2017 has been a great year for Huawei right here in Malaysia, with new products and great sales number for their mid-range P-series and budget-concerned Nova-series. Of course, it’s the time of the year again to update their top-of-the-line Mate-series. For 2017, 3 new models are introduced – the Mate 10, the Mate 10 Pro and the Mate 10 Porsche Design. In this review we will be focusing on the middle one – the Mate 10 Pro, which is, as of this writing, the best that Huawei is offering for the line-up.
The Mate 10 Pro is only available in 1 variant, and it is priced at RM3099 here in Malaysia.
NOTE: Our review unit is an early release unit that spots the European firmware, which may differ slightly from the final release version that is available for Malaysia.
The Mate 10 Pro comes in a blue packaging, which signifies the premium and classy feel of the Mate 10 Pro. The writing on the top cover reflects the actual colour of the device. Lifting the top cover reveals the Mate 10 Pro, with “Huawei Design” logo next to it. Underneath the tray where the phone lies are two compartments. The right compartments contains the usual accessories, including a USB Wall Adapter with Huawei’s SuperCharge quick charging technology, a USB-C cable for charging & data transfer as well as a pair of earphones with USB-C plug on the other end instead of a 3.5-mm.
In a word – beautiful
When it comes to design, Huawei nailed it with the Mate 9, Mate 9 Pro and the Porsche Design variants. When it comes to Mate 10, we can say pretty much the same. Huawei did a great job giving the latest Mate-series new design languages, which separated them from other products in Huawei’s smartphone line-up. The Mate 10 Pro looks pretty much the same from Mate 10, apart from some unique cues for the Mate 10 Pro. Overall, the Mate 10 Pro is slimmer in terms of width, but taller compared to the Mate 10 to accommodate the 18:9 display, so it feels more comfortable holding it. The overall ergonomics are spot on, and it looks beautiful as well. There are some traits of older Huawei design, but the rest of them are new.
As their premium device, we are happy to report that Huawei used premium materials for the Mate 10. Gone are the metal unibody design that is found on the Mate 9. The Mate 10 Pro features Gorilla Glass for its front and back panel, with metal band for structural rigidity. The front glass features 2.5D edges on all 4 corners, and gone are the curves on both the left and right sides like on the Mate 9. Instead, the curves can be found on the back. The metal bands have brushed effect. With a weight of 178-grams, it is quite heavy, but the premium materials give it a solid feel.
The 18:9 display almost dominates the entire front panel of the Mate 10 Pro. In fact, the screen-to-body ratio is at a whopping 80.9%. Still, there are very minimal bezels on both the left and right side of the display. The top is where the LED notification light, sensors, earpiece and front-facing camera lives, while the space at the bottom is only enough for a Huawei branding. And of course, with such a spacious display, Android controls are left on-screen. Huawei also kindly provided a pre-applied screen protector to prevent the display being scratched. A glass screen protector is always recommended to increase its protection.
The volume and power buttons are located on the right, and they are conveniently located too. The power button is also textured. The IR blaster and microphone are located on the top as usual. The removable tray on the left houses 2 microSIM slots, and being the Pro model, it loses out on storage expansion via a microSD card.
The bottom is where the USB-C port and a bottom firing speaker is located, and it is one of the two channels for the stereo speaker. Being the Pro model, it also loses out on 3.5mm headphone jack, which can be a big concern for some people. The included pair of earphones with USB-C should do the trick, and if not, you’ll need to get a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, or even go wireless.
The back of the Mate 10 Pro is now in glass, and it has that slight aurora effect that somewhat looks like the Honor 8. There is a “signature strip” that goes across the device, where the cameras are located. The dual-camera setup can carries on in Mate 10 Pro, with one being a 12-megapixel RGB sensor, and the other being a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, and both are located on top of each other. There is a small Leica branding towards the left. Along with the camera lenses, there are two-tone LED flash and a laser autofocus sensor. The fingerprint sensor is also conveniently located right under the camera lenses. All is well laid out with Huawei’s symmetrical design.
Our review unit is finished in a tasty Mocha Brown, and the other 3 colours that are offered for the Mate 10 Pro are Midnight Blue, Titanium Grey and Pink Gold.
Specs and Performance
All new processor – more powerful, more efficient and smarter
The Mate 10 Pro is Huawei’s flagship device, and we’re expecting it to be packed with the latest and greatest offerings from Huawei. Powering the Mate 10 Pro is Huawei’s latest and greatest in-house developed Kirin 970 processor. An octa-core setup remains, with its primary cores now clocked at 2.4GHz and the rest clocked at 1.8GHz. Huawei claims that this processor is 50% more efficient than the Kirin 960 that it replaces.
The big news about the Kirin 970 is the inclusion of a Neural-network Processor Unit (NPU). It provides hardware acceleration to machine learning tasks such as image and voice recognition, as well as language processing and translation. Huawei has trained it with millions of photos, voices and texts, but it will still get smarter via OTA update.
The Mate 10 Pro also benefits from 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM compared to the 4GB found in the regular Mate 10.
