Date:10 May 2017
What Huawei has achieved over the last 12 months is astonishing. The Chinese brand muscled in on the top tier of flagship smartphones with a truckload of marketing rands and a stellar camera system. Initially the P9 received negative press for the dubious Leica partnership, but those messages were soon silenced with a signature camera click. Design, craftsmanship, raw processing power and a crisp camera have been the hallmarks of an impressive rise in popularity, and now, one year on, we see the evolution.
The P10 took all the killer specifications of the Mate 9 and squished it into a smaller package. P10 Plus, however, raised the stakes with faster f/1.8 lenses on the dual camera system, also bringing back the ever-useful infrared blaster which the P10 lost. We received a 5,5-inch screen P10 Plus on test and I wax lyrical about the greatness of the camera in the June 2017 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, but how does it shape up in terms of the current competition?
The current bobaas smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S8 that weighs in at R15 500 (there’s no good reason to spend a cent more for a bigger screen). You could argue that outside of a slight camera quality increase and battery size bump that the standard 5,1-inch P10 is a better proposition at R13 000, but you lose the 1440p screen as well. It also is within a millimetre of the similarly priced R14 000 iPhone 7 Plus’ (32GB) footprint, but dwarfs the narrow R12 500 LG G6 which carries more screen real estate..
In terms of looks you’re getting a metal and glass construction with iPhone-esque lines and a front-mounted fingerprint sensor. Huawei continues its tradition of outfitting phones with rapid fingerprint readers and this one is even enhanced to take the place of navigation keys – you tap to go back and swipe to multitask, with a long press taking you to the home screen. This causes some confusion, especially in the camera app, because Google is then accessed via an awkward swipe from the bottom, a similar gesture to the Pro Mode.
I expected much more from the 3 750 mAh battery, but it seems that QHD screen wasn’t fully optimised for with 9 hours the average time I could manage between charges. To be fair, I compared notes with another reviewer who was seeing 15 hour estimated use times. I know I go hard on phones trying to simulate months of use in a couple of weeks, so I’m a terrible yardstick.
If I had to improve anything on the P10 plus it would be better battery performance and a reduction in bezel size, but the latter is a symptom of my perception being altered by the G6 and S8. I loved the Mate 9 and finding those features in the P10 has been a treat. P10 even goes as far as to improve on its Mate predecessor with a new modem setup alongside the beastly Kirin 960 silicon and 4 GB of RAM. The Wi-Fi performance is also the best I’ve experienced on a smartphone.
Where is sets itself apart is ushering in a Leica Portrait Mode for the front and rear cameras. And that’s the real value of the Leica partnership. No only do you get the flexibility of 20 MP monochrome camera and a 12 MP main camera in the same unit, but there’s the simulated aperture (Wide Aperture) mode for shallow depth of field, standard colour photography with wonderful details and highlights and now the portrait mode. then you can take granular control of the camera sensor with Pro Mode. The high quality glass lens elements is also one of the sharpest I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, making this package one of the best stills photography solutions on the market.
Huawei have achieved an enormous amount of success in the last 12 months which has trickled down to the mass market and translated into thousands of lower end handset sales (you probably know someone with a P8 Lite). The P10 Plus puts the company firmly in the 2017 flagship conversation on the merits of its hardware. As it stands: if you’re a fan of the brand, get it. If you want to spend less money, get the LG G6. If money is no object and you want the best hardware currently available, Galaxy S8 is yours. If you’re an iPhone user, maybe wait for the next model or get the 7 Plus.
If you had to go back to 2015 and tell me that Huawei would be in that last paragraph, I’d have personally handed you in at the nearest mental institution. Yet here we are. The P10 and P10 Plus is available this week, you should try it out. The best stills camera on a smartphone.
[UPDATE] It seems that South Africa is an important enough territory for Huawei to bless consumers with the 128 GB storage and 6 GB RAM variant of the P10 Plus. Our review sample is of the 64 GB, 4 GB RAM flavour, so we cannot comment on the performance improvements. This revelation makes the Kirin 960-equipped phone one of the most capable devices in our market.