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(Pocket-lint) - Not content with bringing its usual two-model flagship series release programme, for 2020 Huawei stepped things up by bringing not just one, not two, but three different P series handsets: the P40, the P40 Pro, and the P40 Pro+.

It's a move that came as no surprise, in a world where many competitors have gone down a similar route - check out Samsung's S20 series, for example - but with now three P40 series models to choose from, just how do they differ?

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Design: Colours & Finishes

  • P40 Pro only: Silver Frost, Blush Gold with matte-touch finish
  • P40 Pro+ only: Black ceramic, White ceramic
  • All models: Ice White, Black, DeepSea Blue

The standard P40 is smaller than the P40 Pro and Pro+, the latter two are the very same size.

But the colour options and finishes is where things differ. At the entry point there's white, black and blue glass-backed finishes. The P40 Pro also options a silver and pink-gold finish, both of which have a matte-touch finish which is said to be fingerprint repellent - despite still being made of glass.

Lastly there's a ceramic finish, in either black or white, for the P40 Pro+ only. Huawei tells us this "nanotech ceramic back" is comprised of ceramic beads, which are compressed at higher pressure, then kilned at 1500C for five days, creating a sapphire-strength rear with a reflective index "similar to diamond".

Screen: Size & Resolution

  • P40 Pro & Pro+: Edge-to-edge 'Overflow Display' with curved edges / P40: Flat display
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: 6.58-inch OLED, 2640 x 1200 resolution
  • P40: 6.1-inch OLED, 2340 x 1080 resolution
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: 90Hz / P40: 60Hz

As we said, the P40 is the smaller handset, on account of its 6.1-inch screen. This display is also flat, not curved, with slightly larger bezels than its bigger models.

The P40 Pro and Pro+ have a 6.58-inch screen, so aren't as ultra-massive as some current handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. We think that's a sensible decision, to make for greater ease of use with one hand.

Whichever of the Pro and Pro+ models you choose you'll be getting a so-called 'Overflow Display'. That's Huawei's way of saying Waterfall Display, really, meaning the edges spill over, much like a waterfall, so the edge bezel is barely visible. This applies to all edges - both sides and the top and the bottom - for a real screen-dominant design.

There's no notch as a result, instead a dual punch-hole is present on all three handsets. More info about the (extensive!) cameras is further down the page.

While the P40 offers a standard 60Hz display, the Pro and Pro+ offer a 90Hz refresh rate - which is 50 per cent greater than the typical 60Hz panels. That's all well and good, but with OnePlus running 120Hz panels and others offering up to 165Hz panels in gaming phones (the Red Magic 6 the first example of that), you might wonder why Huawei hasn't reached to the stars here. The answer, we suspect, is cost, battery performance, and, frankly, that this extra rate won't make a huge difference in the way most people see apps and content perform anyway.

Performance

  • All models: Kirin 990 processor, 8GB RAM
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: 4,200mAh battery
  • P40: 3,800mAh battery
  • P40 Pro+: 40W fast-charging (incl. 40W wireless)
  • P40 Pro: 40W fast-charging (incl. 27W wireless)
  • P40: 22.5W fast-charging (no wireless charging)

All three P40 models will deliver a similar experience, given their Kirin 990 processor, 8GB RAM, and 5G connectivity across the board.

None of the three will come with Google Services, though, which means no access to Google Play Store (instead there's Huawei's App Gallery, which lacks some of the majors at present, such WhatsApp (you can download it as an APK using a browser though - but no Google Drive will mean no backup), and more. That's despite the P40 launching on Google's Android 10 operating system, with Huawei's EMUI 10.1 user interface.

It's in the battery department where the three models differ a little more. The P40 has a 3,800mAh cell, which is fairly small by today's standards, while the Pro and Pro+ up that to 4,200mAh - which is about on par with what current competitors offers.

The recharging of those batteries is speedy too. The P40 sticks to the well-established 22.5W fast-charging, while the P40 Pro and Pro+ up this to 40W - which is quick, but not the very fastest available (that goes to OnePlus with its 65W Warp Charge 65T for the OnePlus 9 Pro).