We have quite high expectations when it comes to flagship smartphones, and in the real world, the Mate 10 Pro certainly delivers. Not only it delivers better performance than the Mate 9, it is more efficient as well. The EMUI 8 that it’s paired with feels like a breeze to use, and it has no problem handling lightweight tasks. It even does well to deal with heavy tasks, with all 8-cores having the capacity to do so. Under heavy load the battery drop is pretty average, but a small section of the rear of the device heats up pretty quick, and is quite noticeable. But it does not tamper with the performance though.
When benchmarked with the usual Geekbench 4 app, the results are impressive too. Single-core score sits at around 1903, while multi-core score is at 6711. Both scores are right up there with other flagship offerings from other manufacturers, so the Mate 10 Pro is not too shabby.
While the Mate 10 Pro was given a massive 128GB of storage, it had to gave up on external microSD card storage expansion. To be fair, the Mate 9 Pro did it first, along with other flagships from other manufacturers. Still, it is a true UFS 2.1 unit, so you can expect high read and write speeds. It will also take external USB storage devices via the USB-C port, but it’s only comfortable with lower-powered devices only. It will also take a USB-C dock with various inputs.
As for connectivity options, you can also expect the latest and greatest. A dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi is included with Wi-Fi Hotspot and Wi-Fi Direct, along with Bluetooth 4.2. Both SIM slots support up to Cat.18 LTE, with both cards able to connect to LTE at the same time. The USB-C 3.1 port at the bottom is not only responsible for charging and data transfer, it supports DisplayPort 1.2 as well, which means that it can handle docks that have video output. Apart from the usual mirroring, you can also choose to have a desktop style user interface, while using the phone as a touchpad or keyboard.
The Mate 10 Pro also has its fingerprint reader located at the back just below the camera housings. Like always, its quick and accurate with its matte surface sensor. There’s also some gestures that you can do, such as swiping up and down to reveal or hide the notification panel, swiping left and right in gallery, as well as long pressing to take a photo in the camera app.
OLED is pure magic
The display on the Mate 10 Pro is where it really stands out among its Mate siblings. It measures at a whopping 6.0-inches. But , thanks to its 18:9 ratio, it is not as wide or as bulky as the regular Mate 10’s 16:9 ratio, and is similar to the Nova 2i we’ve seen previously. With a resolution of 1080 X 2160, it lacks behind in pixel density with only 402 pixels-per-inch. Even though the regular Mate 10 has a sharper display, it is still reasonably sharp on the Mate 10 Pro.
And here comes the fun part: the display panel used on the Mate 10 Pro is an OLED panel which we’ve starting to see on flagship smartphones, and it is very much appreciated and ticking all the right boxes. In true OLED fashion, the colours are very vivid, and it really pops thanks to deep black nature. Still, Huawei manages to keep the colours to the natural side. It is very bright as well, and we have no problem using it under direct sunlight. The auto-brightness function works well keeping the brightness at the right level at all times. Viewing angles is great as well. All in all, we are very impressed by this panel, and it is a huge jump from the regular Mate 10.
As always, Huawei includes software adjustments that allows you to tweak the colour temperature of the display. Apart from the usual Normal, Warm or Cool, this includes an entire colour wheel so that you can have the exact colour temperature that you’d prefer. For the Mate 10 Pro, there’s also an additional colour mode which allows you to switch between normal and vivid. Normal tones down a little while vivid mode turns everything up to max so that you get the best display experience.
Quite the boom, still have room for improvements
Like previous Huawei’s higher-end devices, the Mate 10 Pro gets a stereo speaker setup, which consists of the bottom firing speaker and the earpiece, each acts as one of the channels of the setup. The problem from previous setup remains – the loudness isn’t balanced as audio output from the earpiece does not match the loudness of the other speaker. Still, the stereo effect is there, and it is quite loud and punchy.
Huawei + Leica = Awesomeness
Huawei’s partnership with Leica lives on, and it carries on to the new Mate 10 Pro. The setup on the Mate 10 Pro is pretty much the same found on the Mate 9 – a pair of sensors which consists of a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor is still there, now paired with Leica’s higher grade SUMILLUX-H lens with f/1.6 aperture. The technology remains, where you can take 12-megapixel colour photos, 20-megapixel photos in monochrome, or 20-megapixel colour photos, with the monochrome sensor capturing the details and the RGB sensor filling in the colour. Apart from that, it captures multiple frames every time when the shutter is hit, and then fusing them together for a clearer shot. The Kirin 970 processor helps too, now with two Image Signal Processors for image processing. It’s NPU will also use AI to identify up to 14 scenes and adjust to them accordingly.
With this combination in its 3rd generation now, the image quality produced from the Mate 10 Pro does not disappoint. Under broad daylight, the images are sharp, and have more true-to-life colours. There’s very less amount of noise, very wide dynamic range and more accurate colours. With the 12-megapixel sensor alone, images are sharper than its predecessor, but at times over-sharpening can occur for some very fine details. Still, it is rendered in a natural way for most of the time. The Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) present for the 12-megapixel lens keeps images steady at all times, and the camera will also detect movement and adjust its settings to compensate for it.
