Huawei has raised its game in the last two years, with the Chinese manufacturer consistently rolling out flagships that go up against the best that Samsung and Google have to offer. The P30 Pro is its most ambitious device yet, and its 5x optical zoom lens breaks new ground for mobile photography. Google, meanwhile, is continuing to leverage its software skills to differentiate the Pixel 3 XL. Even though the phone has just a single sensor at the back, it manages to take astounding photos. Simply put, you won't find better phones for taking photos.
Two flagships with entirely different philosophies
Even with a cursory glance it's easy to make out that the P30 Pro and Pixel 3 XL are nothing alike. Huawei's design aesthetic has come a long way in the last two years, and the result is that the P30 Pro is one of the best-looking phones — if not the best overall — around. The front of the phone has a tiny waterdrop notch, and the back has an evocative gradient pattern.
The P30 Pro in Breathing Crystal hue is one of the most gorgeous phones I've used to date.
Gradients aren't new to Huawei, but this year the brand has introduced new color options that make the P30 Pro stand out. There's an Amber Sunrise model that looks stunning, and the Breathing Crystal option I'm using is downright gorgeous. It's safe to say that I haven't used a phone that looks better. The
Google hasn't changed its design aesthetic considerably from last year's Pixel 2 series, and the Pixel 3 XL ends up looking rather plain next to the P30 Pro's gradient colors. The wide cutout in particular makes the phone look ugly, but it has its upsides: the dual cameras up front are the best you'll find on any phone today, and you get stereo sound.
In terms of usability, the P30 Pro is taller and narrower than the Pixel 3 XL, and the quad camera array at the back protrudes from the chassis. The cutout is also significantly smaller, but it comes at the expense of an earpiece — sound is transmitted via the display itself. It works well enough, but it isn't as good as having a dedicated earpiece. The Pixel 3 XL, meanwhile, has a large grille that splits both front cameras, and this doubles up as a secondary speaker in addition to being the earpiece.
Like its predecessor, the P30 Pro features an FHD+ panel, and the OLED display is vibrant and has excellent colors. That said, the screen on the Pixel 3 XL is better not just in terms of resolution but also overall quality. Right now, the Pixel 3 XL is only second to the Galaxy S10+ when it comes to display quality, and that's evident when you use it alongside the P30 Pro.
Both phones also have IP68 dust and water resistance, and wireless charging. The P30 Pro goes even further and offers reverse wireless charging, allowing the device to charge accessories wirelessly.
Pixel 3 XL has better haptics and stereo sound, but the P30 Pro has much better battery life.
The Pixel 3 XL may not have a flashy design, but it wins out in other areas. The haptics are the best you'll find on an Android phone today, and while the P30 Pro does a decent enough job in this regard, it doesn't come close to the Pixel 3 XL. Then there's stereo sound. The Pixel 3 XL has two speakers — one located on that wide cutout — that deliver vastly better sound than the P30 Pro.
The P30 Pro has an in-display sensor, and while it is using an optical module, I found it to be faster than other phones that have the same tech. It even outmatches the Galaxy S10+, which has an ultrasonic module. That said, the sensor is still not as reliable or fast as the traditional capacitive module on the Pixel 3 XL.
When it comes to performance, the P30 Pro takes the lead. The Snapdragon 845 on the Pixel 3 XL may not be the fastest chipset anymore, but it has plenty of grunt left. But what lets down the device is the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of base storage, both of which are paltry when you consider how much the phone costs.
The P30 Pro is much better in this regard, with Huawei offering 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage at the same price. The 7nm Kirin 980 chipset outmatches the Snapdragon 845, making the P30 Pro one of the fastest phones available today.
The P30 Pro also dominates the Pixel 3 XL when it comes to battery life. With a 4200mAh battery under the hood, it easily delivers two days' worth of use consistently. Huawei is still the only brand making flagships that deliver two-day battery life, and in over a month of usage I'm yet to see the battery go down below 20% after a day's worth of use.
Huawei's 40W fast charging is one of the best around, and it transforms the way you use the P30 Pro. With the charger able to top up the device from zero to 100% in just over 80 minutes, I no longer leave the phone for charging overnight.
Two of the best camera phones around
Just like with the design and hardware, Huawei and Google have taken entirely different paths when it comes to the camera capabilities. The P30 Pro has four cameras at the back, with a 40MP primary camera joined by a 20MP wide-angle lens and an all-new 8MP telephoto module that offers 5x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom.
On the Pixel 3 XL, meanwhile, you get a single 12MP sensor, with the module itself unchanged from last year. Google instead turned its attention to the software, tweaking away at software processing algorithms to deliver better photos.
The P30 Pro has the best camera overall, but the Pixel 3 XL is more consistent.
The P30 Pro takes better photos than the Pixel 3 in a few scenarios, and the phone in particular excels at challenging conditions with little to no lighting. That said, the Pixel 3 XL still takes consistently great photos, and it's a testament to the work Google has put into tweaking the camera software.
If I were to take ten photos with the Pixel 3 XL, I am confident that I'll get ten great shots. On the P30 Pro, however, I'll end up with seven amazing photos and three that are out of focus. So while the overall photo quality is better on the P30 Pro, Huawei is still missing that final little bit of finesse.
