For a long time now Huawei have been promising an outstanding flagship with the ability to compete with the expensive high end flagships and with the Mate 10 Pro they feel that they have done it. Huawei are so confident with the Mate 10 Pro that they have brought it to Australia, the first time a Mate Pro version has arrived on our shores.
Of course we had to check it out for ourselves to determine if Huawei had indeed accomplished their task of a phone worthy of standing next to the likes of the Pixel 2 XL and the Galaxy Note 8. Read on to hear what we thought about the Mate 10 Pro, it’s new CPU chip and the new EMUI software.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Design and Hardware
In case you missed it we published our Mate 10 review last week and for most parts the hardware is the same but there are a few differences.
The Mate 10 Pro is 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm in dimension whereas the Mate 10 is shorter but wider at 150.5 x 77.8 x 8.2 mm due to the different display size and aspect ratio. The Mate 10 Pro has a 6.0 inch 18:9 aspect ratio 1080P AMOLED display whereas the Mate 10 has a more traditional 5.9 inch 16:9 aspect ratio, 2K LCD display.
The 1080P display on the Pro is a strange choice by Huawei when you consider that usually the Pro version of anything has the higher end specs but the display, while the OLED is nicer than the LCD, the display density is nicer on the Mate 10 with smaller icons etc. Huawei attempt to circumvent this with the ability to change the icons and text size but the choices are small.
But how did it look? It looked great. Unlike the Pixel 2 XL where an ever-so-slight change in the viewing angle results in blue tint of the display there was no blue tint on the Mate 10 Pro until at very extreme angles, something you are unlikely to ever do. The AMOLED itself seems to be of high quality with the usual black blacks and bright colours. Huawei include the ability to change the display to be vivid which makes the colours jump out much more.
One interesting point to note is that unlike the Mate 9 Pro of last year the Mate 10 Pro is NOT Daydream View compatible (at this stage). This is disappointing given it is their flagship.
One thing Huawei do well is auto-brightness. Their phones seem to adjust faster and also more smoothly to the surroundings than any other phone I have used. The Mate 10 Pro is no different.
Being an 18:9 aspect ratio display the Mate 10 Pro is easy to hold in the hand and owing to the curves of the sides it feels incredibly comfortable in the hand. My only criticism of it is that the back of the phone is a bit slippery — it did nearly slide off the bench a few times so that is something to keep in mind.
Let’s quickly talk about the colour — this phone is a brilliant Midnight Blue colour. Shiny and mirror-like just as with the HTC Ull it is the most stunningly gorgeous phone I have ever laid eyes on. Bravo Huawei.
The fingerprint sensor is on the rear of the phone and the reason for that is that the bezels are tiny. This results in the screen to body ratio of the Mate 10 Pro hitting 81.61% which is higher than the iPhone X, an impressive engineering feat by the Huawei folks.
Huawei have added IP67 water and dust resistance to the Mate 10 Pro stepping up to an area that the higher end flagships have.
Under the hood
The Mate 10 Pro steps up in some of the under-the-hood specs compared to the Mate 10 with it coming with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. The storage CANNOT be increased with the Pro model with there being a lack of a microSD slot but with 128GB of storage included I find it unlikely that a vast majority of users will ever need to.
The Mate 10 Pro also houses the new Kirin 970 processor which has its own AI hardware built onto it. Comparing it to flagships running a Snapdragon 835 it runs close to as fast as them. I noticed a very occasional slowdown but for 99.9 percent of the time this thing flew.
For more under-the hood information check out Duncan’s Mate 10 review from last week.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro The Camera
The Mate 10 Pro has exactly the same camera as the Mate 10 and Duncan covered the camera basics on the Mate 10 last week so I am not going to reinvent the wheel because I had similar feelings. What I focused on for the review was the fancier “gimmicky” camera functions.
First though a couple of things I noticed. When quick launching the camera from screen off the app opened quickly but did not allow zooming with pinch to zoom. Huawei tell me that this will be fixed in an update that will be rolling out in the next week in time for the launch – some Huawei staff are already running the update with this issue fixed.
The other thing that annoyed me was there was no easy gesture to flip from rear camera to front camera — there is a button to press but a quick swipe of the display or shake of the wrist would be much easier and faster.
