some things about the P20 Pro that have been quickly improved upon or bested by other handsets, although it remains a very strong handset. We'd only really recommend the upgrade if you're a die-hard camera enthusiast and think you'll use that 10x zoom constantly. Otherwise, keep your quality 2018 phone and wait for what next year brings.