It’s been roughly 2 months now since Huawei announced the new Mate 30 Pro as well as the Kirin 990 chipsets. As an unusual hectic fall season finally calms down, it’s been due time to have a closer look at the new the company’s new flagship device and new silicon chipset.

There’s no beating around the bush that one aspect that vastly overshadowed the actual device itself, is the fact that Huawei had been banned from using Google’s mobile services. The Mate 30 Pro consequently is one of the first phones released by the company which doesn’t come with any Google applications preinstalled. There’s a lot to talk about in this regard and we’ll address this more in depth later on in the article, but I’d like to flip the narrative upside down here first and first discuss the hardware aspects of the new phone and see if Huawei had been able to create a competitive device, and if the worry about the software actually makes sense in the first place in terms of considerations of the device.

Today we’re reviewing the higher-end model of the Mate 30 series, the Mate 30 Pro. Specifically, we’re reviewing the 4G variant of this phone. The new Mate 30 Pro promises a brand-new design with a unique 90° curved screen on its sides – a first not only for Huawei but for the smartphone market overall. The phone is powered by HiSilicon’s latest Kirin 990 processor which will be powering power of Huawei and Honor’s devices for 2020 and is undoubtedly one of the more interesting aspects we’re looking forward to test. On the camera side, Huawei employs the same main sensor as on the P30 series and adopts the 3x telephoto module seen in the Mate 20 Pro and the regular P30, but innovates on the ultra-wide-angle module by adopting a second 40MP sensor alongside its main 40MP unit, which is undoubtedly going to be a unique feature for the phone and the company’s devices in 2020.

Huawei Mate 30 Series
  Mate 30 Mate 30 Pro (Reviewed)
(Mate 30 Pro 5G)
SoC HiSilicon Kirin 990

2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.86 GHz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.09 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.86 GHz
(HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G)

2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.86 GHz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.36 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.95 GHz
GPU Mali G76MP16 @ 600MHz

(Mali G76MP16 @ 700MHz)
DRAM 8GB LPDDR4X 8GB LPDDR4X
Display 6.62" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

 
6.53" OLED
2400 x 1176 (18.4:9)

edge-to-edge
Size Height 160.8 mm 158.1 mm
Width 76.1 mm 73.1 mm
Depth 8.4 mm
(9.2mm)
8.8 mm
(9.5mm)
Weight 196 grams 198 grams
Battery Capacity 4100mAh (Rated)
4200mAh (Typical)

40W charging
4400mAh (Rated)
4500mAh (Typical)

40W charging
Wireless Charging 27W charging + reverse charging
Rear Cameras
Main 40MP f/1.8
RYYB sensor

27mm equiv. FL
40MP f/1.6 OIS
RYYB sensor

27mm equivl. FL
Telephoto 8MP f/2.4 OIS
3x Optical zoom
80mm equiv. FL
Wide 16MP f/2.2
Ulta wide angle
17mm equivl. FL


 
40MP f/1.8
RGGB sensor
Ultra wide angle
18mm equivl. FL

720p7680fps video capture
Extra - 3D Depth Camera
Front Camera 24MP f/2.0 32MP f/2.0
Storage 128 / 256GB
+ proprietary "nanoSD" card
I/O USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C
Wireless (local) 802.11ac (Wifi 5),
Bluetooth 5.1
Cellular 4G LTE

(4G + 5G NR NSA+SA Sub-6GHz)
Splash, Water, Dust Resistance IP53
(no water resistance)
IP68
(water resistant up to 1m)
Dual-SIM 2x nano-SIM
Launch OS AOSP 10 w/ EMUI 10

without Google services
Launch Price 8+128 GB: 799€

 
8+256 GB: 1099€

(5G 8+256GB: 1199€)
 

Starting off on the hardware side, the new Mate 30 Pro employs the new Kirin 990 chipset. This year we’re actually seeing two versions of the chip: The 4G and the 5G variant, representing actually completely different chips even though the hardware specifications of the two are quite similar to each other. We’ll be dwelling more into the new chip on the next page so sit tight.

