Huawei P40 Pro review

Huawei P40 Pro Review – Photographic Powerhouse

Previously we took a look at what came in the box for the P40 Pro, did a quick once-over of its build quality and had a look at how it stacks up to its siblings. This time around, we’re going to take a closer look at how it fares both from a hardware and software perspective. The latter is of particular importance seeing as the phone lacks Google’s services so many of Google’s apps won’t run like Google Maps, their Gmail app and the like. Fortunately, there are workarounds to the problem which we’ll get into later.

P40 Pro review

Android traditionalists may likely balk at the notion but there’s more than meets the eye with the P40 Pro. Huawei has really gone to town on making sure the phone is more than the sum of its parts and has implemented quite a few unique features that make it worth your time.

Huawei P40 Pro Specifications

In terms of specifications, the P40 Pro comes with:

DIsplay 6.58-inch Quad Overflow OLED display, 2,640 x 1,200 pixels, 90Hz refresh rate
Processor Kirin 990 5G
OS EMUI 10.1 (based on Android 10)
Memory 8GB RAM/256GB storage
Camera 50-MP F/1.9 Ultra Vision camera w/ OIS  + 40-MP F/1.8 SuperSensing Cine camera + 12-MP SuperSensing 5x optical telephoto w/ OIS + 3D depth sensing camera (rear) / 32-MP F/2.2 autofocus (front)
Battery 4,200mAh w/ 40W wired Huawei SuperCharge / 27W Wireless SuperCharge
Size/Weight 158.2 x 72.6 x 8.95mm / 209g

This extremely powerful setup offers an impressive OLED display, Huawei’s latest Kirin 990 5G processor (and 5G support) and their newest camera tech crammed into a 9mm thin glass and metal chassis.

The front 6.58-inch Quad Curve Overflow display uses an OLED panel with 2,640 x 1,200 pixel resolution. OLED displays are known for brighter and better colour rendition with the P40 Pro’s display rated for compliance for the DCI-P3 colour gamut to ensure faithful colour reproduction and it also has HDR10 content support. Where it stands out from the competition is that it also has a respectable 90Hz refresh rate for smoother animations onscreen.

P40 pro review
The lower portion of the display also has an under-display fingerprint reader. Much like the Mate30 Pro, the entirety of the display acts as an acoustic sounding board, like a speaker of sorts as opposed to using a conventional second speaker in its design to ensure maximum screen real estate. 

A 32-MP selfie camera along with a ToF sensor and an IR sensor is emplaced in the upper left punch hole of the display.

P40 Pro review selfie camera
In terms of hardware, the Huawei P40 Pro’s Kirin 990 5G processor is their most powerful chip currently in service and is the same one seen in the Mate30 Pro 5G released earlier this year. Of note is that it offers both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA)  support for 5G connectivity so you’re covered no matter which telco provider you go with when it eventually rolls out in Malaysia. 

The provided 8GB RAM seems somewhat paltry, seeing that the competition is issuing phones with more than 12GB RAM and more crammed in but the phone proactively manages tasks in a very aggressive fashion and during our testing the phone never lagged or slowed in the slightest.

Under synthetic benchmarks, the P40 Pro got very respectable scores. Here’s how it fared:

PCMark Work 2.0 9363 points
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES 3.1 5,654 points
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan 5,450 points
Antutu 3D – 464,221 points
GeekBench 5.0 756 single core / 2,949 multi-core

This compares favourably with the Mate30 Pro 5G that we tested awhile back, give or take a few points. Under standard usage scenarios, the P40 Pro is the match of anything in the market for speed, smoothness and performance beyond what its specifications would suggest. Web browsing on its own stock browser as well as a sideloaded version of Chrome went without a hitch with multiple tabs opened. Swapping between the tabs as well as other apps went smoothly.

It was able to run Netflix without issue albeit capped at SD resolution along with the usual ensemble of required apps for Malaysians including all the major banking apps, Whatsapp, WeChat, Grab, Lazada, Shopee and Spotify. We also field tested it with PUBG Mobile as well as Asphalt 9 and it ran on high settings in a smooth fashion. 

We also tested it at 4G LTE speeds and it ran without issue though we were unable to test its 5G capabilities as it isn’t widespread in Malaysia yet. It is likely that its performance envelope will mirror the Mate30 Pro 5G’s download and upload speeds which we tested it awhile back.

