Huawei P40 Pro+ review: Five times the camera, 100 times the zoom
Overview, Design & Handling, Display & Audio, User Interface
Note: This review was first published on 20 June 2020.
The penta-camera phone
We've all heard about the Huawei P40 Pro+ when it was first announced back in March 2020. This device is the premium variant out of its entire P40 series, where Huawei puts their best foot forward by packing all the headlining features into one device. It shares many similarities with the regular P40 Pro (review here). They share the same design language, display quality and refresh rate, IP68 dust and water resistance, battery capacity (4,200mAh), the inclusion of in-display fingerprint sensor, identical front camera configuration, and usage of the company's same HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G chipset that's ready for 5G networks.
How's it different?
What the Pro+ model offers instead are super-charged versions of the P40 Pro's existing features and even a different material finish that we'll touch upon in the design segment.
1) Camera configuration
As most fans would know, Huawei's P series focuses a lot on delivering high-end photography features through qualified hardware components and in-house software optimisations. It's no surprise when the defining feature of the P40 Pro+ (compared to other P40 variants) is the penta-camera configuration on the rear - the P40 Pro instead had quad rear cameras. In contrast, the regular P40 'only' has triple rear lenses.
While both P40 Pro+ and P40 Pro have identical primary and secondary cameras and a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor, P40 Pro+ swaps the 5x Optical Telephoto Camera (12MP) on the P40 Pro for a 10x Optical Telephoto Camera (8MP), while also adding on an another 3x Optical Telephoto Camera (8MP). These two cameras are responsible for P40 Pro+'s 100x digital zoom (the regular Pro goes up to 50x digital zoom). All five cameras work together to offer the full focusing range (18 to 240mm) with as much optical zoom at as many points of magnification possible. For the non-photography folks, optical zoom offers a level of clarity, detail, and sharpness that digital zoom can't usually match. Hence the P40 Pro+'s value comes through from its generous optical zoom capabilities.
2) Cooling system
Besides the camera, Huawei P40 Pro+ also uses a more intricate 4-in-1 cooling system for its Kirin 990 5G chip when compared to the P40 Pro's simpler cooling system. Theoretically, the P40 Pro+ should allow the same Kirin 990 5G chipset to reach its potential by suppressing high temperatures, since modern chipsets would intelligently throttle its performance to prevent overheating and shorter lifespans. A review with benchmark scores (like ours) will help to ascertain if the extra cooling helps with performance scores at all, or if the enhancements are for other purposes (e.g. longer phone lifespan because of better chip cooling).
3) Supercharged wireless charging
The last main difference between the premium P40 Pro+ and the regular Pro is wireless charging, with the latter capping out at 27W. P40 Pro+ offers up to 40W wireless charging, and Huawei was kind enough to include the compatible 40W Wireless Huawei SuperCharge docking station (sold separately) for our trials to see if it can measure up to its wired fast-charging, which is also rated at 40W.
That said, there certainly are phones at the level of P40 Pro+ available in our market, so it's not going to be an easy fight for Huawei. The Android-based Huawei P40 Pro+ (8GB RAM + 512GB storage) is asking for S$1,898 in exchange for the advanced features mentioned above (since there's also the S$1,488 Huawei P40 Pro). While this review can be referred to for P40 Pro+ traits, we'd still recommend reading the Huawei P40 Pro's review first if you want a more holistic perspective on the device beyond just the new features of the P40 Pro+ that we'll place more focus in this review.
Design and Handling
The P40 Pro+ and the P40 Pro are physically identical in every way except for one - the exterior material on the rear. The rest of the P40 series use glass-covered backs, while the P40 Pro+ uses nano-tech ceramic which Huawei claimed is more scratch-resistant and durable than its other P40 siblings. The ceramic back retains the glossy look of glass, while it keeps fingerprint smudges to a minimum. Another trait found in ceramic finish phones is how the device feels cooler to the touch, which the P40 Pro+ does as compared to other glass-back alternatives currently sitting on my desk.