The phone this year comes in a static 8+256GB configuration in terms of DRAM and storage. The very high base storage of the phone isn’t necessarily just a case of goodwill and more aggressive competitive positioning of the company, as the phone’s price does come at a rather steep 1099€ for the 4G model, so one would expect a higher storage configuration at this price.

The phone comes with support for Huawei’s “NM” or nanomemory card standard – essentially, it’s an SD Card alternative in the form of a nanoSIM. Huawei seems to make these cards quite widely available and the price mark-up over regular SD cards isn’t too high, but it’s still a weird peculiarity that till now hasn’t seen adoption by any other vendor.

Other internal hardware aspects for the phone that do stand out a bit is the device’s WiFi capabilities. As 2019 comes to an end, we’ve seen more vendors adopt WiFi 6 / 802.11ax being adopted by the big vendors, particularly Samsung adopting it in both the S10 and Note10 series, and more recently Apple also launching its whole new line-up with support for the new standard. Given the Mate 30 Pro’s flagship positioning and respective pricing, it is a bit unfortunate that we’re seeing the phone make due with a WiFi 5 / .ac solution.

The one aspect that there’s most to talk about the Mate 30 Pro is its screen:

In terms of specification on paper, the screen actually saw a downgrade compared to what we’ve seen in the Mate 20 Pro last year. It’s still an OLED screen, but unlike the Mate 20 Pro which was Huawei’s first 1440p device, the new Mate 30 Pro reduces the resolution. The 20 Pro was plagued by display issues both in panel quality as well as power efficiency due to a suboptimal implementation which did end up being quite a big deal breaker for the phone. This year, Huawei decided to go back to their usual 1080p resolution for the 30 Pro, although to be exact, the resolution is in fact 2400 x 1176.

The reason for the odd resolution is the display’s form-factor. Although the device itself is quite similar in size to the Mate 20 Pro (more on that later), the screen size is increased from 6.39” to 6.53”. But this isn’t your usual increase we’ve seen from other phones which was mostly due to an elongation of the aspect ratio – for the Mate 30 Pro, the aspect ratio of the panel itself actually goes down from 19.5:9 to 18.4:9, meaning it’s wider. But the phone isn’t actually much wider, the feature that distinguishes the Mate 30 Pro from other devices is the fact that its screen is curved on its sides to an almost complete 90° angle.

This design choice is definitely the phone’s defining feature and what Huawei would like people to associate the Mate 30 Pro with. While I’ve tried to get used to the design and tried to find positives about it, after several weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that Huawei’s design gamble here has been pretty much a complete miss, and the reasons for that seem to be merely technical and related to the rest of the design, rather than a fault of the curved display itself.

The most jarring aspect of the new Mate 30 Pro design is the ergonomics of the phone. In order to implement the curved screen, Huawei had to make a choice of a certain curvature radius that was reasonable in terms of actually managing to still display content. You can’t make the radius too small in this regard, but you also cannot make it too large as then you’re then encountering the issue of the thickness of the phone and how you’ll be designing the backside of the side frame. While the Mate 20 Pro and the P30 Pro were both symmetrical in their front and back curvatures, the Mate 30 Pro’s front curvature is of a lot larger radius than the back curvature, creating a very weird feeling asymmetrical design.

Because the screen is curved nearly 90° onto the edge of the phone, this means that the metal frame isn’t located in the middle of what would constitute the frame, but rather is pushed further towards the backside of the device. This also creates a “lip” that slightly protrudes out of the front and back glass, and because it’s located towards the backside of the phone, it’s a lot more noticeable in hand than say any other phone which has a flatter front glass but a more curved back glass. In fact, if you simply flip the Mate 30 Pro around, it’s suddenly a much more comfortable device to hold, but that’s really a way to use a phone now is it?

