Huawei P50 Pro Review: Google-Free Phone With Top-Of-The-Line Cameras

The Huawei P50 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone from Huawei, well, at least as far as the global market is concerned. This phone launched in mid-2021 in China, but it arrived to global markets last month. Huawei announced both the Huawei P50 Pro and P50 Pocket, both of which are powerful smartphones, though considerably different. The Huawei P50 Pro does have all the hardware bells and whistles you’d expect, aside from 5G connectivity. The Snapdragon 888 is here, but it supports 4G, not 5G. The US ban is the reason for that, and it’s also the reason why Huawei phones don’t ship with Google services for quite some time now.

Yes, this device does come without Google services, and if you’re reliant on Google, this is probably not a phone for you. If you can live without Google services, well, then you should read on. The Huawei P50 Pro does have a lot to offer, in a number of ways. It not only has a great design, it’s large, but not too large, while it also looks quite premium and it’s a joy to hold. It has a lot to offer in both camera and battery departments, and much more.

It’s just the right size, and it looks great

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Let’s kick things off with the design of the device, shall we. The Huawei P50 Pro is made out of metal and glass, as most modern flagships are. The phone is quite slippery because of it, but it’s quite comfortable to hold, much more comfortable than most metal + glass phones I’ve used in the last couple of years. The reason for that is probably the coating Huawei is using, the curves that are all done just right, and the fact this phone is not too large. The device is less than 160mm tall, and 72.8mm wide, while being 8.5mm thick. It also weighs less than 200 grams, which is a good thing. Despite all that, it has a fairly large display that measures 6.6 inches. We’ll talk more about it in the next chapter.

The bezels are thin, and the cameras stand out

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The bezels on the device are quite thin, and those cameras on the back do stand out. There are two circular cutouts on the back which host the phone’s cameras. An LED flash sits in-between them, while the device does include stereo speakers. Those speakers are top and bottom-firing, while you won’t find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the device. The Huawei P50 Pro not only looks very sleek, but it also feels premium in the hand. Overall, Huawei did a really good job with the design here, and did pay attention to details. One thing that really bothered me, though, is the fact it’s so glossy. We received the Golden Black version for review, and it’s extremely reflective, and a fingerprint magnet.

A silicone case is included in the box

Huawei does include a case in the box, as all OEMs should with their flagships. Most people want to protect their phone when they unbox it, especially if we’re talking about a more expensive device. Luckily, Huawei does include a regular silicone case in the box here, and that case is actually quite alright. It’s nothing special, but it’s thin enough not to add serious bulk to the device, while it’s also comfortable to use. It’s essentially a regular see-through silicone case, so you probably know what to expect.

The Huawei P50 Pro has a great-looking, high-refresh rate display

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The Huawei P50 Pro features a 6.6-inch 2700 x 1228 OLED display. That is a 120Hz panel that can render 1 billion colors. That display is also curved, by the way. It’s not exactly a ‘Waterfall Display’, but it is properly curved, not just barely. It feels good to use despite that curve, though, and because of it, the phone is not too wide. That panel sure looks good on paper, but is it any good in real-life use? Well, yes, yes it is.

The display is quite vivid, and it has really good viewing angles. You also have plenty of options to tweak it in the system settings. You can either choose a predetermined setting, Normal and Vivid options are available, or you can tweak it yourself. You get a full-color palette, so you can essentially do whatever you want. If you prefer colder display colors, that’s not a problem, if you prefer it to be warmer, that’s good too. The panel itself is really good, and when you find the right setting for you, it’ll serve you really well.

It offers a 300Hz touch sampling rate

The blacks are deep on the display, and the panel is more than sharp enough. The touch sampling rate is also excellent, it’s rated at 300Hz, which is not something we can say about many phones. Using this display really is a joy, and that’s really not the aspect of this phone to complain about.

The performance is buttery smooth

The Huawei P50 Pro comes with the Snapdragon 888 SoC, not the last-gen Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The Snapdragon 888 is still a great processor, and an extremely powerful one, though. Huawei paired it up with 8GB of RAM inside this phone, and 256GB of storage, at least on our model. All that is powered by Huawei’s EMUI 12 software, which is based on Android. Do note that the Huawei P50 Pro comes with HarmonyOS 2.0 in China, and EMUI 12 in global markets.