Even among flagship devices, the P40 Pro+ sits at a premium tier. It has to live up to its name by bringing all the flagship P40 Pro features to it. Like the P40 Pro, it has IP68 water- and dust-resistance certification and the premium appearance made possible with its curved corners, which Huawei dubs as Quad-curve Overflow Display. While it doesn't feel different, the P40 Pro+ is still pleasant to use with neat little tricks that remind us of its status, like the cool ceramic and the in-display fingerprint sensor.
If we had any gripes about the P40 Pro+'s aesthetics, it would be the metal frame that holds the front and back together. If you recall the Deep Sea Blue P40 Pro we had, Huawei made an effort and ensured that the rims were of the same colour as the back. On the P40 Pro+, the different material types coming together also resulted in a mixture of themes, starting with a glass front, framed by metal sides, leading to its marble-like back. It's not the most uniform appearance, but it doesn't affect the phone's handling.
What leaves more to be desired, however, is the lack of Ceramic Black finish in the Singapore market. So through official channels, interested P40 Pro+ buyers locally can only pick up the Ceramic White (pictured) finish. It is still a nice colour that blends easily into anything else you might own. We have more pictures of the P40 Pro+ here if you'd like to check out the device a little more.
As a whole, we're rather neutral towards the look of the P40 Pro+. It certainly feels premium, and it looks wonderful, but we don't feel very strongly about the phone's appearance, which is likely because we were already intimate with its doppelganger many months back.
The Pro+ variant weighs a little more (226g) than P40 Pro (209g), but the difference is virtually indistinguishable by hand. If you want a more detailed description of the design and our thoughts on the phone's handling, they can be found at P40 Pro's review.
Display and Audio
Like the P40 Pro, the Huawei P40 Pro+ uses a sexy 6.58-inch OLED display rated at 2,600 x 1,200 pixels resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. It's equally capable of displaying the same 16.7 million colours. The panel's real estate and resolution quality also mean that the P40 Pro+ has a pixel density of roughly 411ppi, identical to the P40 Pro. If you're a number's chaser, this is where the P40 Pro+'s falls a little short, since similarly-premium alternatives like the Oppo Find X2 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra both have 1440p resolution displays.
You would, however, be mistaken if you thought that the P40 Pro+ display doesn't match up against the competition. As demonstrated, our test image shows up very well on the device. It doesn't have the warmer colour temperatures found on Samsung smartphones, but it still has the vibrant hues and great control over detail. During regular web browsing, even the thumbnail images and category tags on our HWZ website seem to come alive, thanks to the display's awesome colour handling.
While it doesn't have a 120Hz refresh rate like the OnePlus 8 Pro, the 90Hz display on the P40 Pro+ would still be overpowered for online consumption. For example, the built-in web browser and Google Chrome plays 60 FPS videos on YouTube at only 30 FPS (you can figure that out by clicking "Stats For Nerds" in YouTube during a playback). To truly enjoy 60 or higher FPS playback, you'll need either VLC Player or MX Player (both available on Huawei's AppGallery) and manually load such video content for your watching pleasure. Another area where the display's 90Hz refresh rate comes into play is mobile gaming, but you'll have a tough time finding those games inside AppGallery. (Though thankfully, getting any Android app loaded is a simple affair.)
These problems do not exist when I'm using Google Mobile Services (GMS)-supported devices like the Oppo Find X2 Pro. Oppo's premium device offers native support for high framerate playback via the YouTube app. Also, there are high framerate gaming titles that I'm inclined to play and are readily available via the Google Play Store (e.g. Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, Injustice 2, and embarrassingly, Love Live! School Idol Festival All-Stars).
Even with that said, we chalk the P40 Pro+'s video playback deficiency to its incompatibility with GMS out-of-the-box, which can be a little frustrating for the average user (assuming that they can tell apart 30 FPS cat videos from 60 FPS cat videos of course). Functionally, the phone can play high framerate content - you just gotta work for it.