The P40 Pro’s 90Hz FHD+ OLED display has a 19.8:9 aspect ratio and has excellent clarity under sunlight with equally good colour rendition and sharpness on its default Vivid mode. While other competing phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra have sharper, higher resolution displays, you’ll be hard pressed to notice much of a difference on the P40 Pro’s touchscreen and the 90Hz refresh means animations and gaming look smooth onscreen. Alternatively, you can dial down the refresh rate to 60Hz to save on battery life.

The paired speakers are a bit of an odd bunch with one pointing downwards next to the base of the phone and the other emanating from the display itself. Audio clarity is good with a fair amount of bass though the speaker on the base is louder than the one that is part of the display itself which leads to somewhat asymmetrical sound. It’s good for casual listening and gaming but if you need something with more detail, you can opt for their FreeBuds 3 wireless earbuds.

Keeping the P40 Pro powered is a 4,200mAh battery that has an impressive 40Wh SuperCharge fast charging capability, 40W SuperCharge wireless charging and the ability to reverse wireless charge other devices if you plonk them on the backplate. The fact that Huawei has bundled a 40W SuperCharge charger with the phone to leverage its full capabilities is generous indeed. On paper, the phone is rated to fill up to 80% from dead zero in 30 minutes and to full charge in about 50 minutes.

P40 Pro review side

In combination with EMUI’s aggressive management of memory and other system resources, the P40 Pro proved to have superb endurance and even with a relatively heavy load of emails, Youtube videos, Facebook, TikTok, music and a bit of gaming, the phone was easily able to last north of two days before it needed a quick top-up.

EMUI 10.1 and the AppGallery experience

From a purely hardware perspective, the P40 Pro is a flagship in every sense of the word and is one of Huawei’s best phones. The pickle here is its software as the lack of Google services is an Achilles heel.

In lieu of the Google Play store, Huawei has rolled out their own AppGallery store though it’s still some quite some time away from having the same variety of apps as Google’s own Play Store. Fortunately, Huawei has focused on the important stuff and for the most part, you’re able to get essential apps including banking apps, delivery apps and the like on the AppGallery or sideload them via other alternative non-official app stores like APKPure

P40 Pro AppGallery

Youtube runs perfectly fine on the P40 Pro via a browser

Huawei has offered alternatives to the usual Google apps that we’ve come to rely on. Many understandably won’t work on the P40 Pro though a good chunk of them can still run in a browser. Chrome can be sideloaded and works as is. In lieu of Google Maps, Huawei has Here WeGo maps as a reputable alternative that was originally developed by Nokia. For Gmail and YouTube, you can still access it via a browser. For Google Docs, you can use Microsoft Office which is a decent alternative.

In lieu of YouTube, Huawei has also launched their own Huawei Video app service with P40 Pro owners getting a free 3 months subscription. The content on it primarily consists of Chinese dramas and movies along with an eclectic mix of cartoons, anime and sports with the ability for offline 1080P download. Fortunately you can enable English subtitles for a good chunk of the content.

P40 Pro review huawei video

You get an interesting selection of videos on Huawei’s Video subscription service. You get 3 free months when you buy the P40 Pro.

Whatsapp was able to be sideloaded off their official website along with Grab so for all intents and purposes, the basics are covered for Malaysian users.Unfortunately the work required to find and get your preferred apps isn’t something smartphone novices (eg. your grandma or your non-tech savvy relatives) can do without guidance. Seasoned Android users will likely be able to get this problem sorted without undue effort.

The good news is that once we’ve gone a couple of weeks without Google’s apps and services, we didn’t miss them as much as we thought we would. It’s still a bit hard going completely cold turkey but core essentials like Gmail still worked via a browser.

Huawei P40 Pro camera performance

The Huawei P40 Pro has a setup akin to the P40 Pro+ that is slated to arrive later this year with some modest concessions to its zoom capabilities and the omission of one of the two telephoto cameras on the P40 Pro+. You will still have a setup that’s one of the best that Huawei has ever made crammed into a phone.

P40 Pro review camera UI
Dubbed the Ultra Vision Leica Quad Camera system, the P40 Pro utilises a quad camera array that consists of a 40-MP F/1.8 ultra wide Cine Camera, a primary 50-MP F/1.9 Ultra Vision wide camera that has OIS, a 12-MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom and which also has OIS and finally a ToF sensor. 

Huawei P40 Pro review camera

The P40 Pro’s telephoto camera and Ultra Vision wide camera use Huawei’s RYYB filters which include yellow along with red and blue rather than the usual ‘Red, Green, Green and Blue’ filters seen in other cameras to capture 40% more light. Originally, Huawei’s RYYB filters first saw service in Huawei’s P30 series phones. 

