If you’ve been following HUAWEI and its development over the past quinquennial, you know very well that the two flagships, the spring P-series, and the autumn Mate-series are two different animals.
The P40 – which earned our Road Warrior award for the Pro version, and the Best Camera of 2020 for the Pro+ variant – is aimed towards the creative, focusing on multimedia and photography. The Mate-series is the one pushing the limits of performance. It is also the device that usually introduces the latest iteration of the Kirin chipset, and other advancements.
HUAWEI decided to spruce up the color palette of the Mate 40 Pro, offering it in White, Black, Olive Green, Sunflower Yellow, and the very interesting, chameleonic, Mystic Silver we have over here.
This color option shifts shades from dull silver all the way to red, through orange, yellow, green, and starting from blue. It’s got most of the colors in the spectrum if the proper light hits it at the right angle. The matte finish of the glass also helps keep fingerprints to a decent amount.
The display is curved towards the edges, and so are all the extremities of the back panel. This makes the phone incredibly easy to grab, and ergonomic. The buttons are easily reachable with the power button on the lower side being painted in vibrant red. The volume rockers are placed towards the top, but you also have the option to control output via the virtual buttons on the left side of the display.
At first, I didn’t know what to think about the round, Oreo-like camera arrangement on the back, with the Leica branding in its middle, painted with the same color-shifting shade as the rest of the phone’s backside. I guess this makes it a circle, rather than a disc or an Oreo. You catch my drift. HUAWEI calls it “the Space Ring”.
Overall, we think HUAWEI nailed it with the design, materials, and overall finish of the Mate 40 Pro. That is why Pocketnow decided to honor the HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro with its Editor’s Choice Award for design.
The Mate 40 Pro, as the case with any Mate model before it, is a beast. It is powered by the 5nm octa-core last-gen Kirin 9000 processor, which contains a 24-core Mali G78 GPU, three NPUs, as well as modems capable of operating on most 5G networks and frequencies.
Couple that with 8GB of RAM and future-proofing just got an entirely new meaning. It also features 256GB of storage, and a 4,400mAh battery capable of 66W wired, and 50W fast wireless charging.
The display is a gorgeous 6.76-inch OLED panel with an FHD+ resolution of 2772 x 1344 pixels and a max refresh rate of 90Hz. Aside from the fact that it’s a gorgeous display, it is also extremely curved around the edges, to the point where content flows over almost to a 90-degree angle.
Underneath the display, you’ll find a fingerprint scanner that is fast and accurate and gives you an easy alternative to unlock your phone in case facial recognition fails, you know, due to the fact that you’re wearing a mask most of the time when you’re out.
On the back, you’ll find a trio of 50MP Ultra Vision Camera (Wide Angle, f/1.9 aperture), 20MP Cine Camera (Ultra-Wide Angle, f/1.8 aperture), and 12MP Telephoto Camera (f/3.4 aperture, OIS), as well as the LED flash.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t handled a smartphone snappier than the Mate 40 Pro in the past 12 months. Whether it’s the fast processor, the amount of memory, or EMUI 11 (or a combination of all the aforementioned), I really don’t know, but it’s wicked!
Throw at it whatever you want and it will instantly execute without breaking a sweat. It does that both fresh after a restart as well as running without a reboot for days.
We won’t bore you with benchmarks and other analytical information (there are other reviews out there that specifically focus on that) as we here at Pocketnow believe in real-life performance.
Now, whether you’re playing a demanding game, like Asphalt 9 Legends, or you have several other applications running in the background, you won’t feel any lag, delay, or hiccups.
While we weren’t able to test out 5G due to the lack of service in this particular region, we can safely say that the same performance is translated to WiFi and 4G as well. Data speeds are right there at the upper limit of what the service provider guarantees. Phone calls and general call audio is crisp and clear, and limited only by the quality of your service provider (for instance Hi-Fi voice is only available if both parties’ phones, and their carriers, support it). That is not the case with calls placed on WhatsApp or Facebook, where the quality is crisp and clear.
This brings us to the speakers. The Mate 40 Pro has a pair of rather powerful speakers, one at the top, and one at the bottom, for stereo effect. They are not only loud, but they produce a rather surprising high-quality sound, considering where that sound is coming from (a phone).
