Dec 04 AT 4:13 PM Dima Aryeh 0 Comments

Huawei Mate 10 Pro review

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Huawei’s latest foray into the flagship market is the Mate 10 Pro which, along with its brother the Mate 10, bring a much needed update to their predecessors. Featuring an all-new glass construction and the return of Leica-branded cameras, they’re set to compete with the more established flagships in the US.

Overview

Huawei Mate 10 Pro specs

Hardware

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First, let’s talk about the color of this phone. It’s called Mocha Brown and is a real shock to see in person. While most phones are either black, white, or gold, Mocha Brown stands out as this deep, versatile color. In some lights its plain light brown. Sometimes it glows a dim pink. Sometimes it looks gold. It’s absolutely stunning and is a pleasure to look at.

The front is a solid sheet of glass with no buttons; only an earpiece, a camera, sensors, a dim notification light, and a Huawei log interrupt the bezels. I wish the logo wasn’t there, but Huawei loves to slap logos everywhere.

Under the glass is a 6-inch OLED display. Where the standard Mate 10 opts for a standard LCD at a higher 2560×1440 resolution, the Mate 10 Pro rocks an 18:9 2160×1080 screen. This means that the pixel density is lower, but you gain the inky blacks and vibrant colors we know and love from OLED. The display also features HDR10 support. There is a pre-applied screen protector out of the box, but unlike previous Huawei phones, there is a quality oleophobic coating underneath. Don’t be afraid to remove that screen protector.

The screen is gorgeous, and being OLED, has deep blacks and saturated colors. The colors are fairly accurate but of course a bit blown out, which I love. It has a color accuracy mode but it’s a tad washed out and warm. Outdoors the display gets very bright and is easy to see. There is no color change at an angle until you’re almost at a 90-degree angle to the phone. Despite the lower resolution, it’s a gorgeous display and one befitting of a flagship.

With OLED displays comes the worry of screen burn-in (especially after the Pixel 2 XL debacle). Now most displays shouldn’t show burn-in within the course of a week, so the Pixel was an odd case. The good news is that the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t exhibit any burn-in, even with a black status bar and navigation bar over the course of a few weeks.

Despite the “FullView” name, this is far from a bezel-free display. The top and bottom bezels are very small, but they’re bezels nonetheless. The side bezels are also quite a bit chunkier than the ones on the Essential Phone, though they’re still small enough to be almost inconsequential. Nonetheless, it’s awesome to see that a taller and larger 6-inch display fits into a device that’s smaller than last year’s 5.9-inch Mate 9.

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The back of the Mate 10 Pro features more glass and more logos. The curved glass has a set of dual Leica cameras embedded in it. The cameras protrude and have a metal ring around them, keeping the lenses recessed. Flanking the cameras are the dual LED flashes and laser autofocus along with a Leica logo and some text about the lenses. Below that is a fingerprint sensor, the same ridiculously fast and accurate one Huawei has used in other devices. And of course below that is another Huawei logo.

Despite being dual SIM, the Mate 10 Pro does not feature the hybrid dual SIM/microSD tray. Instead it just takes two SIM cards. Unlike the Mate 10, the Pro does not have a microSD slot at all. The 128GB of storage should make up for that though.

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At the bottom you won’t find a headphone jack (its Mate 10 brother retains one), but you will find a USB Type-C 3.1 port. Not only is it Type-C, but the addition of the 3.1-spec port adds some cool features.

The speaker on the bottom gets pretty loud, and despite being tinny, is pretty good for a smartphone. Unfortunately it is bottom-firing. Huawei has made it so the earpiece can double as a “stereo” speaker, or it can produce the highs like a tweeter. It actually greatly improves the sound in portrait mode, though in landscape the stereo effect isn’t great.

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In the box you’ll find your standard Huawei speedy charger (with a full-size USB port), a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter, some Type-C headphones, and a case. The headphone adapter has a built in DAC (this is not an analog adapter) and it’s pretty decent. It sounds about the same as the audio coming from most phones and can drive higher-end headphones to reasonable levels. The headphones are okay but an appreciated inclusion. The case on the other hand is actually pretty fantastic. It’s a clear TPU case with a matte look and a clear window for that rear stripe.

Build quality

Huawei spared no expense to build the Mate 10 Pro (and its brother the Mate 10, which is built almost identically). The glass front and rear feel very premium, although it can be argued that there is no point in a glass phone that doesn’t require glass for wireless charging. Nonetheless, the glass feels amazing in the hand, if a bit slippery.

