Huawei P50 Pro Review: Excellent cameras but no Google services

Huawei’s flagship smartphone P50 Pro was first unveiled back in July 2021 and launched in China the following month. But its international rollout was relatively slow. It will only be tomorrow (Jan 22) that P50 Pro will be officially available in Singapore.

PRICE: S$1,548, available tomorrow (Jan 22) in Lazada and Shopee
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 4G
DISPLAY: 6.6-inch OLED, 2,700 x 1,228 pixels, up to 120Hz
OPERATING SYSTEM: EMUI 12.01 (Android 11)
REAR CAMERAS: 13MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 50MP f/1.8 colour wide-angle, 40MP f/1.6 monochrome wide-angle, 64MP f/3.5 telephoto (3.5x optical zoom)
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,360mAh
WEIGHT: 195g

Here, the P50 Pro comes in two colours of black and gold (version reviewed). And it is armed with the high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, albeit only 4G version, unlike the Kirin chipset models in China.

The Huawei P50 Pro in gold and black. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Also, the P50 Pro does not run HarmonyOS in Singapore. Instead, it is running the Android-based EMUI 12, which has some HarmonyOS elements.

In terms of looks, the P50 Pro is easily a winner. This is especially so with the gold review unit. It looks really sleek with its thin profile and shines absolutely splendidly with its golden hues.

The P50 Pro is sleek and shiny. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

When you look at P50 Pro’s product photos on the Internet, the two rear circular camera modules might seem jarring or over-the-top. But when you look at it in real life, it looks actually pretty normal.

My only complaint is the shiny rear does attract plenty of smudges and fingerprints. But a silicone case is included, so it should not be much of a problem when the case is used. In any case, the P50 Pro will definitely attract plenty of admiring glances when you whip it out in the MRT.

If you do not use the included case, this is what happens. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Not to mention, the P50 Pro’s 6.6-inch display is gorgeous to look with minimal bezels on its top and bottom. The sides of the display almost flow to the rear.

Furthermore, the display is able to support refresh rates of up to 120Hz. In other words, scrolling through web pages and playing games will be smoother than conventional displays.

+ Excellent cameras
+ Great overall performance
+ Sleek design
+ Gorgeous display

– No Google Mobile Services
– Rear is a smudge magnet
– Battery life can better

Huawei’s P series smartphones have been known for its photography prowess. The P50 Pro is no exception with its rear quad-camera system.

The top circular camera module is the home to the main 50-megapixel (MP) primary wide-angle camera, a 40MP monochrome wide-angle camera and a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera. The bottom camera module houses the 64MP telephoto camera with 3.5x optical zoom.

The rear dual circular camera modules of P50 Pro. (Photo: Huawei)

In case you are wondering, a monochrome camera can capture more details as it does not need to include colour information. Plus, the monochrome camera helps in sensing depth in portrait mode.

In addition, the P50 Pro features Huawei’s new image processing engine called XD Optics. It is essentially Huawei’s own computational photography algorithms to rival that of Google. And the pictures taken using P50 Pro are generally excellent.

Under bright sunlight, images shot using the ultra-wide-angle or wide-angle camera are sharp and vivid with plenty of details. The telephoto camera also produces great results, even when shot using the digital 10x zoom.

Shot taken using the ultra-wide-angle camera. (Photo: Trevor Tan)
This is taken using the digital 10x zoom of the telephoto camera. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

For night shots, the P50 Pro’s night mode does a superb job in rendering the low-light scenes without exposing the light sources. You can see the difference between the normal and night shots at a glance.

Having started life as a street photographer when I was 15, I always love to shoot in black and white. And I love the monochrome mode of P50 Pro. It offers much details in both the light and shadow areas, while keeping the exposure spot on.

The monochrome camera is ideal for street photography. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In addition, the XD Optics has some tricks up its sleeve. For example, you can erase a subject from a photo by selecting in gallery, go to Edit > More > Remove. Choose the size of the brush and draw around the subject to remove it. I think the result is pretty good, as you can see from below.

Given the US trade ban, it is a surprise that Huawei managed to get their hands on the high-end Snapdragon 888 chip even though it is the 4G version. Apart from having no 5G support, it is the same speedy chip. Thus, the P50 Pro is no slouch.

In the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, the P50 Pro scored 891 (single-core) and 3,255 (multi-core). By comparison, the Xiaomi 11T Pro, which has the 888 5G chip, has a single-core score of 810 and a multi-core score of 3,331. And Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Fold3 foldable smartphone managed to score only 853 (single-core) and 2,897 (multi-core).

As a result, whether you are having multiple apps open or playing games, the P50 Pro’s performance is top-notch. I have not experienced any lag or slowdown running any apps or playing any games. Whether it is playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang or Asphalt 9, it is smooth as butter.

Playing games like Asphalt 9 is as smooth as butter. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Unfortunately, we have to talk about P50 Pro’s lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS) due to the US trade ban. Without GMS, the smartphone cannot run a multitude of Google apps, from Google Play Store to YouTube.

However, Huawei has been building its own AppGallery app store as well as its own HarmonyOS mobile operating system. Most of the apps you might use in Singapore, such as TraceTogether, Grab, DBS and etc, are already on AppGallery. But you will be missing Google Maps and Google Pay.

Despite having a larger capacity battery than its predecessor P40 Pro, the P50 Pro lasted shorter. In the video playback test with the screen refresh rate set at dynamic, the P50 Pro clocked 13 hours and 54 minutes. While the battery life is not bad, it is actually 2 hours shorter than P40 Pro.

Of course, battery life will depend on your usage and the screen refresh rate you choose. During my tests, I find that it still has around 40 per cent battery juice left by the time I go to bed.

With its great performance and excellent cameras, the Huawei P50 Pro would have been a sure win, must-buy and highly-recommended if not of the lack of GMS.

Just a cute cat photographed using P50 Pro. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

However, if you are the adventurous geeky type and ready to challenge yourself to figure things out, the P50 Pro is definitely the one for you.

DESIGN: 9/10
OVERALL: 8.5/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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