Huawei Mate 10 Pro
£699 inc VAT from fave.co/2jc1FSy
Huawei is the biggest telecoms company on the planet, but the brand is still relatively unknown in the UK. Although other phone makers such as Samsung and Apple only very recently launched bezel-less phones, Huawei has quietly been doing this since 2014. Its Mate series has always had practically zero side bezels so although some will think that Huawei is just copying the big boys with the Mate 10, it’s actually the other way around.
The past few Mates have all looked pretty much the same, but Huawei has shaken things up for 2017 and it’s
no overstatement to say this is one of the best-looking phones around. It’s also one of the most powerful and longest-lasting, attributes which should ensure its place on your upgrade shortlist alongside the Galaxy S8, Note8 and – maybe – iPhone 8 Plus.
The Mate 10 Pro – the only model from the range that will be sold in the UK later in November – is a gorgeous-looking phone that’s taller and slimmer than its predecessors thanks to the switch to an 18:9 screen and smaller top and bottom bezels than on the Mate 9. It’s a bit smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, but has a 6in screen rather than 5.5in.
A glass back is the main change from previous Mate designs. Unlike the iPhone 8 which also adopts the glass sandwich, the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t support allow wireless charging. Instead, the Gorilla Glass 5 is there purely for aesthetics.
And it looks stunning. The glass curves on all four edges and reflects the light beautifully (see opposite). It joins the alloy frame almost invisibly and feels silky smooth in the hand.
The problem with this is that – hardened or not – glass is still glass. Huawei provides a plastic case in the box, and a screen protector is fitted at the factory, but the case hides that glorious finish so it’ll always be tempting to go case-less and run the risk of the drop-smash.
At least it will continue to work if it falls in the bath: the Mate 10 is Huawei’s first phone to have proper waterproofing. And since the cameras protrude by a
millimetre or so and aren’t part of that rear glass, they should continue working even if it does get cracked.
The Mate 10 Pro comes in four colours: Midnight Blue, Titanium Grey, Pink Gold, Mocha Brown. In my eyes, the blue version looks best, but plenty of people are taken with the bronze-like Mocha Brown.
Just be sure to have a lens cloth handy at all times to clean the glass of those inevitable fingerprints.
Another departure from previous Mate designs is the stripe which highlights the dual cameras. These are still aligned vertically but are separated instead of having a single cover as on the Mate 9.
The arrangement is essentially the same, though, with 12- and 20Mp sensors, the former colour and the latter mono. Both lenses have a faster f/1.6 aperture to
let in more light than before, but only the 12Mp camera benefits from optical stabilisation.
The fingerprint scanner sits below the cameras and is a bit larger than the Mate 9’s. Having used enough phones with a rear scanner, it’s just as good – if not better – than a front-mounted sensor as your finger falls naturally on it when you pick up the phone.
But therein lies the rub: you have to pick it up to access the scanner. That, or press the power button and enter your PIN or swipe pattern to unlock.
There’s another slight niggle: you won’t find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the Mate 10 Pro, though there is one on the standard Mate 10 (a model you can’t buy in the UK).
The top edge of the phone has what looks like a headphone jack, but it’s actually an IR blaster next to a microphone. This lets you control your TV or set-top box, should you want to.
Another oddity is that the Pro doesn’t offer expandable storage via microSD whereas the standard Mate 10 does. Fortunately, the Pro packs 128GB as standard, but you’ll have to be sure that’s all you’ll need for the lifetime of the phone.
It is a dual-SIM phone, though, and it supports 4G for both nano SIMs. The modem supports Cat 18 LTE so it’s one of the first phones which can download at 1.2Gb/s. Unfortunately, you’re not going to experience this in the UK for a long while as the fastest download speed to date (offered by EE) is 150Mb/s.
Huawei is calling it 4.5G, but while it’s interesting, ultimately it isn’t a reason to buy the Mate 10 Pro (or any other phone with similar tech.)
Display and audio
We never got the Mate 9 Pro in the UK, but that model had an OLED screen as opposed to the IPS LCD screen in the standard Mate 9. Things are the same in 2017 and it means the Mate 10 Pro should be compatible with Google’s Daydream VR headsets (it isn’t yet certified, but is expected to be shortly).
It has a resolution of 2160x1080 which is lower than its rivals, but in the flesh it looks great and, at 480ppi, everything looks nice and sharp. The OLED tech means contrast is fantastic and colours are also great: it has a wide colour gamut (112 percent of the NTSC standard) which allows it to display HDR10 content.
Colours pop as they do on the Galaxy S8 Plus and viewing angles are nice and wide with no noticeable colour shifting.
The 18:9 aspect ratio screen is becoming more common, which is a good thing for the Mate 10 Pro as more apps will be optimized to run in full-screen mode. The phone lets you force any app to do this, but doesn’t guarantee it’ll work properly.
Unlike the Pixel 2 XL which has two front-firing stereo speakers, Huawei opts for an Apple-like approach with the top one facing the front and the bottom-firing speaker used as the second.
They’re loud enough, but not particularly well balanced with the front speaker noticeably quieter.
The lenses may have f/1.6 apertures, but the cameras are not the Mate 10 Pro’s strong suit. At least, certainly not when compared to the amazing snappers on the Pixel 2 XL.
Put simply, the Mate 10 Pro cannot resolve the same level of detail. When you look close up, photos don’t look sharp and there’s evidence of noise reduction, even in good light. This makes textures looks a bit smeary, and it’s worse in low light.
We’ve also reason to quibble about video quality. Everything looks a little soft at 1080p but while 4K is decent enough, there’s no stabilisation on offer (despite the OIS).
Annoyingly, the same restriction is imposed if you choose to shoot at 1080p60, so you either live without stabilisation or put with less detail and half the number of frames per second to get smoother video.
Audio quality on videos is pretty good, with none of the noise reduction you get on other phones
that makes it sound as though the recordings were made under water. It’s a stereo soundtrack, too. You can see a 1080p30 clip with stabilisation enabled at tinyurl.com/y7hgbr7q.
Plus, while it’s easy to be critical of the quality when really scrutinising photos at 100 percent, they look good when viewed normally. The lack of sharpness isn’t noticeable: focus is actually very good.
You can snap a shot in a hurry and still get good results thanks to the array of focusing techniques (and depth perception) at the rear which mean there’s no perceptible delay between tapping the shutter button and the photo being taken.
There are lots of modes to play with including slo-mo video (which works a lot like the iPhone’s and lets you adjust which portion is slowed down), a pro mode for photo and video that gives enthusiasts access to shutter speed, ISO, metering, EV correction, focus and white balance. You can even lock the last three while you make other changes.
You can also use the monochrome camera to take 20Mp photos and they’re clean even in low light:
Huawei’s signature light painting mode is great fun at night, and long exposures can be used to get light trails or other effects.
On top of all that, there’s the option to enable Motion photos (basically the same as Apple’s Live
Monochrome Portrait mode