Huawei Mate 10 Pro review

When it comes to the Huawei brand we’re reminded of the way we felt for HTC about a decade back. In other words, we love the products and think they deserve to spend more time under the spotlight. We do what we can to help evangelize the brand.

After initially trickling into the Android smartphone market with the Ascend series roughly five years ago, Huawei has gone on to rebrand it under the Mate line. In that time it has also partnered with Google for 2015’s Nexus 6P and introduced Honor as a subsidiary independent brand in China.

Today the situation is a little different for Huawei. Its last few generations of phones have everything it takes to compete on the flagship battleground. Moreover, it often beats the likes of LG and Samsung with more affordable pricing. Things, on paper, sound awesome, and each new device is eagerly greeted by Android fans.

In practice, though, things could be better for Huawei in the United States. In January it was literally days away from seeing the brand make a formal splash in the US with carrier partnerships.

The scenario changed quickly, and for the worse, for Huawei as government pressure forced the hands of players like AT&T to shy away from offering its phones. Alas, the only way to really get your hands on a Huawei device is to buy it direct. Even retail stores aren’t a sure thing now.

Even though smartphones have been around for a solid ten years now, consumers aren’t fully educated or comfortable enough to buy on their own. A lot of buyers want that comfort of dealing with a carrier or having a retailer they can turn to with problems. This is certainly understandable, but this makes it difficult for Huawei to spread its wings in the US.

We’ve long appreciated the different Huawei phones, even from afar. Those not sold in the United States over the last few years were still admired for their beauty and overall package. Those we got to spend time with we simply loved. That’s the case with one of its newest phones, the Mate 10 Pro.

General Specifications

  • 6.0-inch FullView Display (18:9) at 2160x 1080 pixel resolution
  • Huawei Kirin 970 octa-core processor (4x 2.36GHz, 4×1.8GHz)
  • Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8.0
  • 4GB RAM w/ 64GB ROM or 6GB RAM w/ 128GB ROM
  • 20-megapixel monochrome and 12-megapixel RGB camera with f/1.6 aperture
  • 8-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • IP67 splash, water, and dust resistance
  • USB Type C

Arriving at the start of 2018, the Mate 10 Pro is one of the first flagships out of the gate. It’s one hell of a pacesetter, too. The hardware is incredible and it runs the latest version of Android. It’s exactly the kick in the ass that players like Samsung, LG, and others need.

Design

With glass on the front and back, the phone feels premium in every sense of the word. It’s immediate, too. The second you take it out of the box you’re aware that what you have in hand is special.

The glass is 6H tempered which means it’s robust, strong, and feels oh-so-sexy. And, when paired with the seemingly endless curves, it’s hard not to simply admire its craftsmanship.

Unfortunately, it takes all of 30 seconds to put smudges and smears all over the rear. It’s also about this time when you realize it’s somewhat slick or slippery in hand. This is a shame, too, because you know this is going to lead to either dropping and scuffing the phone, or hiding its beauty behind a case.

The right side of the phone houses the power and volume buttons while the left is where you’ll access the SIM card tray. Up above the screen is the camera and down below is the Huawei branding. There are no hardware buttons for navigation; it’s all software based.

The fingerprint reader is located on the rear near the dual-camera configuration. The cameras are slightly raised and are easy to identify when reaching to unlock the phone by fingerprint. The phone feels a little longer than most and the reader can come across as higher up than expected.

There’s a nice strip area that crosses the phone on the back near the camera which adds a nice touch. It’s purely aesthetic but does help to draw focus to the dual shooters and Leica branding.

Noticeably absent, though, is the 3.5mm headphone jack. We miss it and don’t like having to rely solely on Bluetooth for audio. We get that it makes it difficult to incorporate waterproof and dust-proof protection, but other brands can pull it off.

