Huawei P40 Pro in the test: love at second glance

The Huawei P30 Pro is our previous photo premium. Successor Huawei P40 Pro is said to be in the shade. The test shows whether this works.

The predecessor Huawei P30 Pro (test report) offered an excellent camera that allowed great free-hand night shots, 10x magnification via periscope and 50x electronic zoom. Competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S10 + (test report) sometimes came close in terms of quality, but at least thanks to the great flexibility in terms of light and zoom, the Huawei model was almost always ahead. But the competition does not sleep, Samsung proves with the new Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) that night shots and zoom are not the only domains of Huawei. At least on paper, the manufacturer is now even in the lead when it comes to zoom, after all, the Korean manufacturer advertises with 100x space zoom. Can Huawei keep up with the new P40 Pro despite the lack of Google services?

At first glance, the new Huawei P40 Pro does not notice any major differences to the predecessor. On closer inspection, there are quite a few. The manufacturer speaks of the fact that there are even fewer edges in the new model and in fact this is particularly noticeable above and below the screen. A few millimeters were saved here again, so that the percentage ratio of display to housing continues to increase. There is even less margin on the sides. However, this is only noticeable when you take a very close look, because at best it should be a matter of tenths of a millimeter. At the same time, however, the display glass also extends around the edges – so while Samsung is moving away from these extreme curves, Huawei is reinforcing them and inserting the curves at the top and bottom. In fact, this is hardly noticeable, most users should only notice this at a second glance at the frame. Because the side is similarly thin as the predecessor, the front and bottom of the smartphone have much narrower edges. They expand a little to protect the front glass at the corners of the smartphone, attentive observers see this on the front.

The frame is pulled up at the corners

The new Notch should catch the eye of everyone else. Because while Huawei chose a small teardrop-shaped cut-out for the front camera for the P30 Pro, which was placed in the middle of the upper edge of the display, he decided in the new P40 Pro to choose a different route. The new punchhole notch sits in the top left corner, and the term “hole” is inappropriate. Because Huawei installs a slot almost two centimeters wide and over half a centimeter high in the panel, which is more reminiscent of a loopholes than a notch. In addition to the front camera, the company also installed a gesture sensor and an IR camera for better facial recognition in low light. From an aesthetic point of view, the huge cut-out unfortunately looks out of place, it does not match the smart look of the smartphone, despite its size.

Fat notch in the upper left corner

This also applies to the camera unit on the back. Like Samsung for the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Huawei has opted for a large, rectangular camera unit that, although not quite as far as Samsung, protrudes a little more than a millimeter from the case. After all, this camera rectangle is a bit smaller than that of Samsung and our black test device is less noticeable than the light color. Extroverts will probably like it anyway anyway if you “see what you have” – the camera module may even be too small for them. By the way, Huawei itself speaks of the fact that, like the predecessor, the back has been adapted to the look of a digital camera – hence the clearly visible placement of the Leica lettering and the technical data of the cameras. The P40 Pro also used the space and therefore opted for the large rectangular module instead of the previously long, narrow one.

Large camera unit, at least a bit more discreet than at Samsung

Otherwise, Huawei opts for a discreet exterior, as it did with its predecessor. So there are no color accents or other gimmicks. As on the previous model, the back is made of reflective glass, which as usual attracts fingerprints. If you do not want this, you should look for the two new shades of silver, frost and blosh gold, which have a frosted surface and are therefore far less susceptible to fat deposits. The enclosed protective cover made of transparent plastic is an alternative.

The P40 Pro is perfectly processed

As always, there is nothing to complain about in terms of processing at Huawei. The antenna joints in the metal frame are flush, the same applies to the SIM carriage. The transitions from the frame to the glass fronts at the front and rear are now smoother than in the predecessor and the buttons are not only installed firmly and wobble-free, but can also be used perfectly as usual. The new P40 Pro is also protected against dust and water according to IP68. However, users should not drop it because so much glass should hardly forgive it. Since this material is slippery as always, the reference to a protective cover again. With a slightly smaller width, but a somewhat thicker structure, the smartphone has remained similarly large despite the larger display. The weight has increased by around 10 grams. Owners of the predecessor Huawei P30 Pro (review) should hardly notice this, even if just over 200 grams are a real chunk.

