These days there are so many different smartphones out there it is hard to find things to distinguish them from each other. I genuinely struggle sometimes in finding what makes one phone better than another. That being said, there are things out there that can help to lift one phone above another, be it the use of dual cameras or a great screen. However, these things are now becoming more commonplace.
So the challenge still remains: what truly makes one phone stand out from others in the heap? Well not to worry, because I think that in the form of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro we may have a handset that is able to rise above its forebears and be different. It is now time to dive into the review of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and find out if this is the phone that will tick the boxes for you on making a smartphone different.
Design and Hardware
I have already gone into the design of Mate 10 Pro quite extensively in the unboxing that I did a few weeks back, so I would encourage you to have a look back at that article. If however, you want the clip notes, then here they are.
-: Great design
-: Brilliant display
-: Fingerprint reader has been done right (on the back and below the camera array)
-: Loud dual speaker setup
-: Water resistant thanks to IP 67 rating
-: Android 8 out of the box and EMUI 8
Here is the unboxing video to allow you to jog your memory..
Lets now take a tour of the device.
First and foremost, what we have here is a stunningly beautiful phone. Huawei has really pushed the boat out with regard to the design, drawing on the lessons learning from the P series. The phone now features a nearly bezel-less design and is the first Mate to feature an all-glass body. The screen is a gorgeous “Full View” 18:9 aspect ratio and comes in at 6″ diagonal in size. The screen itself is OLED, allowing for greater colour depth than on the Mate devices that have come before. In addition to this, the resolution has also been bumped up a tad to 2k, with an 18:9 ratio and 402 PPI density. The screen also has HDR 10, which will allow it to really show off any media that is shown on it. Add this onto the contrast ratio of 70000 to 1 and 16.7M colours, with a colour saturation (NTSC) of 112%, and you see that we have got something really special. On the bottom of the phone, you will find a very small area that is set aside for the Huawei Logo and, at the top, a similarly small area for the earpiece and forward firing speaker
On the bottom of the phone, there’s a very small area that is set aside for the Huawei logo and, at the top, a similarly small area for the earpiece and forward facing 8MP camera. This is now able to take the ultimate selfie by using “AI” to better identify objects in selfies/portrait shots.
Up here you also find the various different sensors for proximity and light levels. On the very top edge of the phone, there’s an IR emitter for controlling TV and audio systems. This is accompanied by a microphone.
On the right-hand side is where you will find the volume rocker button and also the power key, which is nicely textured to allow you to identify it based purely on feel. This is a nice touch and something I really liked on the Mate 9, so I am glad to see it has been continued.
The SIM slot is the left-hand side and in the UK we will only be receiving the single SIM variant. On the SIM tray itself, you will see a nod to the IP rating on the phone in the form of a small red gasket that will help to seal the phone from the elements. As is the case with all unibody and sealed phones these days, this slot is accessible with a SIM tool which is to be found in the box. You will not find any other design elements on this side as it left bare and minimalistic.
On the back is where we will find what makes the Mate and P series really special. However, before we get to that there is another detail I want to point out. That is, of course, the Signature Stripe which houses both the cameras, the flash and the laser for focusing. This is a really distinctive design and makes the camera array really stand out from the shiny glass surface.
Talking of cameras we find two lenses with a whopping f1.6 aperture. In keeping with Huawei’s standard these cameras are comprised of a 20MP Monochromatic lens and a 12MP RGB lens. The cameras are also separated enough to allow for some very clever focal point separation which I will come back to later. I am pleased that the Mate 10 Pro has kept true to its roots and stayed away from using a telephoto lens like the ones found on its rivals. I really like the effects provided by the Monochrome camera, and this is something I miss on my Galaxy S8+.
The cameras themselves have a lot of clever features built into them. You will find the same 4 in 1 hybrid zoom that we have seen before. This comprises of laser, depth, contrast and phase detection focus to give the best possible results. In addition to this, the partnership with Leica has continued with the Mate 10 Pro and they have really worked to make this one of the best cameras in its field. You will find that the camera now has one of the fastest Image sensing processors that Huawei have ever created. This allows for extremely accurate scene recognition when using the camera. This is aided by the “Neural Processing” that is now found on the Hisilicon Kirin 970 processor.
The cameras are flanked on either side by the dual tone flash to the left and the laser emitter and receiver to the right.
