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Mate 30 Pro Review in Progress: Blessed and Cursed

Is hardware power without Google app convenience worth it?

(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

Without question a mighty piece of hardware across the board, the Mate 30 Pro is great if you want the best tech. However, not having Google apps and services is a big hurdle.

For

  • Astonishing display
  • Powerful and versatile cameras
  • Brand new Kirin processor performance
  • Battery capacity to spare

Against

  • No default Google apps
  • Likely not coming to the US

It’s still too soon to say exactly how good the Huawei Mate 30 Pro is, but during my brief time with the phone, it’s fairly obvious where the strengths and weaknesses lie. This higher spec version of the Mate 30 series is full of powerful hardware, with its quad rear camera array and edgeless display being particular highlights.

Without Google’s suite of apps, the Mate 30 becomes a much harder sell. It’s entirely possible to work around it, but it means giving up the plug-and-play convenience that users have become accustomed to over multiple generations of Android. This review might convince some that the sacrifice is worth it for all the delicious technology Huawei’s packed into its latest phablet, but I’m not convinced that this phone is the right choice for those looking for a large flagship handset.

Editors’ Note: We are reviewing a Chinese 4G version of the Mate 30 Pro, which may differ from the final version that’s expected to launch in Europe in the coming months.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro price and availability

Huawei hasn’t released any final details for release dates or prices yet. While the Mate 30 was never expected to come to the US, we’re still hoping for a UK release as part of the wider European release. At the phone’s launch event, the Mate 30 Pro, available in a single 8GB RAM and 256GB storage version, was priced at 1099 euros, which converts to $1,210/£971.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro Specs

(Image credit: Huawei)

Price: 1099 euros ($1,210/£971)

Display (resolution): 6.53-inches OLED (2400 x 1176)

CPU: Kirin 990

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 256GB

Expandable: Yes, NM SD Card up to 256GB

Rear Cameras: 40MP main (f/1.6), 40MP ultra-wide cine camera (f/1.8), 8MP telephoto (f/2.4), time-of-flight sensor

Front Cameras: 32MP (f/2.0)

Water/Dust Resistance: IP68

Battery: 4,500 mAh with 40W wired fast charging, 27 wireless fast charging, reverse wireless charging

Size: 6.22 x 2.88 x .35 inches

Weight:  6.98 ounces

Colors: Cosmic Purple, Space Silver, Emerald Green, Black

Huawei Mate 30 Design: Simple but stunning shapes

The Mate 30 makes a great first impression. The flowing Horizon Display means there’s no bezels on the left or right side of the phone, which combined with the back make a complete smooth curve around the phone’s body. Less attractive are the rather thick bezels on the top and bottom, and there’s a sizable notch in the top center, although it’s smaller than the iPhone 11’s. That’s in part helped by Huawei’s removal of a top speaker for an sub-display assembly like it did with the P30 Pro, which cleaned up the exterior at the expense of audio performance.

Notches are becoming passé on some notable Android manufacturer’s phones thanks to the addition of pop-up selfie cameras and punch-holes. But like Apple with the iPhone 11 series, Huawei’s stuck with them, which has allowed it to pack the front camera array with some Apple rivalling 3D face recognition technology.

The traditional camera-inspired shape of the Mate 30’s back isn’t as gimmicky as it sounds. While the rear cameras are mounted in a circular bump, accented with a ‘halo ring’ with the flash located in the top left corner just like an old-fashioned camera, I find it an attractive design on its own merits. Even with the printed text making sure you don’t forget the phone’s made with Leica lenses, the phone’s frame looks modern without being elaborately detailed, which is backed up by the color options.

There’s four to pick from here: black, cosmic purple, emerald green (which additionally comes with a gloss to matt finish graded from top to bottom) and space silver, the color of my review unit. Since the camera bump is itself black, the black bodied version lacks some of the contrast of the other three, but I find all of them to be attractive options. 

