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  3. Huawei Mate 40 review: a powerful device with a great camera

Huawei Mate 40 review: a powerful device with a great camera

Huawei Mate 40 Pro homescreen hero image

Pros

  • Great face and fingerprint unlock
  • Good camera
  • unique camera design

Cons

  • No Google services
  • Huawei app Gallery workarounds aren’t good enough

First impressions

Huawei Mate 40 Pro back

The back of the Mate 40 Pro holds the standout design element. The circular camera takes the eye immediately, as the three-camera setup dominates the top half of the device’s body.

It’s pleasing to see that the makers of the phone have gone for something a little bit different than your everyday flagship. The Mate 40 cameras have a welcome futuristic vibe about them.

If design is part of your purchase decision then the setup will definitely attract your eye. This is undermined a little by the fact that the mobile’s back picks up more fingerprints than a crime scene. But this is a common problem with most glossy-looking devices.

It only took a day of proper hands-on use for us to notice a slew of grubby marks. It may be better with different colour models, but our grey variant did nothing to hide blemishes. Still, investing in a case should do away with this problem.

As we turn the device over, we get our first look at the screen. It has a pronounced edge to it that you’ll notice as you run your finger across the screen and down into the body.

For the most part this is okay, but it will create some issues during everyday use. More on that in the Display section below.

The power button sits below the volume rocker on the right-hand side. Both feel sturdy to the touch.

The selfie camera meanwhile, sits at the top left of the screen. The camera takes the form of a black bar. The setup is not as good as the hole punch design and could do with being a little bit smaller, but it’s unlikely to hurt your viewing experience.

Display

Huawei Mate 40 Pro screen

The Mate 40 Pro offers a 6.76-inch display. The screen has the ability to run at 90 Hz refresh rate. This is a technical downgrade from the likes of the Samsung S20, which can run at 120 Hz.

A high Hz rate means that it will be visually pleasing to scroll through apps and menus. Yes, it’s not technically as good as some other phones, but in reality, it isn’t going to make much difference to you.

What is irritating however, is the pronounced edge to the screen. It isn’t noticeable most of the time, except for the odd occasion when words bend round the screen.

Fortunately, the pronounced edge style will not affect your movie viewing experience.

The OLED screen looks good. At this level you would expect nothing less than high quality and we noticed no issues that will impede your viewing pleasure.

The phone appears to handle colours quite well and images look sharp. If you use Netflix, we recommend that you tweak the in-app brightness to full for the best results.

Camera

Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera interface

The Mate 40 Pro’s fresh camera set up certainly looks the part, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The three-camera setup consists of a, 50MP wide angle, 20MP ultrawide, and a 12MP telephoto. The front cam comes with a 13MP lens.

All of this translates into some very nice snaps. We were particularly impressed with the quality of the zoom function, as we took some very clear and sharp pictures.

Huawei boasts that the phone can go up to 50 times zoom, but you need to bear in mind that the more intense the zoom, the grainier the picture will end up.

As we switched to flower shots, the cameras also proved their worth. The end result captured the scene accurately. Not too dark and not too artificially bright either.

You may notice an occasional issue with focusing. But for the most part, the system works fine.

The app comes with several options including, Photo, Portrait, Night Mode and Pro Mode, to allow a little bit extra hands-on control.

We definitely appreciate the app maker’s decision to include an information icon which provides useful info about what each option does. Digging into the minutia can be confusing but it’s nice to have something to fall back on.

Performance and battery life

Huawei Mate 40 Pro homescreen closeup

Now we come to the question on everybody’s mind. Has Huawei come up with a viable alternative to Google Android?

Owing to some political wrangling, Google is not permitted to work with Huawei on new devices. This means no Google Play Store, no Google Assistant, and no installed Google services.

After spending a little bit of time in this new landscape, we are sorry to say we don’t like it much. The Chinese tech company has done its best to cover the shortfall with its own Huawei App Gallery, as well as a cloning app to bring across apps from a previous phone.

The Huawei App Gallery lacks some big names like Netflix and Uber. While some services like Gmail or YouTube can be accessed via a web browser.

Alternatively, you can use a home screen search bar to locate apps from third-party sources like APKPure. APKPure is a pretty reliable third-party, but it can’t beat Google’s ease and security.

When using the likes of APKPure, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait longer for the latest updates on apps.

If you do plan to download apps from unofficial sources or a place you haven’t heard of before, make sure to research the credibility of the source. There is a risk that some apps are corrupted or tweaked to cause harm.

Google assistant is also absent from the package. This is irritating because the Mate Pro’s attempt at a helper is poor.

The Huawei Assistant failed with basic questions like asking for the time. Needless to say, it couldn’t manage a witty joke either.

The problem with the setup is that it takes away much-appreciated straightforwardness. A user now has to hunt down their favourite app or get used to using the web browser.