The gimmicky functions
This phone had THE best burst mode functionality of any device I have ever used. Extremely fast shuttering while still resulting in a decent picture. We used to have a test here at Ausdroid called the slide test to test how well a camera took pictures of a moving object. How about a roller coaster test? Check out the images below.
Portrait mode is not really gimmicky as it is an amazing effect. The rear camera portrait mode uses the dual camera to achieve the effect and the results are stunning. The focal distance can be altered in port-processing which is great. The front facing portrait relies on software and it is definitely improved on previous Huawei implementations but still a tiny bit off.
Huawei have also included a moving picture option. This one definitely classes as a gimmick, although if you had kids moving and opening and shutting eyes during photo taking it could be handy.
One thing I hadn’t tried out until Huawei mentioned it to me was the 3D panorama mode. This uses a third party software from Fuse and a heap of computing power on the phone to relatively quickly create a 3D panorama. This effect is stunning although it requires a very stead hand and straight movements – if you have a tripod, your results can be stunning.
The basic camera was just as great as you would expect from a phone made by a top tier smartphone maker (they’re currently number 2 in the world). It took great pictures no matter what I was taking a picture of — possibly due to the new AI built into the hardware that has been incorporated into the camera software.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro The AI processor and software
At first I wasn’t sure if the AI enhancements in the camera app were actually working because I couldn’t see anything happening — and this is how it should be, unintrusive. The camera uses the AI hardware to determine what it is looking at in the viewfinder and adjusting the camera settings accordingly to give the best possible image for that scenario.
The scenes or object it can depict are: blue sky, flower, plant, beach, sunrise/sunset, performance, food, text, nightscape, snow, cat, dog, portrait. I was able to test out most of these except for obviously the snow. I did not have a dog on hand but using a photo of a dog the phone adjusted for it. This didn’t work for the snow setting though. It is possible that like all AI it needs to learn more to be more effective. Huawei are no doubt hard at work training their AI to be able to determine an object or scene faster and more accurately.
Whether the camera actually really did do anything to adjust the settings when it displayed each scene or object in the lower left of the viewport I do not know but the resultant images were often stunning – and that’s what counts in the end.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro What’s great about it?
There are so many things about this phone that are great:
- The display, even though it is only 1080P is a great looking display and the aspect ratio is perfect.
- This phone is stunning to look at. The mirror-like finish in blue is breath taking
- The battery life is astounding and is most likely the reason Huawei chose to go with a 1080P display. Every single day, with brightness at 50%, which is bright on this display, and with heavy use of streaming, tethering etc I was getting over 5 hours of screen on time. With the Mate 10 Pro you can be confident that your phone will last through the day. For those who do run it out there is the SuperCharge charging.
- SuperCharge. Huawei have their own proprietary fast charging and this charging is aptly named. The phone charges extremely fast with a very short time required to give you another half a day of use. The only faster charging I have seen was on the OPPO R11 and the OnePlus 5. SuperCharge provides a whole day’s use with a single 20-minute charge when charged from 1%. The Mate 10 Pro battery is also certified safe by TÜV Rheinland – an international service group, who document the safety and quality of new and existing products. This certification isn’t something we would have thought would be required until around this time last year.
- The fingerprint sensor is once again fast, accurate, reliable and easy to reach. What more could you ask for?
- The included translator app by Huawei and Microsoft is accurate and fairly fast. I tested it out with an Italian-speaking friend of mine and it got it right every time. Although it is meant to work offline I could not get that functioning but the text recognition and translation was also fairly good (although text translation is often difficult to interpret once translated.
- Huawei include the ability to theme your system, and thanks to XDA Developers you do not have to install one of the ridiculously ugly, kitchy themes on the Huawei store. This is a nice addition, something many manufacturers include these days but it is essential for Huawei given that their skin is hideous.
- Those who read my article yesterday on the Mate 10 desktop mode will know I thought this was a great addition. At first I thought it was a gimmick but can definitely see a use for it (and have already used it IRL).
Huawei Mate 10 Pro What’s not so great about it?
Huawei, in my opinion, make the best all around hardware out there. The hardware cannot be faulted. Unfortunately the story is always the same in that the hardware is let down by the software.
While the software has improved immensely in recent years it is still not there and feels like it’s improvements have been rolled back to where they were when I reviewed the Mate 9 earlier this year. The Mate 9 had some issues but they were improved greatly with the P10 Plus. No longer did you have the issue of EMUI constantly turning off accessibility and Android Auto actually worked.
