The Huawei Mate 40 Pro encapsulates the best in smartphone technology. It has an industry-leading screen, an ample chipset, and a great camera system on the back. It’s all premium, except Google Services is still missing and Harmony OS isn’t quite ready. This phone is a beast but in order to be tamed, it needs patience and an adventurous spirit at the same time. If you can get through the software learning curve, then you’ll be perfectly happy with this device.
The new flagship comes in a nice and clean, understated black box. Lifting the top of it reveals the smartphone itself, wrapped in protective plastic. Immediately we see the phone's signature circular camera module, that was the center of many rumors over the last few weeks, and we will get to explore thoroughly for our full review.
But there's way more in that box than expected – the Mate 40 Pro also comes with a clear, soft protective case, which covers its entire back and sides, along with a USB Type-C charging cable. We also get wired headphones, which plug into the phone via USB Type-C, as yes, it doesn't have a headphone jack. Those appear to be the standard Huawei earbuds, like the ones that came with the Mate 20 Pro, but are a great item to get out of the box nonetheless. Especially considering that nowadays some phone makers may not even give you a charger out of the box, let alone other useful goodies.
Speaking of chargers – the Huawei Mate 40 Pro also comes with a very impressive 66-watt charging brick. The rest in the box is a SIM ejector tool and the usual paperwork. Now, 66 watts is way ahead of what you'll see from the likes of Samsung or Apple smartphones. Samsung's flagship Note 20 Ultra, for example, only supports 25-watt fast charging, while Apple's newest iPhone 12 Pro Max supports just about 20 watts. So having a 66-watt charger out of the box here is quite something.
We found the power button and volume rocker, both on the right edge of the phone, easy to reach – people with smaller hands might find it a little trickier to hit the higher-up rocker, but most will be able to reach the power button easily enough. The Mate 30 Pro didn’t actually have a volume rocker, as on that phone Huawei debuted tech that allowed you to slide your finger up and down the curved screen edge to change the volume – given that the rocker has returned here, we’d guess that particular novelty didn’t catch on.
There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack here, so fans of wired audio will have to use a converter with the USB-C port in order to use their existing wired headphones, or look for USB-C wired headphones, although there are few options around at the moment.
The back of the phone feels sleek, but you might find that its appearance detracts from the overall impression of elegance, as our review unit quickly became a canvas of fingerprint marks. This was on the black version of the phone, and it’s also available in silver, which might not show off finger smudges as much. At launch green, yellow and white versions of the Mate 40 Pro were also unveiled, and we’d say these look a lot more striking than the black model, although we haven’t seen them on sale anywhere yet.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro display looks pretty great, though the paucity of streaming service apps means that opportunities for enoying it are somewhat limited.
This screen is 6.76 inches diagonally, which is pretty big, but as we’ve mentioned the design goes some way in mitigating any issues with this. It has a 2772 x 1344 resolution, which is higher than that of many other phones (most stick with 1080p) and as a result images look sharp.
The OLED HDR10 tech makes colors pop – Huawei claims that the display shows off 16.7 million colors, although we didn’t stop to count. The high max brightness helps with this too.
If we have one issue with the Mate 40 Pro display, it’s the pill-shaped cut-out that houses the two front-facing cameras at the top-left of the screen. It’s not exactly small, with quite some distance between the two lenses, so it cuts a fair amount out of your viewable area.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is one of the best camera phones out there – while its snaps are roughly on par with its top-tier competition, and which is the ‘best’ phone largely comes down to personal preference, the sheer number of modes and options on offer here outstrips most of the competition.
The main snapper is the same 50MP f/1.9 camera we also saw on the Huawei P40 series and Mate 40 – this has a RYYB sensor (red, yellow, yellow, blue) as opposed to the ‘standard’ RGB (red, green, blue), which allows it to take in more light. This is joined by a 20MP f/1.8 ultra-wide camera and a 12MP f/3.4 periscope telephoto (for 5x optical zoom) snapper.
On paper that might make the phone look a little worse off than the P40 Pro, which had the same main and telephoto snapper but a higher-res ultra-wide camera. However, that ultra-wide camera is where many of the improvements actually come, as it has an improved focal length, along with another key change that we’ll get into later in this section.
Pictures taken on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro looked fantastic, from scenic vistas and close-up subjects, or portrait shots. We could expend plenty of words praising the color accuracy, depth, contrast, AI tweakery, and more, but instead we’d suggest that you just scroll down to our Camera Samples section to see for yourself.
The periscope telephoto lens supports 5x optical zoom, and pictures taken at this zoom level look so good that it’s hard to tell they’re zoomed at all. You can zoom in 50x optically, which simply crops in the image, and compared to super-zoom snaps we’ve seen from other phones the Mate 40 Pro’s don’t look awful – they do look rather grainy though, so you might not find yourself using this feature very much.