Victims of the curved design are the volume buttons which have now been completely eliminated from the phone. You now can bring up the software volume slider by double tapping either side the phone where the volume buttons would usually be located. The power button is still there, but due to the frame being pushed towards the back of the phone, is also located in a bit of an unusual location.

I might sound a bit overzealous on this aspect of the phone and maybe am a bit too negative and harsh, but for me the ergonomics of a phone are quite important and in this regard the Mate 30 Pro feels like a step backwards from the Mate 20 Pro and the P30 Pro.

The other negative aspect of the curved screen isn’t related to the ergonomics, but is more of a technical issue. Unfortunately, it seems that Huawei is again using a panel from either LG or BOE, and like the Mate 20 Pro last year, there’s one stand-out characteristic on the phone compared to other OLED device with panels from Samsung: worse viewing angles. Like the Mate 20 Pro, it’s quite immediately noticeable on the Mate 30 Pro that the phone’s display exhibits worse than usual colour and brightness shifts than usual from other OLED phones. While on the Mate 20 Pro I said that one could possibly get used to it, on the Mate 30 Pro the characteristic is a lot more noticeable thanks to the more drastic curvature of the screen.

The characteristic is noticeable in bright conditions, but especially in lower light conditions, and when viewing the phone from the side this can be excruciatingly visible as a bright stripe which is quite distracting. Everybody has their own subjective tastes, but I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not too big a fan of the Mate 30 Pro’s screen design choices.

There’s been a big change in the front design of the phone, especially the notch area. There’s still a notch which houses the cameras and various sensors, but this year Huawei has been able to get rid of the earpiece speaker and integrate it under the screen via a vibration motor that vibrates the screen, turning it into a speaker membrane. There’s no stereo audio playback here for general media.

This change allows the phone to recoup more notification area as things were quite cramped with the Mate 20 Pro’s wide notch. Aside from the narrower notch, the phone’s corners are also a lot less curved, allowing icons nearer to the edges of the phone. Naturally the less curved corners mean that the phone feels boxier than its predecessors, which again for me constitutes as a regression in terms of the ergonomics of the device.

The back of the phone has seen a larger redesign, which is a bit odd given what Huawei had promised last year. For the Mate 20 Pro Huawei had proclaimed it wanted to make the square camera cut-out design a defining feature of the Mate series that people would instantly recognize. Well this year the square is a circle, and the triple-camera setup becomes a quad-camera setup.

The flash has been relocated to the side of the phone, and the new dual LEDs are a lot stronger than what we’ve seen on the Mate 20 Pro.

In regards to the cameras, the main sensor remains the same 40MP RYYB unit we’ve seen on the P30 series, and maintains an f/1.6 aperture. The telephoto is a 8MP 3x zoom factor in relation to the main camera and seemingly the same setup as on the Mate 20 Pro and regular P30.

The big new camera addition for this generation was the addition of a 40MP super-wide-angle module. The new sensor is a native 3:2 unit and promises to be optimised for video recording, as well as promising ultra-high framerate video capture up to 7680fps – although this latter feature is mostly a software trick done through interpolation. Finally, there’s a fourth camera module which Huawei just describes as serving as a 3D depth camera.

The top and bottom of the phone adopts a similar flat design introduced with the P30 series which is relatively unique. Huawei this year opted to go for an actual speaker grill for the bottom firing main speaker instead of reusing the USB-C port as a speaker vent. While I mentioned the Mate 30 Pro is a similar form factor as the Mate 20 Pro, it’s not exactly the same, as it is 0.8mm wider and 0.2mm thicker. It’s also 9g heavier at 198g, but manages to integrate a quite large 4400mAh rated / 4500mAh typical battery, a 5% increase over last year’s model.

Overall, if it wasn’t blatantly obvious until now, I’m a bit sceptical about the Mate 30 Pro’s design. I do highly recommend trying to get an initial first-hand experience of the phone to evaluate its unique design before considering to it for purchase, as I don’t think it’ll be something that fits everybody’s tastes.

