Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Infinitely better than it has any right to be

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Infinitely better than it has any right to be

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

The Mate 30 Pro’s camera system is astonishingly good (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro is the first Huawei flagship phone to launch without any Google apps and services. That’s not a problem in China, where Google doesn’t have a presence, but in the UK, the Google Play Store, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube and more are invaluable.

Without these, we really thought using the Chinese flagship was going to be painful. However, after testing this phone extensively for the last two weeks, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, the Mate 30 Pro is infinitely better than we were expecting. Here’s Express.co.uk’s full review of the device…

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Design and Display

This is where the Mate 30 Pro excels. Unlike most manufacturers, Huawei doesn’t ever seem to have those ‘S’ upgrade years where it releases a new model with a familiar design but overhauled internals. Simply put, Mate 30 Pro is a design sensation and truly looks like a smartphone built for 2020.

The beauty of the Mate 30 Pro starts with its curvaceous screen that melds over the side of the phone. Huawei calls this technology a “Horizon Display” but, marketing jargon aside, all you need to know is the device’s curved sides are more dramatic than on any other phone you’ve held. This makes the handset feel more angular than some of its curvy rivals and it’s more comfortable in the hand as a result.

The Mate 30 Pro’s supreme curves are the reason you’ll only find a single button on the device. That’s right, there’s no volume rockers to be seen.

Instead, tapping the side of the Horizon Display twice summons a volume slider that gives haptic feedback as you move your finger up and down to adjust the sound. The biggest benefit is you can change the volume easily whether you’re holding the phone with your left or right hand (perfect for all the lefties out there).

That said, things become a bit of a pain if you’re jamming to your favourite song and need to change the volume while the phone is in your pocket. Most other smartphones can let you get away with pressing their volume buttons through your jean pocket, but with the Mate 30 Pro, you’ll be forced to pull the entire device out if you need to crank things up. This certainly isn’t a deal-breaker – you can always change the volume with your headphones after all – but it’s worth noting.

In terms of sheer display quality, Mate 30 Pro is great but it doesn’t come close to matching the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro or Galaxy S20 in either refresh rate, or pixel-count. The Mate 30 Pro comes with a 6.53-inch display with a 1176×2400 resolution, which is slightly better than 1080p. Unlike an increasing number of Android flagships, it sticks with a bog-standard 60Hz refresh rate.

We don’t have any complaints when it comes to viewing content and navigating Huawei’s EMUI 10 operating system, but it would certainly have taken things to another level if the Mate 30 Pro had a 2K panel and a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate in addition to its beautiful curved display.

Turning the Mate 30 Pro over reveals a porthole-looking camera module and either a Cosmic Purple, Space Silver, Emerald Green or Black finish.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

Tapping the side of the Horizon Display twice summons a volume slider (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Performance

Huawei flagships have always delivered pretty exceptional performance and the Mate 30 Pro is no different. The device isn’t powered by a Qualcomm processor, with Huawei instead fitting its handsets with its own in-house Kirin silicon. The Mate 30 Pro sold in the UK comes equipped with the 4G version of the Kirin 990. Unfortunately, that means the device doesn’t support 5G networks – something that’s worth noting if you’re looking to future-proof yourself with your next smartphone purchase.

The Kirin 990 falls short of the performance offered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 in benchmarks. That said, the device still blitzes through anything you can throw it, whether that’s meticulous photo editing or playing graphically demanding games.

With 8GB of RAM, the Mate 30 Pro is also great at keeping apps suspended in the background too… when Huawei’s somewhat aggressive battery management systems don’t kick in, that is.

Much to our surprise, some of the Mate 30 Pro’s best features come from the array of facial scanners housed in its notch. Not only does the handset deliver fast and secure 3D facial unlocking, but the phone is more aware of the user than any other device on the market.

The best example of this expanded functionality is Mate 30 Pro’s ability to hide the content of your notifications whenever it spots someone peering over your shoulder. As soon as those sensors spy an unfamiliar face snooping on your screen, the content preview in the notification will vanish – leaving them, and you, to be fair, ogling nothing but a stream of empty bubbles (although you can proceed to view them, if you wish). This privacy-focused feature is perfect if you’re conscious of scrolling through potentially personal notifications on the train to work.