The metal frame is perfectly machined and has no sharp spots or places where it doesn’t meld with the glass panels imperfectly. There isn’t enough gap to catch dust like the Honor 8 used to. The buttons also feel amazingly solid and clicky, with the power button being rough for quick differentiation from the volume buttons.

All the small details make this phone feel brilliant in the hand. Whether it’s the smooth frame or the perfectly clicky buttons, it’s a joy to hold.

Software

With the Mate 10 Pro debuts EMUI 8.0. A few versions have been skipped to bring EMUI up to the same number as the Android version. And yes, it launches with Oreo!

While there are plenty improvements that have been made in EMUI 8.0, it feels every familiar to anyone who has used the previous version of Huawei’s custom software. Everything is where it usually is and everything looks the same. It’s not a light skin, but it’s not all that heavy either. Many functions are very similar to AOSP. The status bar is now the size of the AOSP one and the smaller, more tightly grouped buttons of the Mate 9 are missed.

Huawei added a ton of software features to this phone. Huawei Histen effects for headphones are pretty neat, though audio lovers will turn them off most of the time. Stereo+ uses the earpiece as a second speaker which creates a decent effect. You can use the fingerprint reader to answer calls, take photos, browse photos, and more. You can also create an entire double of your software, missing most info like account info and photos, using a different fingerprint than your usual one. This is definitely an awesome feature, though your text messages remain.

The navigation dock is an alternative to the nav bar we know and love. The nav bar can be hidden with a tap of the small arrow, exposing the full 18:9 screen for media. The navigation dock is a small floating dot that goes back when pressed, home when long pressed, and shows recent tasks when long pressed and swiped sideways. It can also be moved around just by dragging it around. It sounds annoying, but it’s actually quite nice. It can be put right by your thumb on the right side midway down the display. It’s better than stretching your thumb to the bottom of this tall display. You do lose the ability to turn on Google Assistant with a long press, but you can use your voice for that.

Otherwise, you’ll find many of the features that people love in Oreo. The new notification system is mostly implemented, picture-in-picture works great, Autofill is present, long pressing icons for shortcuts is built into the Huawei launcher, and the new Oreo emojis rear their ugly faces.

Unfortunately, Huawei omitted the Trusted Voice feature that allows you to say “OK Google” when the display is off. You can wake the device with a custom phrase and HiVoice, but the functionality is severely limited to the point of being nearly useless.

You also won’t find the AOSP always-on display. Instead it’s replaced with Huawei’s own version, which shows a clock and battery full time. Unfortunately, notifications from non-Huawei apps won’t appear here. It’s not worth the battery life hit.

An amazing feature Huawei added to the Mate 10 Pro is a PC mode. Much like Samsung DeX (but without the overpriced dock), you can turn your phone into a fairly functional PC using nothing but a DisplayPort-supported USB Type-C to HDMI adapter. Plug it in and you’ll get multiple modes. You can mirror your phone’s display or go into a desktop mode.

With the display mirrored, you’ll be able to use your phone on the screen. The only difference is that your notifications will not show up on screen, giving you security during presentations. In full desktop mode, you can access notifications in the corner and open multiple supported apps in windows like on your computer. It’s an amazing addition and can be done with a $12 adapter.

I’ve noticed few bugs, but there have been a couple persistent ones. One doesn’t allow you to press the first button below notifications half of the time. Not being able to delete Gmail emails is an annoyance. Another is that Google Maps animations are stuttery, despite scrolling around a map being smooth. An update has been promised for this. Any other bugs have been extremely minor.

Performance

The Kirin 970 processor is a boss and matches the performance of Snapdragon 835-equipped devices in every way. It’s fluid, fast, and stutters are few and far between. The large amount of RAM also means things stay running in the background without hurting performance.

With 128GB of storage out of the box, you can load it up with tons of apps. This can become a problem as a lot of stuff runs in the background, but performance never really takes a hit. And if the Mate 10 Pro is anything like previous Huawei devices, it’ll keep running fast and smooth for a lot longer than the average Android device.

Another key element of performance is the NPU, or neural processing unit. Huawei claims that it learns over time to keep some apps running in the foreground for faster load times as well as other improvements. All this happens in the background, but it adds a lot of potential to the device.

An app comes pre-loaded to take advantage of this NPU. The app is Microsoft’s translator, and while it can’t do live translations, the photos you take are translated nearly instantly. More apps can take advantage of this processor so we may see more useful features come to the device.