The OLED screen of the Huawei P40 Pro has grown only minimally compared to its predecessor. Instead of 6.5 inches, the new model now has 6.7 inches – with almost the same housing dimensions. The resolution has also increased slightly, the panel now shows 2640 × 1200 pixels and thus has a pixel density of over 440 PPI. The display quality is again excellent. This is due to the sufficiently high brightness of 430 cd / m² (500 in automatic mode), even if it is nowhere near Samsung's flagship smartphones. the rest is just right, such as the great color intensity, the excellent black level and the sharp contrasts. The viewing angle stability is beyond any doubt. As with the predecessor, the screen represents more than the DCI-P3 color space and can display HDR10 content. There are hardly any disturbing reflections on the edges, Huawei has opted for significantly narrower radii than Samsung in its older models.

High-contrast OLED screen

The refresh rate of the display is new, instead of 60 the P40 Pro now shows 90 Hz. This is less than with Samsung's current flagships, but the 120 Hz offered there are only possible in Full HD and not in the maximum QHD resolution. The P40 Pro can always run at 90 Hz regardless of the resolution – at least if it considers it necessary. Because while the user can force permanent 60 Hz, the smartphone otherwise switches to the higher refresh rate at its own discretion, for example in games or in the browser. This should make apps look even smoother. The smartphone also regulates the resolution independently to save electricity ex works, but here the user can manually request the full pixel splendor or 1760 × 800 pixels. With automatic control, we couldn't make a difference in everyday life.

The other setting options such as always-on-display, adjustment of color intensity and temperature, blue light filter or a dark mode are already known from the predecessor.

One of the most important points with a smartphone and even more so with the Huawei P series phones is the camera. In order to again exceed the image quality of the predecessor, the manufacturer has once again lent a hand. A wide-angle cine lens with 40 megapixels, f / 1.8 aperture and optical image stabilizer (OIS) is now used, the main camera is equipped with 50 megapixels, f / 1.9, RYYB instead of RGB sensor for better light absorption and also OIS . The third camera offers 12 megapixels, f / 3.4 and for the first time also RYYB sensor and OIS. Thanks to the periscope zoom, it allows 5x optical magnification and in hybrid mode, i.e. with additional 5x electronic magnification, a total of 10x magnification. Electronically, the P40 Pro comes with a 50x magnification, just like its predecessor and therefore does less than Samsung. The fourth camera is a 3D sensor for better artificial bokeh. The front camera takes photos at 32 megapixels and is also supported by a 3D sensor. In addition, the phase detection autofocus of the main camera has been significantly accelerated, it now reacts faster to sudden changes in distance to objects.

Fat camera

According to Huawei's statements during the development, a major goal was to further improve lowlight photography. For the first time, the manufacturer claims that the P40 Pro no longer has to take special account of the lighting conditions. Photos supposedly succeed equally well in daylight, at dusk or indoors with artificial light – someone in the PR department has once again overextended! Strictly speaking, but not much at least. In fact, the Huawei P40 Pro takes impressively sharp photos even indoors with comparatively little artificial light and also manages to capture the mood and colors quite adequately. The recordings do not last noticeably longer than in bright daylight, only very fast movements result in the typical motion blur that was previously found in most photos under similar circumstances. This is made possible, among other things, by the huge, 1 / 1.28 inch RYYB sensor, which allows pixel binning with a tight 2.44 µm. It captures a lot of light in a short time and of course artificial intelligence also has its share in the improved image quality. This mainly benefits the white balance and thus natural colors, which can be seen particularly in skin tones. The master AI not only recognizes individual objects and sets them in scene, but also calculates unwanted reflections from recordings on command. It did not work live for us, in postprocessing on the smartphone. You shouldn't expect miracles, but the results are impressive.