The problem was that someone decided that this keeping accessibility as set by the user was unsafe and it was rolled back to the Mate 9 technique of continually turning off accessibility in the September security update on the P10 Plus. They have kept this bug (or feature?) in for the Oreo version running on the Mate 10 Pro.
Duncan discussed this thoroughly in his Mate 10 review last week. I too have found it incredibly annoying, to continually having to go into settings and Accessibility and turn it on. While in there turning it on for Last Pass I then realised why Tasker wasn’t working, why Side Control wasn’t functioning as designed, why Pie Control wasn’t able to perform all functionality and why Notification Listener was no longer stopping those annoying Oreo notifications that Google seems to think we require to clog up our notification shades.
Someone at Huawei really needs to look at why they keep doing this. Is it really required? Google don’t have the issue with their Pixels, OnePlus don’t have the issue and neither do Samsung, Motorola or HTC. The Accessibility issue can get really annoying such that it is getting close to be a deal breaker, bit not quite.
The Huawei’s EMUI skin is also ugly as hell. Their icons are poor iOS copies and their Settings menu is an afront to Matias’ Material flavoured dreams. Luckily these can be easily fixed using a theme. Like Duncan, I chose a Pixel theme but there are so many options out there, not just on XDA Developers but also on the Play Store.
Some things cannot be hidden such as the sharing menu and the open with menu. Just when you thought Google had nailed it Huawei continue to destroy it with their own implementation which is uglier, slower and harder to use.
Android Auto works with the Mate 10 Pro although it can be finicky in its connection with it sometimes switching to mono audio and only playing through one speaker. This doesn’t happen with any other phones I use on it. Google Play Music has now stopped working. It seems like it is playing but no sound comes out, even though Pocket Casts and Spotify are working at the time.
I say at the time because occasionally Pocket Casts would also randomly decide to not play. A reboot fixed that. Some of this is Google’s fault because often the Android Auto software feels beta and struggles with anything that is too far from stock Android. In saying that this seems to be a common theme with Huawei although the P10 Plus works flawlessly.
I never thought I’d need a headphone jack having transitioned to Bluetooth headphones for all but I really missed it on the Mate 10 Pro and not where you’d expect. My selfie stick. I went on holidays with the kids and wanted to use my selfie stick but had no 3.5mm jack to plug it into so I couldn’t control the photo taking. I have since purchased a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter for this purpose but if Huawei were going to omit it from their phone they should have included one in the box. They talk about wanting to control the user experience of their users so their get full value from their Huawei phone but this is not how you do it. I am now using a $1 adapter to listen to music etc. Anyone think the experience will still be what Huawei want it to be?
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Should you buy it?
I really dislike ending the review of a phone with negatives, especially a phone this good but this is why so many of you love (or tolerate) Ausdroid: we give our honest opinions and tell it how we see it. Manufacturers appreciate it mostly but we are not beholden to anyone and will always stay true to that.
After all those software negatives now is the moment of truth: are they deal breakers?
No. Simple as that. The positives far outweigh the negatives with this phone.
The negatives of the Accessibility settings and the ugly sharing menus are annoyances but not deal breakers. For the average person these would most likely not even be noticed but for anyone using Last Pass or any other password manager they may annoy.
The positives are great design and shape and even though the display is a disappointing 1080P resolution the OLED is a pleasure to view and use. The phone is fast and operates seamlessly but you do notice it lacks the smoothness of a Pixel phone but all phones that aren’t Pixels do. If you haven’t used a Pixel you won’t notice this at all.
The camera is one of the best in its class with the second lens being incredibly useful. The AI integration into the camera app results in near perfect imaging in all scenes where it is designed to function. I cannot wait to see where Huawei integrate it next as it meant I never had to get out of Auto camera mode at any time.
So would I buy this phone? Most definitely. The hardware is that good.
Who would I recommend this phone for? Anyone and everyone. Google are coming up with a different solution for the Accessibility setting soon anyway. Hopefully Huawei don’t break that as well.
At just $1099 this phone is a steal. Unfortunately it is only available from Optus from December 4 although it may be worth seeing if Optus will sell it to you one outright if you are not with Optus and not willing to join them. Hopefully Huawei decide to move it into retail channels before too long: this phone is too good to languish on Optus’ shelves while they push other phones.