Huawei Mate 40 Pro review - Huawei Mate 40 Pro In recent years, Huawei has been shaking up the world of mobile telephony. Long anticipated as the future world number 1, the Chinese manufacturer has multiplied innovations with its P20 , Mate 20 and P30 to the point, each time, to let us think that it had surpassed its rival Samsung.
Unfortunately, that was without counting on Donald Trump's radical decision to blacklist the Chinese company, prohibiting it from working with Google and many other companies essential to the design of a smartphone.
Since then, Huawei has kept face by releasing impressive new phones on the hardware but struggles to convince in the software. Indeed,without Google services, an Android smartphone does not work very well .
For two weeks, we made the Huawei Mate 40 Pro our one and only smartphone. In this test, we'll start by telling you about the hardware before, as you can imagine, tackling the most painful part. At $ 1447, does the Mate 40 Pro compete with the rest of high-end smartphones?
A design already in the legend Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Is there a company that is stronger than Huawei when it comes to hardware today? Frankly, we doubt it. The Mate 40 Pro is a nugget. The design of this smartphone is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful that we have been able to try, in large part thanks to its perfectly symmetrical ultra curved screen.
On the left and right, the device has almost no borders. The screen plunges completely. At the top and bottom there is a very slight border of the same thickness.
Visually, it is quite simply a masterpiece. The device manages to embed a very large 6.76-inch OLED screen while remaining rather narrow (7.56 cm). In hand, it is therefore not uncomfortable.
Unlike other manufacturers (we are thinking in particular of Samsung), Huawei has understood that the design of the back of a smartphone is not a detail. Here too, the mastery of the Chinese manufacturer is total.
The glass used by Huawei does not take fingerprints and the smartphone's triple camera module, contained in a centered black circle, reminds us of Apple's iPods. Impossible to get tired of it, it's really beautiful.
Another welcome change, the Mate 40 Pro has old-fashioned volume buttons, which the Mate 30 Pro , its predecessor, did not. Huawei has found a way to keep its ultra curvature while still allowing you to turn down the sound with real touches. So much the better, it's much more practical.
On the other hand, and this is perhaps the only criticism that we will make to the design of this smartphone, there is a little hiccup. The device's USB-C port is not aligned with the bottom speaker. In 90% of cases, this slight vertical shift would not have bothered us. But, in the case of Huawei, our expectations are so high that it bothers us. We are necessarily more demanding with the best.
A sublime screen sometimes frustrating
While we'd like to call the Mate 40 Pro's curved display a visual masterpiece, we unfortunately have to admit that not everything is perfect. Indeed, in wanting to promote design, Huawei has unfortunately neglected the user experience.
In some applications like Instagram where the slider to adjust the text size is located on the left of the screen, it is very difficult to access this setting. The curved screen does not detect your finger. This curved screen makes it impossible to close many ads, which are closed with a cross in a corner of the screen. It is not practical at all.
Another disturbing point, the colors are not the same on the curved part. So in a news feed, like Twitter or Facebook, which is usually white, the left and right of the screen appear yellow.
It is troubling. Fortunately, and this is a welcome point, we haven't accidentally interacted with the curved part of the screen once. Huawei has optimized its software part really well to ensure that its curved edges don't turn into a nightmare.
Finally, and more surprisingly, the maximum screen brightness of the Mate 40 Pro seems unusually low for a high-end smartphone. Our lab did not manage to exceed 562 cd / m 2 with this device, whereas last year's Mate 30 Pro reached almost 700 cd / m 2 .
Should we see this as one of the first consequences of the American ban? Is Huawei obliged to equip itself with a less good supplier? This question also arises in terms of the screen refresh rate where Huawei is one of the few Android manufacturers still limited to 90 Hz. Regarding the color calibration, it is however excellent (with a Delta E 2000 at 1.43).
Details that make the difference
At the top left of the Mate 40 Pro screen, you may have noticed the presence of a double punch. In addition to a 13 Mpix selfie sensor, the device has a 3D depth sensor dedicated to facial recognition. It's not exactly the same system as Apple's Face ID, but Huawei comes close.
The smartphone recognizes you in the dark and won't be fooled by a photo. In addition, the Mate 40 Pro also has an extremely fast optical fingerprint sensor under the screen. It is clearly one of the best on the market.
