Huawei P30 Review
The Huawei P30 Pro has gotten all the buzz with its new superzoom camera, but Huawei has one more phone that features the same kind of performance power in a more compact body and at a much more affordable price, and that phone – undeservedly – flies under the radar.
The phone is the regular Huawei P30 (non-Pro) and it is the focus of this review where we outline the differences between the regular P30 and its P30 Pro sibling. Should you even consider the regular P30? How good is the camera on the regular model? And does it have the same impressive battery life?
Let’s talk about all this in detail.
In the box:
- 22.5-watt wall charger
- USB-C to standard USB cable
- Silicone case
- SIM tool
Refreshingly compact, just as beautiful as the Pro
With beautiful gradient finishes and solid build quality, Huawei phones are easy to spot in a crowd and the P30 is no exception. It comes in a selection of five different colors with the most common ones being the ‘Aurora’ light blue-and-green gradient, the ‘Breathing Crystal’ white-and-blue gradient, and the classic black version. The one we have up for review is the Aurora one and it looks stunning as the whole pattern shifts as light hits the phone from different angles.
The phone itself is solidly put together and feels sturdy. The back is glass and the frame is made out of metal, your typical modern flagship in other words, and it comes with the typical for such a glass cover affinity for fingerprint smudges.
One curious detail is that the P30 Pro comes with a flat top and bottom. You would guess that this was done so that you could stand the phone upright on a table, but alas, no, the phone is top-heavy and it cannot stand on its own.
In terms of physical keys, you have a power button and a volume rocker on the right hand side. On the bottom, you will find a USB-C port as well as the loudspeaker, and yes, you also get a 3.5mm headphone jack here, a feature that you will not find on the more expensive Pro model. On the left side, you have the hybrid SIM card slot and on the top, you only a microphone. What is missing on this phone is the infra-red (IR) blaster that you do get on the Pro model. The IR blaster allows using your phone as a remote control for gadgets like TV sets and AC units, so it’s a bit of a shame that you don’t find it on the non-Pro model.
Best of all, the regular P30 is just a very compact phone. It’s smaller than a Galaxy S10, but bigger than a Galaxy S10e, so it’s not the smallest one around, but it definitely feels much more comfortable to carry in a pocket and use with a single hand than most other phones that are noticeably bigger.
With the smaller physical size also comes a smaller screen size, as the regular P30 has a 6.1-inch display, slightly smaller than the 6.47-inch screen on the Pro. There is something else too: the P30 has a flat screen, while the display on the Pro is tapered at the edges. The tapered screen has the advantage of diminished bezels and the futuristic look that comes with this, but the flat screen is more practical simply because you can get a firmer grip on the phone without worrying that you accidentally touch the screen with the fleshy part of your thumb. Plus, no curves mean nothings distorts the picture at the edges and repairs for a shattered screen are much easier.
In terms of quality, the screens on the regular P30 and the P30 Pro are almost identical: both are AMOLED screens that are capable of producing brilliant colors, both have excellent contrast, both feature a Full HD (1080 x 2340 pixels) resolution, and both look generally good. Are they on par with the best screens out there? Not quite.
The area where Huawei could and should improve their screens is color balance. By default, the screens are set with a very cold white balance, so everything appears with a bluish tonality. You could go into settings and change white balance to a warm pre-set, but then what you get is a yellow shade. Basically, despite having different options, you cannot just get a perfect white which would be ideal and you have to settle with one of two imperfect color settings. These observations apply as much to the regular P30 as to the P30 Pro.
In-screen Fingerprint Scanner
Finally, a fast enough in-screen fingerprint scanner
The tiny bezels and all-screen design of the P30 comes at the price of no space for a traditional fingerprint scanner, and that is why you have a fingerprint scanner under the screen here. It is an optical one, meaning that the whole screen lights up for a short moment to illuminate all the intricate ridges and patterns of your thumb so that the scanner under the screen can read them.
We have seen such optical fingerprint scanners for the first time last year on phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the OnePlus 6T, but they left us a bit disappointed: they were not as fast or as accurate as a traditional fingerprint scanner. Now, this one here on the P30 is not as fast or as reliable either, and sometimes you would need to give it a couple of tries to get it to work, but overall the experience is much better this time around. Huawei says that the fingerprint on the P30 series is 30% faster and improved, and you can notice this improvement.