The silver model I tested looked as wonderful and shiny as you would hope when you take it out of the box, but it picks up smudges at an irritatingly fast pace, much like the Aurora Glow colored Galaxy Note 10. If you buy this phone, and particularly this color option, I would recommend finding a clear case to keep the Mate 30 in, such as the one Huawei itself sells, to avoid turning the back of the phone into a fingerprint art gallery.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There’s also two vegan leather options, orange and forest green, which give the phone a strange semi-organic look but makes it soft to hold and impossible to smudge. These aren’t my cup of tea, but I can definitely appreciate the benefits.

The power button, colored in a contrasting metallic red on all model and located slightly less than halfway down the right side of the Mate 30, has had to be pushed backwards to make way for the horizon edges, so it won’t sit in the center of your thumb or middle finger as it does on most phones. It’s a very peculiar feeling, as it means you have to hold the phone slightly tilted if you want to press the button, which feels peculiar and unsafe to be doing with a $1,000 phone.

The volume rocker in the Mate 30 Pro no longer exists as a physical switch. Volume controls are now activated by a double tap on either edge of the top third of the display where the buttons used to be. While it takes a little getting used to, it’s very convenient to be able to adjust the volume from both sides of the phone, and stops the Mate 30 from having to add another oddly located button.

The whole size of the phone feels small for the amount of screen space you get. It’s shorter and narrower than the Galaxy Note 10 Plus or iPhone 11 Pro Max, while beating the iPhone on screen size, and although it is thicker than both, the curved display and back mean it still feels good to hold. It also weighs almost the same as the Note 10 Plus at 6.98 ounces, which I feel is about the sensible limit for how heavy a phablet can be before you start noticing the extra mass.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Huawei Mate 30 Pro display: Stretching out forever

While using a slightly smaller display than the standard Mate 30 (6.62 inches), the 6.53-inch OLED FHD+ panel on the Mate 30 Pro makes up for this with its new ‘Horizon Display’, which extends the left and right sides of the display off the edges almost 90 degrees. It’s quite astonishing to look at even just scrolling through the home pages, and still feels natural to use, either double tapping it to activate the volume controls or for normal navigation.

Watching some YouTube combo compilations for Devil May Cry 5, the fast and busy action on screen was bright and well-defined, and the ergonomic shape of the display meant it was easier than ever to watch hours of these videos without getting bored or tired.

You don't really notice the edges curving away from you when you watch videos on the Mate 30 Pro. However, when you're using the camera app, the curvature of the display makes it hard from some angles to see what the top or bottom of your horizontal shots are including or cutting out. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Huawei Mate 30 cameras: Exciting potential

We’ve yet to put the Mate 30 to the test against its natural rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or the iPhone 11. For the time being, we’ve got some sample images showing off the capabilities of the phone's camera array.

Like we saw with the P30 Pro earlier in the year, Huawei’s SuperSensing cameras, which use an RYYB sensor instead of an RGGB one to capture additional light, do great work at night. Not only does it capture greater detail and less noise from the darker areas of a view across the canals of London’s Little Venice, the Mate 30’s night mode also controls the strong sources of light in the frame to prevent spoiling the image with bright flares.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Mate 30 can also copy the P30 Pro’s party piece, revealing what’s hidden in the dark that other phones can’t see. This image of a print on a wall was taken in a completely dark room.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In this image of a frothy latte, we see the cons of this sensitive sensor: the Huawei makes the dark sides of the image brighter, but at the expense of detail in the foam. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The 3x optical zoom telephoto sensor in the Mate 30 (sadly not the 5x model from the P30 Pro) does its job excellently though. It takes you closer to the subject (in this case the center of a flower) while keeping the image of a high quality and brightness so you can appreciate the result too. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We will update this section when we have comparative images and videos with the Mate 30’s more direct rivals to show you, but for now, rest assured that Huawei still has some of the best photography tech in the business.

Huawei Mate 30 performance

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We have yet to perform any benchmark tests on the Mate 30, but we have high hopes for good scores. Using Huawei’s newest SoC, the Kirin 990, the Mate 30 is going to set the pace for Huawei and Honor phones for the next year.

