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Honor 30 Pro Plus review: An upgraded Huawei P40

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You have to hand it to Huawei. While geopolitical wrangling continues to plague its fortunes, the Chinese giant has pressed ahead and continued to launch new phones with barely a break in its stride.

That implacable attitude has also carried over to its sub-brand, Honor. The latest phone(s) to emerge from the youth-orientated company is the Honor 30 series.

In this review, we’ll be casting our critical eye over the Honor 30 Pro Plus — an impressively spec’d phone that sees Honor’s portfolio edging closer than ever to Huawei’s own premium offerings.

Can it overcome all the challenges in front of it and emerge as a legitimate sub-flagship-level player?

Find out in Android Authority‘s Honor 30 Pro Plus review.

About this review: I used the Honor 30 Pro Plus on the O2 network in the UK as my main phone for a week. The device was running Magic 3.1.0 based on Android 10 with the build number 3.1.0.160. The Honor 30 Pro Plus review unit was provided to Android Authority by Honor.

Honor 30 Pro Plus review: The big picture

honor 30 pro plus review display

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Honor 30 Pro Plus is the top model in the latest N series evolution. 2019’s Honor 20 line expanded to two phones, but this time around we’ve got the vanilla Honor 30, the Honor 30 Pro, and the all-new Honor 30 Pro Plus. If that naming scheme sounds familiar, it’s because it perfectly mirrors the Huawei P40 trio — the first of many comparisons that can be drawn between the two series.

While Honor has continued to release phones in spite of the Huawei-US trade ban, it’s done so on a much narrower scope than its parent company. Affordable devices like the Honor 9X Pro have enjoyed a broader release across Europe and in the UK, but the brand’s de facto flagship, the Honor View 30 series, never officially made it out of China or Russia.

Read more: The best Android phones you can buy

That’s the same deal with the Honor 30 family, which makes it a little tricky to accurately price the Honor 30 Pro Plus. It retails at 4,999 yuan and 54,990 rubles in China and Russia, respectively, which puts the phone at around $800 mark, or ~€700 in Europe.

There’s some tough competition in that price range from the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Realme. Can the Honor 30 Pro Plus compete?

Honor 30 Pro Plus specs

  Honor 30 Pro Plus Honor 30 Pro Honor 30
Display 6.57-inch OLED
2,340 x 1,080 (19.5:9)
90Hz refresh rate
In-display fingerprint sensor
6.57-inch OLED
2,340 x 1,080 (19.5:9)
In-display fingerprint sensor
6.53-inch OLED
2,400 x 1,080 (20:9)
In-display fingerprint sensor
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G HiSilicon Kirin 985 5G
Mali-G77
RAM 8GB/12GB 8GB 6GB/8GB
Storage 256GB
Expandable (Nano Memory)
128GB/256GB
Expandable (Nano Memory)
128GB/256GB
Expandable (Nano Memory)
Cameras Rear:
50MP (RYYB), f/1.9, OIS
8MP telephoto, f/3.4, OIS, 5x optical zoom
16MP ultra-wide, f/2.2

Front:
32MP, f/2.0
8MP ultrawide, f/2.2

Rear:
40MP (RYYB), f/1.8, OIS
8MP telephoto, f/3.4, OIS, 5x optical zoom
16MP ultra-wide, f/2.2

Front:
32MP, f/2.0
8MP ultrawide, f/2.2

Rear:
40MP (RYYB), f/1.8
8MP telephoto, f/3.4, OIS, 5x optical zoom
8MP ultra-wide, f/2.4
2MP depth sensor

Front:
32MP, f/2.0

Battery 4,000mAh
40W fast charging
27W fast wireless charging
5W reverse wireless charging
4,000mAh
40W fast charging
5W reverse wireless charging
4,000mAh
40W fast charging
5W reverse wireless charging
IP Rating IP54 IP54 No
Headphone jack No No No
Software Magic UI 3
Android 10
Magic UI 3
Android 10
Magic UI 3
Android 10
Dimensions and weight 160.3 x 73.6 x 8.4mm
190g
160.3 x 73.6 x 8.4mm
186g
160.3 x 74.2 x 8.1mm
185g

Honor 30 Pro Plus vs Honor 30 Pro vs Honor 30: What’s the difference?

Before we get to the Pro Plus, let’s quickly run through the differences between the three Honor 30 phones.

As you can see from the specs table in the section above, the Honor 30 Pro Plus and Honor 30 Pro are fundamentally the same. You do get some enticing extras with the Plus variant like the 90Hz refresh rate display, 27W wireless charging, and more storage as standard.

honor 30 pro plus review hero

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The standard Honor 30 is the outlier with its less powerful processor, flat display (vs the waterfall design), and lack of an IP54 rating.

All three phones differ in the camera department. Each uses Huawei’s patented RYYB color setup for the main camera, but the Pro Plus bumps the megapixels from 40MP to 50MP. The standard model drops the ultra-wide lens to 8MP instead of 16MP, but does gain a 2MP macro camera.