EMUI 9.1 looks better than before, but some issues remain
This latest version of Emotion UI looks prettier than before, but is nowhere nearly as refined as the interface you get on many rivals. The visual style lacks consistency with flat icons mixed with squircles, mixed with round ones in what often feels like a visual mess.
Those, however, are certainly not dealbreakers and functionally, EMUI gets the job done well. It runs fast and smooth, and Huawei promises that it will remain fast for years to come.
You also have a really intuitive gesture nav system with a swipe up to go back home, swipe up and pause for multitasking cards, and the most convenient gesture which is a swipe from either side to go back a step.
You can read more about EMUI in our Huawei P30 Pro review as well.
Processor, Performance and Memory
Despite its considerably cheaper price, the P30 is powered by the same speedy Huawei Kirin 980 chip. This was the first Android chip built on a 7nm manufacturing technology and Huawei says it took the company years of work. And while this chip is not as fast as a Snapdragon 855, it’s definitely up there with the fastest Android phones around.
The Kirin 980 here works alongside 6GB of RAM, slightly less than the 8GB RAM you get on the Pro model.
You also have a generous 128GB of on-board storage here with support for a brand new type of memory card that Huawei calls nanoSD (microSD cards will not fit as the slot is a bit larger).
Not quite the same as on the Pro
The P30 shares a lot of the camera DNA from the Pro model: you have the same type of RYYB sensor for the main camera, different most other phones on the market, you have a telephoto lens and you also have an ultra-wide angle camera.
The RYYB arrangement in use here and on the Pro model, in case you haven’t heard yet, changes the century-old camera standard with a red, a blue and two green pixels, and switches those green pixels for yellow ones (hence RGBG to RYYB). More on this as we look at the photos.
The main differences between this regular P30 model and the Pro is the lack of a periscope camera system. Instead, you get a regular telephoto camera with 3x zoom. The ultra-wide camera also has a lower, 16MP resolution. And finally, the main camera has a slower, f/1.8 aperture and is not optically stabilized.
Here is a quick look at the camera specs:
- 40MP main camera, 27mm, f/1.8, no OIS
- 16MP ultra-wide 17mm, f/2.2 camera
- 8MP 3x telephoto
- + 32MPf/2.0 front camera
So… how do images actually turn out?
Quite similar to photos from the P30 Pro, but not quite the same. The overall look is very similar, but the colors are a bit less intense and appear a bit muted, bleaker. Of course, you also don’t have as much clarity when you zoom in.
We came away quite happy with the portrait mode that allows you to shoot at 1x (27mm), 2x (54mm), or 3x (81mm), and those longer focal distances definitely give you a lot of creative freedom to shoot some surprisingly great portraits.
The quality with the ultra-wide camera is not quite on par with the rest of the shooters, but the option of having such a lens on board is definitely appreciated, even if the images are technically not quite perfect. Huawei fixes a lot of the lens distortion, so we don’t have an issue with that, but more so with the wildly oversaturated colors that you get with this camera.
At night, you have the same two ways to shoot as on the Pro version. The regular mode and the famous Huawei Night Mode which captures images with a surprising amount of light and dynamics at night, but at the expense of having to hold your phone still for 6 long seconds.
Quality from the front camera is basically the same as on the Pro model, which is to say excellent. You have HDR for selfies which makes a big difference and adds a lot more dynamics to pictures. Photos overall turn out pleasingly sharp and well-exposed, good job, Huawei!
On the video side, you have 4K30 video support, but no 4K 60fps video recording and that seems to be a limitation from the chip. That is a bit of a shame for those who really shoot a lot of video on their phones and care about this feature as it allows you to make really good-looking slo-mo shots in post, but for most people, 4K30 should be more than sufficient.
Video recording quality is solid: you don’t have optical stabilization on board here, but the regular stabilization does a decent job, you have a good amount of detail and you can also zoom in up to 5x in video.
The P30 comes with one loudspeaker located on the bottom of the phone and it sounds just okay. It is not quite as loud as the one on the Pro version, the difference between the two is not huge, but it is noticeable.
