Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: Amazing Camera, Days of Battery Life
Today's flagship smartphones are more powerful than ever, and it's hard to tell if you're looking at a computer or a mobile device when reviewing specs alone.
So what's left for companies to innovate in order to stand out from the crowd? For the new Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, the focus is on challenging the space with impressive camera performance, an AI-assisted user experience, and superior battery management.
We realize this is a smartphone, but let's be honest, the best features have nothing to do with making a phone call.
Join us for an in-depth look at Huawei's Mate 10 Pro, and find out if it's worth considering for your next premium smartphone.
Special thanks to Huawei for loaning us a Mate 10 Pro demo unit, which we returned after this review was published.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
- Incredible photo quality
- Luxurious design and materials
- High-performance processor
- Fast battery charging
- HDR10 support for videos
- Exterior scratches easily
- Uninspired user interface
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Smartphone Specifications and Full Features
- Size: 154.2mm (H) x 74.5mm (W) x 7.9mm (D)
- Color: Midnight Blue (also available in Titanium Gray and Mocha Brown)
- Six-inch 18:9 OLED Display, 2160 x 1080 pixels, 402ppi
- CPU: Huawei octa-core Kirin 970 + i7 co-processor
- EMUI 8.0 user interface with Android 8.0 operating system
- Memory: 6GB RAM + 128 GB ROM
- Connectivity: Gigabit LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type C DisplayPort 1.2, NFC
- Camera: 8MP front-facing, f/2.0; 20MP monochrome + 12MP RGB rear-facing, f/1.6
- Battery: 4000 mAh
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Camera Performance
We all know how a smartphone generally looks and operates, so let's jump right in to what everyone really cares about: camera performance and picture quality.
The Mate 10 Pro utilizes dual Leica lenses for the rear facing camera — a 20 megapixel (MP) monochrome, plus a 12MP color sensor. Both lenses feature an aperture of f/1.6, which is the largest in the world for a smartphone. The result is clarity and depth-of-field that rivals many entry-level DSLRs, due largely in part to the native black-and-white sensor. The camera software combines the highly-detailed data from the black-and-white sensor with the color image to add another level of detail and richness. An 8MP front-facing camera should help up your selfie-game, as well.
Built for both novices and experts, the camera system features one-touch shooting with preset modes (HDR, wide aperture, portrait, and moving picture), as well as the ability to manually adjust ISO, shutter speed, exposure and auto focus in the Pro mode. Even though I'd consider myself to be an advanced photographer, I still tended to stick with the one-touch presets because the results were always excellent. Additionally, my use cases typically involved fleeting moments, so there wasn't time to fiddle with manual settings.
No amount of text can accurately describe the stunning quality of the photos taken by the Mate 10 Pro, so scroll through the gallery below and compare pictures taken by the phone and a Nikon D7200 DSLR. (All photos have been resized, but remain unedited.)
See more Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs Nikon D7200 photos in the gallery below:
Author's note: By design, a DSLR captures images using a neutral color profile to allow for better control when editing. The result is a "boring" image, whereas the Mate 10 Pro applies a preset color profile to arrive at an "exciting" final result much faster and more conveniently.
These impressive photos aren't just the result of hardware, though. Working alongside the Leica lenses is Huawei's AI-powered real-time scene and object recognition, which automatically picked the best color profile, aperture, focus and exposure as I pointed the camera towards various subjects. This led to close-ups with a feeling of depth, as well as sharp and vibrant wide scenes.
I'm seriously thinking about forgoing my DSLR altogether since lugging it around is inconvenient and the difference in picture quality isn't as significant anymore when I have something like the Mate 10 Pro in my pocket.
Doesn't this black-and-white photo look like it's ready to be framed? Art galleries, here I come!
I also did my best to put the Mate 10 Pro's camera through its paces in the most common scenarios — dining in dimly-lit restaurants, enjoying museums, playing with pets, and of course, taking selfies.
Check out additional point-and-shoot photos from the Mate 10 Pro below:
And because everyone is going to be asking about it, here's how the Huawei Mate 10 Pro compares to the Apple iPhone X in terms of picture quality.
See more Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs iPhone X photos below:
The Leica dual camera excelled in all areas, and I was especially impressed with its low-light performance and color accuracy. Many smartphone cameras have trouble with white balance (picture is too yellow) in dim lighting, but the Mate 10 Pro was able to properly compensate without introducing too much graininess.
Since most photos end up on social media these days, the Mate 10 Pro's camera and accompanying software is more than enough for the regular user. In fact, I'm seriously thinking about forgoing my DSLR altogether since lugging it around is inconvenient and the difference in picture quality isn't as significant anymore when I have something like the Mate 10 Pro in my pocket.
