Huawei P60 Pro initial review: Superb camera, frustrating software

Huawei's P60 Pro offers a flagship design and camera experience, but there's still no Google. Here's our initial review.

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A few years back, it could probably have been argued that Huawei was responsible for delivering such great competition in the flagship smartphone market, that other manufacturers were forced to continue innovating, rather than resting on their laurels. The company was up there fighting with the likes of Samsung and Apple, and winning in some cases too, delivering superb camera performance from its P-series and Mate-series smartphones.

Unfortunately, things changed in 2019 when Huawei was hit by a US trade ban, stopping companies like Google and Qualcomm working with it, resulting in the Google Play Store being removed from all Huawei's phones post the P30 Pro, and 5G not supported either. It's not stopped Huawei launching devices, and continuing to innovate, but there's a compromise to be made for the excellent camera capabilities.

The latest model in the Huawei line up is the P60 Pro. Having spent some time with it ahead of its global launch, here's our initial review.

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Huawei P60 Pro

First impressions

It's a real shame Google isn't on board, because overall, the Huawei P60 Pro is a great device with a camera that is up there with the best. It's just that for now, that comes with a big compromise.

Premium design and build

  • 161 x 74.5 x 8.3mm, 200g
  • Rococo Pearl, Black
  • IP68

The Huawei P60 Pro is very much a flagship smartphone in terms of design and feel. There's a premium quality across every inch of the device, with a polished stainless steel frame that tapers between the rounded edges of the front and rear, making it lovely and slender.

Two colourways are on offer - Rococo Pearl and Black - with the former a pearl texture design and the model we spent time with prior to its launch. Each Rococo Pearl model is said to be unique, with varying textures and patterns, replicating Mother of Pearl. It's a beautiful finish that captures light in a stunning way, and we suspect there are many out there who will very much enjoy it. We prefer a little more subtlety in the finish of our smartphones as we get bored easily so we would likely opt for the black model, but the Rococo Pearl is certainly different and the way it - and the black model - curve at the edges make it a delight to hold.

In the top left corner of the rear, you'll find the large camera housing. It protrudes slightly from the soft and silky finish of the back of the P60 Pro, though the housing retains the pearlescent finish of the rest of the back, tying it in nicely. There's a large camera sensor in the middle that dominates, while a smaller lens sits above and a periscope lens sits below, resembling a traditional camera when held horizontally.

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The camera housing on the Huawei P60 Pro is smaller than some of the competition, with devices like the Oppo Find X6 Pro and the Xiaomi 13 Ultra both delivering far more extravagant options, though we did find it got in the way a little when we held the P60 Pro in our natural position. We kept noticing our index finger on the corner of the housing, though this could only really be resolved if Huawei had taken the same approach as Google did with the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, and spun the housing into a horizontal position. It didn't of course, so we won't complain too much, it's just something to keep in mind as it means constantly wiping the bottom lens.

On the front, the P60 Pro has a centralised punch hole camera at the top of the display and there are lovely and slim bezels surrounding the screen. Just like the rear, the edges of the display fall into the frame, delivering a superior design overall. There's USB-C at the bottom, flanked by the speaker on the right side and SIM tray on the left. Meanwhile on the right edge, you'll find the volume rocker and power button, the latter of which is positioned perfectly for our thumb to press when using one-handed.

Stunning display

  • 6.67-inch, LTPO OLED
  • 2700 x 1220 pixel resolution, 443ppi
  • 1-120Hz refresh rate, HDR

The Huawei P60 Pro has a 6.67-inch LTPO OLED display and it's stunning. It's a quad-curve display that sees all edges flow into the frame - something we briefly mentioned above. The edges are slightly more curved than the top and bottom though, so you'll notice the side bezels are slimmer than the ones on the corners and above and below the screen. This extra curve on the edges does impact the keyboard slightly, however. We found hitting enter in the bottom right corner of the keyboard wasn't as responsive as we would like because it slopes off the edge a little too much. Still, it looks great and this is something you'd likely get used to.

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Protecting the screen isn't the usual Corning Gorilla Glass, but Huawei's own Kunlun Glass, which is said to have ten times improved drop resistance to a non-Kunlun equivalent - this isn't something you could easily verify though and we didn't fancy a drop test to check.

In terms of the display itself, colours are lovely and rich with plenty of vibrancy and 'pop', while blacks are deep and the 1Hz to 120Hz adaptable refresh rate delivers a smooth and consistent scrolling experience. There are a number of display settings available to adjust the screen visuals too, including a Vivid colour mode that applies a wide colour gamut for more vibrancy, though we found the Normal colour mode that applies standard P3 or sRGB offered more than enough pop to satisfy.

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The resolution sits at 2700 x 1220 at its highest, which delivers a pixel density of 443ppi, and a detailed and crisp experience, though you can adjust the resolution between Low, High and Smart Resolution. The latter - which we had our P60 Pro set to - automatically adjusts the resolution to save power. It's possible to do the same for the refresh rate, with Dynamic, High and Standard as options, the latter of which limits the refresh rate to the standard 60Hz. This is often plenty for day-to-day tasks so it's an option to consider. Usually the higher refresh rates are only noticeable when gaming or scrolling continuously.

Hardware and battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
  • 8/12GB RAM, 256/512GB storage
  • 4815mAh battery, 88W fast charging, 50W wireless

The Huawei P60 Pro runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, which is what you'll find on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, for example. Well, similar anyway. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 has the 5G version, but the P60 Pro can only offer the 4G platform so while you get a very powerful chipset that is more than capable and delivers a smooth and lag-free performance in our experience, there are no 5G capabilities in the UK or Europe.