HUAWEI has literally spoiled us with the performance of the cameras it equips its phones with. The triple-camera setup on the Mate 40 Pro is no different. It is needless to say that it’s one of the best camera phones out there, competing head to head with its other siblings in the Mate 40 line-up, as well as the P40 lineup.
Regardless of what you decide to capture for posterity, the Mate 40 Pro will not disappoint, let it be landscapes, close-ups, portraits, etc. Colors are accurate, contrast and depth are spot-on, and with the improved focal length of the ultra-wide camera, you’ll get great results. These are also due to the free form lens Huawei decided to use on the Mate 40 Pro, where an uneven shape is utilized to reduce and sometimes completely remove distortions.
HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro zoom increment samples
HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro selfie shots
When it comes to the telephoto lens, you have the option to zoom in optically up to 5X. Since it’s an optical zoom, and it’s heavily stabilized, the quality of the pictures is exceptional. There’s also the option to go further with digital zoom, but we’d advise you to keep it towards the lower end.
And, again, when it comes to low light, Huawei does such a great job that oftentimes night photos are as bright as if they were taken at dawn or sunrise.
Turning to the front we can only commend Huawei for opting for a wide-angle lens for the selfie camera. It makes it easy to frame your shot, as well as gather more people inside the same frame, should you decide to not distance yourself socially.
Selfies snapped can often benefit from the effects you choose to apply, but you’ll be satisfied with the results even if you opt not to utilize one.
This elephant in this same room has been addressed so many times before that I feel I’m writing the same paragraphs every time I review a modern HUAWEI smartphone.
Yes, it’s Google! I won’t beat the same dead horse once again. The status quo has become the “norm”, so I think it’s time the world shifts from a complaining/wishful thinking/criticizing mindset to just accepting the product for what it is.
EMUI 11 is based on AOSP Android 11, and, instead of Google Play, you get your apps officially from the HUAWEI AppGallery, or unofficially (at your own risk) from one of the various services out there.
So instead, we’ll be looking at the present and the future. HUAWEI is not only committed to, but has already proven that it can build a solid alternative ecosystem. The AppGallery is expanding every day and yes, while it’s still far behind the Play Store, chances are more and more apps are available every day, slowly filling in the gap.
Solid Google Maps alternatives are represented by TomTom and Here Maps, local banking apps are being added (localized to each country), Bolt is available as an Uber alternative, so yes, there’s an app gap, but it’s closing slowly to the point where the absence of Google and its services is really manageable.
HUAWEI did a nifty little thing with Quick Apps. You go to a website, like YouTube for instance, and it loads the mobile version of the page (which is pretty much as close as you can get to the mobile app functionality-wise). With Quick Apps, you can send that page directly to your home screen, retaining the icon and everything, so for an untrained eye it would seem like it’s the regular app you have installed.
You can do that with Google Maps, Gmail, and pretty much every other service that has a mobile-optimized web offering. Trust me, even if one or two features are missing (which is on the company that’s offering the service, not HUAWEI), it’s as close as it gets.
HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro review: conclusion
Sure, I’ve been commending and recommending modern HUAWEI smartphones for years now. Their solid build quality, great design, snappy performance, stellar cameras, and the all around experience makes it easy to recommend them hardware-wise.
But it’s the software and services that really made me hold back just a little in recommending a purchase, especially for those who are not advanced users to the point where you can make this work by spending a little extra time and tinkering with the software.
This has now changed thanks to HUAWEI’s efforts. Sure, the product is continuously improving hardware-wise from the predecessor to successor, and that’s easy to recommend, but it’s the company’s software and ecosystem efforts that allow me to finally recommend HUAWEI’s flagship without major reservations, and I think that’s the most important conclusion to our HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro review.
And the thing is, with top-notch hardware components inside the Mate 40 Pro, it’s future proof enough to where it will still be a top performer down the line when the HMS ecosystem will continue developing into what HUAWEI’s vision is down the road.
HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro review: Pros and Cons
– a tad on the expensive side;
– some apps might not be available yet.