Six months after its release in China, Huawei's P50 Pro is trying to establish itself in the premium market. To make up for the lack of Google services and 5G, this smartphone relies on a controlled screen and a neat photo section.
We take the same and we start again. While the first difficulty with the P40 series was that it was released without Google services, the P50 Pro, which will be released at the beginning of 2022 along with the P50 Pocket, but without the P50 "just", is still based on Android AOSP with Huawei services. An additional difficulty is that it is not compatible with 5G and therefore makes do with 4G despite its premium positioning. Leaving aside these considerations, this is a premium smartphone geared towards photography, a product priced at €1199 that can be compared to flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Oppo Find X3 Pro or the Google Pixel 6 Pro.
Ergonomics and design
Huawei's design expertise is well proven and the P50 Pro is no less successful than the P40 series. Here again, the brand offers a smartphone with a curved front and screen, which makes the whole thing pleasant to use in the hand. The smartphone retains the large format of its predecessor (158.8 x 72.8 mm against 158.2 x 72.6 mm for the P40 Pro) despite a slightly larger screen (6.6 inches against 6.58 inches). Nevertheless, we appreciate its lower weight (195 g against 206 g) and a slightly lower thickness (8.5 mm against 9 mm). The manufacturer is therefore fine-tuning its copy, at the cost of some retrenchments, such as the disappearance of the ToF sensor located on the front of the P40 Pro and which allowed a facial recognition with a high level of security. In return, the oblong punch of the terminal gives way to a circular opening more discreet.
For the rest, Huawei still offers a fingerprint reader located under the screen, very fast by the way, and an Oled panel occupying 92% of the front. Its bottom edge hosts speaker and USB-C port, without jack abandoned long time by Huawei, while the control keys are located on its right edge. Nothing new in this regard. Note that the SIM card cart can accommodate two nano cards, with the second slot used if needed to add a NM (nano-memory) memory card, Huawei's proprietary format. As in 2021, the whole is certified IP68.
It is on the back that Huawei revises most visibly the design of its P series. The rectangular photo block of the P40 is replaced this year by two circular blocks, both included in an island that encompasses them, slightly protruding and branded Leica. The smartphone is not stable when placed on a flat surface, unless you use the silicone shell provided by the brand. This one, transparent, will allow you to enjoy the particularly bright color chosen by Huawei, without the fingerprints that dot it as soon as you put your hand on it.
The P50 Pro is equipped with stereo speakers of satisfactory power and whose dynamics seemed to us sufficient for auxiliary uses. It is not equipped with a 3.5 mm jack, like most current smartphones, and offers USB-C headphones, as well as Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity for the use of wireless headphones.
Only slightly larger than its predecessor (6.58 inches), the P50 Pro's screen is still based on Oled technology, but this time with a dynamic refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. Good luck for Huawei: it is perfectly calibrated right out of the box. In addition to the high resolution of 450 dpi that it owes to its definition of 1228 x 2700 px, its occupancy rate of the front of the smartphone exceeding 91% and its curved sides, it relies on a controlled colorimetry. We expected no less from the successor of the P40 Pro, which had shown the expertise of Huawei in this area.
In concrete terms, this screen relies on a "normal colors" mode from the start, which allows it to display a color temperature of 6668 K, barely above the 6500 K of the reference standard. As for the drifts, they are not perceptible by the human eye with a delta E contained at 1.2. If you go to the display mode "bright colors", the temperature will be colder and the delta E is still contained, but above 2. It should be noted that Huawei is not the only one to offer a calibration of this kind, Apple doing the same. Samsung, for its part, often requires a display mode a little less vivid than the one it selects by default.
For the rest, this screen displays a fairly high brightness of 775 cd/m², although not the most impressive we have seen in recent months, and a minimum brightness of 1.8 cd/m² comfortable for reading in the dark. Let's add that its touch delay is limited to 62 ms, its remanence time is non-existent (Oled obliges), and that its reflectance is in the average (45%).
