Huawei has been making great strides in their flagship smartphones this year. The Huawei P10 and P10 Plus was a huge improvement over last year’s P9 and this year’s Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro and Mate 10 Porsche Design all got really good initial impressions.
In fact, among all international vendors, Huawei has the most number of flagship devices (5 in total) released in the last two years. Compared to Apple’s 3 flagship iPhones (8, 8 Plus, X), Samsung has 4 (S8, S8+, Note8, Note FE), LG has 2 (G6, V30), and Sony has 2 (XZ1, XZ1 Compact) Huawei looks very bullish.
Among the three Mate series, the Mate 10 Pro is positioned to closely compete with the rest of the flagships this year. In our review of the Huawei Mate10 Pro below, we’re taking a closer look to see if it meets the criteria of a proper flagship smartphone.
Design and Construction
With a full-metal body and glass construction, the Mate 10 Pro looks and feels premium as you can clearly see at first glance. The Mate 10 Pro is slimmer and taller compared to the Mate 10 due to the 18:9 aspect ratio, the second device from Huawei to have this (the Nova 2i was the first one).
The difference in aspect ratio also meant the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro will have different physical dimensions — the Mate 10 is shorter (150.5mm) and wider (77.8mm) while the Mate 10 Pro is taller (154.2mm) and narrower (74.5mm). Both have a slightly curved back panel which makes them easier and more comfortable to hold. We liked the narrower profile of the Mate 10 Pro better
Both phones are protected by glass both at the front and the back and, although Huawei has identified it as Gorilla Glass, they didn’t specify which version it is.
The power button and volume controls are on the right side while the SIM card slot is on the left. There’s a noise-canceling mic is up top along with an IR blaster which you can use as a remote control for your appliances. At the bottom is the primary mic, USB Type-C port and the speaker grills. Conspicuously absent is the 3.5mm audio jack. Huawei says this was done in order to make the device water-resistant (IP67 Rating). Nonetheless, Huawei was nice enough to include a USB Type-C to 3.5mm port adaptor with the box.
We’re not really missing the 3.5mm audio jack since most of the time, we’re connecting the phone to our home speaker system via Bluetooth and NFC. Same goes inside the car. In the last 2 weeks that we’ve been using the phone, we’ve not encountered the need nor looked for that audio port so it’s not really a bother.
Up at the front is the large glass panel protected by Gorilla Glass. The bezels at the top and bottom corners are noticeably narrower, only making a bit of space for the front camera, sensors, and the Huawei logo.
The back panel is slightly curved to allow for a more comfortable grip. It is also covered in Gorilla Glass with a horizontal band that runs across the two rear cameras. Just below that is the circular fingerprint sensor.
Display and Multimedia
The Mate10 Pro comes in a large 6-inch OLED display. This is the first time that Huawei used an OLED panel instead of the usual IPS-NEO they’ve been using with previous P-series and Mate series handsets. OLED panels offer deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios and this is evident with the Mate10 Pro. The display also produces higher brightness levels and wider color range while drawing lower power consumption compared to conventional IPS displays
The 6-inch display takes up almost 81.7% of the surface area of the device and has a full HD+ resolution or 2160×1080 pixels (can be lowered to HD+ or 1440×720 pixels to conserve battery). The resolution might not be as high as the Mate10 at 2560×1440 pixels but once you put the two side by side, you will not see any noticeable difference. Besides, the lower pixel count also allows the Mate10 Pro to use less power. The OLED display looks really nice — it is crisp, bright with deep contrast that is very noticeable as images pop out.
The Mate10 Pro also supports HDR 10 which means it will benefit from the video enhancements from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Also interesting to note that Huawei scrapped the idea of curved edges, an attempt they made with the Mate9 Pro last year. We asked Huawei executives about this and their response was along the lines of utility — the curved edges do not provide any practical user-experience unlike the one offered by TouchWiz UI on the Note8. We agree.
The Mate 10 Pro’s single speaker grills at the bottom end produce very good audio. Sound quality is top notch with deep bass, volume is very loud but does not distort even if you set to max. This is one of the nicest speakers we’ve tested in a smartphone this year.