While Apple provides the opposite experience by default – notifications won’t give away any of their content until it recognises your face checking the screen – it can’t help hide personal content on a phone you’ve already unlocked.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

The Mate 30 Pro’s supreme curves are the reason you’ll only find a single button on the device (Image: Express Newspapers)

Additionally, the Huawei handset will also adjust the orientation of content in accordance with the angle you’re looking at it. So, turn your head to the side and the video will expand to a widescreen landscape mode, for example. For our money, these two additional features easily justify the Mate 30 Pro’s notch – we’d take a lineup of secure 3D facial scanners over an all-screen design with 2D recognition any day of the week.

It’s worth noting that while facial recognition can be used to unlock your smartphone, you can’t use your face to authenticate payments with Google Pay (as there’s no Google Pay support) or any of your banking apps. This is in stark contrast to the Pixel 4, which lets you glance at the screen to unlock secure banking apps, like American Express, Citibank, HMRC, 1Password, and more.

Next up, the software. Mate 30 Pro comes pre-installed with Huawei’s EMUI operating system, which is based on Android 10, but doesn’t come with any Google apps or services. This wasn’t a decision made by Huawei but a condition of the aforementioned banned list.

That means when you unbox your shiny new Mate 30 Pro, you’ll only find Huawei apps and the firm’s Play Store alternative – AppGallery.

Unfortunately, the AppGallery doesn’t boast anywhere near the same number of apps you’ll find available from Google. In fact, you won’t even find the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook, or Instagram. Assuming you don’t want to live in Huawei’s limited ecosystem of apps, you have a few options. The first is to copy all your apps over from your previous phone using the Huawei Phone Clone app and hope you can get updates for them… somehow.

Some apps, like Google Maps, either won’t be transferred over during this process. And if they are, don’t expect them to work as they would on any other Android phone. Of course, you can always download a third-party app store, like the Amazon Appstore, which does provide access to all the popular social media and messaging clients you’d expect.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

The Mate 30 Pro sold in the UK comes equipped with the 4G version of the Kirin 990 (Image: Express Newspapers)

The Mate 30 Pro’s camera system is astonishingly good

However, these won’t receive updates nearly as frequently as those from the Play Store, so be prepared to wait if you want WhatsApp’s forthcoming dark mode or any new features that come to any of your favourite apps.

The final option when it comes to software is to install Google apps and services onto the Mate 30 Pro yourself. This sounds pretty daunting, but in reality, all you need is a USB-C drive and 5 minutes to spare. We’ve embedded the video tutorial we used to accomplish this down below for those interested in how the process works.

Let’s be honest, if you’re even considering picking up the Mate 30 Pro you’re already pretty invested in Android. Better still, you’re probably the kind of person that enjoys experimenting with the operating system and making it your own. For everyone who fits that bill – Huawei is releasing the Mate 30 Pro in the UK for you.

We installed Google apps and services on our Mate 30 Pro at Express.co.uk and during our two weeks of extensive usage, things have worked pretty flawlessly. There are a couple of issues to note, though.

First, and easily most crucial – Google Pay doesn’t work on the device. Attempting to add a card to your account will result in an error message that reads: “This phone can’t be used to pay in shops. This may be because it is rooted or altered in some other way.”

Of course, it’s unclear if a workaround to get Google Pay support on the Mate 30 Pro will be discovered in the future, but for now things simply don’t work. Although certainly more niche, we were also unable to download any content in our Google Play Movies library – also something to note if you’re the kind of person who always likes to carry around a collection of movies or TV shows.

Everything else has worked impeccably. We’ve not only been able to sign-in to our Google account as normal, but we’ve also been able to get the latest app updates from the Play Store, too. In fact, we’re even running the latest version of Google Maps on our unit, complete with its logo redesign.

Although Huawei doesn’t endorse it, we’d recommend installing Google apps and services manually if you’re planning to pick up a Mate 30 Pro.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE HUAWEI MATE 30 PRO

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

Huawei Mate 30 Pro is the first Huawei flagship phone to launch without any Google apps and services (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

Getting Google apps and services on the Mate 30 Pro is incredibly easy (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Camera

The Mate 30 Pro’s camera system is astonishingly good and will frequently leave you impressed with the photos and video it’s able to capture.

