There’s only one camera on the smartphone scene that packs a true 10x optical zoom. It isn’t the S20 Ultra, it’s the Huawei P40 Pro Plus.
Featuring no less than five cameras around the back, it’s the best smartphone camera system money can buy, for a certain kind of user. But, with it costing £1299 and coming with ongoing software issues, it’s a hard sell for most mainstream Western buyers.
At first glance the Pro Plus is strikingly similar to the £899 Huawei P40 Pro. The Pro and Pro Plus share the same design, screen, chipset, battery capacity, software experience, and more.
This may justifiably lead you to ask: how can Huawei justify charging almost £1300 for the Pro Plus variant? The answer’s pretty simple. It’s added a world first on a smartphone (not counting the Samsung Galaxy Camera) – a 10x optical zoom.
Design – A Huawei P40 Pro doppelganger with a ceramic back
From the front, the P40 Pro Plus is a P40 Pro. It’s screen size, resolution and technology are all identical to the vanilla Pro, as is the pill-shaped selfie camera cutout in the top left.
At 6.58-inches, the Pro Plus’s screen sits between that of the Galaxy S20 and the S20 Plus, and iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. While it’s size is relatively manageable, it’s a heavy phone measuring in at 226g – the same weight as the beefiest iPhone.
The phone’s screen itself isn’t too curved, so accidental presses aren’t an issue. Its ‘overflow’ design, with curved glass (not screen) on all four sides is a seriously lovely touch.
The curved glass spills over into the buffed metal frame, which peaks slightly at the phone’s corners. Huawei says this adds a degree of durability to the P40 Pro-series, with more metal on the corners than glass.
At 9mm thick, the P40 Pro Plus may make the 7.9mm thin Galaxy S20 5G feel like a waif, but it’s not much thicker than the S20 Ultra and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Available in two ceramic colours, black or white, the P40 Pro Plus’s is almost as tough as sapphire glass. Huawei went to great lengths to explain how the ceramic powder is pressed and baked to form the high-gloss, durable finish, and the white version we reviewed looks great and seems robust. Better still, our white device looked totally fingerprint-free around the back, which is a novelty for glossy phones.
The P40 Pro Plus’s buttons are on the right, while all the other points of interest are at the base – a mono-speaker, SIM card tray, and a USB-C port. Around the back, there’s a statement camera bump, and at the top is an IR blaster.
Screen – We’ve been here before
Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus screen looks very good. With a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, it’s tall, and its 1200 x 2640 resolution means it sits between two industry standards – FullHD and QuadHD. Should you really care about any of that though? Not really. The main thing is, it’s bright, sharp and beautifully punchy.
Unlike the main competition from Samsung and OnePlus, the P40 Pro Plus doesn’t feature a 120Hz refresh rate display, instead, capping out at 90Hz. This puts Huawei in line with last year’s OnePlus phones, but still ahead of the iPhone 11 Pro.
Viewing angles on the P40 Pro Plus are excellent, bright, and the phone’s easy to see indoors and out. We would have loved a smaller punch hole in the top left, but that really is our only gripe with this phone’s display.
Performance – Ample power and plenty of storage for the Huawei P40 Pro Plus
The P40 Pro and Pro Plus pack plenty of similarities on the inside too. For starters both are powered by the same Kirin 990 processor, which enables some of the fastest 5G speeds around. The 8GB RAM, on paper, means neither phone can stack up to other 12GB RAM top-enders like the OnePlus 8 Pro, however, day-to-day, you won’t see any slowdown.
Benchmarks aren’t class-leading, with Antutu scores climbing up to 524,527 when in performance mode, and around 480,000 when in standard mode. Class-leading they may not be, but they’re still top-tier, beating out gaming phones like the ROG Phone 2 and BlackShark 2.
Camera – The Huawei P40 Pro Plus camera is the most complete smartphone system money can buy
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus’s primary camera is identical to that of the P40 Pro, and that’s no bad thing. The shared 50MP Ultra Vision sensor is huge and captures stellar pictures.
An f/1.9 aperture lens with a 23mm focal length pairs with large, 2.44-micron combined-pixels when taking 12MP images – that’s class-leading for a phone. Bigger pixels usually mean better photos, and in the Huawei P40 Pro-series’s case, the theory holds up.
Dynamic range is excellent for the most part, though shadow boosting can be a little overzealous. Saturation and sharpening are relatively tapered compared to the processing used on older Huawei phones. They’re also noticibly scaled right back when compared to snaps from the Galaxy S20-series. It leans towards warm tones, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Additionally, whatever the lighting, the P40 Pro Plus’s camera gets excellent results in automatic mode.
