Huawei Mate 10 Pro

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Android 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 (see page 25).

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

Pho­tos) and both por­trait mode and ‘wide aper­ture’ mode. The lat­ter is us­able with the stan­dard field of view which means you can take pho­tos of sev­eral peo­ple and still get a nice blurry back­ground.

In por­trait mode, re­sults can look great, but it doesn’t al­ways cor­rectly de­tect hair. Again, though, this is only some­thing you’d no­tice if you zoom in and look closely.

Around the front the 8Mp selfie cam­era is de­cent enough and you can play with the beauty set­tings in the por­trait mode and even tog­gle on the ‘artis­tic bokeh ef­fect’ which uses the power of the Kirin 970 to fig­ure out what’s in the back­ground and blur it. And it works sur­pris­ingly well.

The stock cam­era app has the same in­ter­face as be­fore, but the AI cer­tainly ap­pears to help with scene recog­ni­tion. A sym­bol ap­pears at the bot­tom-left cor­ner to in­di­cate what it has rec­og­nized.

For ex­am­ple, there’s al­most no de­lay switch­ing to fo­liage mode when point­ing the cam­era at a plant. Sim­i­larly, face recog­ni­tion (and track­ing) worked re­ally well when tak­ing pho­tos of a bal­le­rina – de­spite the rel­a­tively dim light­ing.

Even when its very dark, the cam­eras are still able to fo­cus quickly and take sharp-look­ing pho­tos with good skin tones.

Each cam­era has its own ISP (image sig­nal pro­ces­sor) and th­ese are used in con­junc­tion with the AI en­gine to process im­ages ac­cord­ing to the type of scene de­tected. The pro­cess­ing power is also used to en­able soft­ware zoom up to 2x, and the re­sults can be bet­ter than the tele­photo lens on the iPhone 7 Plus.

Per­for­mance

Huawei uses its own-de­sign pro­ces­sors in its phones and the lat­est is the Kirin 970. It’s an eight-core chip and, like Ap­ple’s A11 Bionic, it has ded­i­cated neu­ral net­work hard­ware which al­lows it to han­dle tasks such as lan­guage trans­la­tion and image clas­si­fi­ca­tion on the phone in­stead of re­quir­ing it to call home to servers on the In­ter­net.

Huawei says the per­for­mance of this so-called NPU (Neu­ral Pro­cess­ing Unit) is 25 times bet­ter than the main CPU, and 50 times more ef­fi­cient.

Over­all the Kirin 970 is 20 per­cent more ef­fi­cient than the Mate 9’s Kirin 960 and the new Mali G72-MP12 GPU is 50 per­cent more ef­fi­cient.

All of this means the Mate 10 Pro has ex­cel­lent bat­tery life. With a 4,000mAh ca­pac­ity, it eas­ily lasts

a day even with heavy use. And if you’re not play­ing games, tak­ing videos or con­stantly us­ing the screen to browse the web, watch videos or send mes­sages, it’ll (al­most) last two days.

When it’s empty, the in­cluded Su­per­Charge power sup­ply will charge the Mate 10 Pro to al­most 60 per­cent in only 15 min­utes.

As for the pro­ces­sor’s per­for­mance, it’s fan­tas­tic. It com­fort­ably sits with Snap­dragon 835-pow­ered phones and thanks to the lower res­o­lu­tion than some of those phones, the GPU doesn’t have such a hard time ren­der­ing all those pix­els so it can de­liver as many, if not more frames per se­cond.

Only the A11 goes no­tice­ably quicker in bench­marks, but this doesn’t in­clude image recog­ni­tion. Huawei says the Mate 10 Pro can iden­tify scenes in pho­tos at a rate of 2000 per minute, while the iPhone 7 Plus can man­age only about 500.

And in real-world use, the Mate 10 Pro feels as fast and re­spon­sive as you’d ex­pect from a top-end flag­ship phone.

The real ques­tion is whether de­vel­op­ers will use Huawei’s APIs to cre­ate apps that take ad­van­tage of the NPU. If not, you’re not go­ing to see a huge ben­e­fit be­yond trans­la­tion and image and scene recog­ni­tion or other apps Huawei it­self re­leases.

