HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo.
HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo.
Image: Supplied

Huawei recently held a glittering event for its new flagship devices consisting of the P60 series, and more, at the awe inspiring Atlantis The Royal in Dubai.

The first major brand to hold a launch of this nature at the hotel, it’s clear that the beleaguered tech brand is signalling to the world that despite sanctions from the US government, they’re not going anywhere and that they’re also still able to hold their own among the big boys of the consumer tech world.

The Dubai launch, held specifically for countries in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region, showcased the P60 Pro, Mate X3 folding phone, Watch Ultimate, MatePad 11, two new MateBooks and the Freebuds 5.

Not all of these devices will be available in SA, as confirmed by Huawei at their local launch at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg.

There, the brand announced that all but the new Freebuds 5 and MatePad 11 would be available in SA.

P60 Pro

The latest flagship phone from Huawei, the P60 Pro is the first phone in a long time that’s elicited any form of excitement from me. Having attended launches for, and reviewed, smartphones at various pricepoints and form factors from all the major players in SA, everything’s started to blur together in a sea of glass and camera bumps.

Everyone promises that their new device is the best thing ever, but very few actually live up to that hype.

Huawei’s P60 Pro, the only device in the P60 series coming to SA, managed to wow me at almost every turn.

Despite the aforementioned sanctions from the US government which prohibits Huawei from being able to use Google Mobile Services (GMS) or 5G chipsets, the company has found workarounds to both of these issues.

Running an open-source version of Android (AOSP) means that Huawei didn’t have to start building a new operating system from the ground up and could instead rely on exiting frameworks for customers in the West, while creating HarmonyOS for customers in China.

HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo - front.
HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo - front.
Image: Supplied

This means that current Huawei devices — phones and tablets — use the brand’s familiar EMUI user interface atop a version of Android that does not have access to core Google services or apps.

During the set-up process of the P60 Pro you’re prompted to install Gbox which circumvents this lack of Google services by creating a virtual machine that has none of the sanctions or restrictions that Huawei faces and allows you to not only log into your Google services but to also download Google apps such as Google search, Chrome, Gmail and Google Maps.

Interestingly, Microsoft has never been banned from working with Huawei, allowing you to download official Microsoft apps like Bing, Edge and Office 365 and use those as Google alternatives.

On the chip set front, Huawei no longer makes its Kirin chips and is unable to purchase 5G enabled chipsets. When asked whether Huawei was actively working on finding a solution, in the form of creating their own 5G chipsets to address the lack of 5G on their devices, Cheng Lei, chief marketing officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group — Middle East and Africa, responded by saying that the company was not actively working on this and that Huawei didn’t believe that 5G does not equate to a great phone.

While that might come across as a bold statement, it’s also true, especially in SA where 5G is not as prevalent as it is in other countries.

HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo - back.
HUAWEI P60 Pro - Rococo - back.
Image: Supplied

In terms of hardware, the P60 Pro continues to deliver on the staples that made Huawei flagships as popular as they were in their heyday, namely impressive battery life and unparalleled camera performance.

The handset sports a 4815mAh battery with 88W charging (with the 88W SuperCharge charging cable and brick included in the box) and a device that weighs only 200g, making it one of the lightest flagship smartphones I’ve used in ages.

It has a 6.67-inch quad-curved LTPO OLED display that’s able to adjust its refresh rate between 1 — 120 times a second depending on the type of content on the display.

Turn the phone around and you’re greeted by a very noticeable camera design that’s meant to mimic a DSLR camera when used in landscape mode.

At the centre of the triple camera set-up is a 48MP Ultra Lighting Camera surrounded on either side by a 13MP Ultra-Wide Angle Camera and a 48MP Ultra Lighting Telephoto Camera.

Smartphone manufacturers love to say that the camera on their device can rival a DSLR and for the most part, that’s been nothing more than hype marketing. But in the case of the P60 Pro it’s the truth thanks to its new XMAGE camera technology that first debuted on the Mate 50 Pro.

Having spent a month with the device it’s very quickly become my go-to camera for quick snapshots able to produce incredible images, proving that it’s not about how many megapixels your camera has, but how good your image software processing is.

All of these are unedited photos taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the normal point and shoot camera with AI turned on:

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

As you can see, the P60 Pro excels under all conditions including night and lowlight as well as harsh backlighting and it’s capable of 100x zoom.

Not only is this the best smartphone camera that Huawei has ever made it’s currently the best smartphone camera on the planet with a DxOMark score of 156. In fact, the camera and overall feel of the device, combined with the capabilities of Gbox, are so good, that it’s become one of my two default phones that I use every day, ousting the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

The other standout feature of the device is the Rococo Pearl that replicates a mother of pearl finish. According to Huawei, due to the way the Rococo Pearl finish is created, no two Rococo Pearl handsets will have the exact same pattern on the back, making each one unique. If that’s a bit too flashy for you then you’ll love the more understated black colourway that’s also available in country.

RRP R24 999

Huawei Mate X3.
Huawei Mate X3.
Image: Supplied

Mate X3

Billed as the world’s thinnest foldable, the Huawei Mate X3 is an impressive piece of hardware that not only addresses all the pain points of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold line but does it in a device with a new design.

The first non-Samsung foldable phone to sport an IPX8 rating, the Mate X3 has a 6.4-inch OLED outer display with a 1 — 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and a 7.85-inch OLED inner display with up to 120Hz refresh rate.

It has 12GB RAM, 512GB (expandable via Huawei’s NM cards) storage, a 4800mAh battery that supports 66W fast charging, and is powered by a 4G Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip set.

On the back of the device you’ll find a triple camera set-up in a rather noticeable, round camera hump that Huawei says resembles a spaceship porthole, consisting of a 50MP Ultra Vision Camera, 13MP Ultra-Wide Angle Camera and a 12MP Periscope Telephoto Camera.

Inside, and on the front of the device, you’ll find the same 8 MP Camera.

Like the P60 Pro, you’ll need to use Gbox on the Mate X3 if you want to access Google apps.

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