Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Style and substance, now for a cheaper price
Update: Since the launch of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, the Chinese firm’s previous flagships have been dropped in price. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro launched at £699 – which we thought was a little steep, even in modern-day premium handset prices – but it’s now being sold with 128GB of storage, in grey, for a relatively cheap £489 from AO.com.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is available on Android Oreo, granted a heavily skinned version, and as part of an upcoming Android 8.1 update, the phone is expected to some of the AI advancements seen on the P20 and P20 Pro.
At the launch of its latest flagship duo, Huawei’s CEO Richard Yu confirmed both the Mate 10 (not available in the UK) and the Mate 10 Pro will benefit from new AI-detected scenes recently introduced on the P20 range. In particular, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro will be able to recognise group shots more effectively, as well as fireworks, waterfalls as well as natural colours. The AI helps automatically adjust the settings on the phone’s camera to guarantee the best shot.
Original review continues below
The term “Pro” is interesting, isn’t it? It’s short for “Professional” of course, but in recent years has become shorthand for “more expensive model”. Most people – professional or otherwise – won’t need to get a pro model in order for it to meet their needs but it’s just a handy way of signalling you have more disposable income for a sharper screen or more megahertz.
In the case of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, however, you’re not even doing that. There is a Mate 10, but it’s not coming to the UK. In the eyes of the Chinese manufacturer, everyone in the UK is a professional, whether you feel like a layperson or not.
Of course, this qualification comes with a less welcome qualifier: you’re going to pay for the privilege. £699 in the case of the Mate 10 Pro. Even in a world where flagship handsets go for more than the average laptop, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But is it worth swallowing?
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Design[gallery:1]
The Mate 10 Pro is a very handsome handset indeed, eclipsing even the good looks of last year’s Mate 9. In fact, it’s right up there with the most stylish handsets of the year, following the likes of Samsung and OnePlus in going virtually bezelless with an 18:9 (read: tall and thin) display. Unfortunately, it does trip up when compared to these two in one key respect: Huawei is chasing after Apple, Motorola, HTC and Google in ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack. Annoyingly, the standard Mate 10 found a way to keep it in, but I guess pros believe in Bluetooth earbuds.
Other than that, though, it’s all good. Our review model was finished in “Mocha Brown” which sounds a pretty nasty colour for a smartphone, but in the flesh is a bit closer to a burnished bronze. It looks excellent. In fact, missing headphone jack aside, there’s only one small issue with the Mate 10 Pro’s design: the edges of the slightly protruding dual camera array are a little on the sharp side, and have a tendency to scratch delicate surfaces.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Screen[gallery:4]
A 6in 18:9 screen really grabs the attention, though it’s something of a mixed bag in terms of how it performs when compared to its rivals. The AMOLED display can certainly be bright – at its peak, we measured a searing 727cd/m2, though this involved tricking the auto brightness into showing its peak rates. If you’re in manual mode it caps out below 400cd/m2 – but either way, this is bright enough to read even in direct sunlight.
Contrast is perfect as all OLED screens are, and it covers a solid 98.7% of the sRGB colour gamut, but it falls down a bit with colour accuracy when in normal mode. You can flick it to vivid for an improved experience, but you may find it a touch garish.
This is a small point for most people, but if you’re tempted by the Mate 10 Pro, it might be worth tracking one down in a shop to see if you can live with it.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Performance[gallery:6]
While nearly every other flagship phone on the planet uses Qualcomm chips, Huawei continues to plough its own furrow with the Kirin chipset. That makes it an intriguing one to benchmark, and could potentially add a bit of variety to our graphs, which have been less barcharts and more a solid square.
Or so I thought:
So actually, the Mate 10 Pro is virtually identical to its Snapdragon 835-toting neighbours. Aside from making me a bit grumpy about the lack of variety, that’s a good thing: historically, the Kirin chip has been some way off the pace, and it’s great to see this gap has almost entirely closed.
I say “almost”, because it’s still a little weaker when it comes to pushing polygons in our graphically intensive benchmarks. In GFXBench GL, we found the Mate 10 Pro managed 50fps offscreen (where screen resolution doesn’t confuse the results), which is good… but not as good as the Snapdragon 835, which routinely gets 60+.
Not that you’ll notice in most use cases though. These benchmarks are designed to push the phone to its limits, and what you’re looking at here is a device that will feel snappy out of the box, and should be future proofed sufficiently to last you for a good number of years.
Speaking of stamina, the battery life is very impressive – as you’d hope it would be, given its slim frame contains a powerhouse 4,000mAh battery. Using the phone for a couple of weeks, we found it would generally last at least a day and a half without charging, and would sometimes manage to hit two if we weren’t too glued to it.
Our video test didn’t quite echo these anecdotal findings: on a looped 720p video at 170cd/m2 in airplane mode, we found the Mate 10 Pro lasted 14 hours and 52 minutes. That’s a little above average, but what it really tells us is that the phone is doing some clever optimisation behind the scenes.
Huawei has also gone all out on the software. EMUI – the company’s heavily skinned version of Android – will still continue to divide opinion with its bright bubbly cartoony icons, but there’s a lot going on. It’s based on Android Oreo and from small touches like being able to move the home button wherever you like, to more transformational stuff like AI image recognition delivered via the dedicated chip-based neural processing unit, there’s an awful lot of goodies to find.
Most interestingly of all, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro does a passable impression of the Samsung Galaxy S8’s DeX mode, where it can be plugged into a monitor to work like a desktop PC. It one-ups Samsung by not needing a £130 dock to make it work too – just plug in a USB-Type C monitor cable and you’re good to go. The experience is nowhere near as polished – certain apps just wouldn’t appear for us on the big screen – but it’s a nice little extra that may prove a lifesaver if you’re in a bind one day.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Camera[gallery:5]
We had high hopes for the Mate 10 Pro’s cameras after being impressed in our hands on. I’m pleased to report that these expectations have been broadly met: it’s a very fine camera indeed.
The phone is equipped with a pair of wide f/1.6 aperture rear-facing Leica-branded cameras, complete with all the bells and whistles you could hope for: optical image stablisation, phase detect, laser autofocus and a dual-LED flash. The 12-megapixel camera uses an RGB sensor, while an accompanying 20-megapixel snapper is purely monochrome, designed for picking out the finer details of a scene.
The results are great but – join in if you know where I’m going here – “not as good as the Pixel 2.” It’s subtle, but if you look at the comparison shot below (Pixel 2 on the left, Mate 10 Pro on the right), you’ll see it’s ever so slightly overexposing images with a little over processing for good measure. The monochrome camera, on the other hand, is just brilliant, providing arresting black and white images bursting with impact and detail”
Indoors, things are nothing short of excellent, too. In fact, in our still life, the wide f/1.6 aperture produced images that are actually an improvement on the Pixel 2. Which is unheard of.
However, it’s not completely consistent, and as a general rule we found the Pixel 2 was more reliable at capturing the images we were looking for, so overall it’s a good camera – very good in fact – but not quite a Pixel-beater.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Verdict[gallery:6]
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is another fine handset from the Chinese giants – it looks beautiful, is capable of great shots and has a battery that won’t give up on you.
But at £699, you get the impression the company has set up difficult comparisons with its rivals. It’s no Note 8 beater – the screen isn’t quite good enough for that – but as handsets for bigger hands go, it’s streets ahead of the Pixel 2 XL which still suffers from a very poor screen for the price.
Huawei phones are coming on in leaps and bounds, and each generation gets a little closer to being the top dog. At this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised if 2018 is the year it finally hits that target.