We do like that the phone can withstand life’s accidents. We take our phones everywhere and they invariably find their way into sticky situations. Be it a spill on a tabletop or dirt and dust from the neighbor mowing his grass, little junk can cause big problems. It’s nice to see Huawei on the right side of the trend of added protection.

Display

Where to start with the screen? It’s gorgeous. It’s gigantic. It feels like the entire phone is one incredible image. Between the actual display and the overall design of the phone we found the Mate 10 Pro to be very sexy; it makes the Pixel 2 feel kinda clunky and uninspired. Well, more than it does already.

We’re fond of the 18:9 aspect ratio if only because it makes bigger phones easier to hold. That’s the case here and the 6-inch screen doesn’t really come off as unwieldy. It’s easier to hold this phone than it was for something 4.5-inches only a couple of years back.

The Mate 10 Pro delivers deep blacks and really rich, vibrant colors. Pictures, text, and video are stunning and do the 2160 x 1080 pixels justice. On the design side, it’s nice that the screen doesn’t have the wrapping or tapered edge that’s become common in some models. This not only makes for more confident navigation and tapping along the edge, but more support in protective cases, too.

The Mate 10 Pro has an oleophobic screen coating which means smudges and fingerprint oil aren’t much of an issue. If only there were some way to coat the entire phone in something like this and maintain the shiny design.

Software

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro runs Android 8.0 Oreo with a custom, EMUI 8 interface. If you’ve followed Huawei’s phones closely, you know that its homegrown skin skipped from 5.1 up to 8.0. The handset maker might have you believe it’s because there’s such a revolutionary jump in features, but we know it’s to keep better parity with Android releases.

EMUI 8.0 does have a few interesting, and helpful features, including a dock-free PC experience. Indeed, you can plug the phone into a monitor via USB-C, essentially turning the phone into a computer. A split-screen proactive alert notification lets users run apps next to each other and better utilize that big, 6-inch, 18:9 screen.

We’ve only spent a small amount of time with other (non-Nexus) Huawei phones in the past so we can’t speak too strongly for the old EMUI. With that said, we detected and gathered that this version is much less intrusive and invasive. Specifically, notifications alerts, and prompts are toned down as compared to older devices.

Given this is not offered with a particular service provider, we anticipated a light amount of bloatware, or unnecessary software. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are far more extra apps than expected. In fact, there’s a fair mix of custom Huawei selection and other titles.

Were were already familiar with, and relying on, Huawei’s stuff it might not feel so heavy handed. As users who prefer a lean OS, as close to stock as possible, experience, this was all “junk” we don’t feel we’d use. Facebook and Instagram might one of the first apps you install, sure, but Booking.com?

We did like the theme capabilities and enjoyed playing around with the various ways in which we could dress up the phone. There’s a lot here that can be useful, but there’s a lot more that kinda gets in our way.

Cameras

The Mate 10 Pro features a 12-megapixel color sensor with f/1.6 aperture which sits vertically in line with a 20-megapixel true monochrome sense with the same f/1.6 setting.  Both lenses are wide angle but neither offers an ultra-wide option like we’re seeing in other phones.

Thanks to Leica, the camera experience is superb in the Mate 10 Pro. There’s a whole array of shooting modes to choose from, including, of course, monochrome. Suffice it to say, there’s something for everyone here. Shooting options exist for daytime, night, in 3D, front-facing, rear, filtered, time lapse, slow motion, etc.

The app walks users through each mode and does a great job of making things feel intuitive. If you’re the kind of person who just wants to open the camera and shoot on automatic mode, you’ll be impressed with things. But, those who like to tinker or spend time in a shot, will really appreciate the tools available.

It didn’t really matter what mode we were in or what we were capturing; the Mate 10 Pro was quick to snap and save. Autofocus was instant, shutter speed was exactly what we expected, and the end results were almost universally gorgeous.

