Huawei Mate 10 Pro

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Tech Advisor - - Contents -

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.

De­sign

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.

Cam­eras

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

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Mono­chrome Por­trait mode

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