Just below the camera strip we find the tried and tested fingerprint reader. I have been very impressed with this on the Mate 10. This has been performing to the levels that I have come to expect from Huawei. I very rarely have any misreads’ when using the scanner and the fact that it works as a sleep / wake button is a nice touch. The sensor itself will also pull double duty as a trackpad of sorts, allowing you to pull down the notification shade by swiping down. It can also be used as the shutter button when using the camera for Selfies which is very handy when trying to capture that perfect shot.
On the very bottom of the phone, we will find a USB Type C port that will support the fast charging. This is what Huawei refer to as “Supercharge” and it is now one of the very first to be certified by TUV Rheinland. Next to this is the speaker grill and another microphone.
The USB Type C is also going to handle your audio as there is no 3.5mm headset jack present on the phone sadly. This has been a point of contention for some reviewers. I, on the other hand, am not really that fussed as it allows for a better scope for the use of digital amplifiers and the like. Also, it does now seem to be the way that the market is leaning. I will be surprised if this is not a core feature on must flagships in the coming year. It also means that I have to now indulge myself in some new headphones of the wireless variety. When I find some they will be featured right here on Coolsmartphone (I am tempted by Google’s PixelBuds)
As for what makes this phone tick, I have already mentioned that the phone is using the newest Kirin 970 chipset that was unveiled at IFA earlier this year. In addition to that, the phone has that Neural Network Processing Unit or NPU. This AI is baked into everything on the phone. It will allow for the phone to learn how you use it and optimize for the best performance as a result. It provides the intelligent scene detection that I mentioned above too. When using the phone in noisy environments, the phone AI will help to identify this and improve your calling experience. There are so many things that can be done by this system that it warrants an article in its own right!
As for other bits of the “engine room,” we also find Huawei has given us 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to play with. This will make multitasking a breeze and it competes very well against the Note 8 from Samsung. To help this multitasking behemoth, we have the very latest software in the form of EMUI 8 and Android 8.0 Oreo from launch. I will cover the software in its own section further down the page.
Going back to the calling experience, Huawei has implemented a system called Easy Talk. In essence, this will improve your calling experience for both you and the other caller. Imagine you are trying to make a call from a busy shopping centre. Normally to make yourself heard you would have to raise your voice to a point where you are almost yelling at your phone. Using Easy Call this is no longer an issue as you can just talk normally and the AI will recognise the background noise and cancel it out. This means that the person on the other end of the call will not be aware of where you are and will just hear you and not the hubbub of shopping centre madness. Genius! This is one feature I can’t wait to try out in the real world.
The Mate 10 Pro has also got another significant party piece hidden away that I have been playing with. The USB Type C port also has a very clever trick up its sleeve. You can now hook your phone up to any HDMI compatible TV or monitor with just on cable and it will allow you to move into a desktop experience.
This is very similar to what Samsung offers with DEX, however, it does not need the costly addition of a separate dock. Whilst in this mode you will be able to use both the phone display and the external display to work/play on. In addition to this, if you are not able to pair a mouse to the phone, then you can use the phone display as a trackpad. If however, you want a more traditional working environment then you can pair both a mouse and keyboard to the phone with ease. I love this feature and what it will bring to users.
Combine this with the partnership that Huawei have with MobileIron for the enterprise market and we have a real workhorse on our hands here. I can’t wait to use this to show off my picture from the stunning cameras to my friends and family.
To finish of the hardware is a vast array of sensors strewn all over the aluminium clad beauty. Here is a list of what we have got, G-Sensor, Gyroscope Sensor, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Hall Sensor, Barometer, Infrared Remote Control. The only real exception here to what is a fairly normal list is the inclusion of the IR Remote, this bit of tech is something that we are not seeing as much of on flagships these days. it is most likely down to the fact that smart TVs are starting to make headway into the home. However, the ability to use your phone as a remote with something as primitive as an IR emitter is something that my inner geek really likes. Well played from Huawei for including it here. I am sure that it will be appreciated by many users and can imagine lost of creative ways of using it, from controlling your home media setup to the possibility of using it for a Powerpoint clicker (not so sure this can be done would be cool though)
Here is a full breakdown of the specs in case you missed it from earlier articles…
|DISPLAY – OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 6.0″ HUAWEI FullView Display, Multitouch Protection Corning Gorilla Glass, 7000:1 contrast ratio|
|RESOLUTION – 2K, 2160 x 1080 pixels, 18:9 ratio (402 ppi density)|