There’s some really cool AI stuff happening in the camera, too. Somehow Huawei has trained its algorithm to recognize all sorts of things in the sensor. By doing so, the phone recognizes the difference between plants, food, sports, and other stuff and adjusts the camera accordingly. This way you don’t have to switch to Pro mode to set color or exposure for a better shot.

If you only look at sensors at the surface and simply focus on bullet points, you won’t realize the depth of possibility and capability. There’s really a lot to play with in the Mate 10 Pro, but it’s not in your face or convoluted.

Usage and Performance

We’re not going to bother teasing the performance and power of the Mate 10 Pro. Given the specifications you’d expect it to be a monster, and it is. It didn’t matter what games we played, how many apps we had open at once, or whether we were hopping in and out of things. The phone is built to run.

Based on where games are today, and how people tend to use their devices, we reckon most users would get a few years of life out of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

Even using the phone in the virtual desktop mode was seamless. We’ve had Chromebooks and 2-in-1 devices that don’t handle we well. It’s not quite as simple or robust as what you might get in a pure Chrome OS experience, but we could get used to it.

The 4,000mAh battery lets us get into two days without fear of running low on juice. We’re conditioned to charge at night but it’s not as if we were reaching for a cord very often. With that said, it does replenish quickly, thanks to Huawei SuperCharge.

We would have liked wireless charging in the phone, especially given the all-glass treatment. To be fair, it’s a standard that hasn’t fully developed yet, but it would get better adoption if companies like Huawei used it in flagships. This is a flagship to be sure. And, when you compare bullet points and price tags, this is an area where the Mate 10 Pro misses out.

Given that we tested this in the United States, and in early 2018, we’re not able to fully take advantage of the LTE capabilities. With that said, we experienced fast downloads with our carriers with speeds that were on par with other flagships. We’d love the chance to full kick the tires on this once stronger networks are more fully built out.

As much as we like this phone’s design, color, and general build, we feel like we’re “babying” it. It’s one of those situations where you don’t want to add bulk with a case, but the phone is otherwise slippery and prone to picking up fingerprints. We’re always just one drop away from cracking things on either side.

Conclusion

When it comes to selecting flagship phones in 2018, we’re confident in recommending that the Huawei Mate 10 Pro be on your shortlist. You don’t need half of what this phone can do, that’s for certain. It might be another year or so before you’ll even begin to “task” the device.

We’ve loved our time with the Mate 10 Pro and would be close to calling it a perfect handset. Wireless charging would be icing on an otherwise delicious cake. The glass, for as awesome as it is, scare us somewhat us, and it’s a fingerprint magnet. Quibbles aside, it’s one of the first non-Nexus or non-Pixel phones to really catch our eye, and hold it.

Software is perhaps the only area where we felt let down. It’s not the EMUI stuff or the AI, or even the fact that it’s not pure Android. We just don’t like having so much OEM branded stuff that we cannot uninstall. Huawei’s not yet at the level as Samsung here in the US so we’re not so keen on using their custom apps and services.  And, hell, even Samsung recognized it was doing too much and has backed off.

If you have not purchased a new phone in a year or so, and you’re ready to go big, consider the Mate 10 Pro. But, if you’ve already got a Galaxy S8, LG G6, or Google Pixel, you might want to hold on to it as long as you can for now.

Unless you have a killer trade-in deal or can flip your current handset for decent money, it’s hard for us to tell you to spend another $600-$700 so soon. But, with the right offer, you’ll be making a decent step forward.

We would really like to have seen the Mate 10 Pro offered with a wireless carrier. Were you able to spread payments out over two years it would be that much easier for us to recommend it. As it is, though, you have to drop all of it at once.

Regardless of whether you’re buying today or a few months from now, keep the Mate 10 Pro on your radar. Huawei’s put together one hell of a package and it deserves recognition.

As of publication you can purchase the Huawei Mate 10 Pro for about $700 at Amazon and about $800 at Best Buy. Color options may vary based on location and retailer.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build Quality & Design
Software
Camera
Display
Performance
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