Moving on to the 20-megapixel hybrid settings, the results are pretty similar, even though it has slightly more details. As for colours, it’s pretty much identical as well. But, the combination of high resolution details and lower-resolution colours didn’t really wow us, and we would still stick to either one of those, not both together. At this mode, you can’t use the zoom function as well. Speaking of the zoom, Huawei’s 2x lossless zoom works a lot better than any of the other digital zooms out there without the aid of a telephoto lens. It still retains the details and colours, so thumbs up to Huawei there.
Sticking to the 20-megapixel monochrome sensor alone, monochrome photos have well balanced contrasts, little to no amount of noise and have plenty amount of noise, but it is more of an artistic tool rather than as an everyday shooter.
With depth information from the second camera and laser autofocus, the wide aperture mode works well indeed. The variable aperture mode applies blur to the background of an object to simulate a depth effect. It can simulate apertures from f/0.95 to f/16, which is the amount of blur to apply. At higher settings it can look a little too artificial, which is why we leave it at f/4.0. The Mate 10 Pro is pretty good at this, but it still has some trouble identifying complicated shapes. The Nokia 8 is a better performer in this department. Portrait mode adds software beautification, but there’s no option to change the aperture of the simulated blur effect.
Low-light photography on the Mate 10 Pro has also been improved with the new lenses. With more light allowed to reach the sensors, the ISO and shutter time can be lowered to reduce noise and blurry photos, and the OIS works well in this condition too. The colours are still pretty accurate, with lots of well rendered details as well. There is a night mode which allows you to play with the ISO and shutter speed, or you can go full Pro mode.
The Mate 10 Pro records videos up to 4K at a modest 30 frames-per-second (FPS), and it is also available with 1080p videos at both 30 and 60 FPS, all the way down to MMS resolution. The 4K videos are sharp and very smooth, with no visible judder. There are plenty of details as well, with accurate colours and wide dynamic range. In 1080p it loses some details, but it benefits from digital image stabilization and the option to enable 60FPS.
Turning the phone over to the front, we have an 8-megapixel sensor sitting behind a f/2.0 lens. Even though there’s really nothing much going on with it, it can still take very nice selfies. Colours are true to life and have well rendered details. Software beautification is also present, and it can get a little out of hand at higher settings. Portrait mode is also available for the front-facing camera too, but it rely on Huawei’s AI function to pick up the faces and determine the background of the faces. Overall, even if it lacks autofocus, it is easy to get the faces in focus.
The camera app on the Mate 10 Pro is pretty much the same as any other recent Huawei devices. It looks simple and logically laid out at first glance. The shortcut toggles remain on the left, with the PRO mode toggle, video mode, shutter button and preview toggle located towards the right of the viewfinder. Swiping to the left reveals the entire settings for the camera, while swiping to the right shows all the available modes. The pro mode allows you to play with all the bells and whistles, including the ISO, focus mode, shutter speed, exposure value, focus and the lighting.
Android 8.0 Oreo comes right out of the box on the Mate 10 Pro, along with Huawei’s EMUI customization on top, now jumped from 5.0 to 8.0. Huawei did a great job keeping the user interface design pretty similar to the previous versions, which means that previous Huawei smartphone users will get familiar to the new interface instantly. It is smarter, with better power and app management, and the ability to suggest features smartly based on the conditions. It can also learn the way how a user uses the phone, and then improves performance for the app that are used the most.
The user interface still looks equally good, and there is no resistance while going through all the built-in apps in terms of performance. Dare we say it, EMUI is one of the better customized systems out there.
A whopping 4000mAh battery is in store for the Mate 10 Pro, and it is non-removable. Huawei promises up to 2 full days of usage, and in our real world test which involves quite a lot of heavy uses, our day returns at around 35% to 40%, which is a significant improvement over the Mate 9. With lighter usage, we were able to get close to the 2 full days that Huawei promises, before it waves the white flag. EMUI’s smart power management can be credited for this.
The battery is charged through the USB-C port, and it only supports Huawei’s own SuperCharge system. Using the included USB wall adapter or other SuperCharge enabled accessories, it takes a completely flat battery to around 55% in 30 minutes, without the battery heating up as much. It takes regular 2A chargers too, but of course at a cost of speed. Wireless charging is nowhere to be seen.
Putting compromises aside, the Mate 10 Pro is a very competitive device in the flagship market. During our month long testing, we are very satisfied with the overall experience. It is hard to hate on the Mate 10 Pro or find things that we didn’t like. But, we are not sure that the compromises that it had to make is worth it, especially when those compromises do not need to be dealt by the Mate 10 with a lower price tag. Still, other manufacturers out there are on the same boat as well, and users are starting to get used to these changes. Nevertheless, if you are in a market for a smartphone at this price range, the Mate 10 Pro should be in your list, considering that it spots a lower price tag compared to its competitions.
Satisfying to use
Solid build quality
Smart AI capabilities
Fantastic camera experience
Stereo speaker is unbalanced
Not compatible with generic quick charging systems
No wireless charging
Rear glass picks up lots of fingerprints
Lack of 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card slot