Huawei’s most interesting phone yet

Huawei’s most interesting phone yet


What is the Huawei Mate 10 Pro?

Out of the two devices just unveiled by Huawei, the Mate 10 Pro stands out as being the more interesting. It’ll also be the only one coming to the UK, with the regular Mate 10 looking like it’ll only be released in China.

While the Mate 10 Pro isn’t necessarily ‘Pro’ in every area – it has a lower-res screen, for example – it still looks to be a huge step in the right direction for Huawei.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro price

Huawei has yet to announce the pricing for the Mate 10 Pro, but expect it to rub noses with the other high-end flagships.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro release date

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro should be out to pre-order soon, and on sale later in the year.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Design

Huawei has, for the last few years anyway, designed nice phones. None of them have been anything particularly original, normally just a typical slab of aluminium, but they’re well built and functional.

The Mate 10 Pro is the first Huawei phone that actually makes me think the company’s really started to care about design. A lot of that stems from the overall shift in how phones look this year, but it could just have easily done what Sony is doing and kept everything the same regardless.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 and iPhone X, the Huawei Mate 10 is going for that ‘bezel-less’ look, slimming down the area around the display and stretching the screen out to the corners. It not only makes the phone instantly look a whole lot more modern, but it gives you more screen in a smaller body.

I do wish, though, that Huawei had ditched the front logo. I’d also rather it’d stuck with a plain black front, rather than colour-matching the front and rear. Due to the new 18:9 aspect ratio that comes with these longer screens, you’ll get black-bars around video when it’s not properly optimised. This is fine if the rest of the front is black, but it looks weird when they’re brown (like the unit I’m using) or white.

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Huawei has also switched from a metal body to glass, using aluminium just for the rim and to add a bit of extra durability. I do think that glass generally looks better, but it’s almost guaranteed to smash if you drop it, and boy does this thing pick up fingerprints. It also seems odd that Huawei hasn’t added in a Qi coil to enable wireless charging, which is something I’ve come to expect from high-end metal-backed phones.

A fingerprint sensor sits in the middle on the back, and there’s a new stripe that runs across the dual cameras. This stripe has a contrasting colour to the rest of the phone and is similar to the shade on the Pixel 2.

The Mate 10 Pro is the first in the series to be water-resistant, packing the same IP67 rating as the iPhone 8 and Google Pixel 2 XL. A side effect of this, though, is that the headphone jack has been ditched. Huawei says you’ll get a pair of USB-C headphone in the box, and it tried to pass the removal as a boon for those who adore proper audio. But, I still love the jack and would prefer it was here.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Screen

The screen on the Mate 10 Pro is big, but considering the competition it’s no longer a selling point of this series. Previous Mate devices seemed huge at 6 inches, but that’s kind of normal now.

The panel used here is an OLED, capable of displaying HDR10 content and packing a 2160 x 1080 resolution. That’s just above Full HD (1920 x 1080) and is commonly referred to as FHD+.

In my short time with the phone it seems like a good display, and I would probably take the switch to OLED over a higher-resolution. In the demo HDR footage preloaded, blacks are deep and colours crisp.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Performance

Powering the Mate 10 Pro is a new AI-infused Kirin 970 processor. Every aspect of this phone has an artificial intelligence twist, from the way apps open to how the camera jumps modes depending on what you’re taking a picture of.

The Kirin 970 is an eight-core CPU with a 12-core GPU, plus a dedicated ‘Neural processing unit’ that’s there to power the AI.

There’s no doubt this will be a powerful chip, but I think Huawei might struggle to get across just what this AI does. Instead of having an outward personality or a visual key to what it’s doing, it basically just alters how certain things work.

In the camera, for example, it can read your surroundings before you take a picture and switch modes. If you’re taking a photo of a flower or plant, it’ll know the difference and switch to the right settings. It worked fine during my short time with the phone, but I’ll need to try it in more testing conditions to know for sure.

Paired with the Kirin 970 is 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, but no microSD slot. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is one of the first phones to be Cat 18 enabled, meaning it’ll work with 1.2Gbps networks whenever those might start to arrive. This is the sort of future-proof tech I expect to see on the Mate line. Even though it’ll be of no use to 99% of people.

I’ll save proper benchmarking for when I have a phone running complete and final software, but everything seems smooth so far.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Software

Huawei’s phone design has been improving, but the software still feels stuck in the past. EMUI 8 sits atop Android 8, and while it’s nice to have the latest version of Android here I would much prefer it if Huawei stopped tinkering so much.

When lots of Android skins are starting to look a lot more like Google’s vision, Huawei is still altering icons and changing pretty much every aspect of the software. The notification panel is jammed with loads of icons and there’s so much bloatware – games, social apps and everything else. If I want to install Instagram, I know where to find it

A few features for the Mate 10 Pro include a handy icon that’ll open messages in split-screen view instead of taking up the whole display and of course plenty of ‘AI’ improvements. Huawei says the phone shouldn’t slow down after a few months and the memory won’t get bogged down.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Camera

Huawei has been utilising dual-camera setups for years, partnered by Leica. This continues with the Mate 10 Pro, and its arrangement is very similar to that of the Huawei P10 Plus. There’s a 12-megapixel camera that captures the colour data, plus a 20-megapixel monochrome camera that helps low-light performance and adds extra detail.

The big upgrade for the Mate 10 Pro is the aperture, which has been widened to f/1.6 on both cameras. This again is great for letting in more light to the sensor, hopefully improving low-light shots.

I have taken a few photos with the Mate 10 Pro but as it’s using pre-release software things could still change. Pictures are very detailed and vividly coloured, but oversaturation has the potential to be an issue. Also, because the camera automatically switches modes depending on what you’re shooting, it often seems to get it wrong. For example, when I was taking a landscape shot it for some reason enabled portrait mode and tried to blur the background. This didn’t happen all the time and will hopefully be fixed in the final release.

There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the front too, which also benefits from portrait modes.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Battery life

The 4000mAh cell used in the Mate 10 Pro is massive when compared to the competition – the Galaxy Note 8 has a 3300mAh cell – and Huawei is claiming you’ll get two days of proper use.

Considering the size of that battery, I can totally believe it will last multiple days. When it does run out of juice, there’s Huawei’s proprietary Super Charge that will apparently get you 58% in 30 minutes.

First impressions

Having used the Huawei Mate 10 for a short while, I can comfortably see this being Huawei’s best phone to date. Whether it can push itself into the thoughts of consumers when the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL and Samsung Galaxy S8 exist is another story.

It’ll be interesting to see how the camera performs with final software and if the battery life lives up to Huawei’s lofty claims. If both of those impress, then this could be a surprise hit.