The Mate 40 Pro isn't quite your ordinary slab of a smartphone - it does have some standout design elements. The waterfall display, the rear camera assembly, the pill-shaped selfie camera cutout if you will.
Huawei says the OLED panel takes an 88-degree turn to cover the sides of the phone and we're seeing no reason to doubt that claim. They've gone a notch further compared to the already pretty curvy sides of last year's model though perhaps you wouldn't be able to tells it's 88 or 80 or whatever degrees - it's one curved display, for sure, of the type that Samsung's been moving away from for a few generations.
There's a sizeable cutout in that display, one that houses the selfie cam and the ToF bits for 3D face recognition. On last year's model those were in an iPhone-style notch, but Huawei switched to a pill-shaped implementation on the P40 Pro and that design makes it to the Mate 40 Pro. Apple has the notch, Huawei has this cutout and neither is exactly pretty, but the Mate does allow you to hide it in software. Having said that, as recent years have thought us, you learn to ignore notches or punch-holes in no time.
Unlike the P30 Pro, P40 bunch and the Mate 30 Pro that vibrate their displays for voice calls, the Mate 40 Pro has a conventional earpiece - sound comes out through a thin slit where the display glass meets the aluminum frame.
That comes hand in hand with another most welcome development - this Mate here has stereo speakers. It's two identical ones, one firing out the top of the device, the other - from the bottom.
One more notable step in the right direction is the return of the physical volume buttons. Entirely software-based on the Mate 30 Pro, volume control operation was fiddly, needed learning, and even then worked some of the time. The Mate 40 Pro has a proper mechanical rocker for this task.
Of course, with the extreme curve of the display, the buttons are... below the equator. While not strictly the greatest example for excellent ergonomics, they do at least work every time.
Immediately noticeable when you pick up the Mate 40 Pro after holding last year's model is that the new one feels bigger. While the numbers do objectively say so, it's also a tangible difference that the 2.4mm of added width and 0.3mm of extra thickness may not directly communicate. It's a big phone though, and as big phones go, the Mate is... ordinary, if that makes sense.Mate 40 Pro (left) next to Mate 30 Pro
There's nothing ordinary about its back, however. The unique circular camera configuration is entirely a by-product of engineering considerations, we've been told, and not a form-over-function decision - the arrangement of the modules called for that particular design.
The four cameras are placed inside a black circle, the mandatory Leica logo in the middle. Without the circle as an accent, Huawei could have made one large rectangle with the four modules in the corners. That wouldn't have been 1/3.14 as cool, though, would it?
There's also the matter of color and finish. Our review unit is in the Mystic Silver colorway and comes with a matte glass back that does the usual pearl-like play with light - only even more of it. Black and White options will be available with similarly finished glass backs. Black and Mystic Silver be the ones you can get in Europe.
Two more variants will exist and those will have vegan leather on their backs. One will be in 'Sunflower Yellow', the other - 'Olive Green'.
As any self-respecting high-end phone, the Mate 40 Pro has an IP68 rating for dust and water protection. The one place you can tell care has been taken to waterproof the handset is the card slot - there's a red gasket on the card tray for environmental protection. The tray takes a nano SIM and an NM card (Nano Memory) back to back - it's one better than no memory expansion capability, but still no microSD.
The card slot is on the bottom where you'll also find the USB-C port, the bottom loudspeaker and the primary mic. Meanwhile, up top, a second mic keeps company to the other loudspeaker and the IR emitter - we're glad Huawei keeps fitting those in phones, even as the number of people looking for one is progressively shrinking.