Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro: Worth a yearly upgrade?

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro front 3

The Mate 30 Pro takes the baton from last year’s Mate 20 Pro as Huawei’s flagship phablet for those who love maximum screen real estate and cutting edge technology. Both handsets received solid scores in our reviews, offering impressive battery life, camera capabilities, and performance. Of course, you’ll have to pay upwards of €1,000 or £1,000 to get your hands on all the goodies, making them some of the more expensive phones around.

Huawei’s Mate series is its showcase for the latest and greatest technology it has to offer. The question this year is whether Huawei’s latest hardware is convincing enough to entice premium tier customers, despite the absence of the Play Store. If not, does the Mate 20 Pro still stand up as a worthy purchase?

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro specs

  Huawei Mate 30 Pro Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Display 6.53-inch curved OLED, Horizon Display
2,400 x 1,176 resolution
6.39-inch curved OLED
3,120 x 1,440 resolution
Processor Huawei Kirin 990
Octa-core CPU (2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.86GHz, 2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.36GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.95GHz)
Dual NPU
Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 Cortex-A76 @ 2.6GHz, 2 Cortex-A76 @ 192GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz)
Single NPU
RAM 8GB 6/8GB
Storage 128/256GB
Nano-Memory slot
128/256GB
Nano-Memory slot
Cameras Rear:
40MP f/1.6 with OIS
40MP f/1.6 ultra-wide
8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto with OIS
3D depth sensor

Video: 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/960fps, 720p at 7680fps

Front:
32MP f/2.0
Rear:
40MP f/1.8
20MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
8MP f/2.4 3x telephoto with OIS

Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30/60fps, 720p at 960fps

Front:
24MP f/2.0
Battery 4500mAh
Non-removable
40W wired charging
27W wireless charging
4200mAh
Non-removable
40W wired charging
15W wireless charging
Audio Sound on Screen technology
USB-C
No 3.5mm port
USB-C
No 3.5mm port
Security 3D face unlock
In-display fingerprint
3D face unlock
In-display fingerprint
Software EMUI 10
Android 10
EMUI 9.1
Android 9
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8mm
198 grams
157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm
189 grams

The Mate 30 Pro boasts Huawei’s latest Kirin 990 chipset paired with 8GB of RAM and either 128 or 256GB storage. However, the Kirin 980 is no slouch. There are only minor clock speed differences between the two that you certainly won’t notice for most day-to-day apps. However, the Kirin 990 pulls ahead with machine learning and image processing capabilities. It also boosts Huawei’s graphics efficiency up another notch, making it a better choice for gamers.

It’s tougher to pull the phones apart on memory configurations. Both offer 128 or 256GB of internal storage. There’s the option to expand further through Huawei’s proprietary Nano-Memory card slot. Although a more universal microSD card slot would be preferred. Needless to say, the performance is great on both phones.

Design, display, and hardware

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro waterfall display

The two handsets share similar hardware elsewhere, with 3D face unlock capabilities, 40W wired charging, and a fancy in-display fingerprint scanner. The Mate 30 Pro offers a few updates though, supporting 27W wireless charging, up from 15W previously. The screen adopts the P30 Pro’s “Sound on Screen” technology, negating the need for a front speaker by playing sound through the display. All very cool features that go some way to justify the phone’s high price tag.

Editor's Pick

Speaking of displays, this is where you’ll find one of the most noticeable differences between the two. The Mate 30 Pro debuted a waterfall curved display that extends right around the side of the handset. Bezels are even thinner than the Mate 20 Pro, making for an undeniably striking look. However, I agree with Bogdan’s assessment that function is definitely sacrificed to form here. The power button is oddly placed due to the display and the software volume controls are a pain to use.

The Mate 30 Pro offers iterative rather than revolutionary hardware improvements.

Despite the Mate 30 Pro’s larger 6.53-inch display, the panel’s lower resolution produces a pixel density of 409ppi compared to 538ppi with the Mate 20 Pro. Even so, the Mate 30 Pro’s display is still very sharp and goes to show that Quad HD verges on overkill.

The waterfall display also makes the Huawei Mate 30 Pro feel heftier in the hand, despite only being 0.2mm thicker than the Mate 20 Pro. The phone also weighs 9g more, which adds to the effect, though neither phone is too bulky. Overall, the Mate 20 Pro does a better job of making the phablet form factor feel slim and easy to handle.

