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Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: Our impressions straight out of the box

By Marcus Wong - 8 Dec 2019
Launch SRP: S$1298

First Impressions

Note (1): This article was first published on 11th October 2019 and updated on 18th October 2019 as a full review.

Note (2): Incorporated new developments to Huawei AppGallery for ride-hailing services on 15 October 2019.

What's it like to really use the new Huawei Mate 30 Pro?

Much has been made about the Mate 30 Pro and its lack of Google Mobile Services out of the box, but what’s the phone like to use on a day-to-day basis?

 

All about the Display

The Mate 30 Pro's curved display gives nice, vivid colours.

Pretty nice actually. At 158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8mm, the Mate 30 Pro is about the same size as the Mate 20 Pro before it, just a little taller (158.1 vs. 157.8mm), wider (73.1 vs. 72.3mm) and thicker (8.8 vs. 8.6mm). It’s also slightly heavier at 198g (compared to 188g). The slight increase in size and weight also affords the new Mate 30 Pro a slightly larger AMOLED screen at 6.53 inches across (against the 6.39-inch screen of the Mate 20 Pro).

This has good brightness and contrast, with colours that actually seem a bit more accurate than our previous benchmark - the P30 Pro. We'd say you get a slight bit more saturation with the Mate 30 Pro, leading to richer colours. Compared to the 3,040 x 1,440 pixels resolution display of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, the Mate 30 Pro’s FHD+ 2,400 x 1,176 pixels resolution OLED display has perhaps slightly more contrast, even under the natural colour setting. No official refresh rates were given, but it looks and feels fluid enough in both games and videos.

The screen really curves over both sides.

Like the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ and the Vivo NEX3, the Mate 30 Pro’s Horizon Display has a symmetrical design that probably adds a couple of percentage points to their screen-to-body ratio.  This has 88-degree curves so it almost feels like there’s an added display on each side. The symmetrical design definitely looks different, and we feel it makes the phone easier to grasp, as it’s easier for you to wrap your fingers around.

The Mate 30 Pro also adds double-duty to the side displays by letting them function as a volume control slider and also a moveable shutter button when in selfie mode.  As a result, the only physical button you’ll find on the Mate 30 Pro is the power/hold button, and that’s in a nice metallic red that lets it stand out.Updated 15/10/19: The virtual shutter button now works in all the camera modes.

The white bar on the top right is the virtual shutter button.

 

Audio is decent

The Mate 30 Pro uses Huawei’s Acoustic Display, which uses vibrations in the screen to transfer music to your ear. That takes away the obvious speaker grill on top, but does create an imbalance in stereo sound as the lower speaker is much stronger.

The included earbuds give you better performance than the speakers.

As you might imagine, that affects the imaging capabilities, so you’re not likely to get a great stereo listening experience right out of the box. Vocals are decently clear, but the performance is primarily in the mids, with weak bass and a lack of clarity in the highs. The bundled USB-C earbuds fare better for sure, with punchier bass and better resolution in the highs.

These are fixed buds that don’t have replaceable tip options, so your mileage on these will vary based on how well they fit your ears. One thing we do have to mention though, is that the Mate 30 Pro supports Sony’s LDAC wireless codec, so if you have a compatible set of wireless headphones, you’ll be able to take full advantage.

 

Camera system does more

The SuperSensing Cine camera is surrounded by a reflective ring.

Turn the phone over to its rear, and you basically have a flash and the main camera; what Huawei calls a SuperSensing Cine Camera. This has four cameras in a square orientation placed in a rounded module (camera bump) that’s surrounded by a reflective ring. It’s a slight departure from the square with rounded corners from the Mate 20 Pro, but looks better than we think it would. We’ve covered the camera performance in a separate article here, but the short summary is that this camera gives you great images in low light and incredible ultra slow-motion video capture.

Here's a quick recap of the Mate 30 Pro's four cameras:

  • 40MP (18mm, f/1.8) Cine camera
  • 40MP (27mm, f/1.6) SuperSensing camera
  • 8MP Telephoto camera (80mm, f/2.4, OIS)
  • 3D Depth Sensing camera

The front camera is paired with a 3D Depth Sensing camera and a Gesture sensor.