Premium Materials and Luxurious Design
With an aluminum frame wrapped in glass on both sides, the Mate 10 Pro feels luxurious to hold, while its 18:9 screen ratio and "barely-there-bezel" make the phone narrow enough for one-handed operation. This efficient form-factor allows the phone to pack a larger screen in less physical space than the Mate 9 and other similarly-sized phones.
Speaking of screens, a six-inch AMOLED display produces vibrant content that's made even more impressive thanks to its native HDR10 support — I quickly noticed that photos and videos looked better when shown on the phone versus a computer screen.
On paper, the Mate 10 Pro's native resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels at 401 ppi seems to be a bit lacking (for reference, iPhone X has a 2436 x 1125-pixel resolution at 458 ppi), but in real-world use, none of that matters. Images and videos looked gorgeous, and I seriously doubt that anyone can successfully identify individual pixels or jagged edges. Think about it: you happily enjoy your 55-inch TV, which has a full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080. You're definitely not going to notice a difference in image quality from a similar resolution on a six-inch screen at arm's length.
The traditional 3.5mm headphone jack has been replaced by a USB-C port, which really wasn't an issue for me since my headphones are all wireless now, but it's sure to irk those who still prefer the wired lifestyle. (Don't worry, Huawei included a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter in the box.)
Other design elements include a fingerprint reader on the back that can be used to quickly unlock the phone and navigate certain screens/notifications, as well as a downward-facing speaker that does a surprisingly good job of projecting sound towards the front of the phone.
It's worth noting that while the glass surfaces look and feel amazing, they tend to hang on to fingerprints and skin oils, and can scuff rather easily, so be sure to use the supplied soft-case while you settle on a preferred protection solution.
Artificial Intelligence and Long Battery Life
Having used just about every major feature of the Mate 10 Pro except for calls and texts (my Project Fi service isn't supported by the phone), I'm extremely pleased with its performance and processing power. Its response and smoothness are exactly what I'd expect from a flagship device, and Huawei's new EMUI 8.0 interface (built on Android 8.0) adds AI capabilities that learn how I use my phone to give me exactly what I want, when I want it.
For example: if I take a picture, then immediately lock the screen and place the phone in my pocket, the next time I lift my phone, the screen automatically unlocks to the camera app, without any additional input from me.
There's also a lot that's happening "under the hood" as it learns which apps I use most frequently. Over time, the Mate 10 Pro will prioritize my favorite programs in terms of memory usage so they'll always open quickly.
These AI enhancements also help extend the operating time by shutting down background apps so the battery can last roughly two days with normal use. And when it's time to recharge, Huawei's SuperCharge technology can replenish up to 10% of battery life every five minutes.
Here's what the full charging progress looks like (from 2% battery remaining) using the supplied power adapter, with the phone turned off:
- After 15 minutes: 30% charged
- After 30 minutes: 57% charged
- After 45 minutes: 76% charged
- After ~1 hour: Full charge
Wireless charging has been omitted — which I found to be odd for a 2018 smartphone — but since it's a slower charging technology (about four hours for a full charge on a comparable phone), I'm not too concerned about it.
Should You Buy the Huawei Mate 10 Pro?
For those of us who'd rather not take out a small-business loan to buy a mobile device (I'm looking at you, iPhone X), Huawei's Mate 10 Pro Android smartphone is a welcomed alternative, especially at its pre-order price of $650 after a $150 gift card rebate. And if taking pictures is one of the primary tasks of your phone, you should seriously consider the Mate 10 Pro — the Leica dual camera system has produced some of the best cell phone photos I've ever seen.
In terms of general use, the Mate 10 Pro has everything you'd need from a smartphone, and the decision to fully embrace the device depends on your operating system preference and affinity towards Huawei's user interface. EMUI 8.0 offers certain enhancements over Android 8.0 — for example, shrinking the screen to either side for easier one-handed access or a shortcut drawer accessible from the lock screen — but it also omits basic features, like expanding or replying within a notification without first unlocking the phone.
As a long-time Android purist (who still rocks the Nexus 6P, also made by Huawei), I found certain features of EMUI 8.0 to be slightly intrusive, but I could tell that the overall intention was to simplify and streamline the user experience for the masses. It's still a very customizable operating system, and I'm sure I could get used to it over time, just like we all do whenever anything changes in our lives.
While there's a lot to like about Huawei's flagship smartphone, its $800 retail price puts it up against some stiff competition from the usual heavy-weights, Samsung and Google. If you weren't able to get in on the $650 pre-order promotion, my advice to Slickdealers is to wait for a price drop to make the value proposition on this fantastic phone even sweeter.
Huawei's Mate 10 Pro (Unlocked) is available now without a service contract from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo Video, and Newegg, and works on all GSM-based service providers, including Pay As You Go programs, except Google's Project Fi.
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