This approach in filters has been proven with the P30 series, which netted very respectable scores in DxOMark back at its zenith and the P40 series takes it up a notch. Where the primary 50-MP camera knocks things out of the ballpark is that includes a massive 1/1.28-inch CMOS sensor that’s currently the largest shoved into a Huawei phone and a good deal larger than other competitors as well. 

Huawei has also taken great pains to leverage the power of AI for better image quality with their new XD Fusion Engine to accomplish feats that prior to this would have required some skill at Photoshop.

Now, with the press of a button, the P40 Pro is capable of taking clean shots through glass windows while magically removing reflections in post. You are also able to miraculously remove photo bombers when you’re taking images. Just these two features alone are worth it for the price of entry.

P40 Pro ultrawide

Ultrawide angle camera

P40 Pro primary

Taken with the primary camera at 1X zoom

P40 pro 50x

Taken a 50x hybrid zoom. Impressive retention of detail.

This setup allows for the P40 Pro to capture 4K video and 12-MP pixel-binned stills at ultra wide angles and at 5x optical zoom all the way out to 50x hybrid zoom even under challenging light conditions. Videos are capped at 12x hybrid zoom but it’s unlikely you’ll really need it.

P40 Pro
Seeing as we’re mostly confined to quarters on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t get much of a chance to field test the P40 Pro beyond the confines of our home but it excelled in an impressive fashion with the highly focused subject matter presented to it.

P40 Pro dawn

The user interface is typical of Huawei’s EMUI, with a slider on the right allowing for access to all modes and it has a Pro mode as well with all the trimmings. The left side holds buttons to turn AI mode and flash on or off and the usual slew of aesthetic filters.

Under daylight conditions, the rear cameras delivered impressive shots from ultra wide mode all the way out to 10x zoom with excellent colours and superb detail. Videos, on account of the AI and OIS were impressively steady indeed with the ability to capture 7,680fps@720p for ultra-slow motion trick shots.

P40 Pro dawn colourUnder dim or even moonlit conditions, the P40 Pro was able to cut a swath through the competition, serving up beautifully lit shots on auto. Under Night mode it served up even more vibrant shots with slightly better detail retention with the ability to dial up the ISO to a whopping 409,600 though this is capped to 51,200 ISO for videos.

P40 Pro cat

 Even under dim light, 4K@60fps videos were good with the P40 Pro rather than the usual noisy mess you’d expect. The front 32-MP selfie camera offers autofocus this time around and serves up pleasing selfies with accurate skin tones too.

P40 pro no night

Auto mode without Night mode activated

Auto mode with night mode

Night mode on

As it stands, the P40 Pro’s cameras deliver great results under all but the most challenging conditions and the best part is that they’re still able to do so even for novices on account of heavy integration of AI and OIS, making the phone a very respectable point and shoot that would allow even the most ham-fisted users to take Instagram worthy shots.

Huawei P40 Pro Price and Conclusion

The Huawei P40 Pro is a smartphone with excellent hardware across the board hampered only by the unfortunate omission of Google services which hobbles certain aspects of its user experience. Granted, there are workarounds for almost everything that you’d want on the phone for users in Malaysia, including critical banking and delivery apps but the process of finding it on the Huawei AppGallery or sideloading it isn’t something intended for novices. Fortunately Huawei, and other enterprising associates have listed video walkthroughs on how to get these things done so it’s not a major deal breaker.

P40 pro base
Make no mistake, you’re paying premium prices for the P40 Pro but you’re getting one of the best cameras seen on a smartphone, excellent performance across the board and superb battery life. Huawei is also offering a host of free gifts to make it a more viable proposition and has tied up with a host of telcos to offer cheaper means to own it.

If you aren’t chained or completely reliant on Google’s services, the P40 Pro is a great proposition for those prioritising camera performance, endurance and more importantly  future 5G support, something that many of its competitors lack at this point in time.

What we liked Excellent 90z OLED display, superb rear camera performance, 5G ready, excellent battery life, beautiful design
What we didn’t Huawei AppGallery still needs more apps, Deep Sea Blue finish is a fingerprint magnet, large rear camera bump
We say The Huawei P40 Pro has impressive hardware with cameras, performance and design that can match any of the top flagships in the market while its 90Hz display is a thing of beauty. Its Achilles heel -the lack of Google services – isn’t insurmountable but it requires jumping through a few extra loops. If you’re patient, the P40 Pro can be a rewarding experience indeed.

Review unit courtesy of Huawei Malaysia. Purchase the Huawei P40 Pro at their official online store here.