All of the phones are also 5G ready (non-standalone/standalone), but do not support mmWave.

What’s the Honor 30 Pro Plus like to use?

In many ways, the Honor 30 Pro Plus is a cheaper facsimile of the Huawei P40 Pro. That includes the overall design language, which is a near-perfect mirror of Huawei’s flagship.

honor 30 pro plus review logo

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

I say near-perfect because of the branding. I don’t mind a little bit of flair or subtle logos on the rear of a phone, but the enormous, all caps Honor name plastered on the back of the Honor 30 Pro Plus is an obscenity.

If you can look past that massive eyesore, the phone’s frosted glass gives off a soft blue/purple glow that is really pleasant on the eye and, ironically considering the unforgivable logo situation, far less gaudy than many recent China imports.

I should note that this branding monstrosity is only a problem with the Titanium Silver model and not the Midnight Black colorway, which also has a bling-tastic gold accent around the camera bump.

The enormous logo on the back of the Honor 30 Pro Plus is obscene.

One significant change from the Honor 20 series is the move to an in-display fingerprint sensor instead of a side-mounted reader. However, my success rate for unlocking the phone first time was much lower. Software-based face unlock is also available as an alternative.

What is a welcome upgrade is the display… mostly. The Full HD+ AMOLED panel pops with color, gets plenty bright, and like all Huawei/Honor phones, can be tweaked to the nth degree in Settings. It’s also a 90Hz panel which made zipping around the phone’s UI fluid and responsive.

The waterfall display, however, is an acquired taste — a taste I and many others don’t share. The way it flows into the delicate rear curve isn’t as severe as, say, the Mate 30 Pro, and I didn’t encounter any ghost touch issues, but it’s still impractical. There was also a slight yellow color shift towards the very edge.

I’m also not all that keen on the extra-wide punch-hole, though fans of wide-angle selfies may be happier to take the hit in screen real estate for that second front-facing shooter.

What’s the performance and battery life like?

The Honor 30 Pro Plus packs the same Kirin 990 SoC found in every Huawei flagship since the Mate 30 series debuted. Accompanied by 8GB of RAM, it should be no surprise that Honor’s affordable flagship rarely ever falters in the performance stakes.

Read more: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 vs Kirin 990 vs Exynos 990: How do they compare?

Those times it does fall behind other top-end chipsets are during gaming. The Mali GPU still lags behind the competition for playing intensive 3D games, but it’s a negligible hit.

The HiSilicon chipset is also known for its power efficiency. Paired with a 4,000mAh cell (and support for 40W fast charging), you’d expect at least all-day battery life and the Honor 30 Pro Plus doesn’t disappoint. I was averaging around seven hours of screen on time and could easily get through a day and a half without a recharge. That’s with the 90Hz refresh rate on all the time. Impressive.

Does the Honor 30 Pro Plus have Google apps and services?

honor 30 pro plus review petal search app stores

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

No, the Honor 30 Pro Plus does not offer native support for Google apps and services.

Like every other new Honor and Huawei phone — that isn’t a revised version of an older model — the entire Honor 30 series is based on an AOSP build of Android and does not officially support the Google Play Store, Google apps, or Google Play Services. That doesn’t mean you can’t get all three working with some tinkering, but you’ll have to plod through workarounds and endure varying levels of hassle to do so.

Instead, Huawei has its own app store called App Gallery and its own core services (HMS). Check out our App Gallery deep dive here for more on what to expect, but the bottom line is that a vast majority of apps you likely use every day are not available via Huawei’s storefront.

honor 30 pro plus review petal search netflix

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

While that might sound annoying (and it is), Huawei has clearly been working hard to improve the app situation despite the heavy restrictions forced upon it. Phone Clone is a handy app that lets you copy over almost every app from another Android device, while the Petal Search app (pictured above) will scour trusted APK sites to find apps from third-party sources. Both are available on the App Gallery.

Unfortunately, for all of Huawei’s commendable work, some apps obtained outside of the App Gallery either won’t work or will suffer from reduced functionality due to the lacking Google services. As an example, Netflix will only play in sub-HD quality and Uber can’t function at all due to the missing location API.

How are the cameras?

honor 30 pro plus review camera 3

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Honor 30 Pro Plus has a triple camera setup that pairs a RYYB primary shooter with an ultra-wide camera and a periscope telephoto lens with OIS that supports 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and up to 50x digital zoom.

The main camera is identical to the one found on the P40 Pro and P40 Pro Plus — a massive 1/1.28-inch sensor that uses Huawei’s unique RYYB color filter configuration. That’s some serious pedigree and the results are almost uniformly spectacular. Photos offer excellent levels of detail, impressive color accuracy, wide dynamic range, and solid exposure.

Low-light performance is also fantastic. There’s a night mode in the camera app, but the regular shooting mode actually does a better job at limiting noise — just check out the comparison below.