Trans­la­tion needs to im­prove be­fore you can rely on it. Once you’ve down­loaded the re­spec­tive lan­guage packs, you can use the app off­line

It works pretty well, but in the (ad­mit­tedly hard) test above, it com­pletely fails to trans­late the Span­ish for depart­ment stores and calls them “large sur­faces”.

Soft­ware

As you’d hope from a brand new An­droid phone, the Mate 10 Pro comes with An­droid 8.0 Oreo and this is over­laid with Huawei’s EMUI in­ter­face.

EMUI is one of the most iOS-like An­droid in­ter­faces out there and this makes it ideal if you’re jump­ing ship from an iPhone. The de­fault lay­out is to show all apps in a grid, but you can change this for the tra­di­tional app drawer in the set­tings.

From the home screen you can drag down to get a search bar to find apps, mu­sic or other me­dia.

The pre­vi­ous ver­sion was EMUI 6, but in or­der to match An­droid, this has now been bumped up to EMUI 8.0 for the Mate 10. You won’t no­tice too many ma­jor changes, since th­ese are lurk­ing be­hind the scenes.

EMUI 8 is great to use, al­though it does take a bit of ad­just­ing if you’re used to plain An­droid. What’s nice

is that you have a choice of whether to use the usual An­droid soft nav­i­ga­tion keys or EMUI’s float­ing but­ton.

You’ll have to learn the ges­tures for the but­ton, but be­cause you can po­si­tion it any­where on the screen, it could be a quicker way to op­er­ate the phone with one hand. Dis­abled by de­fault is the al­ways-on dis­play. This shows the time, date and no­ti­fi­ca­tions just like the Pixel 2 XL and Gal­axy S8. You can sched­ule this, too, so it doesn’t use power at night.

Like Mo­torola, Huawei adds quite a few handy fea­tures to An­droid, such as dou­ble-press­ing the power but­ton to launch the cam­era when the phone is off, and let­ting you quickly call some­one by hold­ing the vol­ume down but­ton and speak­ing their name.

Thanks to the wider screen, the Mate 10 Pro has a fea­ture called Smart Split-screen. This au­to­mat­i­cally dis­plays some apps in two col­umns in land­scape

mode and means you can keep watch­ing a video while re­ply­ing to an email, for ex­am­ple.

And as with pre­vi­ous ver­sions, you can use your knuckle to knock on the screen to achieve cer­tain things. For ex­am­ple, a dou­ble knock takes a screen­shot and you can draw let­ters with your knuckle to launch cer­tain apps. You can also draw a line across the screen to en­ter split-screen mode – get­ting the knack just takes a lit­tle prac­tice.

A po­ten­tially use­ful fea­ture for some is the abil­ity to con­nect a big screen us­ing just a USB-C to HDMI adapter ca­ble. When you do this, you get a Win­dowsstyle desk­top for run­ning apps and the phone screen be­comes a vir­tual touch­pad for the on-screen cur­sor. A key­board also pops up when rel­e­vant for text en­try.

The desk­top en­vi­ron­ment is fairly rudi­men­tary, but if Huawei de­vel­ops it, this could be a rea­son to get the Mate 10 over one of your other short­listed phones.

Ver­dict

The Mate 10 Pro is the best phone from Huawei yet and al­though the cam­eras aren’t as good as the Pixel 2 XL’s, it has a bet­ter screen, bet­ter bat­tery life and just as much pro­cess­ing power. In fact, with the AI pro­ces­sor there’s ar­guably more on board, but there’s no guar­an­tee that apps will ap­pear to make use of it. Even if they don’t, this is still an out­stand­ing phone. Jim Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

6in (2160x1080, 402ppi) IPS dis­play EMUI 8.0 (An­droid 8.0 Oreo)

• Hisil­i­con Kirin 970 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core (4x 2.4GHz Cor­tex-A73, 4x 1.8GHz Cor­tex-A53) CPU • Mali-G72 MP12 GPU • 4/6GB RAM • 64/128GB stor­age • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • Dual 20Mp and 12Mp, f/1.6, OIS, 2x loss­less zoom, Le­ica op­tics, phase de­tec­tion and laser aut­o­fo­cus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash • 8Mp, f/2.0 front cam­era • Blue­tooth 4.2 • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS • USB-C 3.1 • 4,000mAh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery • 154.2x74.5x7.9mm • 178g

Geek­bench 4

Por­trait mode

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