- Attractive design
- Great battery life
- Fantastic performance
- Competent cameras
- Smart UX
- Scratches easily
- Screen resolution could be higher
- No expandability
- Weak speaker setup
Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: Unlike last year, Huawei’s seen fit to give UK fans the ‘Pro’ version of its latest Mate 10 phablet and we’ve been putting it through its paces.
For a relatively new player in the global smartphone scene, Huawei has muscled its way into one of the top spots in the mobile market, something pure financial might wasn’t going to guarantee all on its own. You need good products too; competitive devices that appeal to consumers and that stand out from the crowd for one reason or another. So how does the new Mate 10 Pro shape up?
The Mate family, in particular, has served as a great way of metering the development of Huawei's smartphone brand and its products. 2014’s Ascend Mate 7 felt relatively generic versus similarly-sized but significantly more distinctive rivals like the Nexus 6. 2015’s Mate 8 showcased the company’s newfound attention to detail in its design work; a trait shared with the equally stylish Huawei P8 that same year. Roll around to 2016’s Mate 9 and the company had started building partnerships with experts beyond its own borders, such as Leica, to add credibility to the new, more competitive internal hardware, bringing us to the Mate 10 Series.
The journey is far from over but both of Huawei’s new star phablets promise a lot and, on first impressions, look as though they can deliver, with fresh designs, top-notch internals and some new technologies we’ve not yet seen in the smartphone space.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Design
The main trait of any Mate phone is a large display and the 10 Pro is the first of Huawei’s phones to make the jump to an 18:9 aspect ratio. Huawei also dubs it a 'FullView' display, meaning it occupies most of the phone’s front, with some of the narrowest bezels we’ve seen on one of the company’s handsets leaving you with only a sliver of ‘forehead’ and ‘chin’ above and below.
Despite staying true to the Mate name in this one area, it’s also a notable departure in another, shunning the aluminium-clad body of its predecessor in favour of a new multi-layered glass-backed design, not unlike what we’ve seen from Honor’s most recent flagships. Similarly to the Honor 9, despite the benefit of added grip, the top layer of Gorilla Glass has already started picking up small scratches, best circumvented by using the clear TPU case that comes in-box.
The thin borders around the display also mean that despite the screen size, it’s a relatively comfortable and manageable handset to clutch in one hand with a well-placed power key on its right side, situated underneath a volume rocker that you might have to shift your grip to get at.
Going FullView does mean that unlike this year’s P10 phones the (wonderfully responsive) fingerprint sensor is positioned centrally on the phone’s back. If you’re coming from a Mate 9, Nexus 6P or many other devices though, this won’t feel awkward and is arguably more convenient placement anyway, with gesture support thrown in for good measure.
A couple of design choices you might not immediately notice are the abandonment of a headphone jack, which spells disaster for some or indifference for others; accompanied by the fact that this is one of the company’s first IP67-certified handsets, designed to match the water and dust resistance of Apple’s latest iPhones and offer a solid alternative to the likes of Sony's and Samsung's most capable devices.
A shiny new body with tiny bezels means this phone is easy to hold without compromising on screen size. IP67 certification isn't too shabby either.
It may rock Gorilla Glass but it's unquestionably prone to scratches and scrapes. Depending on who you ask, a lack of headphone jack is also an annoyance.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Screen and media
Whilst many automatically expect a 2017 flagship-class phone like the Mate 10 Pro to cram in as many pixels as possible onto that 6-inch screen, Huawei surprised us all with a rather restrained Full HD+ (2160x1080) resolution panel instead.
On paper this seems a little disappointing, especially as the vanilla Mate 10 actually comes with a sharper 5.9-inch 2K panel but in practice you’re still getting a great viewing experience, helped by the use of OLED technology for greater colour and contrast, as well as tweakable screen settings for a more balanced and personalisable display setup.
We were hoping for some always-on, tilt-to-wake or at the very least double-tap to wake thrown in there for good measure but alas, no such luck. At least the size and aspect ratio make it an ideal display for split-screen multitasking (a feature now natively supported by Android) and there’s a competent and easy-to-use one-handed mode built into the software experience too.
As for the phone’s audio capabilities, the loudspeaker setup isn’t that dissimilar from HTC’s BoomSound Hi-Fi arrangement, which in practice actually means you get relatively unbalanced stereo sound. The larger downward-facing speaker offers a notably richer sound than the audio being output from the speaker set within the earpiece, which lacks bass altogether.
Thankfully, whilst there’s no headphone jack (there’s a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter in-box), the included USB-C earbuds let you enjoy a more pleasing sonic experience, particularly as the phone supports high-resolution audio codecs and the aptX HD standard over Bluetooth 4.2. Just don’t expect HTC U11-levels of audio prowess.
That large 18:9 display is ideal for multitasking and enjoying media, as is the high-resolution audio support.
Full HD+ resolution is a little underwhelming whilst the stereo loudspeaker setup is so unbalanced we'd recommend sticking to headphones.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: OS and features
The Mate 10 Series is the first of the company’s phones to debut its new EMUI 8.0 user experience and as Samsung did when it skipped a Note, EMUI 6 and 7 haven’t passed you by; Huawei simply wanted its overlay to more logically align with the underlying Android 8.0 Oreo OS powering the phone.
The main hook surrounding this iteration of Emotion UI and the hardware under the Mate 10 Pro’s hood is artificial intelligence. We’re not talking Halo’s Cortana-level smarts here but rather a series of thoughtful system behaviours that work behind the scenes to keep your phone running quickly and efficiently based on how you, as an individual, use it.
