While the P20 Pro remains a great phone, it is well and truly beat by the P30 Pro in most areas: better performance, better cameras (and better video) mean it’s now the better choice for most people.
Although most of the P30 Pro’s specs leaked before it launched, one thing that wasn’t obvious was just how much it was like the
Mate 20 Pro.
That phone was the first in Huawei’s range to adopt Samsung-like curved edges on the front and rear, and the P30 Pro follows in the same footsteps. This means that, along with the
upgraded front and rear cameras plus wireless charging, it’s a pretty big upgrade on the
Cameras: 40Mp with OIS + 8Mp telephoto (5x) + 20Mp ultra-wide + TOF camera
Front camera: 24Mp, f/2.0
Front camera: 32Mp, f/2.0
Front-facing fingerprint scanner
In-screen fingerprint scanner
No wireless charging
Wireless + reverse wireless charging
GPS + Glonass
GPS + Glonass
Dual nano-SIM (can also accept Nano Memory Card)
USB-C SuperCharge 22.5W
USB-C SuperCharge 40W
155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm, 180g
Huawei has also added new colours to the range. There’s the hero gradient Breathing Crystal and the new Amber Sunrise. Aurora, which is kind of similar to the P20 Pro’s Twilight, is a third option, but for those who want something less outgoing, there’s Pearl White and Black.
Screen & audio
Huawei hasn’t released any specs for brightness or contrast, nor whether the screen’s HDR credentials have been changed. We’re not expecting them to: the screens looked very similar when we eyeballed them side by side.
Vertical resolution has been increased by 96 pixels, which means it has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and it now measured 6.47in versus the P20 Pro’s 6.1in.
There’s no room for a fingerprint scanner, and that’s now embedded in the screen but you get an upgraded unit compared to the Mate 20 Pro’s (which was the first time we saw an in-screen sensor in a Huawei phone).
Replacing the traditional top speaker with an ‘electro magnetic levitation’ speaker – similar to what you’ll find in the
LG G8 – means the notch can be smaller than the P20 Pro’s and we like that it’s in the centre.
Huawei made a big deal of going down this route to minimise the top bezel, but the standard P30 manages to squeeze in a long thin speaker at the top and has a similar size bezel. This brings the only negative point: the P30 doesn’t have stereo sound as the new earpiece speaker is only used for phone calls.
The P20, meanwhile, offers stereo sound.
Performance & connectivity
It’s no surprise to find the Kirin 980 in the P30 Pro. It’s a good chunk faster than the 970 in P20 Pro, and the GPU and machine learning capabilities are better, too.
There’s a USB-C port on both phones, but the P30 Pro supports USB-C Power Delivery so it can, for example, charge Huawei’s new FreeLace wireless headphones.
Another difference is that the P30 Pro’s SIM tray can take to nano SIMs, or one SIM and a Nano Memory card. This means you can expand the 256GB of internal storage, which is already twice what you get with the P20 Pro. And, though it won’t persuade you to upgrade, there’s 8- rather than 6GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, there is no 5G support, so the P30 Pro won’t get you the promised super-fast download speeds when your mobile operator launches 5G.
This is where you’ll find the biggest real-world difference. The P20 Pro was the last flagship to use a monochrome camera. We’ve long thought this wasn’t the best use of a camera and you won’t find one on the P30 Pro.
Instead you get a 20Mp ultra-wide camera, plus an upgraded 40Mp main camera which uses yellow sub-pixels instead of the traditional green to capture more light.
You also get a better zoom: 5x instead of 3x. And when you double that by using information from the 40Mp sensor to get a ‘Hybrid’ zoom, the P30 Pro offers 10x where you get 5x on the P20 Pro.
Thanks to the Kirin 980, there’s more number-crunching power on tap for stabilising video, and when you combine optical with Huawei’s AI Stabilisation, you get much smoother 4K video. An update coming in April will allow the P30 Pro to record video from the main and zoom cameras simultaneously. In turn, this will let you create a cool effect with instant zoom to highlight, or bring closer, certain objects in the scene.
Sensitivity has been increased on the 40Mp sensor – perhaps partly due to those yellow receptors – and along with the faster lens, the P30 Pro is able to shoot noticeably better photos in the dark, and low light video benefits from this too.
A fourth camera on the P30 Pro works in tandem with a flood illuminator to detect how far away are objects in the scene. This leads to more accurate blurring of the background in portrait images, though we still saw the usual inaccurate detection of hair, so not many people will be fooled into thinking it’s a photo from a DLSR. Admittedly, we were testing with pre-release software so there’s the potential for this to be improved.
Round the front, the P20 Pro has a 24Mp selfie camera that delivers pretty good results. This is upgraded to a whopping 32Mp on the P30 Pro. So far, we can see there’s a bit of an improvement, but we’re hoping the smudging that’s noticeable in textures is a result of the early software on our sample phone.
Not a lot is different in this respect. Now that the P20 Pro has been updated to Android Pie, both phones are on a par there and EMUI is also the same.
One feature you’ll find on the P30 Pro is the ability to measure real-world objects, but this is facilitated by that depth-camera system that isn’t present on the P20 Pro.
Adding many of the great features first seen on the Mate 20 Pro, but improving upon them, the P30 Pro is clearly a better phone than the P20 Pro. That isn’t hard to see. The difficulty comes in deciding if it’s worth upgrading if you already have a P20 Pro (it probably isn’t) or choosing between them if you don’t already have one.
The latter will be made a lot easier once we know how much the P30 Pro costs: we were fortunate enough to be able to compare the two phones side by side ahead of the P30 launch, but weren’t told how much it would cost. If it’s a similar price – £800 or so – then it’s a no-brainer to buy the P30 Pro. But if rumours are true and it’s closer to £1000, it’s a different proposition.