REVIEW | Huawei P50 flagship smartphone

The Huawei P50 is an impressive all-rounder that can keep up, and sometimes exceed, its price segment peers. Among its many strengths as a productivity powerhouse, its professional-grade cameras blow away the competition. This device is not held back in terms of software as much as before, and Huawei already has made leaps and bounds to improving the user experience of its customers.

Huawei has finally brought the last member of the Huawei P50 series in the Philippines – the Huawei P50. Earlier this year, the company introduced the P50 Pro photography beast and the premium foldable P50 Pocket. Where does the base version of the Huawei P50 series fit into all of these?

Essentially, the Huawei P50 is a tapered-down version of its pricier siblings, lacking the folding screen gimmick of the Pocket variant, and the additional monochrome lens of the Pro model. With the rest, all three smartphones use the same own-brand operating system, Snapdragon processor, and camera software powered by Leica Optics.

Design and display

The Huawei P50 base model is both stylish and sophisticated in design, making use of an aluminum frame and rounded corners for a more striking appearance, and a reflective glass back which is also mimicked in a subdued albeit sizeable camera lens tray.

Unfortunately, fans of its aesthetics will be unable to show-off its eye-catching exterior since the camera bump is substantial especially when laid flat on a table, requiring a case to balance its back. The 3D curve of the glass panel delivers a comfortable experience when held but the glossy frame makes the overall grip situation slightly slippery, a minor issue since it’s a must to slap on a case when using the P50.

With the Golden Black variant, the antenna lines blend seamlessly with the chassis. The SIM card tray is located at the bottom, placed side-by-side with the Type-C port and single-firing speaker, while all the buttons are situated on the right side, improving the one-handed mode ergonomics.

Despite being a camera-centric smartphone, it is underwhelming to get a screen maxed at 90Hz screen refresh rate when the processor is able to reproduce great visuals in extremely demanding titles. With that out of the way, the colors displayed are true to tone and are more vivid thanks to the curved OLED panel material, and the high resolution produces great details and can be lowered to save power.

In outdoor lighting conditions, the brightness of the P50’s display is able to maintain good visibility while the dimming control significantly reduces eye strain at night. For a premium flagship, there is a little more to be desired with the P50 in terms of display performance, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the device is fragile since it has a dust and waterproof resistance rating of IP68.

Performance and specs

The Huawei P50 comes with a powerful mixture of hardware designed to bring a generational upgrade to the brand’s premium P-series. The 5nm processor handles the brunt of resource-demanding tasks and graphics, the Huawei Histen delivers crisp sound than can be made tailor-fit to each user through customization, and the large 4100mAh battery charging at a blazing fast 66W capacity ensures that the phone can keep up with the needs of any user.

Whether it’s a racing simulation like Need for Speed or a fantasy MMORPG like Genshin Impact which both need to load significant assets during gameplay, P50 users won’t feel any delay or hiccup when using the phone. Downloading apps are a breeze and opening them feels quicker than traditional flagships.

During intense gameplay with maxed settings, it takes more than an hour before gamers will be able to detect any heat from the device. The Huawei P50 excels in getting the full effect of the Snapdragon Elite Gaming suite of functionalities and gamers will be able to feel an improvement in performance and responsiveness, as well as an overall faster graphics rendering.

This also means that the Huawei P50 is capable of editing and rendering long-form videos with ease, and the computational power is also evident in how quickly it processes the images and videos taken on its formidable camera setup.

Another helpful feature which is quite rare in flagship offerings is the memory expansion option of up to 256GB, making use of a shared SIM slot, and is present in all three existing P50 devices in the Philippines. This feature ensures users with the potential longevity of the Huawei P50, adding more value per peso spent.

Camera

The photography and videography capabilities of the Huawei P50’s hard-hitting camera modules and top-notch imaging engine takes the cake with regards to introducing a new standard for smartphone users. The dual matrix camera design may seem a little unconventional in terms of how it looks, but its results are really what sets the P50 series apart from its peers.

Without diving into the specifics of its cameras’ internals, the photo and video quality taken on the Huawei P50 are on par with devices in its price segment. However, the level of optimization and stability, as well as the user interface and functionalities, bring a whole new layer of value to consumers.

As an example, while most mobile cameras today are able to capture greater amounts of detail than older models, color reproduction remains a common pain point for brands, and some have resorted to artificially boosting colors through software to add vibrance which only produces unrealistic composition of images. Instead of tweaking the color algorithm, Huawei has decided to instead upgrade the ambient light sensing system to not only improve color reproduction but give images and videos more realistic colors in relation to the lighting conditions present.

In another scenario, extreme zoom distances have been actively marketed by major brands as a highlighting feature for their flagship smartphones. Unfortunately, this is rarely ever used to the fullest potential in real-word use cases since most of the results are either too blurry to pass for social media, requires tripod-assisted stability which is cumbersome for casual snappers, while some get away by simply cropping the image and not really zooming in on the subject.

The Huawei P50 does this differently. Its 80x zoom range does not rely on a single camera module, and it is evident when taking a video and zooming in live on a subject. The cameras switches across different fields of view, taking advantage mainly of its 12MP telephoto lens and 13MP ultra-wide camera to bring subjects closer without sacrificing quality.

Huawei P50

Some helpful stock camera features include the brand’s own AI lens which works similarly to Google Lens, audio control, floating shutter, moving picture, several Leica color presets, portrait effects like swirl and circles, steady shot, tracking shot, background blur in videos, a Pro mode with AF assist and RAW image support, an AR lens, monochrome images, dual view, and a document reader.

Software

The ban on Google Mobile Services (GMS) was expected to drastically affect how users would experience Huawei’s latest flagship, but with the Huawei P50, that weakness turned to be its greatest strength. With the added freedom in designing an interface that focuses on the users’ demands and preferences, Huawei has built a platform that is more open and streamlined.  

As a warning, the setup stage of the device is comparatively longer than conventional smartphones. At first glance, the Huawei P50 has numerous apps but lacks an app drawer. Upon closer inspection, most of these apps aren’t actually downloaded yet and are just recommendations.

To counter the limitations in app availability, Huawei has done a good job in integrating Petal Search with AppGallery, making third-party applications easily accessible and verifiable. Meanwhile, the Device+ feature gives productivity users a boost in seamlessly linking their smartphone with nearby Huawei devices.

Conclusion

The Huawei P50 is a proper generational upgrade from its predecessor, despite a handful of differences in terms of hardware, it has zoomed past the previous model in terms of its optimization and ease-of-use. Versus the competition, it offers a different facet of value that Huawei fans have been waiting for and shows promise in what Huawei will be introducing moving forward. And while there is nothing to complain about with its cameras and interface, it would be nice to see a better refresh rate and shorter setup time in a flagship device retailing for P39,999.

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