This is the big one. To say I was excited about this device would be lying. I was like a 12 year old about to have his first kiss. To be honest Huawei was never on my radar until the P9 and its Leica stylings. Even then I wasn’t a believer. Until the Mate 9 entered my life with its ample battery, excellent microphones and incredible camera. It was a high water mark that the P10 Plus managed to reach with minor improvements in the camera department, but one that set the stage for a triumphant release of the Mate 10. The marketing message pointed to the all new chipset and significant camera enhancements. The obvious improvements were water resistance and new 2:1 screen ratio. Mate 10 Pro is what we got. Gone is the headphone jack, glass back without wireless charging and similar Summilux-H glass over slightly improved sensors. So what did that equate to?
What’s great about it? That 4 000 mAh battery is the greatest thing on a high-end phone right now. To have that much power at your disposal in the form of the beastly Kirin 970, but regularly pull 18 hours off a full charge is astounding. I am very heavy on phone useage and can murder the Galaxy S8 battery by lunchtime, so when I say a phone battery is good I mean it. It’s also a very speedy performer, moving through the UI with the speed and grace one expects from a flagship device.
Widening the aperture from the already gaping f/1.8 of the P10 Plus to f/1.6 was always going to be worrisome, but it works mostly well for this camera system. Not only does the monochrome and RGB sensor combo act like a much bigger sensor, it now has a deliciously shallow depth of field and close focusing distance to get some remarkable exposures when you start bending the light around the subject (pretty much how bokeh effect works). The glass is also of a really good quality and pin sharp. From the AI perspective: when it works, it works.
Huawei have taught the device to recognise 13 scenes and adjust camera settings accordingly. A neat trick that has proven useful, but sometimes been its downfall. Outside of that there’s the usual photographic modes with a Live Photo mimicking Moving Picture mode now present by default. AI improved wide aperture mode edge detection, making it a much preferred method of simulating depth of field than the included portrait mode.
What’s meh? Front and centre is my disappointment in the camera consistency. I can for give the perrenial over exposure because the Leica system captures a staggering amount of image data and you can recover a scene in editing, but the same composition can deliver wildy different results across a number of shots. I fear there’s an over reliance on AI scene recognition instead of the the almost robotic metering enjoyed on the P10 Plus. Pro mode controls are still better than most, especially with that wider aperture enabling faster low light shutter speeds and near DSLR-like exposures possible with the steadying addition of a tripod, but the Auto mode has taken two steps back.
Another retardation is on the lock screen. Where in the past you could unleash the powers of Google from a woken device, Huawei now imposes its draconian security measures there too. Every request from Google Assistant on the lock screen requires you to unlock the phone. Also, EMUI breaks Android notifications with iOS levels of expansion or interaction on the lock screen – which means none.
On the hardware side the glass back without wireless charging is barely forgiveable, but in a world of iris and face unlock not having a way to wake a phone by only interacting with the front glass is criminal.
Verdict: Huawei deserve praise for raising the bar on its industrial design. That battery is also the best in the flagship business (well, until the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active reaches our shores) and the camera is capable of the spectacular. I really wanted to love this phone because it ticked so many of the boxes I wanted it to (water resistance, 1080p HDR screen, stereo speakers, teachable CPU) but the laundry list of niggles became hard to live with. I love using voice control, for instance. I also handed over majority of my photographic duties to a mobile phone and need to trust the auto mode when I’m out covering a story. I can’t say that I have that piece of mind with the Mate 10 as I do with the P10 Plus.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is the best device Huawei has ever made, but I’m gonna wait for the P11 before I make my decision on buying it.
From R17 000