Huawei P40 Pro review

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Huawei P40 Pro review

Introduction Ah, a new Photo king rises, but its kingdom of apps was taken away before its birth. What happens next then, the crowd asks?...

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Introduction

Ah, a new Photo king rises, but its kingdom of apps was taken away before its birth. What happens next then, the crowd asks? Will its subjects flee with the riches now gone? Or will the Huawei P40 Pro break new paths through this uncharted territory and keep its former glory? The crowds shall get their answer!

It was tough for Huawei to lose Google support, but it will be even more challenging to sell in the current stagnated market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But the P40 series is having its launch despite the global health crisis, and the P40 Pro surely looks like it is ready to stand its ground.

The P40 Pro provides a premium camera experience with improved sensors and a focus on the optical zooming, plus it has the new 90Hz 1200p OLED screen. There is an even more premium device than the Pro – the new P40 Pro+ with a ceramic body and a jaw-dropping 10x optical zoom.

The Pro+ launch was moved for this summer season though and it seems it will be more of a limited edition, quite expensive at that. So, all eyes on the P40 Pro here, please, as it is the star of this show.

Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro is Huawei’s first smartphone with a high-refresh-rate screen – it now has a 6.58″ curved OLED with high-resolution of 1200p and 90Hz refresh rate. The elliptical punch-hole is quite the eyesore but packs a brand-new 32MP selfie camera with autofocus (finally!) and a ToF snapper. It seems that Huawei is making up for the lost pixels Huawei by putting the tech needed for 3D face unlock.

The main camera is what everyone will be talking about, of course. It has a new 50MP sensor with an RYYB filter that will spit 12MP photos. Then comes the ultrawide shooter lifted straight from the Mate 30 Pro – a 40MP sensor with RGGB filter and autofocus. The zoom camera seems to have an identical periscope lens for 5x optical zoom as seen on the P30 Pro’s – but gets a new 12MP sensor with RYYB filter and will allow more light at nighttime. And finally, there is another ToF camera for portraits and autofocus assistance.

The new Kirin 990 5G is at the helm of the P40 Pro. At 4,200 mAh, the battery capacity has remained unchanged since the P30 Pro but charging should be faster.

Huawei P40 Pro specs

  • Body: Glass front and back, aluminum frame; IP68-rated for dust and water resistance.
  • Screen: 6.58″ quad-curved OLED, 1,200×2,640px resolution (440ppi); HDR10.
  • Chipset: Kirin 990 5G, octa-core processor (2xA76 @2.86GHz + 2xA76 @2.36GHz +4xA55 @1.95GHz), Mali-G76 MP16 GPU, dual-core NPU.
  • Memory: 8GB RAM, 256GB UFS3.0 storage (expandable via Nano Memory – hybrid slot).
  • OS/Software: Android 10, EMUI 10.1.
  • Rear camera: Primary: 50MP (RYYB filter), 1/1.28″ sensor size, 23mm f/1.8 lens, OIS, PDAF; Telephoto: 8MP (RYYB filter) 1/4.0″ with periscope 125mm f/3.4 OIS lens, 5x optical and 10x hybrid zoom, PDAF; Ultra wide angle: 40MP (RGGB filter), 1/1.54″, 18mm, f/1.8, PDAF; ToF camera; [email protected] video capture, [email protected] slow-mo; Leica co-developed.
  • Front camera: 32MP, f/2.2, 26mm; ToF camera.
  • Battery: 4,200mAh; Super Charge 40W; 27W wireless charging; reverse wireless charging.
  • Security: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical), 3D face recognition.
  • Connectivity: 5G/4G/3G/GSM; Dual SIM, Wi-Fi 6+, Dual-band GPS, Bluetooth 5.1 + LE, NFC, USB Type-C.
  • Misc: IR blaster, the acoustic display acts as the earpiece, bottom-firing loudspeaker.

The Huawei P40 Pro seems to be lacking so little but the elephant in the room – the absence of Google Mobile Services – is something that raises many questions. And you will get those answered if you stick for a while with us.

Unboxing the Huawei P40 Pro

There are no surprises within the P40 Pro retail box – its contents are worthy of a flagship. Inside you will find the 40W power brick and the enhanced USB-C cable that goes with it.

Huawei P40 Pro

Huawei is also throwing a pair of its wired earbuds ending on a USB-C plug. Those have the same shape as Huawei’s FreeBuds 3, they are just not so free.