The Kirin 990 SoC
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  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    After years on Android, and a set of Android Apps and Services that I own via the Play Store (or because they come with the phone), the lack of Google Services and the Play Store is a critical piece of missing functionality.

    Indeed I'd say that this is not Android at all, Android for most people being the combination of core operating system and Google Services.
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    Exactly, the whole point of a android phone is to have google services. Anything else you are are developers whim in updates to OS and apps. Which if anyone who got burned by Samsung tablets know..its not pretty. Reply
  • prisonerX - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    There's something to be said for there being an alternative to the Google monopoly in that respect. Let's hope that something like that emerges from this fiasco. Reply
  • versesuvius - Thursday, November 28, 2019 - link

    Vendor lock-in does not even begin to describe what the US government is enforcing on the mobile phone users around the world. If at one time it was Apple or Microsoft or some other OS maker, now it is a political and economical system that the US government and Google want to lock the world in. That said, a mobile phone is nothing but Browser as OS. And the entire Google offering is nothing but open web technologies. The half hearthed attempts at something different from Google never added up to much because they always chose Google to fall back on from the get go. With Huawei on the one side and the general drift of the Western world towards Trumpism and the asinine single mindedness of what passes for American political and economical infrastructure, we are going to witness many wonderful shifts towards true freedom and innovation around the world and Huawei is just a very wonderful start. Reply
  • s.yu - Thursday, November 28, 2019 - link

    Wow, a Huawei maniac. Looks like the impact of the CCP's censorship already ripples across the world.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/30/tech/samsung-ch...
    https://money.cnn.com/2018/04/05/news/economy/chin...
    https://web.archive.org/web/20190525052706/https:/...

    This is what you hail as your savior.

    The (Chinese) industry's sole dissenter, TieLiu, who regularly exposes Huawei's lies and its collusion with the CCP, is back online after his internet presence was banned back in June in the heat of the trade war. I'm looking for suitable ways to make his articles more accessible to English readers, but so far I could only think of Google Translate.

    This time I'll give you the latest update manually though:

    There's a so called issue of "three 3's" prohibiting the widespread adoption of 5G, "3 times the number of base stations of 4G", "3 times the power consumption per base station compared to 4G", "3 times the price of a 4G base station".

    Here's how China plans to solve this, according to LI Zhengmao, vice president of China Mobile:

    1. "3 times the number of base stations compared to 4G was an estimate based on 3.5GHz, we'll use 2.6GHz instead to enhance range."
    *catch: 2.6GHz is China Mobile's 4G frequency, building a NSA 5G network at this frequency will cannibalize the bandwidth of current users on 4G plans; 2.6GHz does not have the bandwidth to reach 5G's theoretical speeds, while China Unicom's 4G on 3CA already manages 1155.8Mbps in Xiongan, in line with the peak speed of current 5G solutions; also 2.6GHz isn't a fundamental improvement in terms of coverage.

    2. "China Mobile is rolling out flexibly configured base stations, 64T64R when necessary, some could be lowered to 32T32R, even 8T8R, for maximum cost-effectiveness and power conservation"
    *catch: You cannot attain 5G's promised speed improvements by cutting corners on the hardware, 128 antennas or even 192 is one of the basis of 5G's performance gains. With 8T8R, there will be no difference from current 4G speeds, while carriers could fulfil executive orders by the Party to migrate to 5G, and hike prices selling the 5G concept. Handsets supporting 5G also have higher margins. Only consumers suffer.

    3. To further lower costs of powering a 5G network, "Governments of Shanxi, Guangdong etc. have officially issued orders to provide discount electricity to 5G base stations, I hope this could form a trend, as this is very beneficial to the development of the 5G industry."
    *catch: they can't make the system efficient enough to make commercial sense, so effectively all taxpayers are subsidizing the network's electricity bill for 5G to roll out.