Just like with the Mate 20 Pro, the front-facing camera is in a long notch. This time round though, the 32MP front camera is joined by a 3D Depth Sensing Camera and a Gesture sensor. These work with a Tiny-Core NPU so you can also use gesture controls with the phone to take a screen shot or scroll the page. Screen shots work well, but we found the scroll gesture to be a little awkward to say the least.

The phone responds to the flick of your wrist to scroll.  However, it doesn’t quite seem to register a neutral position so we found ourselves mostly only able to scroll down or take a screenshot. For some reason, the camera doesn’t register the back of the hand well when placed on a table, thus making it hard to scroll up.

The air gestures are interesting, but don't always work.

Hold it vertically, and it works most of the time, but that sort of defeats the purpose of not having to touch the phone. It also has to be noted that you can only air scroll but not click (or double click), so the functionality is only really good if you want to stay on a single page.

The gestures also don’t seem to work well with games, which is a pain when you’d like to take a screenshot. On that note, even trying to get the three-key navigation bar out to skip games can be annoying, because you need to swipe up three times just to reveal the bar, and the “up” is irrespective of the phone’s orientation. Basically, you have to swipe from the charging port towards the front camera.

Trying to swipe up three times in game mode is difficult to say the least.

 

All about the Apps

As described in this article, we restored the Mate 30 Pro as a copy of our previous test unit (the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+), so a good number of our usual apps were brought over when we started testing. No need to search for equivalents on the Huawei AppGallery then.

The Huawei AppGallery really has a large number of apps to download.

Of course, not having Google apps and the usual Google Play Store for apps was a bit of a pain to start. But if we’re being honest, it’s really not that difficult to use Google Maps via Chrome on your phone. The only real issue was with ride-hailing services, as those seem to be built on the Google Mobile Services (GMS) platform and so completely fail to work. Point to ComfortDelgro then, because they still offer SMS and telephone booking services you can use even if you don’t have their app.

Huawei has said that they’re continuously working with local developers of each region they’re in to bring their apps to Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), and hence the Huawei AppGallery. So there’s a good chance your usual apps will make it over in the near future. Some of the usual suspects are already there. Carousell, Chope, Fave, FastJobs SG, iGV, LinkedIn, The Straits Times, My Starhub, Perx, WeChat, Viu and Zalora were just some we found, and that number’s only set to grow.

Even your usual ride-hailing apps like GRAB and GoJek have joined the fray, so you can get them direct from the Huawei AppGallery. M1 and Circles Life have also just added their apps, as have the likes of Shopback, Qoo10, Lazada, RedMart and Shopee, so it really seems like Huawei is doing all they can to ensure your usual apps will be there when you need them.

Moovit turned out to be an interesting alternative to Google Maps.

Foodpanda is also listed, but the current version is incompatible with Android 10.0, so we couldn’t test it out. We also found some alternatives for our regular services. Moovit is one such example, and that gives you transport directions and estimated timings, much like Google Maps. Unsurprisingly, there seems to be a large amount of Chinese apps that we don’t normally see. So if anything, moving to the Huawei AppGallery gave us the opportunity to discover new apps instead of sticking to our usual ones.

There are defaults modes for different usage scenarios.

We have to say the Mate 30 Pro Kirin 990 processor handled everything we threw at it well. Battery life has been good too, and the phone has three different battery profiles to help you manage it further. The Mate 30 Pro has Huawei’s 40W Wired SuperCharge too, and that got us back up to about 70% charge in just under 30 minutes. It also supports reverse wireless charging, so you can use it to quickly top-up your other devices if needed.

All in, we’d say your experience using the Mate 30 Pro will vary greatly depending on the apps you use. As we said, food delivery services work via the web browser, and a good number of the social media apps work once you get them on the phone.

You can install apps right from your browser even if it's not in the AppGallery.

Games will work fine too. If you can find the APK (Android Package) to download, AppGallery will install it. Apps aside, the phone is a great piece of hardware that’s truly flagship-level, with a camera system that’s really able to challenge your typical interchangeable lens camera.

 

Benchmark Performance

The Mate 30 Pro is powered by Huawei's new Kirin 990 SoC, which is developed based on 7nm architecture with three-levels of power efficiency. As with most phones released this year, there will be two versions of the phone; a 5G version and one just for LTE. Singapore is getting the LTE version, but it's worth noting that the Kirin 990 5G is one of the few chips that supports 2G/3G/4G network and 5G Non-StandAlone (NSA) and StandAlone (SA) modes, so you'd be able to move freely between 5G networks with that. 