Some markets may be getting a silicone case with the P40 Pro, but our box did not offer one.

 

Design and build

The P40 Pro, as Huawei likes to say, was designed by two principles – simplicity and minimalism. Well, we can say that for plenty of glass-sandwich flagships, but we’d give the maker that the back is indeed reminiscent of the flat point-and-shoot cameras from another era. That is if you are old enough to remember those.

Huawei P40 Pro 3

The first thing we did notice about the new P40 Pro is the curved screen and the wave-shaped aluminum frame. Huawei calls this an overflowing display as it is curved at all sides and it just flows into the frame.

Huawei P40 Pro

Indeed, as you can see, the frame gets thinner around the sides leaving space for the screen curves, but it rises like a wave at the corners, probably for enhanced durability in addition to the cool look.

Huawei P40 Pro 5

The P40 Pro is a great example of Huawei’s craftsmanship – the maker has an excellent track record in making beautiful smartphones with attention to detail and we expected nothing less for its 2020 flagship series. The new flagship is water-proofed (IP68-rated), its quad-curved screen is indeed an eye-grabber, and wavy frame easily wins some points for looks, while the back has not only the new Leica camera but some great paint jobs as well.

Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro is available in Deep Sea Blue as ours (or Ink Blue), Black, and Ice White. These three models feature the usual glossy finish. But Huawei will also be selling the P40 Pro in Silver Frost and Blush Gold (or Apricot Gold) done in the trendy matt finish.

Huawei P40 Pro

 

The front is all about the screen – it’s an edge-to-edge panel that wraps around all four sides, but its curves aren’t as sharp as they were on the Mate 30 Pro and we like them here better. The display is a new generation OLED with high-resolution (1,200 x 2,640) and a 90Hz refresh rate. Obviously, it’s not 1440p or 120Hz, but you don’t need to lower the resolution to achieve a high refresh rate, so we’d take it.

Huawei P40 Pro

The notch is one big black blob, but the elliptical shape does help. It contains the new 32MP selfie camera with autofocus, a ToF camera, the IR flood illuminator, and the ambient light sensor. There is no notification LED on the P40 Pro, but you can enable the Always-on screen of you are okay with the battery drain.

Huawei P40 Pro 9

One thing you won’t see anywhere on the P40 Pro is an earpiece. Just like the P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro, the P40 Pro vibrates its screen to produce sound in voice calls and that’s great. But this feature can’t be used as a replacement for an actual speaker, so the P40 Pro has one speaker only and it’s at the bottom.

Huawei P40 Pro 10

One more thing is at the front, invisible to the naked eye – the optical fingerprint scanner. It’s seen improvement since the P30 Pro – Huawei has increased its size and speed by 30%. We used it for a couple of days and indeed it is as fast as the best in the genre – the one we’ve seen on the Realme X50 Pro and OnePlus 7T. The area lights up on touch and the reader is as speedy as the conventional ones on other Huawei phones.

Huawei P40 Pro

The back is where the camera magic happens. Huawei is proud of how it has designed the camera hump – it has no sharp edges but instead rises from the back in a volcano-esque fashion. The transition is smooth, and we like it, though it still humps and makes the phone wobble.

Huawei P40 Pro

On this black plate, you will find the 50MP primary camera, the 40MP ultrawide shooter, and you can see the end of the periscopic lens on top of the hidden 12MP sensor. Around are also a ToF camera, an IR sensor, a multi-spectrum color temperature sensor, a mic for video capturing and its audio zoom feature, and the dual-tone LED flash.

Huawei P40 Pro

We mentioned the cool frame a couple of times, but let’s see what’s around. On top, you’d find another mic used for video capturing and for the noise canceling and the IR blaster. The left side has nothing, while the volume rocker and the power key are on the right.

Huawei P40 Pro

The bottom is where you’d find the speaker, the mouthpiece (and also the third mic for Huawei P40 Provideo recording), the USB-C port, and the hybrid SIM tray.

 

Handling the Huawei P40 Pro is a premium experience as it can get. We liked both the glossy and matte models, though the sandblasted-like panel provides for a somewhat better grip and it is a nice change from the widespread glossy back.

Thanks to all those curves the P40 Pro feels much thinner and compact and it was easy to operate and carry around in a jeans pocket. If you are going to shoot a lot, and you should, you may want to use a case though – it’s an expensive piece of tech and some extra peace of mind won’t hurt.