Huawei P30 Pro to the left, Pixel 3 XL to the right.
The P30 Pro has better dynamic range, and while the AI isn't as aggressive as before, it tends to blow out details in a few scenarios. That said, the P30 Pro takes much better photos in low-light conditions, and the default auto mode is so good that I never had to switch to the dedicated night mode.
Where the Pixel 3 XL wins out is portrait mode — it's staggering what the phone manages to deliver with a single camera sensor at the back. The P30 Pro's portrait mode just doesn't work with inanimate objects, but that is not an issue on the Pixel 3 XL. You can take portrait mode shots of just about anything. To put it another way, the P30 Pro is great at taking photos of people, and the Pixel 3 XL does a better job of taking photos of things.
That said, there is no parallel to the P30 Pro's 5x optical zoom lens. The dedicated module lets you zoom all the way up to 5x with zero loss in quality, and you can even go up to 10x hybrid zoom. Digital zoom goes all the way up to 50x, and while you'll see a significant degradation in quality at that point, I managed to get passable shots at 25x.
All the bells and whistles
|Category||Huawei P30 Pro||Google Pixel 3 XL|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie
|Android 9.0 Pie|
Gorilla Glass 5
|Chipset||HiSilicon Kirin 980
2 x 2.6GHz Cortex A76
2 x 1.92GHz Cortex A76
4 x 1.8GHz Cortex A55
4 x 2.85GHz Kryo 385 Gold
4 x 1.60GHz Kryo 385 Silver
|MicroSD slot||Nano Memory (up to 256GB)||No|
|Rear camera 1||40MP, f/1.6
Dual Pixel PDAF
|12.2 MP, f/1.8
Dual Pixel PDAF
|Rear camera 2||20MP, f/2.2
|Rear camera 3||8MP
5x optical zoom
10x digital zoom
|Rear camera 4||TOF 3D||No|
|Front camera 1||32MP, f/2.0
|Front camera 2||None||8MP, f/2.2
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
AptX HD, NFC, A-GPS
|Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
AptX, NFC, A-GPS
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)||Fingerprint (capacitive)|
|Dimensions||158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm
|158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
|Colors||Aurora, Amber Sunrise, Breathing Crystal, Black||Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink|
Clear winner on the software front
The Pixel 3 XL takes the lead on the software front for obvious reasons. EMUI has come a long way in the last 18 months, but it isn't anywhere close to what Google's offering on the Pixel 3 XL. The clean interface coupled with meaningful customizations make the Pixel 3 XL the standard-bearer on the software front.
If you care about software, Pixel 3 XL is the phone to get.
There are still lots of minor annoyances on the P30 Pro. EMUI doesn't let you access the notification shade when you get an incoming call, and the aggressive memory management kills background apps when the phone is idle.
There's also a staggering amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed on the P30 Pro, and while you can uninstall most apps, there are a few Huawei services that you can't. You do get a decent amount of customization options — including a system-wide dark theme — and the navigation gestures are similar to what you'd find on OxygenOS.
There's a feature similar to Digital Wellbeing called Digital balance that logs your screen time, number of notifications received, device unlocks, and time spent in individual apps. Huawei has done a commendable job with EMUI in recent years, but it still has a long way to go.
Huawei is also well behind Google when it comes to updates. Simply put, if you want a clean interface and timely updates, the Pixel 3 XL is the phone to get.
It comes down to you
Every year, I get dozens of phones for review. And after I finish reviewing a particular device, I go back to the Pixel. But this time around, I intend to use the P30 Pro long after I finish writing about the phone. Huawei's journey over the last 12 months has been interesting to say the least, but amid all the turbulence it has managed to consistently roll out great flagships.
These are two of the best camera phones around, and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I'd pick the P30 Pro over the Pixel 3 XL just because of the 5x optical zoom lens and the wide-angle mode, but having said that, I do prefer the Pixel 3 XL's portrait mode. It is really hard to pick a winner between the two.
Huawei dominates other brands when it comes to battery life, and the P30 Pro consistently delivers two days' worth of use from a single charge. The P30 Pro also has a more evocative design, and you're getting more for your money. If you're interested in trying out something new, you'll be delighted with the 5x zoom lens on the P30 Pro.
The Pixel 3 XL is the safer bet as you get guaranteed monthly updates, a higher-res display, and better haptics. And if you're one to take a lot of selfies, it is the phone to beat right now. That said, you should take a chance with the P30 Pro. It is genuinely the best phone I've used in a long time, and while you'll have to work a little bit more to get great photos, the final quality is better than that on the Pixel 3 XL. And then there's the much better battery life, and the phone is just faster in day-to-day usage. Right now, it is the phone to beat.
Latest and greatest
A great 2019 phone with an excellent camera
The P30 Pro is a groundbreaking phone that has plenty to offer. The telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom is outstanding, and the 40MP primary camera does a fantastic job in low-lighting conditions. The hardware is top-notch, the gradient design is absolutely gorgeous, and you get two-day battery life.
Best for most
Delivers in the areas that matter.
The Pixel 3 XL may not have the latest hardware, but it does deliver in the areas that matter. It has the most consistent camera you'll find on any phone today, and you get a higher-resolution display and stereo speakers. The front camera is also the best you'll find on a phone, and the software is leagues ahead of everyone else.
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