Quality photos in every situation

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro cameras

Huawei prides itself on photography excellence and both of these two handsets live up to the hype. On paper, there are some clear similarities between the two. Both feature a 40MP main camera, 8MP telephoto lens with a 3x zoom, and a wide-angle camera. Unsurprisingly, both are some of the best shooters around.

The Huawei Mate 30 Pro differentiates itself with its SuperSpectrum RYYB sensor for superior low light capture, 40MP wide-angle lens (albeit with a smaller field of view), a higher-resolution selfie camera, and a dedicated TOF sensor for better software bokeh processing. These small changes add up, but refine rather than overhaul Huawei’s familiar photography experience. Thanks to some processing enhancements, the Mate 30 Pro is the marginally better shooter in certain scenarios.

Cropping in on pictures reveals some slight detail improvements with the Mate 30 Pro, particularly when using the 3x zoom camera. The phone’s pictures are also slightly more colorful and offer a bolder contrast between light and shadow. This isn’t always for the best. See the wide-angle camera sample above. The biggest difference comes when shooting in the dark. The Mate 20 Pro is very capable and boasts a Night shooting mode when the main camera can’t cope. However, the Mate 30 Pro offers superior point and clip capabilities. The main sensor captures remarkable amounts of color and detail even in almost complete darkness.

Read: Huawei Mate 30 Pro camera review – Low-light king!

EMUI and the elephant in the room

Huawei AppGallery

Of course, you can’t talk about the Huawei Mate 30 Pro without talking about the absence of the Play Store and other popular Google services. We won’t dwell on this obvious drawback, other than to say that fans of Google Pay, Play Music, and Google Assistant will want to steer clear.

Unfortunately, Huawei’s AppGallery is not very developed at this stage. I could only find a handful of popular apps in the UK store version. This included Amazon Shopping, Fortnite, NornVPN, Opera Mini browser, and a few airline and travel apps. There are plenty of glaring omissions, such as Facebook, Instagram, PUBG, and WhatsApp.

What you will find is an abundance of unscrupulous apps designed to dupe users into thinking they’re popular apps. Logos are blatantly copied and abused, apps are riddled with ads, and functionality is basically non-existent. There appears to be very little policing of content. Fortunately, I also have the Google Play Store installed on this particular Mate 30 Pro and I can’t recommend using the phone without it.

Unfortunately, a couple of methods to manually install the Play Store and GMS have already come and gone. The original method involving LZPlay.net is now offline. A second workaround involving HiSuite Restore has removed its downloadable resources, too. It’s a rather complicated procedure, but it should still work in theory. Even so, devices are failing SafetyNet too, meaning no Google Pay and other secure services even if you get the Play Store installed. In a nutshell, the situation doesn’t look good for the Mate 30 Pro.

Besides this rather large issue, Huawei’s EMUI 10 OS is a decent incremental improvement on the Mate 20’s EMUI 9. Performance is snappy on both phones. There’s also the same excellent gesture navigation, should you want to use it. However, it’s EMUI 10’s magazine-style interface, improved settings layout, and dark mode that clearly make it Huawei’s best Android software version to date.

Huawei has already confirmed that EMUI 10 is heading to the Mate 20 Pro by the end of the year. So there’s no need to upgrade hardware to get the best of Huawei’s software features.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro: the verdict

Huawei Mate 30 Pro front

Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro is clearly a piece of cutting edge engineering that showcases the best technology Huawei has to offer. Although I have my reservations about the waterfall display — it looks great but is a little impractical. However, the camera and video hardware, EMUI 10, and Kirin 990 SoC are all notable upgrades that make the Mate 30 Pro arguably the best smartphone around.

That said, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is still in great shape a year later. Processing hardware is good enough these days that the Kirin 980 still flies through most apps, although the Kirin 990 is the better choice for gamers. The phone’s camera hardware also holds up very well and the in-display fingerprint reader, 3D face unlock, and curved display are still undeniably high-end. With large discounts beginning to appear, the Mate 20 Pro is a downright steal.

The Mate 20 Pro remains in great shape a year later, offering comparable hardware to many 2019 flagships.

Inevitably, I can’t escape talking about the app problem. Without a decent app catalog, it’s impossible to recommend the Mate 30 Pro despite the hardware improvements. Of course, the handset is yet to make its debut outside of China, so this isn’t a choice many consumers have to weigh just yet. If Huawei can solve the app situation, then I’ll change my verdict. For now, the Mate 20 Pro remains a preferable option for phablet fans.

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