There’s also a mighty 40MP ultra-wide camera with an f/1.8 aperture and an 18mm angle of view. As with the Mate 30 Pro, this doubles up as the main video camera, so it can grab super-steady footage with no cropping. Additionally, it packs autofocus, locking in on close-up objects for some high-impact macro shots.
With plenty of resolution and an expansive field of view, that 18mm focal length gets plenty of detail in the frame, making the P40 Pro Plus’s ultra-wide one of the best performers around.
The P40 Pro Plus features not one, but two telephoto cameras. The first is an 8MP 3x zoom camera, sporting an f/2.4 lens, which is similar to that found on the Mate 30 Pro. The second is an 8MP 10x zoom camera with an f/4.4 lens. Both feature OIS, like the main camera. In general, they perform well provided the light is right and your hand is steady.
Having both telephoto cameras means anywhere between 18-260mm equivalent focal lengths, you can be guaranteed a decent shot. The 10x zoom camera really does come into its own in great light. The P40 Pro Plus gets you closer than any other phone to objects, especially if you’re not averse to propping it up on a surface or using a mobile tripod. When the lights drop, though, its narrower aperture means handheld shots don’t look great. Fire up night mode, and using Huawei’s smart computational photography, all four cameras can see in the dark.
Is the P40 pro Plus’s zoom in a different league to the S20 Ultra? We would say yes. Comparing shots taken on the two side-by-side, images from the Pro Plus impressed us more.
The selfie camera’s 32MP resolution is ample, and the primary sensor is paired with a secondary depth camera for secure face unlocking and depth effects. It also packs autofocus and shoots up to 4K front-firing video, which looks great.
The P40 Pro’s video capture looks good across all resolutions, climbing up to 4K, 60fp. Footage captured on the main camera is stellar in medium to good lighting, well stabilised, and any fans of more natural levels of saturation and punch would prefer Huawei’s video style to that of Samsung.
See below for some photo samples:
Software – EMUI 10.1 is great, but there’s still a Google shaped hole here
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus runs Android 10, with the brand’s own Emotion UI interface over the top. It isn’t on the same footing as other Android phones though, thanks to the US imposed Huawei Google ban. In short, this means no Play Store, and other limitations when using third-party apps.
The situation is improving, with Huawei’s inclusion of its app-finder – Petal Search – Find Apps, now installed as standard. This makes finding apps missing from the App Gallery easier.
This means for the most part getting the apps isn’t a huge problem, but what happens next is. Most apps outside Huawei’s store don’t work correctly on the new P40 handsets. Naturally, no Google apps run to full effect on the P40 Pro Plus. This includes Docs, Drive, Gmail, the Play Store and YouTube. Additionally, Google Meet and Calendar don’t work either, so if your business is set up as a G Suite organisation, then a new Huawei phone won’t make any sense. The limitation also extends to the Wear OS app, so if you’ve got your sights set on a Google-powered smartwatch, you’ll want a different phone.
This incompatibility is improving in some areas, with apps like Netflix now working and Uber’s web app living in the Huawei AppGallery. However, we’re also finding some apps which once worked, like Disney+, now don’t – and don’t even get us started on games. The Google Play Store clearly has a monopoly on most triple-A titles, and developers just haven’t ported many over for Huawei phones.
For anyone less beholden to Google or gaming, the P40 Pro Plus’s software is excellent. Huawei has supplemented Android 10 with some great multitasking features – everything is slick, smooth, and stable. That said, you really do need to know what you’re getting into before picking one up if you want to avoid nasty surprises down the line.
Battery Life – Long-lasting and fast charging, wired or wireless
The Pro Plus’s 4200mAh battery lasts a full day without any trouble, and delivers excellent screen-on time. Over 90 minutes of video played back at full brightness dropped the battery by only 8%.
Fast wired and wireless charging at 40W means the P40 Pro Plus powers up fully in under an hour, and thanks to fast reverse wireless charging, it will even power up friends phones or accessories.
Should I buy the Huawei P40 Pro Plus?
We doubt Huawei expects to sell too many of the P40 Pro Plus given the phone’s high price. While the Plus is better than the P40 Pro, it isn’t £400 better unless you’re someone who needs the very best when it comes to imaging. Add to the mix all the Google issues Huawei phones face today, and we reckon most Huawei fans will pick up the vanilla P40 Pro – a stellar value camera phone in its own right.
Meanwhile, anyone who needs Google and has over a grand to drop on a new smartphone will opt for the iPhone 11 Pro, Oppo Find X2 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, even with their inferior camera systems.
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What Huawei hasn’t created with the P40 Pro Plus is a must-have smartphone for the masses. However, what Huawei has created is world-first camera tech, proving Huawei is still a leader when it comes to pushing smartphone imaging further than the competition.