Hands on with the Huawei P40

Everything you need to know about Huawei’s new flagship 5G smartphone

02 Apr 2020

The annual launch of Huawei’s flagship ‘P’ series of smartphones has become quite an event for phone lovers in recent years, but this year marks a significant progression. The latest additions to Huawei’s line-up, the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro Plus are the first in the series to include 5G technology and use Huawei’s own mobile services instead of Google. More about that later.

5G is still very new in the UK, so it’s a feature you probably won’t see in mid-range smartphones for the time being. While the Huawei P40 is very much a high-end handset, it is the first in the P40 trio, effectively pitching it as the closest to mid-range 5G currently goes. So, how does it get on?


The look and feel

What caught our eye straight away was the ‘hole punch’ design of the selfie camera. It’s the first time that the ‘P’ series has moved away from the central notch that we’re all now familiar with, and it’s certainly a bold design choice.  

Since the selfie camera is actually comprised of two lenses, it’s about as discreet as it can be. And surprisingly, it’s really not that noticeable when you’re browsing or watching content.

Check out that display though. It may not flow over the edges like the P40 Pro, but the screen still covers almost the entire front of the phone. At 6.1-inches, this OLED panel is big enough to watch TV shows and YouTube clips, and compact enough to still feel comfy well into use.

Glass-backed phones tend to be fingerprint magnets, so it’s nice that the P40 adds a matte layer to keep it smooth. It still has that sturdy, premium feel, but you’re not compelled to reach for the screen wipes whenever you take your phone out of your pocket.


Power for days

The P40 is powered by the same tried-and-tested 5G-ready processor as the Mate 30 Pro and folding Huawei Mate XS. The first thing you’ll notice when you open apps from the home screen on the P40 is just how responsive it is. Every command you give feels natural, while the on-screen reaction is instant.

Minutes into browsing, it’s clear to see that all this power is made for the 5G future. The processor has been designed by Huawei specifically for their phones, but it’s got more than enough power to rival more commonly used Android processors like the Snapdragon 855.

So long as you’re using 5G, buffering wheels have no place on this phone. The Kirin 990 processor is capable of download speeds up to 2.3 Gbps, which is pretty much a whole movie in a second. So, even when you’re streaming a 4K video while flicking between other apps, it doesn’t feel any slower.

If you like to save your files directly on your handset, don’t be upset to learn that there’s no trade-up for storage, here. You get 128GB of space and 8GB RAM as standard, but that’s plenty to run all your big apps at once. As for the storage, the P40 has no problem storing a library of Full HD feature-length movies, and there’s still room for a memory card when you need it.


Snap happy

Be prepared to seriously impress your Instagram followers with your camera work. The rear camera consists of a 50 MP Wide Angle, 16 MP Ultra-Wide and 8 MP telephoto lens to shoot everything from close-up portraits to distant, sweeping horizons. There’s also a 3x optical zoom to make sure you get all that detail at a distance. No filters required even when the lighting’s a little off, as the processor reduces image noise in real time. Because it minimises graininess and lets it floods of light, you can really go for that perfect night-time shot and get it spot-on.

The AI is definitely worth a mention when it comes to the P40’s photography skills You can instantly remove any passers-by in the back of your profile-worthy shot with the tap of a button. Or, if you’re taking a photo of a museum exhibit through glass, it can single out the layer of reflective light and get rid of it for you.

The same goes for videos. Recordings are super-sharp and noticeably smooth at 60 frames per second in 4K, twice the frame rate of many phones with 4K capabilities. The selfie camera also records in 4K, so video calling gets a serious upgrade too.


Intuitive navigation

We’ve always thought that Huawei’s EMUI interface offers one of the best Android experiences out there, and that continues on the Huawei P40. Navigating through settings feels simple, and you have the freedom to fully make the home screen your own.

You can opt for an app drawer, to view all your apps in alphabetical order or find the one you need with a search bar. That’s great for keeping home screen pages to a minimum, with only your essential apps. Or, if you’re moving over from iPhone, you may prefer to go without the app drawer and keep all your apps on the home screen like on iOS. It really is up to you.

This is the first Huawei flagship to run on Huawei Mobile Services instead of the widely used Google Mobile Services, so of course, there’s no apps like Maps and Google Drive. However, there are still loads of apps to choose from in Huawei’s App Gallery, and plenty more to come too. Plus, it already comes with apps that make more than useful alternatives to Google apps, like Huawei Mobile Cloud and the Huawei Browser. So, you won’t miss out on any key functions.

The Huawei P40 is available now in Black and Silver Frost, and will soon be available in Ice White, Blush Gold and Deep Sea Blue.


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