Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: Sonic zoom!

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(Pocket Ribbon) – It is not really possible to rate the Huawei P40 Pro + as a normal phone. After all, even though it runs Google's Android operating system (with Huawei's EMUI over the top), the Chinese company is banned from using Google Services, which means many important Google apps – your banking app, WhatsApp messenger, Facebook, and more much more – simply are not available through the conventional download means (since there is no Google Play Store – it is Huaweis App Gallery instead).

Now that's enough to keep most potential buyers in their way. It's not dead and buried yet, though: Huawei backs its App Gallery, and over time, there's no reason many developers won't make versions for Google, Apple, and Huawei (it's assumed here that there's a return on investment or a financial incentive to do this, we suspect). Or you can clone an old device into the P40 Pro + and, with some restrictions, use many of your currently installed apps (Google Play Games logins and Google Drive backups are still not possible, however).

But let's put all of that aside for a moment. While we can't judge the P40 Pro + by conventional means – the software on this device is not final and we expect another update ahead of the June 25 release date – there are two very compelling things about this phone that are worth exploring: its incredible build quality and its formidable camera setup (complete with true 10x optical zoom).

Huawei P40 Pro +: a design to enjoy?

Finish: Black Ceramic, White Ceramic Dimensions: 158.2 x 72.6 x 9 mm / Weight: 226 g Edge-to-edge Overflow Display with curved edges 6.58-inch OLED, 2640 x 1200 resolution, 90 refresh Hz

There is a real aesthetic elegance to the finish of the P40 Pro +. Unlike the rest of the P40 range, it is only available in black or white ceramic, which has a very different quality.

Huawei tells us that this "nanotech ceramic back" consists of ceramic beads, which are compressed under higher pressure and then kilned at 1500C for five days, creating a strength approaching that of a sapphire, with a refractive index comparable to diamond. (If you're a number nerd, the Mohs rating is 8.5; N is 2.18).

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The not inconsiderable camera unit is mounted on the back. However, it doesn't stick out as offensive as some competing models – like the Oppo Find X2 Pro – which are elegantly integrated with the rear panel. Some might find it a bit of a chunk, but we think it looks more appealing in its elongated shape compared to, say, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra's effort.

The housing of the P40 Pro + is dust and weather resistant, so it can handle anything you throw at it. There is also an on-screen fingerprint scanner and Face ID, which makes login easy.

On the front, the P40 Pro + has what Huawei calls an overflow display. The idea here is to not only give the sides a curved edge – which minimizes the visible edge when looking from the front – but also to bend the top and bottom corners, so that the screen appears to flow into all corners. direction. That said, it's not quite as extreme as Motorola Edge's Endless Edge panel.

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All in all, the P40 Pro + is a striking phone from front to back. Especially since it is very unlikely that you will see one in the wild. However, its overall weight and thickness is detrimental to use – it weighs even more than the chunky Poco F2 Pro – which is the effective compromise of having such a design in your pocket.

Huawei P40 Pro +: cameras to win them all?

Leica penta rear camera system Main camera (24 mm): 50 MP SuperSensing (RYYB) sensor (1 / 1.28 inch), f / 1.9 aperture, optical stabilization (OIS) Ultra-wide camera (0.7x / 18 mm): 40 MP cinema lens, f / 1.8 3x optical zoom camera (80 mm): 8 MP, f / 2.4, OIS 10x optical zoom (240 mm): 8 MP, f / 4.4, OIS Time-of-Flight (ToF) depth sensor Kirin 990- processor, 8 GB RAM, 4200 mAh battery, 40 W fast charging (incl. 40 W wireless)

It's the camera that really makes the Plus model in the P40 series stand out above the standard Pro model. That's because the P40 Pro + has a true 10x optical zoom integrated into the rear five-camera setup.

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All of that is helped by the Kirrin 990 processor, which is built with neural processing units (NPU) to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for a variety of situations – be it scene modes, enhancements, night shots and so on.

So what is the camera setup like and is a 10x zoom really necessary?

Main camera

The first big point of the main 50-megapixel camera is that it's a SuperSensing sensor – the same red, yellow, blue (RYYB) technology found in the P30 Pro – and at 1 / 1.28 is a lot bigger than a typical camera sensor.

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That composition – the yellow channels are more sensitive than the typical green channels used in other sensors – and the physical size works in its favor in delivering a clean signal for overall better image quality. Not to mention using four pixels in one, which means oversampling for even better quality at 12.5MP output.

Even if you just take regular close-ups indoors or photograph the fruit at a local market, you can see how detailed these results are in good light. With AI activated – it can be easily toggled on or off at the top of the camera app – the camera app quickly detects subjects for focus tracking and makes live adjustments based on what the camera sees.

While the “close-up” adjustment was useful when framing shots close to the camera, it can get too excited in other scenarios. Since introducing the AI ​​option in its cameras, Huawei has had a number of options – including Greenery and Blue Sky – that are overzealous in their saturation. You'll probably want to turn it off by pressing the small x next to the word displayed – when such an automatic adjustment starts.