Equipped with very good stereo speakers (it was not the case with its predecessor), the Mate 40 Pro has another big advantage that, for once, we have never seen elsewhere. When you look at it, its screen lights up. No matter the angle, this technology works remarkably well.
In fact, we are still amazed. A simple glance is enough to wake up your screen and allows you not to have to touch it in extremis if it goes to sleep. We still do not understand how Huawei did to achieve this feat.
Kirin 9000, the best chip for 5G?
Huawei is one of the few manufacturers capable of designing the chips for its smartphones itself. Truth be told, apart from Apple and Samsung, no one in the market can do it. Huawei even has the luxury of mastering the art of 5G modems, which allows it to integrate one directly into its new SoC, the Kirin 9000. Engraved in 5 nanometers, this chip is quite impressive.
Everything is fluid on the Mate 40 Pro, its autonomy management is remarkable and, according to our first tests, it is the most stable smartphone once connected to 5G. In any case, facing a Samsung device, there is no photo.
Waterproof (IP68), with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, expandable by NM card, the Mate 40 Pro is undoubtedly one of the most complete smartphones on the market.
An excellent battery that recharges in 46 minutes
Like most of the latest Huawei, the Mate 40 Pro has excellent battery life. The 4,400 mAh battery of this smartphone allowed it to withstand our versatile autonomy test at 4:33 p.m., 10:51 in video streaming and 11:40 in communication, which is very satisfactory. In use, we only had to recharge the device once every two days or so, although we were regularly connected to a 5G network.
On the recharging side, the smartphone comes with a 66 W charger, a nice snub to Oppo's 65 W chargers. However, it takes 44 minutes to recharge, which is more than what the devices of its Chinese rival offer (around 30 minutes). In 12 minutes, 50% of the battery is recovered.
Note that Huawei only uses one battery, which may seem surprising in the ultra-fast charging sector. To protect the battery of their devices, manufacturers generally use two batteries. This allows them to maintain low-voltage recharging.
In terms of wireless charging, Huawei offers a maximum of 50 W. We have not been able to try this technology which, on paper, seems impressive to us. The smartphone can also charge other devices such as a mobile or headphones.
Still too strong in pictures
Finally, let's talk about the camera of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. We are not going to spend too much time on this subject (we still have a lot to say about the software) since a full test of the Mate 40 Pro in the photo will arrive soon on 01net.com.
Note in any case that the smartphone has a triple camera module quite similar to that of the P40 Pro with a main sensor of 50 Mpix attached to a lens opening at f / 1.9, a "cinematrographic" sensor of 20 Mpix with a ratio of 16: 9 also used for ultra wide-angle (f / 1.8) and a periscope module capable of optical zoom x5 (12 Mpix sensor, lens opening at f / 3.4). We once again find Huawei's SuperSpectrum technology (RYYB instead of RGB) improving the quality of night photos.
Let's be blunt, the Mate 40 Pro is one of the best cameras on the market, period. Day or night, the photos of its main sensor are close to perfection. The colors are right, the sharpness is incredible and even when the light is lacking, RYYB technology achieves a masterful compensation. You would think you had taken the photo during the day, without a specific night mode.
The Mate 40 Pro's zoom is at Huawei's height, impressive. By day, it makes it very easy to reach x20 without loss of quality. Few smartphones compete. At night, it's logically more complicated. Be careful not to move.
Ultra wide-angle side, there is nevertheless a small disappointment. Compared to the main sensor, the smartphone does not capture much more image. On the other hand, the quality of this camera crushes the competition, one could believe that these images come from the main sensor. The native 16: 9 ratio is also a great idea, especially for filming.
In short, we will have the opportunity to come back to the Mate 40 Pro camera in a future article, Huawei is still going strong. Those who buy the smartphone to take pictures will not be disappointed. But do people really buy a smartphone just for its photo capabilities?
Once again, the software ruins everything
We would have liked this test to end there. As you will see, our next sentences will be quite cruel to the Chinese manufacturer. They unfortunately reflect reality.