Camera

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The Mate 10 Pro features a dual camera Leica setup. The 12MP color sensor is matched with a 20MP monochrome sensor that is more sensitive to light, meaning it can capture more detail in the dark. The main sensor is outfitted with optical image stabilization and both sensors are fitted with f/1.6 lenses for that sweet natural depth of field.

The photos taken from this device are generally absolutely stunning. The colors are beautiful, the details are sharp, the dynamic range is stellar, and noise is nowhere to be seen even in darkness. Frankly, many of its photos almost look like they came from a larger, much more expensive standalone camera. The depth of field without any software enhancements is particularly pretty. And in the dark, the photos are often brighter than reality. The device occasionally oversharpens photos, giving them an unnatural look, but this doesn’t happen often. Nonetheless, there is a bit more sharpening going on with the Mate 10 Pro than other devices.

When it comes to software additions, you have many choices. The device features tons of modes like monochrome, HDR, panorama, 3D panorama, night shot, light painting, time lapse, slow mo, document scan, and more. The functionality of these modes definitely varies. The monochrome uses the monochrome sensor to take ridiculously stunning black and white images. A monochrome sensor definitely beats a black and white filter. The HDR mode is mostly useless, inconsistently offering either more or less dynamic range than auto mode. Night shot takes photos with up to 30-second exposures for beautiful night photos with large dynamic range, but a tripod is required for this. The 3D panorama is an odd feature but pretty neat to play with.

There are also a few features accenting the auto mode. The classic wide aperture mode uses the depth data from the dual sensors to simulate a wider aperture, giving a mostly very natural depth of field effect that often outclasses the competition. There’s also a portrait mode that combines a beauty mode with the wide aperture effect as well as a moving picture mode, which records a bit of video before and after the photo is taken.

A big highlight of the NPU and Huawei’s AI tech is the ability for the camera to recognize different scenes instantly. Whether it’s the sky, a sunset, nighttime, snow, pets, plants, or food, the camera software will change the settings on the fly and show a little icon to tell you that it recognizes the scene. This works great for bringing the scene’s proper details out. Plant mode boosts the greens, sky mode boosts the blues, sunset mode makes sunsets look fantastic, and snow mode lowers contrast to preserve details in the snow. It’s instant and requires no user input but makes for some amazing photos. It can’t be turned off though, so there’s no comparing to photos without the feature.

In 12MP resolution mode, the software offers a 2X digital zoom. While there is naturally a loss of quality, it’s nothing close to what you would expect from most other phones. 2X zoom photos come out pretty good, with only a small hit in detail. Thanks to the 20MP sensor, this crop won’t cost you much quality. There is no 2X zoom in 20MP mode.

Huawei also provides a fully functional manual mode. You can change every setting including focus as well as enable RAW file saving. This manual mode is a fantastic addition, but with all the software wizardry Huawei does in auto mode, it’s unlikely you’ll get a better photo in manual. Nonetheless, it’s great to have in some situations.

I had a short chance to compare it to the Galaxy Note 8 in low light detail, and it actually did significantly better.

The video quality is pretty decent but nothing to really write home about. The 1080p60 video is nice and smooth while 4K30 has tons of detail. It’s unfortunate that there is no 4K60 option to compete with the iPhone 8. Electronic image stabilization is also not available in 1080p60 and 4K30. Generally I’ve used 1080p60 for that higher framerate.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Photo Samples

Battery life

This phone packs a beefy 4,000mAh battery, which is rare in smartphones these days. However, battery life is often up to software more than hardware. Some of our favorite battery marathon devices have smaller battery sizes.

With that big battery and Huawei’s generally solid software, you can get two days out of this phone with regular use. My daily goal was to stay over 50%, and I managed it almost every day. Only very heavy use managed to drain the battery below 20% by midnight. Even better is that I keep my display excessively bright.

Often times I can make it two days with 7+ hours of screen on time, many email and social media account syncing, and lots of music streaming.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro9.5 / 10

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Huawei’s latest flagship definitely doesn’t disappoint. With a beautiful display, blazing fast performance, an absolutely amazing camera, and top notch build quality, it hangs with the big boys. With specs being at the level they are today, experience matters most these days.

We wish Huawei would go easier on the software layer (there’s something to be said for the experience of AOSP), and the screen could be a bit higher resolution. But overall, the Mate 10 Pro is an incredible flagship and a great choice among the more popular devices in the US. We just hope it launches here soon!

Dima Aryeh is a Russian obsessed with all things car and tech. His time is split between gaming and fixing his racecar. He also does photography in his spare time.

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