Honor 30 Pro Plus — StandardHonor 30 Pro Plus — Night Mode Honor 30 Pro Plus — Standard

Honor 30 Pro Plus — Night Mode

The telephoto periscope camera is a slight downgrade from the P40 Pro, but still punches above its weight at the phone’s price point. This is especially true for any shots at 5x optical zoom where slight oversharpening issues are only really noticeable when cropping in. 10x hybrid zoom images are still decent enough, though anything beyond that turns into mush.

The ultra-wide camera has a few stumbles with color accuracy and the field-of-view isn’t quite as wide as some premium alternatives, but it still delivers crisp, dynamic images.

The Honor 30 Pro Plus has two front-facing cameras. Once you’ve turned the aggressive beauty mode off the standard and wide-angle selfie cameras both produce some great shots, though you lose some detail using the latter.

Video capture is solid, with support for up to 4K 60fps and impressive stabilization. Slo-mo capture at up to a ridiculous 1920fps is also good fun, though this is only available at 720p.

For full resolution sample photos from the Honor 30 Pro Plus camera check out the Drive folder here.

Related: Camera shootout: OnePlus 8 Pro vs Galaxy S20 Plus vs Huawei P40 Pro

What else is good about the Honor 30 Pro Plus?

honor 30 pro plus review rear

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Wireless charging — The Honor 30 Pro Plus supports Huawei’s 27W fast wireless charging tech and even has 5W reverse wireless charging.

IR blaster — An increasingly rare feature on modern smartphones, but always a welcome one for those that are prone to losing remote controls.

IP rating — A first for an Honor phone, the Honor 30 Pro Plus has been officially rated for protection against splashes of water.

Future-proofed — The Honor 30 Pro Plus supports 5G (Cat6) and Wi-Fi 6. Neither are particularly widespread right now, but it’s always good to know your phone won’t be obsolete with a year.

Dual speakers — The Honor 30 Pro Plus has a bottom-firing speaker but offers stereo audio via a secondary speaker in the earpiece. The sound is surprisingly rich even at high volumes.

What’s not so good about the Honor 30 Pro Plus?

Expensive expandable storage — While it’s great to have the option of expandable storage, Huawei’s proprietary Nano Memory cards are near double the price of a regular MicroSD card.

Magic UI — Honor’s take on Huawei’s EMUI platform suffers from the same information overload issues as its sister skin. Too many redundant stock apps, the odd bit of bloatware, and menus overflowing with options, many of which you’ll never use.

Honor 30 Pro Plus review: Should you buy it?

honor 30 pro plus review name

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The more appropriate question is can you actually buy it, and the answer is: it’s complicated. An Honor spokesperson confirmed the brand currently has no plans to bring the Honor 30 Pro Plus, or any of the Honor 30 series for that matter, to markets outside of China and Russia.

While you can import the phone from online retailers like Giztop, that’ll get you the Chinese model which is — as was the case with the model I reviewed — overloaded with regional bloatware and a handful features that don’t have English language options.

The Honor 30 Pro Plus is Honor’s best phone to date, but ultimately it’s as tricky to recommend as it is to actually buy.

That’s a shame, because for all the things going against the Honor 30 Pro Plus, it’s the kind of niche appeal phone that would be perfect for the right kind of buyer. It feels churlish to call the Honor 30 Pro Plus a “cheap P40 Pro,” but for all intents and purposes that’s what it is — a mildly downgraded, far more affordable version of the ultimate camera phone.

In fact, the Honor 30 Pro Plus actually represents a much better deal than the €799 vanilla P40, which has an inferior camera setup, reduced charging options, and is missing a high refresh rate display.

Even putting the oddly restrictive availability situation to one side, the Honor 30 Pro Plus suffers from another glaring problem. No, not that hideous, ginormous logo on the back — I’m talking, of course, about the lack of Google services. No number of helpful workarounds can remedy the fact that Honor’s phone is at an immediate handicap against other recent non-Huawei/Honor devices.

honor 30 pro plus review hero 2

Credit: Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

There’s also the question of pricing. The upcoming Google Pixel 4a may challenge the Honor P30 Pro Plus for point-and-shoot photography, but it’d be a struggle to find any phone at the €600-€700 price point that can go toe-to-toe with Honor’s latest as a complete camera package.

If photography isn’t at the top of your wishlist, however, there are no shortage of similarly priced and in some cases even cheaper phones from rival Chinese brands that offer a better all-round package.

Related: The best budget phones you can currently buy

The obvious candidates are the OnePlus 8 (€699/£599), Realme X50 Pro (€599/£569), and Poco F2 Pro (€499/£549), which all outpace the Honor 30 Pro Plus on performance thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 SoC. They also all have Google services.

The Honor 30 Pro Plus is Honor’s best phone to date, but ultimately it’s a phone that’s as tricky to recommend as it is to actually buy.

Honor 30 Pro Plus

The Honor 30 Pro Plus is the Huawei sub-brand’s best phone to date and a better all-round package than the vanilla Huawei P40.

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