Huawei is still suffering from the North American embargo decided under the Trump era, but manages to get Qualcomm chips. It is therefore the Snapdragon 888 that drives the smartphone. We can certainly criticize it for inviting itself to the market a little late, even as its successor Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is announced on new products. That said, the chip remains a safe bet. This eight-core model is flanked in our test copy by 8 GB of RAM, but is not equipped with a 5G modem.
In terms of pure performance, we have to admit that this chip does its job perfectly. Barely better than the Kirin 990 of the P40 Pro of 2021, it gets a 99 index in multitasking, which confirms its good ability to run everyday apps with fluidity.
Gaming does not scare the terminal either, as evidenced by its Viser index of 158, which ranks it among the most talented of the moment. Although the P50 Pro does not have the highest frame rate on the market, it oscillates between 90 and 71 fps and, above all, averages almost 89 fps. In other words, the stability is there. However, we note that it heats up just as much, which generally tends to affect the autonomy of the devices.
The P50 Pro introduces a circular camera block with no less than four modules. This is associated with an image processing engine called True Chroma, which is designed to restore all the color nuances, or almost, that the combination sensor / lens loses during the shooting. The latter is applied to the main module of the camera with a sensor of 40 megapixels, a wide-angle lens equivalent to 23 mm (f/1.8) and an optical stabilization system. A second camera, 40 MP this time (26 mm, f/1.6) and monochrome, does not officiate alone, but is used in conjunction with the main sensor. It aims to provide more information during the capture in low light, or to better achieve portraits.
To this duo is added a 64 MP sensor with its periscope equivalent to 90 mm (f/3.5), allowing to obtain an optical zoom effect 3.5x, and a 13 MP sensor with an ultra wide angle (equivalent to 13 mm, f/2.2). The Leica stamp is still present and it is to the German that Huawei ensures to owe its optics. Leica filters are also on the menu for the most creative. Let's add that a laser autofocus accompanies them, as well as a double flash led.
Main module: 50 Mpx, f/1.8, eq. 23 mm
Like the vast majority of its competitors, the P50 Pro uses pixel binning to provide 12.5MP shots. These offer a high level of detail, both in terms of textures and contrast, even if it is slightly less than with a Pixel 6 Pro, for example. However, the smartphone relies a little less on sharpness than the Find X3 Pro with a sensor of the same definition, and opts for a slightly less vivid colorimetry, probably more natural too. We appreciate the level of detail always visible at the edge of the image.
At night, the colors remain natural, but some smoothing is visible, especially on the book cover. Nevertheless, details, such as the lion's mane or the blue lines on the map, are perceptible, while digital noise is almost invisible. This is much less the case with the Find X3 Pro, which also suffers from a more orange and less natural colorimetry.
You have to go through the "high resolution" mode to capture shots in full definition, i.e. 50 Mpx. This one did not reveal any particular interest during our tests, an area of identical size extracted from our scene does not allow to obtain more details. In fact, it is almost the opposite...
Ultra-wide angle module: 13 Mpx, eq. 13 mm, f/2.2
We opted for the comparison below with Samsung's slightly less defined Galaxy S21 Ultra. The difference is tenuous in terms of sharpness, both lacking slightly. The Huawei model is especially noisy. It manages to master - at least in part - the tough exercise of managing reflections on playing cards: their patterns are not entirely legible, but appear more than on many shots taken in our laboratory. The elements of the scene are also rather contrasted, which favors their readability.
At night, this module struggles much more. If it displays a contained digital noise, its colorimetry drifts noticeably towards yellow. A tendency that we did not only notice on our test stage, but also outdoors. It is all the more regrettable that the difference in hues is obvious when you go from wide-angle to ultra-wide angle. For the rest, the level of detail is limited, due to a significant smoothing.