Audio-wise, the P40 Pro+ also does a decent job like its regular Pro counterpart, but again, it's nothing to write home about. Like the regular Pro variant, the loudspeakers are at the bottom rung of the phone, is less immersive than the impressive top-and-bottom stereo-like configuration on the Oppo Find X2 Pro. To be fair, the audio quality seems slightly better than the OnePlus 8 series, but we've come to expect that as well since the P40 Pro+ has a premium asking price.
We've gone through how Android 10-based EMUI 10 works on the P40 Pro review, so we'll use this section to discuss another core part of the user experience of any phone - the apps, or rather, the replacement of Google Play Store with Huawei's very own AppGallery.
Back in March, Huawei expanded its AppGallery offerings to include a growing list of much-needed Singapore-centric apps. New additions include HERE WeGo (our coverage here), which is a viable alternative to Google Maps since it not only provides navigation by road or on foot but also local public transport prediction timings. If you want an even more localised map app, there's OneMap on Huawei's AppGallery, too.
Besides apps like LINE and FoodPanda, Huawei has been active at porting over all the core apps that cater to the average Singaporean. You have service apps for the big three telcos, popular local banks or hyperlocal cashless payment apps like Singtel Dash and PayLah!, and even apps for local discounts like Fave and Chope. There's also the Zoom app if you require hosting and participating in online meetings for work.
Huawei also has been hard at work in creating viable replacements for Google services we'd come to rely on. For instance, they've launched a new Petal Search app which curates international news and provides a web search engine (powered by Bing). It also doubles as a search tool for app installation via third-party distributors. Petal Search is somewhat similar to the Google app, even when it comes to pinning the app as a Widget on the P40 Pro+.
Still, AppGallery is not perfect. Core messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and even Signal are not in AppGallery. In the social media realm, TikTok, Bigo Live, and Twitter are available from the Huawei app store, but Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are not there. In the consumer music listening space, there's Deezer, but no Spotify. Need food delivered but not feeling the selection on FoodPanda? You'll have to fire up the web browser for Uber Eats, GrabFood, Deliveroo, or even McDelivery. Want to view PDFs? You'll have to use an alternative to Adobe Acrobat app since it's not there too. The list goes on, and we've yet to start on replacing the other Google services we're familiar with, such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, and more.
Despite the shortage of app options directly available from Huawei's AppGallery, it should be noted that many of these service-oriented apps easily have web-equivalent services and you've easy access to them via the browser. Better yet, Huawei allows to pin the URL to your phone's start screen and thus act as a web app shortcut. No YouTube app? No problem, the web equivalent looks and functions fairly similarly. Where a web edition doesn't exist, you can try searching through Petal Search to obtain the necessary app installer or try these methods to quickly obtain your required app. Most Andoid apps will work fine because HMS is based off the Android core.
The presence of various third-party app stores and the creation of Petal Search is proof that Huawei alone cannot plug in all the gaps of the AppGallery. The road to 'app ecosystem completion' feels long, and will likely be so for some time to come. To play the devil's advocate, it must have been a difficult task to get the current app selection onto the Huawei ecosystem, and we applaud them for trying (and somewhat succeeding, even). Here's more coverage of Huawei's AppGallery momentum and Huawei Mobile Services to help make the transition smoother for the average user.
While some extra work is needed to get your preferred apps and services, we at HardwareZone also understand that we shouldn't dismiss the usability of Huawei phones simply because it doesn't have GMS. After all, we'll be exploring more of the phone's headline feature in the following page to see if the workarounds are justified to better enjoy what it offers.
On the gadget side of things, the P40 Pro+ shares the same disadvantages as its regular Pro variant. It uses Huawei's proprietary memory card format, and it lacks a 3.5mm audio port with no extra port available. Despite that, the generous 512GB internal storage should be sufficient for most users.