Portrait mode is great – images don’t have over-the-top ‘bokeh’ effects, and instead some settings, like highlights and shadows, are tweaked to make the subject stand out more naturally.
It’s when the sun goes down that the Huawei Mate 40 Pro really shines – it’s consistently brilliant at taking photos in low-light conditions. Standard shots taken during the night, or in dark places, looked great, with plenty of detail, colors picked up well, and highlights and shadows balanced. Snaps also had very little noise in dark areas.
We were particularly impressed with Portrait-mode shots taken in low-light conditions – when we took some photos in a dark bar the results were great, despite the lack of light and a bright red sign nearby.
Huawei’s fantastic moon photography setting is back too, if you opt to zoom in to around 50x on the celestial body, and we took some amazing photos of it that we can’t quite believe we got from a smartphone.
On the front, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro has two cameras, with a 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide snapper joined by a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for improved depth sensing. Selfies look good, as they’re pretty bold in terms of color, and we liked having the ability to adjust our framing thanks to the use of an ultra-wide lens, as you can zoom in or out to a limited degree.
Portrait mode on the front-facing camera is a little less useful that on the rear though – instead of snaps having some background blur applied and settings tweaked a little, you have to choose from a limited selection of effects, like Stage Lighting (removes all your background) or Hearts (which makes lights behind you look heart-shaped). None of the options we could find produced anything that looked like a ‘standard’ Portrait selfie, as they go too hard on the processing effects, so we found ourselves ignoring them.
Talking of processing, Huawei has typically gone hard on the ‘AI Optimization’ for its camera phones, and we thought this was to thank for our great-looking snaps until we realized that we’d had it turned off for much of our camera testing – we had to remember to switch it on for our later shoots. By this we mean to say the cameras are so great that AI doesn’t even feel necessary - if you turn it on, you’ll find photos tweaked in subtle ways to make them look better, though not all snaps benefit too much.
Fans of fun camera modes will find plenty in the Huawei Mate 40 Pro to enjoy. There’s the aforementioned moon mode (though we’d love to see an astrophotography option for stars too, a la Google Pixel 4), Dual View which lets you record video on the front and back cameras at once, various slow-mo settings up to an impressive 3840fps (normal slow-mo is only 960fps, and this super-slow-mo lets you see even the quickest action in full detail), and Light Painting, which seems to combine shutter speed tweaks with AI optimization to create artistic snaps of everything from cars to star trails.
Finally, let’s look at videography. The phone uses the ultra-wide snapper, not the main one, to record videos, and you can shoot up to 4K 60fps, but if you turn on image stabilization or subject tracking that drops down to 1080p 30fps.
Footage looks great, with surprisingly vibrant colors for a smartphone video. Even without the stabilization mode enabled, videos don’t shake too much, and we’ve also got to commend the seamless zooming (up to 10x).
Unlike on many other smartphones, you can record 4K video using the front-facing camera. However, the resulting video looks a little dim, and the efforts of the AI to cover this up when the clip was played back on the phone became rather apparent, with excessive brightening and oversaturated colors.
The battery capacity is 4,400mAh, which is about average for a flagship phone, but we’d imagine the real reason the phone lasts a long time is some smart software optimizations to keep the battery going longer. We say this because the company has used similar optimizations to give its wearables fantastic battery life.
Charging here is equally impressive: there’s 66W wired charging, which will power up the phone in under an hour, and also 50W wireless powering, which is certainly a rarity in smartphones. We didn’t actually get to test out this latter speed, as to get it you need to buy a separate 50W pad from Huawei, but we used the phone with one of the company’s other wireless pads, and it seemed pretty snappy too.
Finally, there’s 5W reverse wireless charging, which lets you power up other wirelessly-charging devices using the Huawei Mate 40 Pro as a mat. At 5W this is ever so slightly faster than other devices with the feature, but the option is a little hidden in the Settings menu.
Whilst I write this it’s pouring with rain out of doors, which means i can’t exit and take extra pics with the Mate forty seasoned, and that’s exactly what I want to do. There are hundreds of ability within the camera system, and that i’m extra enthusiastic about it based on those early effects than i was about the P40 seasoned.
But, even as EMUI eleven is slick and short, the App Gallery simply isn’t nicely-stocked enough to deliver what I need to stay and work, and as time is going in this only becomes more of a hassle for Huawei. It also manner i can’t make the most the true potential of the brand new Kirin 9000 processor. How am I left feeling after an afternoon or so with the Mate 40 seasoned? In awe of the simply elegant hardware and the digicam’s immense technical prowess, but frustrated the software doesn’t have the right tools for me to apply the cellphone all the time.