Amazingly sharp despite not overly bright artificial light

As I said, the photo quality of the P40 Pro is impressive, especially at close range. If you want to bring objects that are further away closer, you should rather use the 5x magnification of the smartphone. Because corresponding pictures are still slightly better than photos enlarged on the PC with the main camera. In direct comparison to the P30 Pro, the image quality for zoom shots is at eye level, but the post-processing is designed somewhat differently. Overall, the P40 Pro shows the minimally higher contrast range and the colors look a bit more natural in the new model. This is also the case with the zoom. In addition, the P40 software seems to sharpen a little more, which makes recordings appear slightly pixelated. You can see that in the 5x zoom only when you look closely, with the 10x hybrid zoom it becomes more obvious. Overall, however, his pictures appear even crisper than shots with the predecessor. All this is complaining at the highest level and primarily shows how good the P30 Pro was last year. The biggest advantage of the new P40 Pro in terms of zoom is the better consistency with which the high image quality is achieved. In the case of the predecessor, the post-processing software was quite wrong when zooming in and some images looked almost block-like. That didn't happen to us in the test of the P40 Pro.

The 10x hybrid zoom still delivers amazingly sharp images

The 50x digital zoom of the P40 Pro is slightly better in quality than the P30 Pro, but like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra with its 100x zoom, it does not achieve image quality that someone would seriously print out. Image stabilization has now improved. The AI ​​guesses more than before which object the user wants to target and keeps it calm and in the viewfinder for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the Huawei smartphone lacks the ingenious viewfinder window, which makes it much easier for Samsung to find the target object from a 10x zoom. Another innovation in photos: the best moment function. The smartphone takes numerous pictures shortly before and shortly after they are released and suggests the best. So closed eyes or other involuntary grimaces in photos are passé. People running through the image can also be removed with it – all no new, but definitely practical functions in a smartphone.

A lot has happened with videos too. They can be recorded in 4K / 60 and show correspondingly high quality. Image stabilization is still sufficient in 4K, and Huawei has also increased the lowlight capacities for moving images. In addition to up to 10x zoom, which should not be used more than half because of the rapidly declining image quality, Huawei is now also implementing audio zoom. Like a directional microphone, the smartphone focuses more and more on the noises in the image center with increasing zoom level of the image and fades out background noises more and more. Also exciting and fascinating to watch: Ultra slow motion pictures with up to 7680 frames per second and also 4K time lapse videos look chic. All in all, the P40 Pro camera shines again. The overall picture quality in bright daylight is not significantly better than that of its predecessor, but it is in poor light. This makes the camera more universal than ever.

It has to be mentioned that we have a preview software on our test device that does not yet correspond to the final status of the sales firmware. Huawei only wants to update these test devices with a day-one patch to the sales software, so we cannot say at the moment whether and how much will change.

Actually, Huawei always likes to show off superlatives and then compares itself to the fiercest competitors Apple and Samsung. For example, when the P40 Pro was introduced, reference was made to the largest photo sensor, the highest ISO number or the narrowest edges around the display. But the Chinese manufacturer has one problem: the memory. Because here Huawei offers "only" 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal storage. The latter can be expanded by means of a memory card – but not via micro SD as with the competition from Korea, but via its own NM card format. Samsung has more to offer: The S20 Ultra (test report) is available with up to 16/512 GB plus memory card expansion, the more comparable S20 + offers up to 12/512 GB memory. Both models then also cost significantly more than the P40 Pro.

Because the Huawei smartphone comes with the current Kirin 990 from Huawei, which is not only built in the 7-nanometer process and can therefore be operated comparatively energy-saving, but also has a built-in 5G modem. The competition from Qualcomm currently relies on an additional modem – at least in theory that consumes more power and more space. Nobody will seriously complain about poor performance with the P40 Pro. The chipset cannot be sweated in everyday life, in the Antutu benchmark it confirms its terrific performance with 465,000 points, making the P40 Pro one of the fastest Android smartphones on the market. If you have concerns about the "only" 8 GB of RAM: Don't worry, they are unauthorized. Multitasking, 4K videos or 3D games – the P40 Pro can do all of this without any problems.