|PLATFORM – OS Android 8.0 (Oreo), EMUI 8.0|
|CHIPSET – Hisilicon Kirin 970, Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)|
|CPU – Octa-core CPU (4*Cortex A73 2.36GHz + 4*Cortex A53 1.8GHz) + i7 co-processor, Mali-G72 MP12 GPU|
|INTERNAL MEMORY – 128 GB, 6 GB RAM|
|PRIMARY CAMERA – Dual 20 MP +12 MP, f/1.6, OIS, 2x lossless zoom, Leica optics, phase detection & laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, panorama, HDR Video [email protected], [email protected]/60fps|
|SECONDARY CAMERA – 8 MP with AI selfie, f/2.0|
|SOUND – Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones Loudspeaker Yes, with stereo speakers – Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic|
|COMMS – WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, DLNA, WiFi Direct, hotspot Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, EDR, LE|
|GPS – Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO|
|NFC – Yes|
|INFRARED PORT – Yes|
|USB – Type C 2.0 reversible connector with Supercharge TUV Rheinland Certified, DisplayPort 1.2, Support aptX/aptX HD and LDAC HD Audio|
|FEATURES – Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, barometer, compass|
|MESSAGING – SMS (threaded view), MMS,|
|EMAIL – Push Email|
|BROWSER – HTML5|
|VIDEO – DivX/XviD/MP4/H.265/WMV player, Photo/video editor|
|MUSIC – MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV/Flac player|
|NETWORK – Technology FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/32, TD-LTE:Band 34/38/39/40,UMTS(WCDMA)/HSPA + /DC-HSDPA: Band 1/2/4/5/6/8/19,TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39,GSM/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz|
|-SIM Single SIM (Nano-SIM)|
|IP67 certified – dust/waterproof over 1 meter and 30 minutes|
|BATTERY Non-removable Li-PO, 4000 mAh battery|
|DIMENSIONS – 154.2mm x 74.5mm x 7.9mm, Weight 178g|
That about sums things up or the hardware and the design. The only other thing to mention is the “Supercharger”. I previously mentioned that this is the first TUV Certified fast charger that we have seen. You may be wondering why this is a big deal. Well, it means that the charger will be safe to use and with the amount of current that is now being pushed through to our phones, this can only be a good thing. The charger itself will take the heat away from the phone whilst charging in a very similar manner to what is done with the Oneplus Dash Charge system. It also charges extremely quickly and really does mean that you can get those quick boosts when you need to. As I am using a review unit from Europe I have a 2 pin plug for now but I hope to get a UK one soon. I also really like the liquid-like graphic that you get when charging the phone up, it is like a reverse drink and is a nice touch.
Now that we have been talking about the charger it seems like as good a time as ever to talk about the battery life. I have been using this as my main device for about 2 weeks now and during this time I am getting through 2 working days normally. I also normally end up with about 10% left over which is awesome to see. This is possible due to the 4000mah battery that has been squeezed into this svelte design. In a comparison to my S8+ I would normally have to put that on charge in the early evening of the second day. Here is an example of my run down over the 2 days.
So as to can see, near as dammit, 2 full days with a little extra in the tank should I need it. I also left the phone connected to WiFi without a SIM in it for a few days as I was having to use my other device. During this time the phone was still getting messages and content from my social media and email. I was able to get it to last 6 days which was pretty impressive. Due to this, I can confidently say that you will not be being playing hunt the power outlet when travelling or at the end of the day.
Measuring the performance of a phone is always very tricky, especially now all of these high-end devices are so buttery smooth. That being said let’s try and quantify it. I do have to add a caveat here though as this is not running final release software yet. I think it is close but still has a few tweaks needing to be made. More on that later, let’s see how this puppy performs.
When you are using the phone for regular phoney tasks it is lightning fast and I cannot see any appreciable lag. Browsing the web is fluid, as is the scrolling. It is very fast to open apps even with many others open behind the scenes. I was able to play my go-to game of Asphalt 8 with perfect results and rendering even whilst on the highest settings. I was even able to render video using PowerDirector. None of these things tripped the phone up at all. Multitasking is fluid and easy to use, it is enacted by the usual method of using the multitasking button on the base of the phone. There is another way to go about this and that is to use split screen apps.
To do this all you need to do is to drag your knuckle across the screen near the middle and it will enter the split screen UI. As an aside, this can also be done when you receive a new notification too. I will cover the knuckle touch side of things a bit later on though. To give you a better representation of how the phone performs here is a small video to show it off.
I have to say I have been very impressed with how fast the phone feels and how it flows through the UI. I have used a vast array of phones over the past few years with varying specs and this is up there as one of the best that I have used. How much of this performance is down to the implementation of the EMUI 8.0 Skin or Android 8.0 software is hard to determine, but I have a feeling that both of these systems have got important parts to play.