Lab tests – display, battery life, speaker

A curved 90Hz OLED display, gigantic notch

The high refresh rate train is now at full steam and Huawei is jumping on the bandwagon with the P40 Pro. The smartphone features maker’s first 90Hz OLED panel, though the good news doesn’t stop with the refresh rate – the screen is also of high resolution and has all the trendy curves.

Huawei P40 Pro

So, the panel has an actual resolution of 1,200 x 2,640 pixels that make for 441ppi and 19.8:9 aspect ratio. The OLED wraps halfway around all sides of the P40 Pro, meaning it’s even curvier than previous Huawei displays.

The cutout is quite large as it houses the selfie camera, the ToF sensor and the IR flood illuminator, and the ambient light sensor is around, too. Its elliptical shape helps lower the impact on the eyes, but the left corner of the display still remains largely unusable.

Huawei P40 Pro

We measured a maximum brightness of 425 nits when adjusting the slider manually, which in line with most of the Samsung OLEDs but is lower than what you could get on a Mate 20 Pro and a P30 Pro. With Auto enabled, unfortunately, the P40 Pro is lighting up to 495 nits – not that much of an improvement.

The minimum brightness we captured on the P40 Pro screen was mere 1.8 nits – an excellent one.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Huawei P40 Pro 0 425
Huawei P40 Pro (Max Auto) 0 495
Huawei P30 Pro 0 571
Huawei P30 Pro (Max Auto) 0 605
Huawei Mate 30 Pro 0 464
Huawei Mate 30 Pro (Max Auto) 0.028 683 24393:1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro 0.002 508 254000:1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Max Auto) 0.003 657 219000:1
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G 0 398
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Max Auto) 0 894
Samsung Galaxy S20 0 397
Samsung Galaxy S20 (Max Auto) 0 814
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max 0 820
Oppo Find X2 Pro 0 536
Oppo Find X2 Pro (Max Auto) 0 871
Oppo Reno 10x zoom 0 440
Sony Xperia 1 0 391
Sony Xperia 1 (Max Auto) 0 665

Now let’s talk color accuracy. There are two Display options – Vivid and Normal, each representing a different color space – DCI-P3 and sRGB respectively. Each of these settings offers further color saturation fine-tuning.

The default screen mode is Vivid and at its default saturation state, the display has a very good color accuracy to DCI-P3 with an average deltaE of 3.6 and maximum deviation of 6.6. If you switch to Normal (sRGB) mode, you will get a perfect calibration with an average deltaE of 1.9.

The P40 Pro’s display supports HDR10+. It is not listed on the Netflix supported devices page for HDR10, however, and the reasons is that the phone supports the basic Widevine L3 level meaning it can play only SD content on Netflix and Amazon Prime apps. HBO Go won’t run without Google Play Service, so it’s a no-go.

Battery life

The Huawei P40 Pro packs a 4,200 mAh Li-Po battery – same as P30 Pro’s. It supports Huawei’s 40W SuperCharge and the phone is bundled with the said charger. Quite expectedly it does a splendid job – in 30 minutes it will refill 80% of the P40 Pro’s empty battery, while a full charge is achieved in 50 minutes.

Huawei P40 Pro

Huawei P40 Pro supports smart battery charging – if you hook the P40 for an overnight charge, it will eventually lower the speed and complete the full charge just before sunrise.

The P40 Pro also supports 27W wireless charging, and even reverse wireless charging. After activating the reverse charging from the battery options, you can charge your smartwatch or wireless earbuds off the phone. Or even another phone, if that’s your thing.

We’ve completed our battery tests and the results are quite good. The phone can last north of 15 hours on web surfing, or more than 18 hours on playing videos. These battery times are identical on 60Hz and 90Hz refresh rates, so you don’t have to worry about the energy drainage.

The 3G talk time isn’t spectacular, and nor is the standby performance – and these led to a bit lower than expected, but still great endurance rating of 94 hours.

Huawei P40 Pro

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating above denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Huawei P40 Pro for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so that our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. You can check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.

Speaker

The Huawei P40 Pro has a single loudspeaker firing down from the bottom, and it posted a ‘Good’ result for loudness in our seven-track music test. It lacks a low-frequency thump, but the mids and highs are well represented. Our tool allows for comparing the sound output to any other phone we’ve tested so far.