The smartphone is also very well positioned for the rest of the hardware. There is the new Wifi 6 with transmission rates of up to 2.4 Gbit / s, 5G with all important bands, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, USB C 3.1 and a fingerprint sensor in the display. It is bigger and significantly higher up in the display than the predecessor, in fact it worked much faster and more reliably than in the P30 Pro. Occasionally there were hookers here too, especially at the start of the test. Incidentally, there are recording options for two SIM cards, but then there is no expansion option for the memory. Unless the owner decides to use the built-in eSIM – as with Samsung.

The Korean competitor currently has another advantage: Google services. As with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro (test report), Huawei inevitably relies on its own Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), the Google Play Store does not exist. The subsequent installation of Google Mobile Services (GMS) is no longer possible either, Google has apparently prevented the last option to get the Google services on Huawei devices with reasonable effort. Accordingly, Huawei now offers its App Gallery as an app store. It does not have all the apps that the Play Store offers, but a lot has happened compared to the status a few months ago. Unfortunately, there are still some of the very popular apps that are not yet available. After all, some of them, such as WhatsApp or Facebook, link directly to the website of the respective provider, where they can be downloaded. However, most users will still not be able to avoid installing alternative app stores such as APKpure in order to enjoy a largely complete app experience. Nevertheless, there will always be apps in the foreseeable future that are not freely available, including often less well-known games. Even more or less locally limited banking apps like BestSign or PhotoTAN are still not available. The Search app doesn't help (yet) either.

The App Gallery is making rapid progress, but is far from being on the Play Store stand

Very helpful: If you want to transfer your data from another Huawei device to the new P40 Pro, you can use Phone Clone. This not only synchronizes photos, contacts and calendar entries with the new model, it also takes apps with you wherever possible. Apps such as Spotify, Whatsapp and Google Maps successfully landed on our test device, but also games and the Hue app from Philips, which could no longer be started. Other apps, such as the Roborock app, started but were unable to establish further connections – too bad. Also annoying: Google Maps works, but a search by voice is just as impossible as dictating Whatsapp messages using the small microphone symbol on the keyboard – Google Voice is simply missing here.

By the way: If you are worried about your old Huawei devices, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Huawei makes an update promise for older devices with Android and Google services, which ensures updates for two years. The new devices with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) are also covered. This shows that HMS is not a temporary mayfly, but is designed for the long term. The new Huawei setup service, which helps to set up the new P40 Pro on site, shows just how serious Huawei is. Should Google ever be happy about the US ban from Huawei – at the latest now it should be clear that this shot backfires.

Huawei could have saved the gestures

Huawei has also significantly reworked the EMUI 10.1 user interface, which runs on Android 10 AOSP, and is planning further steps for the future. These include, for example, the company's own video chat service MeeTime, which should allow conversation in 1080p and even in a very dark environment, the already known Huawei Share for fast data transfer among Huawei devices and gestures. While MeeTime is to be submitted via update, the gestures are already available on the P40 Pro. This should allow users to scroll or take screenshots in the browser without contact. In everyday life, however, as with all attempts by numerous manufacturers, including LG with the G8s (test report), this only works to a limited extent and should therefore hardly be used. The quick accesses that can be pulled in with your finger from the display pages are more practical. Up to 15 apps can be stored here, which can then be started as windows or used in parallel as multi-windows. For this year and especially for Germany, Huawei plans to introduce its voice assistant Cilia. The music service Huawei Music is already there. It is free for P40 Pro users for the first three months, Huawei Video will come later this year.

The battery of the Huawei P40 Pro is 4200 mAh strong, it can be charged within a little more than 1.5 hours using the included 40-watt charger. It also sees itself as the predecessor to wireless charging and reverse charge to charge other devices wirelessly. The battery performed very well in everyday use in the test. Two days of use should be feasible for most owners. That also confirms the Battery test from PCmark with over 11 hours runtime. That doesn't quite come close to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report), but it also has a battery with 5000 mAh.

The Huawei P40 Pro can currently be pre-ordered in the colors black, bush gold and silver frost and costs 999 euros in the MSRP. The official market launch is in early May. Until then, there is a promotion where pre-orders get the new Huawei Watch GT 2e and True-Wireless-ANC headphones FreeBuds 3 (test report) free of charge with a total value of 348 euros. There are currently no other equipment variants.