Coming soon after the excellent Samsung Galaxy S20 and Oppo Find X2 Pro, the Huawei P40 Pro is another high-specced, 5G Android phone headlined by a camera with lots of megapixels and an intriguing zoom.
We loved the Huawei P30 series, even awarding it Camera Phone of the Year at the Trusted Reviews Awards. So we’ve got big expectations for its follow-up.
- All you need to know about the Huawei P40
The Huawei P40 Pro sits in the middle of the P40 series. Above it, you’ve got the P40 Pro Plus which packs a slightly higher-end look and minor camera differences, while below sits the more stripped-back P40. The P40 Pro feels like the most obvious choice, kind of like how the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the phone in that series that is easiest to recommend to a wide range of people.
I’ve been using the P40 Pro for the past day, so this will be a look at specs and design, with a few early impressions mixed in too. A full, in-depth review will come later.
While the camera might be the headline feature, it’s the design that will probably catch you off-guard when you first hold the P40 Pro. No, this isn’t a radical transformation – it remains your typical slab of glass and metal with a charging point on the bottom, but the display curves far more drastically than I have seen before. Along with curves on the sides, the screen droops down slightly at the top and bottom. It makes for a phone that feels, and this might sound weird, softer than much of the competition. It nestles so comfortably in your hand and feels like one of the smallest 6.58-inch phones I have ever used.
Yet, I have found overly curved phones harder to use – even if they do look prettier. You get more reflections on sunny days; they’re harder to grip and generally more of a faff. I haven’t had any trouble with the P40 Pro so far, so that bodes well.
The screen itself is really nice, ticking most of the boxes I would expect to see on a 2020 flagship. The 90Hz refresh rate gives it smoother motion than a 60Hz panel and the OLED display is bright and colourful. The resolution (FHD+) isn’t quite as sharp as some of the competition but I don’t think many would notice that here.
The big downside to the display is the huge cutout for the infrared sensor and front camera, which sits in the upper left corner. It looks a lot like the cutout on the Galaxy S10 Plus, and it’s ugly, especially when you’re trying to watch a full-screen video or play games. I understand why it’s there, but the teardrop solution Huawei used for the P30 series was far better.
Buried inside the display is an in-display fingerprint sensor, which seems reasonably quick from my initial testing.
Powering the phone is the same Kirin 990 chipset as the Mate 30 Pro, along with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage (this is expandable, but only through Huawei’s own memory cards). That’s the specs on my review unit anyway, and other models might up that RAM or storage. You’ve also got a 4200mAh battery inside, which can be juiced up via either 40w cabled or 27w wireless charging. Getting hold of a 27w Qi wireless charging pad seems tricky, but the bundled charged is capable of charging at full speed.
While this battery is smaller than that of the S20 Plus, the lower resolution and marginally slower (90Hz vs 120Hz) display should ensure battery life is good. Considering Huawei has excelled in endurance for years now I hope that continues here.
Before I delve properly into the camera, there’s a lot that needs to be said about the software here. While this is technically an Android phone running Android 10, it’s not the same Android you’d find on a Samsung or even an Oppo phone. It’s the open-source version of Android (AOSP), and due to its issues with the US government, you don’t have access to the required services needed to run the Play Store. That means no YouTube, Gmail or even apps that use Google services like Uber, Netflix or many banking apps.
Instead, you get apps through Huawei’s App Gallery. This has some favourites like Snapchat, TikTok and games like Asphalt 9, but it’s missing pretty much everything else. Huawei has said more apps will be coming, and it has an agreement to add the BBC’s apps, but it’s still slim pickings.
Most of the Android apps you want you’ll have to sideload via their APKs. I managed to get a bunch of apps this way, and while it’s a bit of a faff, it does work. It is worth noting that you won’t get app updates for these, so they’ll need to be downloaded again.
And finally, you’ve got the alternative App Store option. I downloaded Amazon’s App Store (the one you’d find on the brand’s Fire tablets) and was able to install Facebook and Instagram this way. You can also get all of Amazon’s own apps: Prime Video, Kindle, and so on.
Huawei’s email app is fine and works with Gmail accounts, while a partnership with TomTom should bring some sort of mapping app. But, and this is really important, it’s not these kinds of apps that will make or break the App Gallery, it’s the ones that can’t be replaced. It’s the banking apps, the payment services and the password managers.
On the back of the Huawei P40 Pro, you’ll see a rectangular camera housing three main camera sensors and a ToF sensor for added depth information. Those three main camera sensors consist of a 50-megapixel Ultra Vision wide with an f/1.9 lens, 40-megapixel 18mm ultra-wide with an f/1.8 lens and a 12-megapixel 5x optical zoom camera that uses a periscope lens to achieve those zooming levels. There’s also a 32-megapixel camera on the front with autofocus (still very much a rarity) and the ability to shoot 4K video.
Along with this hardware you’ve got Huawei AI backend which can remove unwanted photobombers and even integrate multiple frames to move the position of individual people.
Once again Huawei has had the cameras co-engineered with Leica and added dedicated modes for night shooting and portraits. Video recording supports up to 4K 60 (no 8K options here), and Huawei says it has focussed a lot on improving video, adding features like 7680fps slow motion, 4K timelapse, HDR and audio zoom.
As I have only had a phone for a day – and all but my government-approved one daily exercise outing has been spent inside – my real camera impressions will have to wait. However, shots do look very sharp, and the zooming credentials once again look seriously impressive.
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Huawei P40 Pro – First impressions
It’s not as eye-catching as the brand’s foldable Mate Xs, but the P40 Pro once again shows Huawei knows how to build a phone. From the camera to the screen, this is every bit the Samsung Galaxy S20 rival it wants to be.
The success still rests on the App Gallery growing into something far superior to what it currently is, and that’s a big ask.
The post Huawei P40 Pro first look: No Google, but lots to get excited about appeared first on Trusted Reviews.