Night photography feature stands out

Huawei’s new photography-centric flagship P40 smartphone series comes in three versions – the 6.1-inch P40 (with a rear triplecamera system and up to 3x optical zoom), the 6.58-inch P40 Pro (a rear quad-camera system and up to 5x optical zoom) and the P40 Pro+ (a rear penta-camera system and up to 10x optical zoom).

Singapore will be the first country in Asia to get the smartphones – the P40 ($1,048) and the P40 Pro ($1,448) will be available on Saturday. The availability and pricing of the P40 Pro+ will be announced at a later date.

I reviewed a silver-hued P40 Pro, which I find better looking than the blue and gold models that will also be available here.

The silver rear surface has a smooth matt finish that does not attract smudges and fingerprints, unlike glass surfaces. I also like the glowing effect created by light reflecting off the surface.

The front, with very thin bezels, is almost all display. An aluminium frame wraps around the gorgeous Oled display with curved sides. To my surprise, I did not once touch the edge of the display accidentally with the base of my thumb while holding the phone.

The display (2,640 x 1,200 pixels) has a refresh rate of up to 90Hz – 50 per cent higher than conventional displays’ 60Hz. This makes for much smoother Web browsing and less screen-tearing while playing games. I find this a good compromise between the battery-sapping 120Hz and slow 60Hz refresh rates.

The display has an enhanced in-display fingerprint sensor that is supposed to be 30 per cent faster than that of its predecessor, the P30 Pro. It certainly is the fastest I have used, unlocking the phone almost instantly and with few errors.

A “quirk” is its rather big elliptical hole-punch front-facing camera system at the top left corner of the display. It comprises a 32-megapixel (MP) autofocusing (AF) camera, a depth-sensing camera and ambient and proximity sensors – needed for the face unlock feature.

Selfies taken with the front-facing camera system, even with backlighting, looked great with smooth skin texture and “bright” faces without the background being overexposed.

On its rear is a quad-camera system consisting of a 50MP wideangle camera, a 40MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 12MP periscopic telephoto camera (with 5x optical zoom and up to 50x digital zoom) and a depth-sensing camera.

The wide-angle camera offers a high-resolution mode that fully utilises the 50MP image sensor. Otherwise, it produces 12MP still images with pixel binning, which combines four pixels into one.

  • FOR

    • Great-looking design 

    • Fast in-display fingerprint sensor 

    • The display’s 90Hz refresh rate 

    • Convenient 5x optical zoom 

    • Amazing night photography quality 

    • Great overall performance


    • No Google Mobile Services


    PRICE: $1,448 (without contract), available on Saturday 

    PROCESSOR: Kirin 990 5G (dual-core 2.86GHz, dual-core 2.36GHz, quad-core 1.95GHz) 

    DISPLAY: 6.58-inch, Oled, 2,640 x 1,200 pixels, 441 ppi pixel density 

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Emui 10.1 (Android 10.0) 

    MEMORY: 256GB (Nano memory card expandable to 256GB); 8GB RAM 

    REAR CAMERAS: 50MP wide-angle (f/1.9), 40MP ultra-wide-angle (f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f3.4), 3D depth-sensing camera 

    FRONT CAMERAS: 32MP (f/2.2), Depth-sensing camera BATTERY: Non-removable 4,200mAh battery WEIGHT: 209g


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5


    BATTERY LIFE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    OVERALL: 4.5/5

Comparing normal and highresolution shots of a same scene, I found the latter sharper with greater details. But the normal mode is no slouch, with photos looking sharp, detailed and with great dynamic range.

There are some new bells and whistles, such as using artificial intelligence to remove passers-by or reflections in photos. The remove passers-by function worked like magic in certain scenarios. But I found the remove reflections function merely darkened the reflection.

The real standout feature is night photography. I could take handheld shots with up to nine seconds of exposure. The results were phenomenal – rich details in the dark areas while not overexposing the bright areas. Unlike Apple’s Night mode, the P40 Pro’s night mode works in ultra-wide angle as well.

The 5x optical zoom camera offers great convenience as there are times when you just cannot go near the action. While photos taken at 5x optical zoom were not as sharp and detailed as the wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle shots, they were usually good enough for social media posts.

The P40 Pro uses Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G chip, which provides 5G support and is touted for excellent performance and power efficiency. In the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, it scored 745 (single-core) and 3,010 (multi-core). In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra scored 917 (single-core) and 2,769 (multi-core).

For everyday use, the phone felt zippy, with apps launching quickly. Playing first-person shooter games such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Pubg) Mobile and racing games like Asphalt 9 felt smooth and lag-free.

Like the P30 Pro, the P40 Pro has a 4,200mAh battery. However, its 15hr 55min endurance in our video-loop battery test was less than that of the P30 Pro, which lasted 181/2 hours.

Still, given it has a display with a 90Hz refresh rate, its battery life can be considered really good.

Using it with WhatsApp, Telegram, e-mail notifications and all my social media apps turned on all the time, as well as playing Pubg Mobile and Asphalt 9 several times a day, it still had about 50 per cent of battery life left by my bedtime.

The P40 Pro runs on Huawei’s latest Emui 10.1 user interface, which is based on Android 10. It provides some nice touches such as multi-tasking, whereby you can drag inwards from a side of the display and hold to pull out a vertical bar of apps, tap on an app and drag the resulting window to fill half of the display.

Still, it is hard not to ignore the elephant in the room. The P40 Pro lacks Google Mobile Services due to the continued ban on Huawei arising from the US-China trade war. Thus, it does not have Google Play Store and its library of apps.

Instead, it comes with Huawei’s AppGallery, which provides a great selection of apps and also download links to apps that are not available, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

There are also third-party app stores such as APKPure that you can use to get your Android apps and games to run on the P40 Pro. But while such workarounds might appeal to the geek instincts of some, they could be too troublesome for others.