Also, note that the earphones that came with the box plugs via the USB Type-C due to the absence of the 3.5mm port. These are good quality earphones that can handle the HiFi output of the handset. You can configure the audio quality in the settings depending on the type of earphones you use, set an equalizer or enable 3D audio. We have to say, the sound via the earphones are really good, loud yet clear and crisp even at the highest volume level.
The Mate10 Pro uses a 4th-generation Leica optics. There are still two cameras at the back — one is a 12-megapixel RGB sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization and the second one is a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor the same f/1.6 aperture and image stabilization. These are Summilox-class lenses if we’re going to talk about the Leica heritage.
The same dual camera setup uses the combined images of the two cameras to produce one single, high-quality image of the subject.
The wide f/1.6 aperture opening allows the camera to shoot very well in low-light environments and reduces blur by coupling it with the image stabilization. As such, photos taken with the Mate10 Pro are sharp and accurate with lots of detail, colors are vibrant with natural saturation.
The 20MP monochrome camera can also shoot its own photos in native black-and-white. Those who prefer to shoot B&W photos will definitely love this unique feature.
The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, just good enough for selfies. The camera app also includes beautification level that you can set to your own preference.
Here’s a sample clip front the rear camera:
Just like in previous generations, the Camera app comes with a slew of features and modes — Panorama, 3D Panorama, Time Lapse, Slow-Mo, Light Painting and Night Shot. The Night Shot mode is best used for long exposures, especially at night just like the photo below.
The Wide Aperture feature allows you to take a photo while setting the aperture opening (f/0.95 – f/16) in order to get that deal bokeh effect. The image can later be adjusted to change the aperture setting to get the desired effect.
OS, UI and Apps
Huawei managed to get Android 8.0 Oreo in the Mate 10 Pro right out of the box. This puts the Mate10 Pro at an advantage over most other flagships this year (though the Google Pixel 2 also got Oreo as well).
Curiously though, they also skipped to EMUI 8.0 from the current EMUI 5.1 that’s running on Huawei smartphones this year. We didn’t see any significant cosmetic changes in the UI although there are some subtle improvements once you really dig deeper into the system.
The system is almost bare with no 3rd-party apps or bloatware included. A few native apps are present — Compass, Huawei Health, HiCare (After-sales support), Smart Controller (for the IR Blaster), and a Phone Clone app that assist you in transferring your personal information and files from an old phone.
The EMUI 8 offers a floating navigation dock for easier usability, Smart Split Screen to allow two apps to share a single screen, and Smart Multi-Column Display for certain apps when positioned horizontally.
The 128GB storage is already a lot so we are not really bothered by the fact that there’s no microSD card slot on this device. Of the total, around 16.5GB is used by the system so you’re left with a generous 111.5GB of space for apps and other media.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Mate 10 Pro is one of the first handsets to run on the latest AI chipset from Huawei, the Kirin 970. It is composed of a quad-core ARM Cortex A73 running at 2.36GHz and an ARM Cortex A53 running at 1.8GHz. The main CPU is paired with a dedicated i7 co-processor and a 12-core Mali G72MP12 graphics processor. You also get 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM as a standard offering.
The Kirin 970 is a powerful processor that can slug it out with even the more popular chips like the Snapdragon 835 or the Exynos 8895.
|HiSilicon Kirin 970||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|High-Power Processor||4 x ARM Cortex A73 2.36GHz||4 x Kryo 280 2.45GHz|
|Low-power Processor||4 x ARM Cortex A53 1.69GHz||4 x Kryo 280 1.9GHz|
|GPU||Mali G72 MP12||Adreno 540|
|GeekBench 4 Single-Core||1,899||1,938|
|GeekBench 4 Multi-Core||6,734||6,720|
|PCMark Work 2.0||6,987||6,901|
Between the Kirin 970 and the Snapdragon 835, it’s almost a tie except in the GPU department where the Adreno 540 beat out the Mali G72-MP12.