The Snapdragon platform is supported by either 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, or 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Neither has microSD support for storage expansion though that's not uncommon for flagship devices these days. You won't find microSD on the Apple's iPhone 14 devices, Samsung Galaxy S23 devices or Google's Pixel 7 devices, for example, so it's an omission we have now become used to. In fact, if you want microSD on your smartphone, your best bet is Sony's Xperia 1 iV.

There's a 4815mAh battery running the show and in our experience of the P60 Pro so far, there's solid performance here. We were testing the camera all day and evening - taking around 250 photos in total - and the battery capacity only dropped by 20 per cent. Fast charging is on board though, with 88W wired charging, 50W wireless charging and 7.5W reverse wireless charging, which is far superior to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S23 range that tops out at 25W, though a slower speed than the likes of the RealMe GT 3 with its 240W charging capabilities, for example.

Superb camera

  • Triple rear
    • 48MP main, f/1.4 to f/4.0, OIS
    • 13MP ultra-wide, f/2.2
    • 48MP telephoto, f/2.1, OIS
  • 13MP front, f/2.4

It's the camera capabilities that the Huawei P60 Pro really stands out for though. There's a triple rear camera with three RYYB sensors on board, along with the company's XMAGE branding, which Huawei previously told us it has the goal of making a recognised brand within the photography industry.

The main sensor is a 48-megapixel sensor with an auto-adjustable physical aperture between f/1.4 and f/4.0, High Transmittance Lens Group and optical image stabilisation (OIS). The improvements are designed to enhance low light results, displaying details in the dark while also improving the dynamic range in light-to-dark scenarios, like sunsets. Sitting alongside the main sensor is a 13-megapixel ultra-wide sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, as well as a redeveloped 48-megapixel telephoto camera with f/2.1 aperture and OIS.

The telephoto lens is the biggest talking point of this device and like the main sensor, it uses what Huawei calls Ultra Lighting Lens Group to capture more light, enhanced by the RYYB SuperSensing sensor. It offers up to 10X optical periscope zoom and it is designed to be as capable as the main camera. There's also a feature called Long Travel Slide Zoom Lens Group, which can control the focusing distance between long-distance photography and close-up macro shots.

We spent some time with the Huawei P60 Pro ahead of launch and the camera capabilities are excellent. The optical zoom focuses quickly and the detail captured is incredible. You can see the hairs around the giraffe's mouth for example, the saliva in the gorilla's mouth and the gunk in the camel's eye. We were very impressed with the results it offered and we used a combination of the 3.5X zoom and 10X zoom, both of which are preset on the camera app when in standard shooting mode.

Sunset shots were lovely and dynamic, with good detail preserved in the foreground too. The zoom capabilities did reduce in low light, as you would expect. We still got some exceptional shots, though they were more mottled than during good lighting, with some looking more like a painting than a photograph. During very dark conditions, the P60 Pro performed very well too though. In an almost pitch black room with just one candle and the moonlight shining through the window, the P60 Pro delivered some great shots, capturing things we couldn't see with our own eyes.

There are a couple of things here though. It's of course great that the low light photography capabilities are now that brilliant, though it's also not true to life given the human eye couldn't see what was captured so there's a lot of computational photography going on. The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra all produced similar results, though they all required a couple of seconds of standing still in order to capture the light and get the shot. The P60 Pro was almost instant. Switching it into Night mode on the camera depicts the same experience as the other devices, but you don't need to use Night mode as the standard mode on the P60 Pro takes the shot, and much faster too.

The front camera is a 13-megapixel lens with a f/2.4 aperture and it too offers some great shots in our experience. It's the rear setup that really impressed us though. We'd carry this device around just for the excellent photos.

Frustrating software

  • Android, EMUI 13.1
  • No access to Google Play Store

The Huawei P60 Pro runs on Android at its base, with EMUI 13.1 over the top. It's easy enough to use and navigate, though there is still no Google Play Store, or Google apps. All apps have to be downloaded from the Huawei AppGallery and while you'll find a number of common apps, like Instagram, Snapchat, Telegram and Twitter, there are a few omissions. You won't find WhatsApp - though you could use WhatsApp Web - and you won't find Facebook, or any Google apps, like Gmail, Google Maps or Google Home. You'll also struggle to find banking apps.

Huawei offers navigation through Petal Maps, which is actually pretty good, and the overall interface is simple but you're still not getting some of the most commonly used apps. We found the keyboard a little frustrating because of the curved display, as we mentioned, but overall, the camera app is very good and very easy to use, with a point and shoot approach. The main settings you need are all accessible without having to dive into separate settings, which is great, and not something that can be said for all competitors.

First impressions

The Huawei P60 Pro has a lot of great things going for it. The display is great, battery life is good in our experience, and quick to charge, and the camera system is superb, delivering excellent results not only in good lighting conditions, but low light - and very low light - too.

We don't love the Rococo Pearl finish, though it is certainly different, and the camera housing on the rear is in an awkward position for us, but these are both subjective, as there are no doubt some who will adore that pearly look. Plus, if the Huawei P60 Pro offered the Google Play Store and the access to the apps that come with that, we'd hands down recommend this device as a fantastic flagship smartphone with an excellent camera.

Sadly, the Google Play Store isn't an option though, so if you are considering this device, you really need to be OK with not having access to everything you might want on your smartphone, as well as not having 5G capabilities. It's a real shame, because overall, the Huawei P60 Pro is a great device and that camera is up there with the best, but for now that comes with a big compromise.