Tuesday, 08 September 2020 19:37

Review: Huawei P40 Pro+ has superb hardware, pity about the software

The rear camera on the P40 Pro+ The rear camera on the P40 Pro+ Courtesy Huawei

The Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G smartphone is something like a tale of two cities: the hardware side is great, but the software side means that the outlook for this device, as far as sales in Australia are concerned, really isn't that good.

The price is high — $2099 — but the specs are very, very good. The Kirin SoC, Huawei's in-house designed processor, more than matches any Qualcomm chip.

With 8GB of memory, the Kirin is so smooth that there is no need to switch to the 90Hz refresh rate to see really smooth scrolling, top-notch video performance or game play.

And it has a pretty good sized battery too, at 4200mAh. Face and fingerprint recognition are the fastest I have seen in the phones I have reviewed. 

It's a pity that this will be the last Kirin to be seen for some time as the Americans have now blocked Huawei from getting designs from its HiSilicon chip design unit from being fabricated anywhere. The good old American way of free trade, you know. Always encouraging competition, those Americans.

bright sunlight2

Taken in bright sunlight.

The outstanding performer on the P40 Pro+ is the camera setup. The company has been known for putting superlative cameras on its smartphones and this one does not disappoint.

The Leica optics help produce excellent pictures, no matter the light conditions. There are five rear cameras and two front selfie cameras and together they make up the best photography unit I have seen on a smartphone to date, the Google Pixel included.

The sound is acceptable and the supplied USB-C headphones are of good quality. But the device could do with a plastic case, given that the rear cameras make such a big bump.

ghost town

A ghost town aka a shopping centre in the days of COVID-19.

As anyone who has not been living under a rock is aware, Huawei is no longer able to use the proprietary Google apps on its smartphones. This means that the PlayStore, Gmail, Maps, Photos, and YouTube apps among others are not installed on this phone.

How difficult is it to sideload these apps? As someone who did it a long time ago — I did not try it out with the review model as it was supplied by the company — it is really not all that difficult.

Some popular apps, like WhatsApp, can be obtained from the Web itself and there are HOWTOs for loading all the others. Of course, YouTube and Gmail can be accessed through a browser, without bother about the apps themselves.

Huawei's efforts to find substitutes for these Google apps has been going on for just a year and Google has had more than a decade to perfect its offerings so the difference shows. But there is nothing that diligence cannot solve.

huawei p40 pro plus 2However, you would not buy the P40+ Pro and give it to your nanna. She would not be able to cope.

The 5G performance is good and I got constant 300Mbps+ download speeds when testing. This is an excellent piece of hardware and it is a pity that the ambitions of the world's lone superpower — under the guise of national security — have cruelled Huawei's efforts.

Something tells me that things will change after 3 November, but then this is just my gut feeling and I could be wrong.

The HUAWEI P40 Pro+ has an RRP of $2099 and can be bought from the Huawei Authorised Experience Store and Mobileciti. It is available in ceramic white.

Network GSM / HSPA / LTE / 5G

Body 158.2 x 72.6 x 9 mm (6.23 x 2.86 x 0.35 in)

Weight 226 g (7.97 oz)

Build Glass front, ceramic back, ceramic frame

SIM Single SIM (Nano-SIM) IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)

Display OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors

Size 6.58 inches, 105.2 cm2 (~91.6% screen-to-body ratio)

Resolution 1200 x 2640 pixels (~441 ppi density) HDR10 90Hz refresh rate

OS Android 10, EMUI 10.1, no Google Play Services

Chipset Kirin 990 5G (7 nm+)

CPU Octa-core (2x2.86 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2x2.36 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4x1.95 GHz Cortex-A55)

GPU Mali-G76 MP16

Memory Card slot NM (Nano Memory), up to 256GB (uses shared SIM slot)

Internal 512GB 8GB RAM UFS 3.0

Main camera Five 50 MP, f/1.9, 23mm (wide), 1/1.28", 2.44µm, omnidirectional PDAF, OIS
8 MP, f/4.4, 240mm (periscope telephoto), PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
8 MP, f/2.4, 80mm (telephoto), PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
40 MP, f/1.8, 18mm (ultrawide), 1/1.54", PDAF TOF 3D, (depth)

Features Leica optics, LED flash, panorama, HDR

Video 4K @ 30/60fps, 1080p @ 30/60fps, 720 @ 7680fps, 1080p @ 960fps, HDR; gyro-EIS

Selfie camera Dual 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8", 0.8µm, AF IR TOF 3D, (depth/biometrics sensor)

Features HDR

Video 4K @ 30/60fps, 1080p @ 30/60fps

Loudspeaker Yes

3.5mm jack No

32-bit/384kHz audio

Comms WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot

Bluetooth 5.1, A2DP, LE

speedtest oneGPS Yes, with dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS, NavIC


Infrared port Yes

Radio No

USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go

Sensors Infrared face recognition, fingerprint (under display, optical), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, color spectrum

Battery Li-Po 4200 mAh, non-removable

Charging Fast charging 40W

Colours White Ceramic

Price $2099

Performance AnTuTu: 529687 (v8)

GeekBench: 3203 (v5.1)

GFXBench: 31fps (ES 3.1 onscreen)

Display Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal)

Loudspeaker -27.4 LUFS (Good)

Battery life Endurance rating 95h

Thanks to Singtel Optus for the SIM supplied a long time ago which was used to measure the 5G speed.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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