Between the Kirin 970 and the Samsung Exynos 8895, the former took most of the multi-core scores, including the GPU.
|HiSilicon Kirin 970||Samsung Exynos 9 8895|
|High-Power Processor||4 x ARM Cortex A73 2.36GHz||4 x Exynos M1 2.31GHz|
|Low-power Processor||4 x ARM Cortex A53 1.69GHz||4 x ARM Cortex A53 1.8GHz|
|GPU||Mali G72 MP12||Mali G71 MP20|
|GeekBench 4 Single-Core||1,899||2,008|
|GeekBench 4 Multi-Core||6,734||6,093|
|PCMark Work 1.0||8,297||6,897|
|PCMark Work 2.0||6,987||5,898|
It is safe to say that the Kirin 970 performed very, very well. We’ve never experienced anything that remotely comes close to lags or sluggishness in the two weeks we’ve had it. The UI is buttery smooth and responsive, apps and games load pretty fast and the phone practically chows down everything we throw at it while keeping a steady, cool operating temperature.
Even the internal UFS 2.1 storage got very high scores in the read and write tests, average close to 800MB/sec in sequential reads and about 225MB/sec in sequential writes.
Call Quality, Connectivity and Battery Life
Huawei used two primary mics at the bottom end to pick up better audio along with a 3rd mic up top for noise-canceling. This resulted in better audio quality and reception when making calls or even just voice recording. Call quality is excellent, SMS are sent and receive fairly fast. Wireless reception for WiFi, Bluetooth and 4G/LTE are very strong. The IR Blaster is something we really loved especially when you have tons of appliances at home.
Huawei uses AI-advanced ambient noise cancellation with one mic up top and two mics at the bottom. This results to better call quality and noise isolation.
One native feature of the Mate 10 series that we saw was the ability to directly hook up the device to a monitor or TV via a USB Type-C cable. The Mate 10 Pro has built-in DisplayPort 1.2 support so you don’t need any dock in order to sync it to an external display.
In our PCMark Battery Test, the device scored 10 hours and 21 minutes at 50% brightness and in airplane mode. Using our standard video loop test, the phone also lasted 25.5 hours playback running a full HD movie at 50% brightness, zero volume and in airplane mode. This is an impressive performance for a smartphone battery life, perhaps the longest one we’ve ever tested.
The charger that came in the box is the standard Huawei Supercharge switching power adaptor that has an output of 5A (4.5V) or 4.5A (5V).
The Mate10 Pro also features its own SuperCharge technology which only takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to fully charge the 4,000mAh Li-Ion battery. Unfortunately, there’s not wireless charging here. Huawei claims people don’t really use wireless charging over wired charging and besides, the latter is much faster. We can personally attest to this — that despite using phones with wireless charging, we’re still using cables to charge the devices.
The Mate 10 Pro has a lot of things going for it. Huawei made sure that all aspects of the device has been properly taken cared of. They started with a really nice design, a gorgeous 18:9 OLED display, impressive performance with the Kirin 970, great camera and very long battery life. Of course, the water-resistance, fast charging, gigabit LTE and Android Oreo are all icing on the cake.
We’ve never been this thoroughly impressed by a Huawei flagship device until the Mate 10 Pro. Huawei is finally getting it right — a truly proper flagship that’s both beautiful and powerful; moderately conservative yet immensely compelling where it counts.
The best Huawei Mate 10 Pro deals July 2018
Huawei Mate 10 Pro specs:
6-inch 18:9 Full HD+ OLED FullView display @ 2160 x 1080 pixels, 402ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass (Front and Back)
HiSilicon Kirin 970 2.36GHz octa-core
4 x ARM Cortex A73 2.36GHz + 4 x ARM Cortex A53 1.8GHz
Mali G72-MP12 GPU
6GB LPDDR4 RAM
128GB UFS 2.1 internal storage
12MP + 20MP dual Leica optic rear cameras with Dual Tone LED Flash: f/1.6, OIS, 2x lossless zoom, Leica optics
PDAF + CAF + Laser + Depth auto-focus
8MP f/2.0 front-facing camera
4G LTE Cat. 18 (1.2Gbps)
Dual SIM, Dual Standby (hybrid)
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, DLNA
GPS with GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
IP67 Water and Dust Resistance
Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8.0
4,000mAh Li-Ion battery
154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9mm (dimensions)
178 grams (weight)
What we liked about it:
* Impressive performance
* Gorgeous display
* Great design and build quality
* Impressive camera, especially in low-light
* Long battery life
* Water resistance
* IR Blaster
* Android Oreo right out of the box
What we did not like:
* No 3.5mm audio jack
* No microSD card slot
* No wireless charging