While historically Kirin chips haven’t been the powerhouses that Snapdragon 800-series or Apple A-series processors are, they are still very effective CPUs that will take care of all your needs with aplomb. With a Mali-G76 GPU and an improved NPU to make your game graphics look better and make your phone’s AI functions smarter, there’s no doubting the flagship chops of the Mate 30.

Huawei Mate 30 review software

Thanks to the US-China trade war, and the US government’s black listing of Huawei, Google had to withdraw its support from Huawei’s devices. While the Mate 30 still runs on Android 10, the open-source part of Google’s platform, it doesn’t have any of the Android mainstays like Gmail or YouTube preinstalled, nor does it have the Play Store.

To start with, you might think that having no Google Play store isn’t all that bad. The Mate 30, running on Android 10 via Huawei’s EMUI 10 launcher, looks like any other Android phone on its home screens and settings menus, after all. 

When you finish initial set-up and tweaking the options with the Mate 30, it trips up hard. With no Play Store, it means your source of apps will have to be Huawei’s App Gallery storefront, which at least on my Chinese pre-release handset, was not tuned for global users. After switching the App Gallery to the UK version, which requires a Huawei ID login, you’ll not recognize many of the apps available. Those you will spot are Chinese-tailored versions of browsers like Firefox and Opera, which work as normal except they feature a lot of Chinese text and are not optimised for YouTube at all

It’s not impossible to get Android and Google apps onto the Mate 30, but it is a little involved to set up. Enthusiasts needn’t worry about the easy download process, but to average users, this might be enough of a disincentive to persuade them to look elsewhere.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro Air Gestures

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The settings menu of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro includes ‘Air Gestures’, which attempt to steal the Google Pixel 4’s gesture control thunder by letting you scroll up and down pages and take screenshots by moving and clenching your hand. They’re fun to use, and fun to see how other people react to you using them, but I found these gestures inconsistent.

The Mate 30 would recognize the presence of my hand, popping up a hand icon to indicate this, but it would only execute the movement about 25% of the time. Let’s hope this is just something you can learn to do better and not a condemnation of the technology; we’ll have more to share once we spend more time using Air Gestures.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro battery

With 4,500mAh of available capacity, and the help of EMUI’s battery management to cut down on unnecessary processing, the Mate 30 has the means to last days under even the heaviest usage and with the Horizon Display and photography processes eagerly sucking up power. After a day out taking pictures, I didn’t need to charge the Mate 30 after returning home because it was still at around 70% full.

I did charge it anyway, but that was to see Huawei’s excellent charging system in action. The 40W SuperCharge wired charging is still very effective, rapidly filling up the top quarter of the tank in around 15 minutes. In our P30 Pro review, the same system managed to charge a 4,200mAh battery to 70% in 30 minutes, so I’m excited to perform a full battery test to see if the Mate 30 is truly a champion battery.

You also get wireless charging with the Mate 30, up to 27W if you use one of Huawei’s own charging pads. There’s also reverse wireless charging, in case you want to donate some power to someone with a dead phone or you need to top up your wireless accessories.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro early verdict

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It’s incredibly annoying to find a phone with excellent specs, tech and engineering brought down by circumstances beyond its control. Yet because of this, It’s hard to recommend buying the Mate 30 Pro.

If the US-Chinese trade war manages to resolve itself quickly, then the Mate 30 Pro, once again equipped with the Play Store and all its related apps, stands a fighting chance against Samsung and Apple’s largest phablets. As it stands right now, paying around $1,000 for a phone is a hard sell to make without key parts of Android’s functionality, even with the Mate 30 Pro’s killer display and cameras. 

Yes, the cameras are fantastic, and the screen looks beautiful, but without the Play Store, multiple tasks on the Mate 30 become much more difficult than they should be on a 2019 smartphone. It’s exciting to pick up and use briefly, but without this day-to-day convenience, for now you should probably leave the Mate 30 on the store shelf.