What is lacking mostly are the deeper, lower tonalities, and you end up having “scratchy” sound. Again, you can live with it, but if you are watching a lot of videos or music via the loudspeaker, there are definitely much better options out there.
What we are thankful for is the presence of a headphone jack on the bottom of the phone. Many people still use wired headphones and not having to deal with dongles is definitely something they will appreciate.
Unlike the fancier P30 Pro which has no traditional in-call speaker and relies on a futuristic vibration system to conduct sound, the regular P30 uses a regular speaker for calls, located right above the front camera.
And it sounds perfectly fine: our callers sound clear and loud enough, and the same is true on the other end of the line as the microphones on the phone convey sound quite clearly.
Solid battery performance
While the P30 Pro sports a massive, 4,200mAh battery, this vanilla P30 model features a smaller, 3,650mAh battery. Naturally, one has to wonder whether the battery life is good or not?
The answer is yes, battery life is good enough and in fact better than on most phones out there, but not quite as good as on the Pro version.
The regular P30 will last you through those longer days and will likely outlast phones like the Galaxy S10.
We are also happy to see Huawei’s fast charger included for free in the box. The charging speeds are not quite as lightning fast as on the Pro version (you have 40-watt charging on the Pro and 22.5-watt charging on the regular P30), but they are still fast enough to get a quick top-up when you need it. It takes around an hour and a quarter to go from a dead battery to a fully charged one.
One extra that is missing on the regular P30 is wireless charging. That feature is reserved for the Pro model only.
Price and Rivals
While the P30 Pro model sells for around $1,000, the regular P30 that we review here costs way less at around $750 (with deals you can commonly find it for around $700 or 700 euro in Europe). This puts it on similar footing as the Apple iPhone XR and the now discounted Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e, and probably the toughest competitor: the OnePlus 7 Pro.
With the Galaxies, you get a better display, a faster chip, a camera that captures better looking colors, while the Huawei has the smoother performance in real-life, the advantage of the excellent (but slow) Night Mode, and the better gesture navigation system.
Compared to the iPhone XR, the Huawei brings a higher resolution screen, again the Night Mode, the fast charger that you don’t need to buy separately. The iPhone has much longer software updates guaranteed, a screen that has better-looking colors (but lower resolution), Face ID, as well as a camera that captures much better-looking video. Of course, you have the differences between Android and iOS as well.
And compared to devices like the OnePlus 7 Pro… well, it’s not a comparison in favor of Huawei.
Differences between P30 and P30 Pro
And if you are looking for a short summary of all the major differences between the regular P30 model and the flagship Pro version, here is a short summary:
- 10% smaller battery size on the P30 (3,650mAh on P30, 4,200mAh on the Pro)
- Slower charge rates (40-watt on P30 Pro, 0-70% in 30 minutes; 22.5-watt on P30, 0-50% in 30 minutes)
- P30 lacks Wireless Charging
- P30 Pro has IP68 rating (water/dust resistance), while P30 only has IP53 (it is only splash-proof)
- ToF (Time of Flight) sensor on the Pro, missing on the P30
- P30 lacks OIS on main camera, f/1.6 on Pro, f/1.8 on P30
- P30 lacks periscope camera, has regular 3x telephoto lens (vs 5x on Pro)
- Ultra-wide lens is different on Pro (20MP camera at 16mm on Pro vs 16MP camera at 17mm on P30)
- IR blaster missing on the Pro
- Vibrating speaker for calls on Pro, regular in-call speaker on P30
- P30 has headphone jack, Pro model does not
We started this review by saying that the P30 flies a bit under the radar. But does it really deserve the spotlight?
After spending a lot of time with it, we would say that it is a reliable little phone that looks stylish and that we had no major troubles using. Huawei has optimized it to run smoothly, the gesture navigation is one of the best on Android, battery life is solid and the camera is not bad.
But this is not a phone for the perfectionists: the screen is AMOLED, but it is not quite as good as on the rivals, the camera has a few neat tricks, but photos have somewhat bleak colors, EMUI is not as polished as other skins and options that we have had for now years like 4K60 video are missing. The problem is that at this price we don’t just expect a good-enough phone, we expect great. And as recent launches like that OnePlus have shown us, we can often get a lot more.