However, Huawei is introducing 40W wireless charging to the Pro+. It means wire-free charging of the handset in little more than an hour - which is impressive. The standard P40, however, has no wireless charging capability.

Cameras

  • P40: Leica triple camera system
  • P40 Pro: Leica quad camera system
  • P40 Pro+: Leica penta camera system
  • Main camera:
    • All models: 50MP SuperSensing (RYYB) sensor, 1/1.28in size
    • f/1.9 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
    • Focal length (approx): P40 at 27mm, Pro at 25mm, Pro+ at 24mm
  • Ultra-wide camera:
    • P40: 16MP, f/2.2, 17mm equiv.
    • P40 Pro & Pro+: 40MP cine lens, f/1.8, 18mm equiv.
  • Zoom lens #1:
    • P40 & Pro+: 3x optical (80mm equiv.), 8MP, f/2.4, OIS
    • P40 Pro: 5x optical (125mm equiv.) RYYB sensor, 12MP, f/3.4, OIS
  • Zoom lens #2:
    • P40 Pro+: 10x optical (240mm equiv.) periscope zoom, 8MP, f/4.4, OIS
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: Time-of-Flight (ToF) depth sensor
  • All models: Dual selfie camera, 32MP

Always the P series' big-hitting feature is its camera setup. We thought the P30 Pro set a new bar when it launched in 2019 - something that the P40 series bettered.

It's a little complicated, though, as the camera setup for each device is rather different. The P40 has a triple camera rear, the P40 Pro a quad setup, the Pro+ a penta system.

However, all three offer one consistent thing: the same main camera. This is a 50-megapixel SuperSensing sensor - the same red, yellow, blue (RYYB) technology as in the P30 Pro - and, at 1/1.28in size, it's a lot larger than a typical camera sensor.

That make-up and physical size work to its benefit in delivering a clean signal for better image quality overall. Not to mention the use of four pixels into one on-screen pixel means oversampling for even better quality (12.5MP output) - a method used by many others already. And there's 100 per cent on-sensor phase-detection pixels for autofocus too.

There's a wide-angle camera on each P40 model, too, but it's one of two variants: the P40 has a 16-megapixel sensor at a 17mm focal length, while the Pro and Pro+ offer 40MP at 18mm (so it's slightly less wide, likely for the sake of edge/corner quality). The higher-resolution offering is described as a 'cine lens' as it's also used to cater for video, at up to 4K.

Then there's the zoom element. All three P40 models have an optical zoom lens: the P40 a 3x zoom, the P40 Pro a 5x zoom, the P40 Pro+ a 10x zoom. That 3x is the same as we've seen in the P30, with just 8-megapixels of resolution for the P40 and P40 Pro+. The 5x is different to the one found in the P30 Pro, as Huawei is also utilising the RYYB SuperSensing technology here for the P40 Pro's zoom. The 10x was the first time we'd seen such a periscope zoom, as reserved for the P40 Pro+ only (and used in tandem with the 3x zoom optic to offer the ability to step through zoom levels to deliver the most appropriate tools for each job).

The P40 Pro and Pro+ also come with a Time-of-Flight depth sensor, which derives distance information, which the software can utilise in layers to help create background blur (bokeh) in portrait mode.

All three P40 cameras will offer familiar modes, from Artificial Intelligence shooting, to Night Mode. However, these have been advanced, with the AI tech now able to shoot multiple frames before during and after pressing the shutter to select the best of a burst and suggest a top three selection.

The front cameras can be found in a dual punch-hole or 'pill' cut-out in all three P40 models. The main camera is 32-megapixels, which also uses four-in-one oversampling for 8MP output by default, paired with a depth sensor for background blur software effects and more.

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Price, Release Date & Conclusion

  • P40: €799 (at launch)
  • P40 Pro: €999 (at launch)
  • P40 Pro+: €1399 (at launch)

Once again the P40 series looks to be grappling for camera dominance. And that variety of versatile cameas - especially on the Pro+ model - make for great reading.

That said, the absence of Google Play Store on these devices is a major pain point. Sure, there's App Gallery, and consumers have choice in what's important to them. But, right now, it makes the P40 series difficult to recommend.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 19 March 2020.