Another area that is worth touching on is the use of the NPU that Huawei has implemented into the Kirin 970 processor. Huawei has made very bold claims that the phone has been “born fast and will stay fast” due to the implementation of AI-assisted machine learning. This is something that I will not really be able to comment on at this early stage of the phone life as I have only been using it for a few weeks. What I can say is that on my previous experience with the Mate 9 last year the phone continued to feel fast even after 6 months of use. With the inclusion of AI, I have high hopes that this will continue to feel the same with regard to the performance 6 months down the road, but only time will tell on that front.
Moving onto one of the areas of the Mate 10 Pro that I have been looking forward to the most – the camera. I love the way that Huawei has chosen to implement their dual camera setup and it was one of the reasons that I was so excited to sink my teeth into this phone. I have found that the combination of the monochrome sensor alongside the standard RGB sensor can, and does, produce some pictures of outstanding quality. The actual camera has not really had much of significant jump in terms of the raw specs since the Mate 9 that preceded this and this is by no means a bad thing. What has changed now though is the use of AI within the camera’s software and algorithms. Due to the use of the NPU the camera is now able to identify scenes a lot quicker in Auto mode, leading to the it being able to adapt your shooting mode more quickly. This has made taking photos of a high quality much easier for a non-pro like me. I also really like that when you are taking a picture the phone will indicate what the automatically selected scene is via a graphic in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. I have been really enjoying playing around with the settings and I have included some of the shot that I have taken below.
In the photos above you can see the various different levels of detail that can be captured by the Mate 10 Pro. I particularly like the ability to capture the black and white shots as shown in the forest picture. The Bokeh effect is a really easy thing to obtain on the phone as it allows you to adjust the settings very easily through the wide aperture mode. This can be done both before and after the shot has been taken allowing you to really play around to get that desired shot.
Here are two shots of a cathedral spire taken in full-colour mode and also in black and white.
For me personally, the black and white shot just seems to have more appeal in it as I feel that it captures the mood better but this is all down to the perception of the user at the end of the day. Another feature I absolutely love is the “light painting mode” which allows you create some truly stunning pictures. I would advise that for this to work to its very best however you do need a tripod as the phone does need to be completely stable.
This camera is not the best in the world for ease of point and shoot simplicity, but if you are looking for a very good point and shoot then this can certainly perform very well. Where its strength truly lies is when you take a bit more time to compose the shot and here it is up there with the very best I have used. Here is an example of point and shoot pictures that were captured on my walk into work one gloomy morning.
As for the front-facing selfie cam well it does the job and even has the choice of adding the often rebuked beauty mode. here is a sample of yours truly!
The first shot is with Beauty mode off and the second is with it on, don’t I look nice!
The next shots are showing the difference between having bokeh effect on or off.
Agin the first is with the feature turned on and the second with it turned off. If you look in the background of both of the shots then you will see in the non-Bokeh effect the funnels on the Titanic are better defined than that with the effect turned on. I would say that based on the portrait mode shots that I have seen on the iPhone X or the Pixel XL 2 that this is not the greatest phone in the world for portrait shots but then again I also not the greatest subject for them either!
In addition to these shots, the camera will also record at 4k with a 16:9 aspect ratio and stereo sound. If you want just standard 1080p then it will also allow you to do this with 60fps as well which is a really nice touch. Here is some footage that I recorded the other day at 60fps in 1080p.
No matter how good the hardware and cameras are on a device, the real “love it or leave it” effect can come from the software. This is, unfortunately, one of the areas where we have a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to Mate 10 Pro. Admittedly I have been running the phone with early versions of the software onboard and it has not been released to the public yet but as I am writing this the launch date is only 2 days away. I am still seeing a few minor but really annoying issues on the device. The first one is all to do with how EMUI scales things fro the screen. I have got a tendency to reduce the font size on my device down to a very low level. This, in turn, allows me to normally fit more content on the screen. However on the Mate 10 Pro for some unknown reason, this is not the case. especially in two distinct areas. The first area was I have noticed this irregularity is in the widgets and the best way to show you this is in these two images one from and S8+ and one from the Mate 10 Pro.
Hopefully, you can see the vast disparity here between the two phones, Now I can appreciate that these two devices do offer different size of screens and also different resolutions. Even taking that into account the scaling that is being used on these phones is vastly different. Now, this would not be a major issue if it happened to the entire phones UI but it doesn’t as can be seen in these shots below.