If we have praised the Mate 40 Pro since the start of this test, we intentionally forgot to mention a few details, starting with the configuration of the device. Very sincerely, we wish good luck to anyone who would buy this smartphone without having prepared psychologically.
When you start it up for the first time, Huawei suggests a lot of unnecessary applications that you have to uncheck one by one, as if you were using an entry-level Wiko smartphone. Once the device is ready, lots of folders that cannot be deleted take up your home screen and show you applications from the AppGallery, the equivalent of the Google Play Store at Huawei. Once again, you have to delete them one by one.
Another problem, in the absence of a restoration with his Google account, it is impossible to recover his contacts without physically connecting his old smartphone to his new Huawei. If you are no longer in possession of it, you risk tearing your hair.
We had to connect to the Gmail site from the smartphone, access the desktop version (which is not necessarily easy), find the contacts section, create a download file in vCard format (the iOS format), export it and open it from Huawei File Explorer to import contacts. There is no other way to sync your Google contacts. What a pain !
Especially since your new contacts will logically not be automatically added to your Google account. The Mate 40 Pro is completely cut off from the rest of your devices.
We have sorely missed other Google services. These include auto-completion, which eliminates the need to enter passwords into applications thanks to Chrome's memory. Here you have to enter each head password every time… or save them in the Huawei Cloud.
Google Assistant, replaced by Huawei Celia, is also missing a lot. It must be said that Huawei's assistant, which only offers a female voice, is not even able to answer the question "what time is it?" " (This is not a joke). On the other hand, to trigger by mistake as soon as you say a word resembling "Celia", you can count on it.
To replace the Google Play Store, Huawei is not relying on one software but two. First there is the AppGallery, an app store crammed with ads and bad translations ( a new version is supposed to simplify the experience but is not yet available ), then Petal Search, a search engine supposed to help you find applications not available on the AppGallery, such as Facebook or Netflix (a lot of applications are still missing from the AppGallery).
We are not going to lie to each other, the whole is still very confused. Just at the level of application updates, we do not understand much. Some software offered on the AppGallery does not have the latest version, which creates a gap with the Play Store while on Petal Search, everything must be installed manually.
Huawei may have developed an automatic search system for updates, it is not at all developed. It searches for new versions of your applications on APK aggregators but strangely misses the latest versions.
So, for example, we never managed to get the latest version of Messenger from one of Huawei's app stores, we had to hack through a clandestine app store, like Aurora.
In other cases, the AppGallery and Petal Search prevent you from downloading the APK and trick you into using a web-app instead. Why not leave the choice to the user?
Another frustrating example, Petal Search has sometimes redirected us to.
The mobile version of the Play Store, which then tells you that your smartphone is not compatible. Huawei may have made colossal efforts to improve its ecosystem, you don't become Google or Apple in just two years. Today, it is still sometimes nightmarish. We don't really want to download new applications.
A year ago, a lot of manually installed apps were not working on Huawei smartphones. Today, we have to admit that the manufacturer has solved this problem. Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) is a successful replacement for Google mobile services in almost all applications, although in most cases you have to download them through alternative methods. Only Google's applications are still mostly incompatible, that's quite logical.
On the other hand, many applications systematically display annoying warning messages. In Microsoft Teams or Disney + , each time we open we are told that the app will not work without Google services. This is however not the case. In short, the hardest part is installing and putting applications on your Mate 40 Pro, not using them.
To do without Google, Huawei is gradually developing its own applications. This Mate 40 Pro is the opportunity for the Chinese company to launch Petal Maps , its competitor to Google Maps. Let's shorten Huawei's suffering and avoid talking about it too much, it still largely deserves its title of “beta” application.
Rarely has mapping software been so.
lost, including Apple Maps in its infancy. On the keyboard side, Huawei strangely keeps its partnership with Microsoft and still offers the SwiftKey keyboard by default. Fun fact, voice input needs… Google services, to be installed from the Play Store. It is therefore impossible to dictate anything on your Huawei virtual keyboard.
Last thing, can we illegally install Google services on this smartphone? There is software like Googlefier… but these are incompatible with the Mate 40 for now. We have tried alternative methods, to no avail. The Mate 40 Pro remains completely paralyzed by its software. At $ 1448, it's a real waste, even if Huawei has clearly improved year over year.