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Is the performance good? The performance is excellent, actually. The Huawei P50 Pro ran buttery smooth for me, regardless of what I was doing. I didn’t really run any benchmarks, but you can expect to get results in line with other Snapdragon 888 flagships here, benchmarks aren’t exactly a point of reference for me, real-life performance is. Regular, everyday tasks, were a breeze for this phone. Multitasking was not an issue, the same goes for consuming multimedia, browsing, taking images, listening to music and podcasts, and so on.

The phone didn’t heat up all that much, not even during gaming

Even if you’re a gamer, this phone will do just well. It didn’t heat up too much during gaming, it did get a bit warm, but nothing out of the ordinary. It can run pretty much every graphically-demanding game you install on it, without a problem. All in all, the performance aspect is excellent.

It offers really good battery life, but not extraordinary

Huawei included a 4,360mAh battery inside the Huawei P50 Pro. The first couple of days of use, I was getting really great numbers. I even managed to reach 7 hours of screen-on-time on occasion. After a couple of days, though, the battery life balanced out, and it’s still good, but not extraordinary. With my usage, I managed to get 6+ hours of screen-on-time pretty much every day, which is more than good enough for the vast majority of users. Do note that I don’t really game all that much, though, but I did take a lot of pictures overall.

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66W wired & 50W wireless charging is supported

What about charging? Well, you’ll be glad to know that both fast wired and fast wireless charging is supported. Huawei included 66W wired, and 50W wireless charging inside the Huawei P50 Pro. You’ll need a compatible charger in order to utilize such speeds, of course, but you’ll be glad to know that a 66W wired charging brick is included in the box. That is not something we can say for Samsung and Apple flagships, so that’s commendable.

The picture quality these cameras can provide is stellar

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Huawei flagships are known for their excellent camera performance. That has been the case for years now, and the Huawei P50 Pro is not an exception. I had high hopes for these cameras, and they delivered, and then some. I can easily say this is one of my favorite camera smartphones to date, as it’s just so reliable in the camera department. It’s also probably one of the better camera smartphones available in the market at the moment, and that’s a high claim.

The Huawei P50 Pro has five cameras overall, four on the back, and one on the front. A 50-megapixel main camera (f/1.8 aperture, OIS, Laser Autofocus) is backed by a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera (f/2.2 aperture, 13mm lens). A 64-megapixel periscope telephoto camera (90mm lens, OIS, PDAF, 3.5x optical zoom) is also included on the back. The last camera on the back is a 40-megapixel monochrome camera (f/1.6 aperture, 23mm lens).

Huawei’s AI image engine & Leica lenses help things

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All of this is backed by Huawei’s AI image engine, and Leica lenses make a comeback on this device. An XD Fusion Pro color filter system is also included in the package, and all that enables for considerable improvements over the Huawei P40 Pro. Huawei shared some bold numbers for these cameras, in regards to improvements, and most of that holds up. The Huawei P50 Pro cameras perform as you’d expect.

The images from the main camera are most impressive. The most important thing is that it’s reliable. Regardless of how good the scene, or how bad it is, the pictures end up looking really nice. Even with extreme dynamic range situations, the phone shines. It manages to balance everything out. The images are filled with details, even when you’re taking pictures of dogs, trees, and so on. The phone manages to get a lot of detail from dog hair, which is usually what most phones struggle with.

The colors are just right, and even images in low light end up looking excellent

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It also gets the colors right. They don’t end up being too saturated, but saturated enough to make the phone seem vivid. In low light scenarios, the device will fire up the night mode on its own, though you can trigger it yourself, if you want. I did notice a bug here, though, as sometimes, even when I trigger night mode manually, it wouldn’t work, the image would end up being really dark. That is probably a leftover bug that Huawei will fix in the near future, though. The main camera manages to get a lot of light into the shot, and get a lot of details out of it as well.