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In the end, we disabled AI for the most part, but managed to capture some incredibly detailed footage such as a close-up of a lit tree leaf, a cat-shaped tape dispenser, and even Instagram-worthy shots of meals. It's a very impressive main sensor.


There is also a wide-angle camera, offering 40 megapixels (with an equivalent of 18 mm). This is slightly narrower than the previous P-series handsets, making it 0.7x compared to the main camera for the sake of overall quality.

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: Ultra-wide camera (0.7x) Ultra-wide camera (0.7x)

Less wide angle means less edge blur – although, although the center sharpness is great, the corners and edges still show some degree of blur. Still, it's a good, high-resolution, wide-angle lens and much better quality than most of the lesser competitors out there – it's significantly better than the lower-resolution offerings that more budget handsets often throw into the spec.

The same lens is also used as a cine lens, with the center part – that is, the sharper part – used for video up to 4K resolution.

Zoom levels

But the biggest factor about the P40 Pro + – hence the plus symbol at the end of the name – is that it zooms a lot. However, this has advantages, but also has disadvantages.

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: 1x main camera 1x main camera

First and foremost, it's worth a little comparison with the P40 Pro (not the Plus): this phone offers 5x optical zoom with the main camera's RYYB SuperSensing technology. That is a good zoom level and with good quality.

In comparison, the P40 Pro + offers a two-step approach: a 3x optical zoom and a 10x periscope zoom in tandem. After using this, we can't help but think its nephew's 5x lens is more than enough. The Pro + has – just like Samsung did with the S20 Ultra – hit the stars, but fell a bit short.

The Huawei camera app is set to place four dots in a line to display wide, 1x, 3x and 10x. It is also possible to zoom so you can search between multipliers, meaning the zoom line extends up to 100x. Shooting a flower 3x quickly and easily shows what great quality can be achieved in a flash:

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However, this sliding mechanism in the app introduces a number of issues. That jump from 3x to 10x is pretty significant, so by the time the camera hits 8.5x, it jumps from one lens to another (which makes us wonder if the 10x is actually an 8.5x – Huawei says that not so). Since both zooms only have 8 megapixel resolution, there's also a lot less to play around with – and this system fetches data from multiple sensors at once to find the sweet spot in data it can bring into a shot. When we really think Huawei should have used the Pro's 5x zoom for the most effective setup here.

Then there's the fact that everything with more than 10x zoom is digital. Trying to sell a 100x zoom – again, just like Samsung did in the S20 Ultra – is almost insincere. The P40 Pro + lacks image stabilization capable of handling such a huge zoom equivalent, so photos will be blurry even in broad daylight; the 8MP output is quite low, yet emphasizes the lack of detail; and you cannot successfully refocus with nuance at this kind of massive zoom level. Check out the jump from 1x to 3x to 10x and about 50x in the gallery below (it took three tries to get the 50x shot that sharp):

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: Main camera 1x Main camera 1x

That said, there is a great burst mode. Holding down the shutter button just keeps the tempo clicking away. We saw a duck on a channel that was clean and took 60 or so different photos in one burst, before scrolling through them all to find a favorite (see the main camera gallery back on the page). The quality of that 10x zoom isn't nearly as good as the main one, but it's still a great enabler for what it can capture (just don't push it any further).

Night mode

The main camera's RYYB design makes it better for shooting in low light. We've been shooting in near-darkness with the P40 Pro, to the point where we can't really see, and the camera can still decipher an image of more or less nothing. It's impressive.

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: ISO 6400 – Night mode ISO 6400 – Night mode

That's not the only point it makes with the low-light capability, as an updated night mode is also available. This mode can be used hand-held and takes multiple exposures for a few seconds (sometimes too many – it once tried for 17 seconds), using optical stabilization to preserve sharpness as best as possible. You can choose to keep the exposure or keep it short according to your taste.

We shot the inside of our kitchen cabinet with the door more or less closed and the result still looks like it's the middle of the day. There is little image noise, despite the use of ISO 6400 sensitivity, and the clarity of writing on the cans and packages is truly unmatched. The P40 Pro + is great when the light is dim.

First impressions

The Huawei P40 Pro + has a beautiful design and a formidable camera setup. That would make a great combination – but since there are no Google services and therefore no Google Play Store for downloading many popular apps to your Android device, it's an outlier for most consumers at best.

We still enjoy seeing new and exciting finishes though, and the P40 Pro + looks really aesthetically excellent. The camera settings are also ultra-impressive – although generally speaking, having a larger zoom over the P40 Pro device doesn't bring as much benefits as we initially expected.

The Huawei P40 Pro + will be available from June 25, 2020 and will cost £ 1,299 in the UK and € 1,399 in Europe. Pre-orders open from June 15, 2020.

Written by Mike Lowe.

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