EMUI 10.1 on top of Google-less Android 10

The Huawei P40 Pro boots the EMUI 10.1. It’s the latest version of Huawei’s skin and it’s based on Android 10. It has no Google services and as no access to the Play Store, but we guess that’s old news already. Huawei does offer its new proprietary Mobile Services complete with Huawei’s AppGallery. More options are available, but we’ll talk about those in a bit.

Huawei P40 Pro

Let’s start with how you unlock the Huawei P40 Pro. Both fingerprint and 3D Face Unlock are available and both can work side by side – whichever happens first. The optical fingerprint sensor is the fastest currently available and it’s on par with the conventional scanners – it lights up with a white light the moment you touch it, and before you know it, you are on the home screen.

Huawei P40 Pro

Thanks to the front ToF camera, secure (read 3D scan) Face Unlock is available a.k.a. Apple’s Face ID. It works even in the dark and is often faster than the fingerprint reader as it scans and recognizes your face before you even touch the screen.

By the way, you can use the Always-on screen and you can choose from a lot of different clock skins. This will drain your battery faster though.

Always-on screen

Like all EMUI-driven devices, you can set up a magazine lock screen style that changes the picture every time you wake up the screen. Sliding from the bottom will bring out quick shortcuts to some commonly used utilities.

On the home screen, you will find all of the installed and system apps, but there’s a toggle in the settings menu that lets you choose between the standard layout or a home screen with an app drawer. It’s a personal preference, and it’s good to be able to choose.

Lockscreen  Tools  Homescreen  Homescreen style  Some apps

There is a replacement for the Google Feed in this version of EMUI, and it’s called Today. On this leftmost page, you will find a Search field, shortcuts to favorite contacts, photos, etc, Smart Care graphic (which is their analog of Google’s Digital Wellbeing) and a News Feed filled with local news through a service provided from Huawei.

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Today page

The homescreens are business as usual, and you can populate them with apps, folders, and widgets.

You can either embrace the notch, as usual, or you can mask it with a black status bar. It’s quite the sizeable notch though and the top black bar may become an even bigger eyesore. We’d like to suggest switching to Dark Mode – it looks great on this OLED screen and the notch melts into everything.

Embrace the notch • Hide the notch • Dark mode • Dark mode

The notification shade in EMUI 10 is the most heavily redesigned UI element with the toggles now adopting a more conventional circular shape and a blue color for the On state, very much like on Samsung’s One UI and sort of like Google’s own Android 10 design. There’s a brightness slider and a row of toggles upon the first pull, and you pull down again for more toggles.

App/contacts search • Notification shade

Multitasking is a familiar affair, and the task switcher allows for split-screen or pop-up mode. Most of the default apps support pop-up view, but only few can get into split-screen and we found that odd.

Recent apps • Pop-up view • Pop-up view

The P40 Pro default OS navigation is an iPhone-like gesture – swipe up for Home, swipe up and stop midway for Task switcher, or swipe from the left or right edge of the screen for Back. You can opt for the classic virtual buttons, of course.

And while we are talking about gestures, here is a blast from the past – Huawei is making the air gestures a thing again. Thanks to the 3D IR camera at the front, the P40 Pro is capable of recognizing various gestures such as pinch, grab, wave, swipe and you can operate it pretty much touch-less (COVID-19 doesn’t like this).

So, you can take screenshots by hand grab, swipe to scroll, among other. Those are cool but they couldn’t stick the first time we saw them on the Galaxy Note 3, and we doubt they will stick this time around, too. This is just too gimmicky.

From the phone manager app, which is now called Optimiser, you can access shortcuts to storage cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan powered by Avast, and mobile data usage.

Huawei’s Music app offers a way to listen to stored MP3s, and it also includes Huawei’s own music services in compatible regions.

Same goes for the proprietary Video app – it plays your local videos, but it also includes Huawei’s video streaming service similar to YouTube. Huawei has partnered with BBC to deliver more interesting content in addition to all funny and creative videos you will find within Huawei’s own streaming servers.

Huawei’s Health app is pre-installed, and it offers step counting, among many other things. There’s a file manager app and a note-taking app.

Huawei is yet to launch its TomTom-based Maps app, but here is hoping this happens soon enough. And since the P40 Pro lacks a replacement for Google’s location framework, apps like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite can’t work.

 

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Huawei P40 Pro review

Introduction Ah, a new Photo king rises, but its kingdom of apps was taken away before its birth. What happens next then, the crowd asks?...

Samsung Galaxy S20 in for review

The Samsung Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20 5G are arguably the best choices for a small flagship phone at the moment...

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