    So who benefits from this? HUAWEI, first and foremost, who has 42% of China's smartphone market, and simultaneously over half of China's telecoms market. This is how the Party siphons resources from all across the country pushing Huawei's commercially inviable wares, to fatten Huawei's wallet. Huawei is the Party's prized pet, and you're counting on it to be your savior.
    Reply
  • versesuvius - Thursday, November 28, 2019 - link

    When America does all that, it is just dandy and candy and righteous, but when China does that, even if what your "freedom fighter" says is true, it is the party's prized pet? The Chinese are free to buy Samsung or Apple or whatever they like in China. Still as you say Huawei has 42 percent of the Chines mobile phone market. Obviously the Chinese are not stupid enough to say no to one of the finest mobile phone makers in the world. And why should they? So, that America or some American web page company come mercenary services provider can dictate how they should live? Reply
  • dickeywang - Thursday, November 28, 2019 - link

    well said.
    I'm in China and I am happy with my new Huawei Mate 30 Pro.
    In addition, most of my female officemates used to be using Apple mobile phones, but like 80% of them now using Huawei since P30 Pro released just because they like the photos produced by the Huawei phones.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Friday, November 29, 2019 - link

    The free will of those drowning in the enforced will of a single entity is so believable. Reply
  • s.yu - Friday, November 29, 2019 - link

    "When America does all that"
    IF, America does all that. Your argument needs more substance, but then again, Huawei drones do like to indulge in the fantasy that all its evil is universal, while ever failing to name a true equal.

    "The Chinese are free to buy Samsung or Apple or whatever they like in China."
    Your communist cool-aid is spilling from your mouth. The Party's obscurantist policies gives them freedom to deify Huawei to no end. Xi first deified himself, but realizing that this makes an easy target for international media, which unlike domestic ones are not under his control, he now uses Huawei to substitute as a national idol, the symbol of Chinese supremacy and the unquestionable legitimacy of Xi's lifelong reign.

    When P30P was exposed for moon faking, the editor who made and disclosed the discovery was promptly fired for "libel" against Huawei, before others were able to verify his claims and some were brave enough to stand with him, however the incident was downplayed and Huawei got away without an apology, like every other mistake or lie it was caught with, because Huawei is the political correctness in China.

    With the Party's iron grip on the media, it went on a crusade back in summer punishing Givenchy, CK etc. in what amounts to be literary inquisition, e.g. CK was publically defamed for "infringing on Chinese sovereignty" and stripped of its brand ambassadors just for listing Hong Kong as merely "Hong Kong" instead of "HKSAR" under “Select Region”, while entirely burying Huawei's whole Taiwan Independence Gate under identical circumstances. Such absurdity is only possible if you could dictate what every major media feeds to the public.

    Considering the vast reach of Xi's censorship and propaganda, I don't blame most of the Chinese public for failing to see Huawei as the bloodsucking scam that it really is.
    Reply
  • airdrifting - Friday, November 29, 2019 - link

    You seem hell-bent on bashing China using lies and partial facts, I assume you are from Taiwan province where brainwashing is at its peak by the Democratic Progressive Party.

    Xi deified himself? Your argument needs more substance than that. Did we see Xi's statues erected all around China or people dancing to Xi's word? When it comes to smartphones, there are still ZTE, Xiaomi, Oneplus, Vivo and many other Chinese companies than Huawei. Korean has Samsung, China has Huawei, Japan has Toyota, I don't see you translate Samsung into Korean supremacy and unquestionable legitmacy, you are one extremely narrow mind biased individual.

    All companies have scandals one way or another, all companies deny their mistakes, Samsung denied their batteries were catching fire, Toyota denied safety recalls, Huawei is no exception. Again you seem to deliberate exaggerate a common despicable business practice to the political level.

    Reading your words, I see a anger blinded hater who is brainwashed and can not see facts.
    Reply

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