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.
We’ve had a limited amount of time with the phone, so this review covers our initial impressions of the phone. We’ll add benchmark results and a proper verdict once we’ve been able to test battery life, camera and processor performance.
Mate 10 Pro: Features & Design
The Mate 10 Pro – the only model from the range that will be sold in the UK – is a gorgeous-looking phone that diverts slightly from its predecessors’ design and has 40 percent smaller top and bottom bezels than on the Mate 9.
A glass back is the main change. Unlike certain other phones (Apple’s iPhone 8 for example) which made the switch from aluminium, Huawei hasn’t done this to allow wireless charging. Instead it’s there purely for aesthetics.
The glass curves on all four edges and reflects the light beautifully.
The problem with this is that – hardened or not – glass is still glass. It looks fantastic but if you choose not to use a case so you can show it off, you run the risk of it smashing the first time you accidentally drop it.
At least it will continue to work if you drop it in the bath: the Mate 10 is Huawei’s first phone to have proper waterproofing.
It comes in four colours: Midnight Blue, Titanium Gray, Pink Gold, Mocha Brown. We think the blue version looks best, but plenty of people were taken with the bronze-like Mocha Brown during our hands-on session.
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 + 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.
You won’t find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the Mate 10 Pro, though it’s still there on the standard Mate 10 (that’s the 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:
Another oddity is that the Pro doesn’t offer expandable storage via microSD whereas the standard Mate 10 does. There are two options for storage, 64GB and 128GB. The latter model has 6GB of RAM, but the former has 4GB.
We’d tend to disagree that 128GB is enough for anyone, and it’s a shame there isn’t the option of a 256GB Mate 10 Pro.
It is a dual-SIM phone, though, and it supports 4G for both SIMs. The modem supports Cat18 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 a similar modem).
Huawei uses its own-design processors in its phones and the latest is the Kirin 970. Similar to 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.
Here you can see it auto-detecting the language on another phone’s screen and providing an immediate translation in French:
Huawei says the performance of this so-called NPU is 25 times better than the main CPU, and 50 times more efficient.
Overall the 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 better battery life. Although we haven’t yet been able to verify the claim, Huawei says it will genuinely last two days. And thanks to its SuperCharge tech, the 4000mAh battery will charge to almost 60 percent from empty in only 15 minutes.
As an example of what you can do with all this computing power, the Mate 10 can process over 2000 images per minute, identifying objects by comparing pictures with the 100 million images that the neural hardware has ‘machine learned’.
To put that in context, the iPhone 7 Plus can recognise less than 500 images per minute when using the combined power of its CPU and GPU.
Huawei hasn’t yet finished testing the A11 Bionic processor yet – a fairer comparison – but said that initial results put it at around 1000 images per minute.
Certainly, from the short time we had with the phone, it felt 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.
We still need to test the Kirin 970’s performance in our usual benchmarks, but it should be well up to the task of AR and VR.
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).
The Mate 10 Pro is the first Huawei phone to have an 18:9 screen. It’s not the first phone to adopt this aspect ratio: the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 have taller, narrower screens too.
Huawei’s has a resolution of 2160×1080 which is lower than its rivals, but in the flesh it looks great and, at 402ppi, everything looks nice and sharp. The OLED tech means contrast is fantastic and colours are also great: Huawei says it has a wide colour gamut (112 percent of the NTSC standard) which allows it to display HDR10 content.
Although we haven’t been able to examine photos on a big screen, we have taken a decent selection and checked them on the Mate 10 Pro’s screen. The stock camera app has the same interface as before, but the NPU certainly appears to help with scene recognition.
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.
In a very dark room, the cameras were 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 which is said to be better than the interpolation that a photo editor such as Photoshop would apply. Until we can review images on a larger monitor, it’s hard to say whether this is true.
Video is also an unknown quantity, but it maxes out at 4K30.
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.
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 generally lurking behind the scenes. We were already fans of EMUI 5’s clean interface that has addressed complaints with previous versions such as the lack of an app dock.
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.
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.
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 Windows-style 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.
Huawei says it’s handy for presentations without lugging around a laptop. Notifications are automatically supressed so your audience won’t see them on the big screen.
If you wanted to get some proper work done, you can even pair a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard: no dock is required.