The lack of Google is a big blow to a phone which is otherwise a strong offering.

Both the fingerprint scanner and face unlock work lightning quick most of the time. Sometimes it feels as if the phone has barely been brought up to the face, and it is ready to go.

As you’d expect with 8GB of RAM apps open promptly, and the system runs smoothly. There’s also plenty of room to store your favourite things with a whopping 256GB of memory.

As for the battery, Huawei claims up to 4400mAh. This will get you through the day with no issues. Your mileage will vary depending on how you choose to use your phone. For example, checking text messages uses a lot less juice than intense streaming.

The device is also IP68 water/dust resistant and supports wireless charging.

Accessibility

Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera lens closeup

Depending on your needs, the accessibility experience might leave you feeling a little bit short-changed in some key areas.

Huawei has opted for an odd placement of accessibility features. If you tap on the option named Accessibility Features, you won’t initially find common features like a screen reader, colour invert, or Mono audio.

Instead, you’ll have options for things like one-handed mode, shortcuts and gestures and Gloves mode. For the more specific accessibility settings, you’ll have to tap Accessibility. It initially looks like a subheading, but once you click into it, you’ll find lots of useful features.

Is the Mate 40 Pro good for people with a visual impairment?

Notable features

  • Screen reader
  • Colour inversion
  • Magnification

During our time with the phone, the screen reader appeared to run smoothly and easily. One tap of the finger sounds out an app or items information, while two taps selects.

To scroll through screens simply apply two fingers up, down, or side to side. The software is pleasingly responsive, but users like me who struggle to control their fingers may find it more tricky.

When trying to pull down the Options bar, it’s all too easy to hit other apps or functions by accident. It’s frustrating at times, as you have to plant your finger in just the right way for the system to tell the difference between pulling down the Options bar, or the recent apps section.

For example, if you want to pull down the Options bar, place your index finger almost at the top of the screen, and plant your thumb a little further down. Pull down with your index finger, which will trigger the Settings bar.

If all you require is a read aloud option for articles and text messages, then this isn’t the option for you. Instead, head into the App Gallery and choose one that suits you best.

As noted above, the Gallery isn’t the best, but in this case, it should do the job.

Colour Invert and Magnifier are also available. In the latter’s case there is no magnification window offering as with some devices. Instead, a user must triple tap to activate and deactivate the enhancement.

You can also choose to move around the screen while the Magnifier is on by using two fingers. Magnification must be turned on in Accessibility before you can start using it.

Is the Mate 40 Pro good for people with hearing loss?

Notable features

  • Mono Sound
  • Caption style preferences

The Mate 40 Pro has a few basic features, but it’s fair to say other competitors have a much larger offering.

For one thing, there’s no obvious support for hearing aids, something which is becoming increasingly common on top of the range phones.

Of the features that are present, Mono Sound takes sounds that would usually be intended for either the left or the right ear and combines it into one stream.

You can also choose to adapt the font style of captions, making it easier to follow your favourite video media. For example, you could set the text to show up in bright green for your favourite video.

It’s worth noting, that your preference may not take effect across all streaming apps. If there is no subtitle installed onto the video itself, the feature will not work.

Is the Mate 40 Pro good for people with a physical disability?

Notable features

  • Touch and hold settings

The Huawei product weighs in at 212g. This does feel a little bit heavy in the hand.

If this is your first big screen flagship phone, then its weight is something that will take some getting used to, although it should become more natural in time.

If you do need to use the device one-handed for things like watching movies, then it will likely feel uncomfortable without some support.

In terms of phone security, the Mate 40 Pro comes with face unlock and an in-screen fingerprint reader. If you have a reasonable range of movement in your fingers or your head, then either process is quick and straightforward.

If neither option suits, then the ability to enter a code is available.

On board the phone itself, you won’t find a whole lot on offer. Disappointingly, there’s no sign of Switch Access support or an Assistant menu interface.

The former allows external buttons called Switches, to control certain actions such as scrolling through menus. The latter typically serves as an on-screen interface which offers one-tap options for things that would usually require physical buttons or more complicated tap actions.

Assistant Menu is a particularly disappointing omission, as it’s a simple tool that allows people to access features that their mobility would otherwise restrict.

The mobile does at least offer a Touch and Hold setting. This allows some control on how long it will take the Mate 40 to respond with long press options.

Sadly, there is no ability to customise a timeframe and the user is only given short, medium or long. Even worse than this, is that there appears to be little if any difference between the short and the long option.

Value and verdict

Huawei Mate 40 lockscreen closeup

The Mate 40 Pro has many of the elements to make a great phone. The cameras impress and the rest of the package is solid too. The lack of Google Play and subsequent services is a major loss.

This is likely to be a deal breaker for those that would otherwise enjoy the experience.

The accessibility features could also stand to be a whole lot better on this flagship device.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: huawei
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