This has an upgraded NPU cluster - the Da Vinci NPU, which has one large dual-NPU core matched with a smaller micro core. That makes it faster and more power-efficient. On the website, Huawei says it offers up to 18% better CPU performance and 39% better GPU performance from the 16-core Mali-G76 processor. 

The ISP is also enhanced by 15% with hardware-level noise reduction for vivid photos and stunning night sights. Real-time video segmenting and rendering is also better supported, as is gaming. Also, the Kirin 990 uses UFS 3.0 supported flash memory storage for faster transfers and better multi-tasking, thus improving overall device performance.

To find out more about the Kirin 990, head over to this piece.

 

JetStream 2

JetStream 2 measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but rewards browsers that start quickly, execute code well, and run smoothly. It runs a total of 64 subtests for multiple iterations, with each benchmark weighed equally, taking the geometric mean to compute the overall score.

On this, you can see that the Mate 30 Pro does about equal to the P30 Pro, which unfortunately is still behind the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro and way behind the iPhone 11 Pro Max. This is definitely one area in which Android needs to catch up.

 

Antutu v.7.2.3

AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, while the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device's flash memory.


 

On this, the Mate 30 Pro does quite a bit better than the Mate 20 Pro and this year's P30 Pro with a score of 313,943 compared to 287,994 from the P30 Pro and 298,611 from the Mate 20 Pro. That said, it still lags behind the options from OnePlus, Oppo and Samsung, all of which fall massively behind the iPhone 11 Pro Max's score of 462,098.  

 

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects.

For some reason, the Mate 30 Pro falls flat on this test in particular, as it scores worse than the older Mate 20 Pro and the P30. In fact, it's the worst-performing phone on this benchmark, with scores 700 points lower than last year's Mate 20 Pro.  

 

Geekbench CPU

Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 4 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 4,000 (which is the score of an Intel Core i7-6600U CPU processor).

On this, the Mate 30 Pro's Kirin 990 does slightly better than the OnePlus 7 Pro's Snapdragon 855, with a multi-core score of 2,809 compared to the 7 Pro's 2,742. It also does slightly better on single-core performance with 751 opposed to the 746 of the 7 Pro, but falls behind the 809 points of the Note10+.

The Mate 30 Pro leads the Android phones in this list, but still falls some 700 points behind the iPhone 11 Pro Max, continuing the trend of iOS doing better on benchmarks.

 

Battery Life

The Mate 30 Pro has a 4,500 mAh battery compared to the 4,200 mAh battery on the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro before it. It comes with Huawei's wired SuperCharge (Max 40W) and Wireless SuperCharge (27W) for faster charging, and is also able to charge other devices via reverse wireless charging.

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

 

Here, the Mate 30 Pro really stood out, with a full charge taking it through a full 16 hours and 4 minutes, which is literally more than half a day with full brightness and maximum volume. That's a full two hours more than the next competitor, the P30 Pro, and more than twice of what the iPhone 11 Pro Max can achieve, which certainly speaks towards the efficiency of the Kirin 990 processor. 

With the supplied cable and charger, we were able to get back up to 70% charge from 0% in just 30 minutes, with the phone reaching full capacity in just 1 hour and 10 minutes. Unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 30 Pro didn't seem to heat up as much when charging so the cooling system should be much improved too. 

 

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that Google services have become so synonymous with Android that an (Android) phone without Google doesn’t seem complete, but the fact is that there are many other parts to this open-source system that works well regardless.

Huawei also seems to be holding true to its promise to be actively working with local developers of each region to get their apps on their AppGallery. We noticed more recognisable titles like iGV and My StarHub appear towards the end of our testing that wasn't there when we started.  

So the question is, are you ready to challenge the status quo?

Read Next: This is why the Huawei Mate 30 Pro is the new low-light master!

8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 7.5
  • Performance 9
  • Value 7.5
The Good
Great low light photo and video capture
Incredible video capture capabilities
Interesting gesture controls
Great battery life
Good fast charging
The Bad
No Google Mobile Services out of the box
Uncertain progress of Huawei Mobile Services
Speakers are a little soft
Proprietary expandable storage
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