Huawei’s new P50 Pro is a megapixel fiend. While it doesn’t sport a 108MP camera like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, its combined pixel count across its four rear cameras clocks in at over 160MP. That’s spread across an interesting new camera system, which includes a 40MP monochrome camera, and a 64MP periscope camera.
This is a great start, for an undeniably challenged smartphone. Powering the phone is a modified Snapdragon 888 with 5G disabled. Why the handicap? Because of sanctions against Huawei, preventing it from using Qualcomm’s 5G technology. Then there’s the Google app situation – Huawei’s running this phone with EMUI 12, its own interface with no Google Play Services access.
But between the phone’s impressive design and screen, ample storage and smart ecosystem of products working really well together – the MateBook laptop line works fantastically with the P50 Pro, is there still a place for this phone in our hearts, pockets and palms?
See also: Best Huawei phones
The P50 Pro is dust and water-resistant glass and metal mix, and it looks like a natural successor to the Huawei P30 Pro, with its curved front and back, matched with a high-gloss metal frame.
Available in Cocoa Gold and Golden Black, both sport a mirror finish, so the P50 Pro loves fingerprints. Thankfully, though, the phone ships with a case that does a much better job of keeping smudges at bay.
When freshly polished, the phone does look very good as it catches the light, and its stepped camera surround commands attention, teasing the new camera mix on display. As for buttons, they’re all on the right, while the phone’s IR blaster at the top.
Huawei’s finally upped its flagship OLED display to 120Hz, so scrolling menus glide. The 6.6-inch screen’s also 10-bit, displaying over a billion colors, and making gradients look even smoother. With a high pixel density of around 450 pixels-per-inch, clarity is also on-point, and its 20:9 aspect ratio is versatile for different forms of content.
From a software point of view, Huawei also checks all the right boxes – there’s a comprehensive Eye Comfort mode and ample control over display white balance.
The Huawei P50 Pro’s main camera module features a 50 MP primary camera matched with an f/1.8 aperture lens, a 24mm focal length and OIS. At first glance, this matches the main camera’s specs across both last years’ P40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro.
With a 13 MP ultra-wide camera sporting an f/2.2 aperture, the P50 Pro is poised to capture expansive shots at a 13mm focal length, and with autofocus, the ultra-wide module also captures macro photos as close as 2.5cm.
With the highest-resolution periscope camera we’ve seen, the 64 MP telephoto module features an f/3.5 aperture and OIS and a 92mm focal length, making for an almost 4x optical zoom range when matched with the main camera.
The fourth camera around the back of the phone is a 40 MP monochrome module , with an f/1.6 aperture. Huawei terms this camera system its True-Form Dual-Matrix Camera, which sounds a bit puffed up, but Huawei claims the system takes in 103% more light than the P40 Pro, which can only be a good thing.
It’s worth noting that Huawei’s front camera is also well specked, with its resolution of 13MP, matched with a wide-angle of 18mm, an f/2.4 aperture and autofocus. Also impressive is the fact the front camera shoots 4K video up to 60fps.
As for shooting modes, it’s familiar Huawei fare: Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, Pro, Monochrome, Stickers, High-Res, Panorama, Time-lapse, Dual-view, Snapshot, Slow-mo and AR lens modes.
The P50 Pro’s photo and video capture are the phone’s standout highlights.
Starting with photos, detail from the main camera impresses, and while there’s clear sharpening behind the scenes, and things can look a touch waxy up close, the full photo effect is almost always strong.
In fact, the main camera is so good, we just wanted to shoot with it all the time which wasn’t always possible. The ultra-wide automatically fires up for macro shots and we wish it didn’t, as macro shots and middling light photos taken on the ultra-wide are only ever good, seldom great.
Colour and saturation is also an area the main camera performs well, but the ultra-wide drops the ball, with artificial lighting throwing it off. The same is true of noise handling – the wide camera can take excellent photos of black-heavy scenes, while the ultra-wide pulls out very clearly softened color noise.
In bright environments, however, the Huawei P50 Pro’s quad-camera system shines. Its telephoto module wipes the floor with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and OnePlus 9 Pro when it comes to clarity, and while it can’t match the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, it nevertheless produces impressive optical/digital zoom at up to 10x magnification.
The phone’s selfie camera is also great, and the fact it features autofocus means it’s one of the few front cameras capable of capturing any kind of natural depth blur – even if very subtle. Its photos are flattering on the whole, and it’s just another area the P50 Pro’s camera shines in areas often neglected by manufacturers like Sony.
Video shot on the P50 Pro looks excellent, especially if shot in bright environments. Stabilization is amongst the best we’ve used on a smartphone, and crisp.
Powered by a modified 5G-disabled Snapdragon 888 processor with 8GB RAM, while the P50 Pro is powerful, it’s probably the only mainstream phone that costs over $1,000 without 5G. While 5G still isn’t a must-have, if you’ve invested a bit of extra cash on a 5G phone plan, or know your area has 5G coverage and you’ll want to take advantage of it, then Huawei’s latest will be a tough sell.
The P50 Pro also struggles with its interface. While Google’s Android is now less adulterated than ever, with the likes of OnePlus, OPPO and Sony creating relatively stock experiences, and Android 12 rolling out across Samsung’s 2021 line-up, the Huawei P50 Pro runs EMUI 12. While it’s a bold effort from Huawei to plug gaps across third-party app support, APIs and services, it’s clearly a huge undertaking that is still in progress.
There are some big user experience wins. The whole UI is smooth on the whole, and the phone’s multi-screen interaction across Huawei’s laptops and tablets shows computer and smartphone makers how it's done. While it doesn’t out-convenience Apple’s iPhone/Mac integration, it’s arguably more powerful, with full smartphone control from your Huawei laptop or tablet.
With 256GB storage, there’s also plenty of space for all your files, photos and apps, and rounding off with a 4360mAh battery, which charges at up to 66W wired and 50W wireless, you can get a full power-up in under an hour.
For a phone in its price bracket, the Huawei P50 Pro needs to be a complete package. While it combines an excellent camera with rock-solid Snapdragon 888 performance and slick looks topped off with a great screen though, for many in the West, it will be almost impossible to recommend.
Specifically, anyone who relies on any Google service like Google Docs and Meet, Drive (necessary for WhatsApp backup transfer). We also just prefer Apple and Google’s stock newsfeed and the app store experience as Huawei’s AppGallery and Petal Search is starting to feel a bit too much like a marketplace spilling over with ads.
Factor in the lack of 5G, and the P50 Pro has one too many obstacles holding it back from being a good buy for anyone not actively avoiding Google, even if it is arguably the best camera phone of 2022 so far.
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