P40 Pro (£899, or around $1,100) reminds me of the ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. It has one of the most compelling screens I’ve ever seen on a phone, and
a low-light camera that makes it possible to take photos even in pitch-black
situations, all housed in a body that’s sleek and
comfortable to hold. But
since the US/China trade war stopped Google from providing Huawei access to
Google Mobile Services, the P40 Pro is really only a device
for hobbyists or those looking to exit Google’s ecosystem completely. We have first impressions to share after spending some time with the phone in London.
P40 Pro comes in either black or silver frost, with a ceramic back
that feels really comfortable in the hand. The faux-leather finish on the Oppo Find X2 Pro provides better grip, but to me, the P40 Pro looks sleeker.
it around and you’ll find a 6.58-inch, 2,640-by-1200-pixel OLED
screen, which is simply fantastic. It’s brighter and shows better colors when viewing The Wolf of Wall Street than the Find X2 Pro, the Google Pixel 4 XL, and the OnePlus 7 Pro. The P40 brings out textures in hair and business suits, and really shows off Scorsese’s flashy direction. You can see the light playing off of cocktail glasses more brilliantly than the competition, and the screen is noticeably brighter than others, so you can read your texts outside on a sunny day.
there are some drawbacks: The P40 Pro only has a 90Hz refresh rate in
comparison with the 120Hz screens on the Find X2 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro,
which means scrolling through social media and other apps feels a
little less slick. This is reportedly due in part to battery optimization, but it’s a disappointing omission nevertheless. The color
balance is also slightly less accurate than on some competing phones,
unable to capture skin tones as well as others, but it’s not at all a deal breaker.
the bottom of the phone is a USB-C connection for charging and file
transfer, and under the screen is a fingerprint sensor that Huawei
has made larger so it’s easier to access; face unlock is also supported. The phone features an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance , the same as the
Find X2 Pro.
The rear camera stack sports three lenses and Leica certification. The
main lens features a moderately wide field of view, similar to the main lens on most smartphones, with a bright f/1.9 aperture and a 50MP sensor. It’s joined by ultra-wide 40MP f/1.8 and standard and 5x telephoto (125mm) 12MP f/3.4 cameras, as well as a depth sensor.
the P30 Pro before it, Huawei defines this phone by its photographic
chops, and in this case, the devil is in the detail. The amount of
information that this camera can capture is astounding, besting the
Find X2 Pro, the Pixel 4 XL, and the OnePlus 7 Pro easily. The veins
on leaves and the hairs on stalks of flowers come
not only detail where the P40 Pro stands out; switch off the lights,
and its night mode is the best on the market. This should not be
understated. As you can see below, in a bathroom with no light source other than the
small crack between the door and its frame, the P40 Pro is able to capture not only the greens and browns of a stuffed owl, but also the yellow of a bottle behind it and the writing on its label.
Oppo’s Find X2 Pro offers similar capabilities, but its
colors are slightly off and the image is simply not as detailed. The Pixel 4
XL’s night mode is unable to keep up, and even the P30 Pro looks lesser by
P40 Pro’s zoom lens—capable of a 50x digital zoom—is terrific. The ability to stand a few hundred meters away
from what you’re shooting and get a usable image is astounding (or anxiety-inducing, for those concerned about privacy). While
the photos aren’t particularly detailed, the 10x zoom is superb as well.
also has its artificial intelligence algorithm baked into the camera, which uses image recognition to edit your photos on the
device; cats look furrier, skies are bluer, and so on. While it appears Huawei has relented on the kind of
overbearing changes its other phones automatically apply, we still
prefer photos without automatic editing. Still, should
you want a photo with more punch, it’s a simple tap of a button to
enable or disable the algorithm.
P40 Pro’s camera does have some drawbacks, however. While the color
balance is better than we’ve seen on other Huawei devices, we still
prefer the richness and contrast from the Pixel 4 XL and even the
Find X2 Pro. The P40 Pro has a tendency to look a little overblown;
while the inky blacks of a goose’s neck are astonishingly dark and its feathers a rich brown in one of our test images, it’s simply not accurate to the
grubby colors of British wildlife. We imagine Huawei does this for
the benefit of its Asian market that generally prefers this style over the stricter realism of Apple and Google devices, but it’s not our cup of tea.
The P40 Pro’s selfie camera, a 32MP lens matched with a time-of-flight sensor for
depth, comes close the best front-facing camera we’ve tested, the selfie shooter on the Pixel 4 XL. While the P40 Pro doesn’t quite capture colors in the same way, it does a better job
than the Find X2 Pro or the OnePlus 7 Pro when it comes to skin tones, and matches them for detail.
Software, and Special Features
Inside the P40 Pro is
Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G SoC, alongside 8GB of RAM and 256GB of
storage, as well as a 4,200mAh battery. This is certainly less than on competing phones; the Find X2 Pro has 12GB RAM and 512GB of
storage with a 4,260mAh battery. This could be because Huawei wants
to make space for its as-yet-unreleased P40 Pro Plus, but for the
moment, the company’s most powerful phone (that does not fold) doesn’t
quite measure up to competitors when it comes to processing power and storage capacity.
Then, of course, there are
the inevitable issues with Huawei’s software ecosystem. Much like the Mate
30 Pro (and the MatePad Pro), the P40 Pro relies on Huawei Mobile
Services rather than Google’s. This means popular apps such as
Google Maps and Netflix won’t work even if sideloaded (downloading
the source file from other application stores), nor will myriad other apps.
See How We Test Phones
Huawei is working on an alternative Maps
application and a smart assistant called Celia. To fill in the gaps, it all but encourages
sideloading apps from the Amazon AppStore, APKPure, AppSearch
software, and the Phone Clone app. But technology shouldn’t be purchased based
on promise, and although it is philosophically unfair to criticize
Huawei for the almost impossible (and somewhat laudable) task of
offering a tangible alternative to Google’s monopoly, that doesn’t overcome practicality for a device most people
use constantly. The Google ecosystem is mature, and longtime Android owners are familiar with the Play Store and the bevy of apps and services provided by the search giant.
is lackluster in comparison. A clone of Facebook Messenger, a YouTube downloader, and a poorly rated
and untrustworthy VPN app are some of its top-rated apps. Until Huawei does some proper curation
of its storefront, I wouldn’t recommend using it for any applications other than those with an established, widely known presence on other
Huawei’s EMUI layer on top of Android remains solid, and its Share OneHop software allows control of the phone from compatible Huawei or Honor laptops with the interface appearing in a separate window on the
desktop. Having not tested it extensively against Apple’s AirDrop, it’s difficult to say whether this is better, but Android still lacks a competitor to the
file-sharing service that works as smoothly.
Once again, we come
full circle, with a conclusion written on so many recent Huawei devices that we can all sing it in harmony: The P40 Pro is an impressive device with some class-leading hardware, but we can’t recommend it. Without support for Google apps and services, it’s nearly unusable in the West, not to mention unavailable for purchase in the US. If Huawei can deliver on its promises of a useful maps app and an
actual Play Store alternative, the P40 Pro will become a bit more appealing. But for now, it’s largely just a technology showcase.
Huawei P40 Pro 5G Specs
|Operating System||Android 10|
|CPU||HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G|
|Processor Speed||2.86 GHz|
|Dimensions||6.23 by 2.86 by 0.35 inches|
|Screen Size||6.53 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2,640 by 1,200 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||50MP, 40MP, 12MP; 32MP|