It’s an undeniably unsexy avenue of such technology but one that’ll undoubtedly prove welcome to long-term Mate 10 owners when their phones continue to run rings around rival devices launched around the same time, months and years on from initial purchase.
In day to day use, there are only small examples of the phone’s AI smarts on show, like automated object recognition in the photo gallery, scene recognition in the camera experience and the already impressive Microsoft Translator app, which has been optimised to better utilise the Mate 10's software and hardware. Beyond that EMUI is still a powerful user experience as is, with tons of customisation options both aesthetically and behaviourally.
You can completely rework the look of the Mate 10 Pro’s homescreens with downloadable themes, add a software alternative to the one-button navigation of the Huawei P10 in place of Android’s standard navigation buttons or try and use knuckle mode in everyday situations if you’re a masochist.
You can scale apps that don't natively support the Mate 10 Pro's elongated aspect ratio at the touch of a button, which despite warnings of 'display errors' appeared to work flawlessly in our tests.
A part of the Android Oreo experience carries across to the company’s native applications with long-press shortcuts abound and the new projection mode leverages the phone’s beefy hardware to give you a full desktop-like user experience that can run alongside the phone when you plug it into a display; giving you similar functionality to Samsung’s DeX station but without the need for a dock at all.
Check out our Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro tips and tricks guide for a closer look at the software's best features. You can also see our video tour of the OS below.
Huawei's improved EMUI 8.0 experience running atop Android Oreo feels fast, smart and it's highly customisable. The new AI smarts are tucked away but they're definitely there too.
Knuckle mode - does anyone even like this feature?
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Performance and battery
Just as with its design work, Huawei’s poured more time and effort into making competitive flagship-class silicon to power its latest phones and the Mate 10 Pro serves as the launch device for its newest offering, the new Kirin 970.
Aside from sporting the world’s first dedicated neural processing unit (NPU), the 970 takes on Qualcomm’s top-tier 835 and Samsung’s Exynos 8895 processors by matching their 10nm architecture, designed to help yield greater performance and efficiency. In practice, AnTuTu places the Mate 10 Pro, with its 6GB of RAM, amongst the most powerful handsets out there and gamers can also rest easy knowing that it’s the first phone to boast the latest Mali-G72 MP12 GPU too.
As for storage, unlike the standard Mate 10, the Pro forgoes expandability in place of dual-SIM 4G connectivity, with double the internal space to work with instead at 128GB; enough to satiate most media-hungry mobile users. Huawei’s also thrown an IR blaster on there, something of a rarity on a 2017 flagship phone but a useful inclusion nonetheless.
As for the phone’s whopping 4000mAh battery, it’s a reliable performer, consistently dolling out two full days of use. In truth, we were hoping for more based on the comparatively conservative screen resolution and the new chipset at play but it’s still a respectable benchmark in spite of these elements. The company’s own SuperCharge fast-charging tech is also present and it’s now safety certified by TÜV Rheinland, intended to give peace of mind to phone-lovers who still remember the horrors of last year’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 debacle.
The new Kirin 970 processor benchmarks like a champ and feels powerful in everyday use. The battery also performs as expected and the phone comes with tons of internal storage.
No option of expandability is always a bummer, even with the local storage on offer. We were also hoping for better battery longevity versus last year's Mate, rather than simply the same.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Cameras
The Mate 10 Pro's updated dual 12 and 20-megapixel Leica camera arrangement offers some clear improvements over last year's iteration and is without a doubt the most competitive camera setup we've ever seen on a Huawei phone. Aside from packing in a ton of modes, the phone's AI smarts work to automatically tweak camera settings for the best shot possible based on the scene and subject it 'sees'.
As for image and video quality, aside from the fact that HDR isn't enabled by default, shots appear accurately coloured and well-exposed, with an impressively wide f/1.6 aperture for great low-light shooting and a smooth video stabilisation system, provided you stick to Full HD recording at 30fps (video stabilisation is inaccessible at higher frame rates and resolutions). Its built-in portrait mode is extremely effective using both the front and rear cameras too.
For a far more detailed look at the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro's imaging capabilities check out our full Huawei Mate 10/Mate 10 Pro camera review.
The Mate 10 Series snappers are the company's best yet, boasting tons of modes, great all-round performance and a powerful portrait mode.
To be the best you've got to at least match the best and right now the video portion of Mate 10 Pro's camera experience is its weakest element. A lack of video stabilisation at frame rates and resolutions above 1080p/30fps just isn't going to cut it against the market leaders. Neither is the lack of HDR still capture by default.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Verdict
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro promises a lot and delivers in practically every instance. It’s an attractive and very capable performer with some powerful features for productivity and one potent imaging experience on top too.
The lower £699 asking price, when compared to rivals like the Galaxy Note 8, can be explained by small cost-saving measures such as its lower resolution display and slightly nixed camera experience, but this is still the greatest phone Huawei’s ever made and a serious competitor that should give the competition cause for concern.
- Full HD+ (2160x1080)
- 178 grams
- Android 8.0 Oreo
- 12/20-megapixels dual sensor w/ OIS
- 2.36GHz/1.8GHz octa-core Kirin 970
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB. Non-expandable
- Yes (dual SIM)
- IP67-certification (dust & water resistance), TÜV-certified 4.5V/5A fast-charging, HDR10 support, aptX HD support, LDAC HD Audio support, desktop user experience