Within these apps, one of which is a third party, (Twitter) and the other is a built-in Huawei app you can see that the scaling is as it should be on the lowest setting. I just wish that the whole UI was uniform with regard to this issue and then maybe I could let it go. The other issue comes down to how the phone handles notifications. We are all familiar with the ability to expand a notification on the lock screen and then to take action from within that notification such as delete. Well, I get umpteen emails daily that I do not want to read and I like to be able to get rid of them without having to unlock my phone. Now on the S8+, this is as you would expect not an issue, on the Mate 10 Pro it is very hit or miss as to whether this will work in the Gmail app. Sometimes it works as it is meant to and sometimes it doesn’t. It is just infuriating and again it is a bug that that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Those are really the big issues that I have noticed, there have been a few other snags that can be expected from a phone that is in a pre-release state, but I really think that this close to launch Huawei should have ironed these things out by now. This is by no means going to be a cheap phone and as a customer, I would not expect to have these issues from day one.
To be fair to Huawei they have released several updates from when I got hold of the device back in October but I still think that there is bit more tweaking to be done, I can only hope that it is done sooner rather than later.
Apart from these issues, the EMUI skin over Android 8 is very pleasant and it allows me to really dig down and customise the way the phone looks and feels. It does have some genuinely nice touches such as “knuckle touch” which can be used to perform a variety of different gestures include screenshots, screen record activation and split screen app. The main user interface can be laid out in the normal Android way with the inclusion of the App drawer or it can be set up in a more iPhone like manner with all your icons spread across the screen. You can very easily place multiple apps into folders that can be fully customised in their look by means of background colours. There are thousands of themes to choose from which will change the way your icons look and feel along with your wallpaper and lock screen. All of these visual touches make the phone really pleasing to use and allow it to feel unique to you the user.
Behind the glossy front end, Android Oreo is doing a lot of really neat things like ensuring that apps are being monitored to keep their usage of battery, data and RAM in check. You will get the occasional prompt to let you know when an app steps too far out of line. Split-screen multitasking is now something that has come to the forefront of using this type of phone and it is an ease and pleasure to use. You also have full access to the Google Assitant which is constantly evolving and getting more intelligent. I really like that long pressing certain apps will now open up contextual menus without having to go into the app in its entirety. However, all these things can be found on any device with Android Oreo so what makes the Mate 10 Pro truly different. Well this can be answered by 3 letters…..NPU.
The NPU or Neural-Network Processing Unit to give its full name is a unique feature the Mate 10 Pro. This is both a double edged sword though. In some aspects of the phone you can see where it is taking effect (in the Image Processing is much faster than on my S8+). The machine learning of the phone is now assisted by AI which comes from the NPU. The phone will learn how you use the phone, then the NPU will mimic this behaviour to allow the phone to identify the most efficient mode and optimise performance accordingly. This, in turn, will keep the phone feeling fluid and fresh later down the road. The NPU is not just used for this though it will also allow an improved experience in the world of Augmented Reality. This is one feature that Huawei is trying to show off by the use of their Translator app which has been co-developed by Microsoft. Using the onboard AI means that the phone is now more capable of performing translations within the app without having to reach out to the web for help. It does work in reality but if I’m honest it is something I would only use in this review and I cannot see myself using it in the future.
Really what the NPU and its AI focus are giving you is a phone that is ready and capable of stepping up when Google unleash their AI programming in the very near future. We are not here yet but it is very much around the corner. Huawei is also covering off any move made by Apple with their Bionic chip in the iPhone X.
We briefly touched on Huawei’s newest party piece earlier. This is the ability to plug your phone into a TV/monitor and get a desktop mode akin to what Samsung has done with DEX. Well, I was very excited to have a play with it and here is my experience of using it on my TV at home.
Now it is time to round up this review. I think it is safe to say that what we have here is one of the best Android phones on the market. That statement does come with some provisos though. Huawei do need to fix the two major bugs that I have encountered and then this phone would be near perfect. They also need to do a bit more work on the EMUI Desktop interface as it is not quite up there with the offerings of Samsung in the form of DEX. I think it is fair to compare this against the likes of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 in terms of the performance and usability, and if you are looking for a phone that is a tad cheaper than the Note 8 then this is a very good option. If however you feel that that the S-Pen is something that would be beneficial to you then it would be worth checking the Note 8 out. For me though, I don’t need the S-Pen and I love the dual camera setup on this phone so that is where my money would be going.
With a few little tweaks, this could easily be one of the best smartphones of this year and I will be watching with baited breath to see what Huawei can do with this phone once the API for AI is properly turned on by Google. For now, though I am very happy with the phone overall and would recommend it to you if you are considering a high end device that wont break the bank.