Technology

Bright camera action: Huawei Mate 40 Pro smartphone review

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a spectacular flagship smartphone capable of stunning photography, and sporting a number of innovative features. Build quality and finish are remarkably high. This is a premium handset by any measure.  

Huawei Mate 40 Pro –  Description

One thing we continue to be impressed by the design flair Huawei brings to its consumer products, and it’s all too evident here. 

The edge-to-edge OLED display is a rewardingly large 6.76-inches, with a resolution of 1344 x 2772, and a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s a dream of a screen to use, disturbed only by the front camera notch. On the flip is a distinctive Space Ring which houses the camera system.

It feels very comfortable in the hand, although so slick we often feared it would slip from our grip. A protective case is a must.

The handset boasts IP 68 dust and water resistance, and both physical and virtual (!) controls, more anon.

The edge-to-edge OLED display is a rewardingly large 6.76-inch, with a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s a dream of a screen to use…

Mate 40 Pro colour options

The handset supports the Wi-Fi 6 standard, and comes with 8GB of RAM, and either 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. It has a fast charging USB-C port, but unsurprisingly lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

It’s available in black, white and silver finishes, plus two ‘vegan leather’ variants, Yellow and Green. 

When it comes to hierarchy, Mate 40 Pro reviewed here sits one step removed from the Mate 40 Pro+, the latter features an enhanced dual-telephoto camera system and some cosmetic enhancements. There’s also a Pro+ variant, the Porsche Design Mate 40 RS.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro –  Features

The Mate 40 Pro is a technical powerhouse. Innovations include the world’s first 5 nanometer 5G SoC, and an Ultra Vision Cine Camera system. Other niceties include 3D Face Unlock, an Ultra Vision Selfie Camera and that Smart Gesture control. 

The latter allows for hands-free control of the device. For example, you can hover your hand to wake it up, or navigate by swiping left, right, up and down. There’s even an air press gesture for call answering. 

But while undoubtedly clever, we never really got into the habit of using Gesture Control during our audition. Perhaps it grows on you?

The 4,400 mAh battery translates to impressive stamina. Even with heavy use, the Mate 40 Pro will easily make it from dawn till dusk without feeling the need for a recharge.

The Mate 40 pro camera system is a star performer

Huawei Mate 40 Pro – Performance

Powering the Mate 40 Pro is a Kirin 9000 Series 5G processor boasting more than 15.3 billion transistors. This advanced CPU design means it’s fast, while a 24-core Mali-G78 GPU delivers a high-end graphical performance, ideal for gaming. Dual speakers make a decent noise, for when you’re not wearing Bluetooth headphones.

Predictably, the most compelling reason to buy this latest Mate is the camera system. Co-engineered with Leica, it’s nothing short of brilliant. 

There’s an ultra-wide angle lens, stunning main camera that takes great advantage of a huge 50MP sensor, and a powerful Periscope telephoto offering a 10x hybrid zoom and 50x digital zoom.

Because of that monster sensor, low light sensitivity is outrageously good. The camera will produce amazingly clear results in very low light. Smartphone photographers will have a ball with this phone.

A 13MP ultrawide selfie camera is one of the best we’ve seen, and it’s coupled to a 13MP 3D time-of-flight depth sensor.

Video shooting is similarly formidable. The Dual Cine Cameras utlise a 3:2 cinema-style shooting ratio sensor. There’s always-smooth motion with Steady Shot, while XD Fusion HDR Video guarantees good exposure, even when the lighting is tricky. 

A Tracking Shot mode allows you to lock onto a subject and follow it in perfect clarity, while a cute Story Creator function offers up a series of preset transitions, to create a fancy video. We tried it, then we tried it again. Before we knew it, we were hooked. 

The large image sensor allows for bright imagery in moody low light

These Story Creator presets may be a bit on the gimmicky side, but the concept is great fun. Just hold the camera steady and the sensor is panned automatically to create a sense of movement.

The ability to customise templates would make this a serious creative tool.

The inevitable caveat is everyday usability. With no access to Google apps, or the Google Play store, we often found ourselves stumped when we couldn’t do simple tasks that are second nature within an Android environment. 

Having shot a particularly nice picture, we were flummoxed when someone asked for us to share it on Messenger.  You can’t use Google Photos, Google Maps or Gmail with the Mate 40 Pro, and that’s a big pill to swallow.

Huawei has made great leaps and bounds when it comes to stocking its own Huawei AppGallery, and there are now lookalike apps which mimic standard Google apps. Huawei Docs looks like Google Docs, but of course this isn’t much use if you’re actually working within Google docs.

It’s also evolved its app finder, Petal Search, into a fully-fledged browser. We dare say you could get used to this Huawei ecosystem, but it requires some perseverance to master.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro – Verdict

It says much for its quality and performance that we’d recommend the Mate 40 Pro, even though it lacks the practical benefits of a regular Android smartphone. 

The Chinese manufacturer has done a remarkable job building an alternative landscape to Google, but it’s still very much a work in progress.

Taking The Huawei Mate 40 Pro out for a spin is like sitting behind the wheel of a supercar. You’re never quite sure if you’re really in control, but it’s a thrilling ride nonetheless.

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro sells for £1,099 SIM-free and unlocked. It’s also available from smartphone retailers, with various contract packages.   

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice, Ideal Home, The Luxe Review, Channel News and the i newspaper. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI, and contributor to industry trade magazine ERT. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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