Ultrawide camera performs admirably

Ultrawide camera performs admirably as well. The colors are similar to the main camera, so there’s not much difference between the two cameras, which is something you’ll appreciate, as the two images shot in wide and ultrawide formats won’t seem like they come from different phones. That camera does well in low light, but not to the extent of the main shooter, of course.

If you need a telephoto camera, this one will serve you really well. At 3.5x and 10x zoom, the pictures end up looking great, but you can go beyond that as well, without a problem. The telephoto camera does suffer in low light, though, if you go above a certain point, though that’s normal for periscope cameras. The monochrome camera is supposed to help out with details, and based on the images this phone can provide, it probably does.

Video recording is also quite good

Video recording is not the best out there, but it’s really, really good. It’s amongst the best on Android. You can shoot at 4K at 60 FPS, without a problem, and the phone does a really good job balancing out the video, the stabilization is really good. I didn’t notice any major issues in that regard.

Huawei P50 Pro camera samples (Flickr)

You’d be surprised how good the software is… as long as you don’t need Google apps

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Many would say that software is the pain point of Huawei smartphones these days. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. Why? Well, if you are reliant on Google, then sure, this is not the best phone for you. If you are not, however, then you can make it work really easy. There is a way to get Google services on this phone via a virtualizer, but that’s not something I’d recommend. Some odd code was found inside the app that makes it possible, and I’m not even going to go into it here.

Combine AppGallery with APK Updater for great results

So, if you’re not reliant on Google, the company’s official AppGallery has a lot of apps at this point, and the ones that you’re missing, you can easily get through Petal Search which comes pre-installed on the phone. It will enable you to get it through APKPure, or some other source it’s available through. Then simply install the APK Updater app, and you’re good to go. Everything I’ve tried on the phone worked like a charm, aside from Google’s apps. Everything worked great, even.

EMUI 12 comes pre-installed, and makes some odd choices

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The Huawei P50 Pro comes with EMUI 12 out of the box. It’s a bit different in comparison to past versions, but it’s still good. Huawei took a different approach to the notification shade here, which may not have been the best idea. If you swipe down from the top-left side of the display, you’ll get your regular notification shade. In order to access quick toggles, though, you’ll need to do the same from the top-right side. This makes accessing the notification shade with one hand a hassle (for righties, vice versa applies for lefties).

You can choose between a regular drawer, and keeping all apps on the home screen

Aside from that, you can get a really familiar experience here. You can choose between having a regular app drawer, and having all your apps on the home screen. There are various additional options included in the settings, so you can get a secondary drawer with favorite apps to pop up from the side when you call upon it. That’s just one example. Huawei also has a themes engine built into EMUI 12, and so on. The software works really well, it’s fluid, and I didn’t have any issues with notifications, none whatsoever.

To cut the long story short. If you’re reliant on Google apps, or simply want to use some of them, this is definitely not the best choice for you. If you don’t need them, however, well, then it should be a phone to consider.

The speakers here are great, to say the least

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The Huawei P50 Pro delivers excellent audio quality. It has two speakers, one sits at the bottom, the other one at the top. The sound is really well balanced between them, and they sound great. They’re more than loud enough, even when you’re out and about, and the sound coming out of them is rich. You’ll even get some bass with these speakers. They’re amongst the better ones we’ve seen lately.

The Huawei P50 Pro does not come with a 3.5mm headphone jack. That is a common thing when it comes to flagship smartphones these days, so it’s not surprising. You can always utilize the Type-C USB port, or simply use Bluetooth. You can get good sound output via a good pair of headphones, that’s for sure.

The Huawei P50 Pro is an excellent smartphone, if you want a Google-free experience

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So, what’s the bottom line? Is the Huawei P50 Pro worthy? I’d say so, yes, but it all depends. The Huawei P50 Pro has an excellent design, great-sounding speakers, vivid and rich display, and great performance. On top of that, it has a top-of-the-line camera setup, amongst the best in the market. There’s a big caveat here, no Google services. That is a requirement for the vast majority of users, but if you’re not one of them, and can live without Google apps, this phone is a great choice, there’s no doubt about it.