3.5x periscope module: 64 MP (results in 16 MP), 90 mm eq., f/3.5
Each brand offers variable magnification effects, some like Oppo betting on a 52 mm equivalent lens (Find X3 Pro, 13 MP sensor), and others like Samsung with its Galaxy S21 Ultra favoring a 3x zoom (72 mm equivalent, 10 MP sensor). It is therefore difficult to compare totally different definitions and focal lengths. As an indication, here are its results compared to the Find X3 Pro.
The Huawei model has the merit of offering a useful optical stabilization to avoid blur. It opts for a very soft treatment of the contours, unlike its companion which prefers to bet on a sharpness that can seem artificial. The colors are vivid, but we regret a white balance not quite perfected - a pinkish tint is visible. A little bit of smoothness is added, especially on the cover of the book.
These observations apply to daytime shots, but at night it is obvious that the level of detail drops drastically. Out of night mode, the contrast is emphasized, which allows to obtain readable pictures if not really exploitable. Let's admit that the P50 Pro does better in this exercise than many smartphones offering equivalent or lesser magnifications.
Front module, portrait mode and video
The P50 Pro offers a portrait mode available on the front and back. Clipping is precise and rather comfortable with messy hairstyles. The shots are good and we note that the beautification effects, which result in the smoothing of the skin, are disabled by default. In the case of selfies (captured in 13 MP), they are rather detailed if the light is there. We regret that the ToF sensor, present on the P40 Pro, has been abandoned on its successor.
In terms of video, Huawei is content to offer filming in 4K up to 60 fps with electronic stabilization. Dual view effects are available, as well as timelapse and other creative effects. In photography, Leica filters are also offered.
Huawei keeps its good habits and offers a fast charge at 66 W, a little faster than the 40 W of the P40 Pro of 2021. A wise choice that allows the smartphone to fill up in 44 minutes despite its battery capacity of 4360 mAh. Note also that its wireless charging gains in velocity, going from 27 W to 50 W.
Good news, considering the autonomy we were able to measure. The smartphone was not able to exceed 13 h 9 min of use according to our Viser protocol, certainly in the average of many high-end smartphones under Snapdragon 888, but well below the P40 series. For the record, the eponymous model submitted to the same test had endured nearly 22 hours of use.
Our sustainability score allows us to determine the sustainability of the smartphone for both the consumer and the environment. It is based on the repairability index, durability criteria (protection index, standard connectors, warranty period and updates...) and an evaluation of CSR policies (Corporate Social Responsibility). You can find all the details of the analysis in our article presenting the sustainability score.
Interface & OS
Although it was presented under HarmonyOS, the P50 Pro is not released in France under Huawei's operating system. It is based on Android AOSP, i.e. stripped of Google's mobile services and replaced here by those of the brand. It therefore dresses up Android 11 with its Emotion UI 12 interface, which works in a similar way to what we saw on the P40. Huawei is multiplying in-house services to compensate for the absence of those of Mountain View, such as Petal Maps for GPS navigation, Huawei Music or the AppGallery for downloading applications. It is now possible to pick from different portals and sites to retrieve apps, or to display web shortcuts on the smartphone screen. We can welcome these efforts, which does not prevent us from regretting that Huawei pre-installs so many titles on its device, cluttering it with unnecessary tools (easily uninstalled, fortunately).
Like the previous smartphones of the brand, the P50 Pro of Huawei is a problem. It has real assets, such as its beautiful Oled screen, a successful design, power and its photo performance. But like most of its competitors, it suffers from a few weaknesses, here concentrated around its autonomy, quite passable, and its ultra-wide angle shots. But the problem lies elsewhere: the smartphone is positioned on a premium segment where the competition is able to provide what it lacks, that is, 5G and simple use for those who expect a "ready-to-use" Android smartphone, without looking for alternatives to its usual tools. When you spend that kind of money, are you willing to accept these compromises? That's the question the Huawei P50 Pro raises.