It is hard to ignore the geo-political problems that a company like Huawei is currently facing with lots of conversation around their alleged ties with the Chinese government but we are not ones to make comment on this current situation until we have all the facts. What we do know however, is that being the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world does not give them a pass when it comes to creating new cellular devices in 2020 and their latest offering the P40 Pro showcases a company at the top of their game, especially in mobile photography. Sadly though, we can’t help feel like we are staring down a Supernova in the making.
You seem, this year’s P40 Pro is more to do with iteration than innovation but what they bring to the table keeps this phone in every conversation when it comes to smartphones of the year (so far) and it all starts with the design. Again, Huawei have created something of beauty here with its raised corners with glass that’s curved on all four sides paired with seemingly non-existent bezels and a 90Hrtz 6.58-inch Full HD+ AMOLED punch hole screen that is superbly immersing. Speaking of the screen, we have also come to appreciate the in-display fingerprint reader and face unlock options too, which were some of the fastest we have used on an Android device this year. Flanking the screen are the ever so slightly curved aluminum sides that bring excellent ergonomics complete with tactile buttons, an IR blaster, USB-c charging port and par for the course IP-68 water resistance.
Powering the device is the companies own latest Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G chipset which supports sub-6GHz 5G bands paired with 8GB of RAM and a base storage of 256GB. Built on top of Android 10, you get the companies own intuitive EMUI 10.1 skin which is complete with a plethora of welcome customization options and to be honest, it all felt very fluid, fast and less resource hungry than devices of yester year, not giving us any hiccups at all in the past month of testing. In fact, we threw every resource hungry game, app, photo and video session we could at the device and this thing did not miss a step. You also get a generous 4,200mAh battery and Huawei’s brilliant 40-watt fast charging technology which can charge the device scary fast in just half an hour and even swift wireless and reverse wireless charging.
Before we move on to the camera, we must address the unfortunate elephant in the room once again; With no Google Mobile Services installed on this device (like the Mate 30 Pro we reviewed a few months back) it also means no Google Play Store, but don’t despair. Huawei has invested 1 billion dollars into their own version of an app store called App Gallery and it is actually pretty good. Almost 5000 apps are being added per week, but Huawei is also tackling this problem on a second front, alongside their AppGallery and Phone Clone. Designed by Huawei, their new Petal Search function, is a new tool that gives HMS users access and choice in the world of apps in a way they haven’t had before. Using the Petal Search widget directly on the home screen of your device, it will search for the missing applications you can’t find on their app store from third party partners such as Qwant and Yandex, and make them available for download so users do not feel like they are missing out.
The ‘P’ series of devices by Huawei’ have always been about photography and before we go into the nitty gritty about this phone’s setup, you should know that hands down, this is the best mobile camera set up their currently is in a smartphone and has topped the DXOmark ranking in Best Mobile Photography. This is thanks in part to its quintuple camera set up which features a Main: 50MP RYYB, f/1.9, 23mm; Ultra-wide: 40MP, f/1.8, 18mm; Tele: 12MP RYYB, f/3.4, 125mm; Time of flight (ToF) sensor and a 32MP, f/2.2, 26mm selfie shooter. Let’s start with the main 50-megapixel camera with its massive sensor that produces some of the crispiest, vibrant photos we have ever seen with near perfect dynamic range, fast auto focus and Huawei’s incredible HDR processing. Detail preservation truly is next level and this camera can handle any lighting situation – dawn, dusk or night with unparalleled ease (there is also a night mode, if you need it). The telephoto lens, too, is equally impressive with its 5x optical periscope zoom capability and 30x digital hybrid zoom which means you can get creepily close from far away with clarity. Then you have that 40 megapixel ultra wide camera with its 18mm field of view that we believe captures the best quality ultra wide shots currently on the market today.
Lastly, you have that Time of Flight sensor which helps with bokeh shots and a very capable and clear 32-megapixel selfie camera which produces perhaps some too detailed selfies for those that need to look their best. Video, too, has improved this year with the P40 Pro capable of taking Ultra HD / 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, as well as super slow motion at up to a staggering 7680fps, it is not quite iPhone level of video good but it is pretty darn close. Don’t take our word for just how good these cameras are, take a look at the slideshow below.
To sum up, after using this device this past month, as tech reviewers we all agree that by all means this should be the phone of the year – great design, great performance, great battery and a near perfect camera experience but with so much uncertainty around Huawei’s future; a more complicated than needs to be app downloading experience and the uphill battle they face getting this phone to be adopted by the masses, we regrettably approach this phone with a somber sigh every time we power it on. We want to love it more, but we are just not sure how receptive consumers will be in this current climate. If mobile photography means everything to you, then this is the phone to buy but regrettably it is not the only thing we use our phones for. Don’t get us wrong, this is an accomplished device, but Huawei’s planet core may be running out of hydrogen.
Get yours today at https://consumer.huawei.com/ca/phones/p40-pro/