Let’s get the specs out the way first. The Mate 30 Pro comes with a 40-megapixel primary, a 40-megapixel ultra wide-angle, an 8-megapixel telephoto and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor. That said, the camera array offered by the Huawei device is certainly one of the most diverse you can get your hands on.

Whether you’re using the primary, ultra wide-angle or telephoto lens, photos on the Mate 30 Pro are bursting with detail …although they do tend to be more saturated than the likes of the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11.

For the most part, the Mate 30 Pro is great in all conditions – the phone captures stunning daylight shots and its night mode brightens up shots in low-light more than any of its competitors.

The Achilles’ heel of the Mate 30 Pro’s camera is its HDR capabilities – the phone has the tendency to blow-out backgrounds or keep the foreground dark in certain shooting scenarios. This is an area the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 easily eclipse it – particularly with the former’s dual-exposure controls that let you adjust shadows and light simultaneously.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

For the most part, the Mate 30 Pro’s camera is great in all conditions (Image: Express Newspapers)

HDR on the Mate 30 Pro isn’t bad by any means, and if you haven’t used a Pixel 4, iPhone 11 or even some of the newest cameras from Samsung, you won’t know what you’re missing. Just know that if you’re shooting indoors, there will be times where you can’t see out a window positioned in the background – things will probably be blown out with white colours instead.

Enough from us though, here’s a gallery of shots we took on the Mate 30 Pro so you can judge its photographic prowess for yourself.

Huawei has made huge strides forward when it comes to video on the Mate 30 Pro. The device is the first flagship from the tech company to support 4K video recording at up to 60-frames-per-second and can even record in super slow motion at 7680-frames-per-second.

Footage isn’t quite as crisp as Apple’s iPhone and colours are a bit too warm for our liking, but the Mate 30 Pro is country miles ahead of any other Huawei device when it comes to video.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Battery

Huawei are the champions when it comes to smartphone battery life for two reasons: they always stuff humongous cells in their devices and have pretty aggressive battery-saving modes to reduce power consumption.

The end result? The Mate 30 Pro’s hefty 4,500mAh battery can easily get you through two days of normal usage. Charging is also incredibly swift thanks to Huawei’s 40W fast charging technology and support for a ridiculous 27W wireless charging (although you’ll need to pick up the firm’s own wireless charging pad to take advantage of those speeds).

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

The Huawei Mate 30 Pro feels superb in the hand (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Price

Huawei is only releasing a single model of the Mate 30 Pro in the UK which comes with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and has a Space Silver finish.

However, the Chinese giant is throwing in a free Huawei Watch GT 2 and Huawei FreeBuds 3 that are worth £368 on their own. This is a double win for Huawei – not only does it make the Mate 30 Pro more appealing, but it also gets Android fans more invested in its ecosystem.

The freebies certainly make the £899 price tag of the Google-less Mate 30 Pro a lot easier to stomach. That said, you’ll still have to be a pretty diehard Huawei fan to pick up the device over an iPhone 11, Galaxy S20, OnePlus 7T Pro, or even a Pixel 4.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review

DX (Image: DX)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Verdict

  • FOR: Gorgeous design, Supremely capable camera system, Two-day battery life, there is a workaround to get Google apps!
  • AGAINST: We can’t recommend this phone to anyone who doesn’t want to attempt the workaround, No 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, Screen is limited to a 1080p-ish resolution

If you shudder at the thought of plugging your handset into your PC and watching YouTube tutorials to figure out the latest workaround to get Google apps and services onto a phone, the Mate 30 Pro isn’t for you.

We thought popping our SIM into the Mate 30 Pro and writing this review would be painful. But the reality has been the complete opposite.

The Mate 30 Pro isn’t going to outpace the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 in terms of sales outside China – and nor should it. It’s also probably going to be overshadowed by the P40 Pro announced next month, but until then, this is a very good phone.

Anyone who is up to the challenge and plumps for the Mate 30 Pro is going to fall in love with its futuristic curved display, its supremely capable rear-cameras, and its clever notification hiding that promises to keep your texts between you and the sender – no matter where you are.

Published at Sat, 22 Feb 2020 07:00:00 +0000