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Hands-on: Huawei Mate 10

By Liu Hongzuo - 17 Oct 2017

Hands-on: Huawei Mate 10

Earlier this week, Huawei announced two new flagship smartphones for the current season of phone releases - the 5.9-inch Huawei Mate 10, and the edge-to-edge 6-inch Huawei Mate 10 Pro. Here, we take a closer look at the smaller Mate 10.

At their Munich keynote, Huawei said that the 150.5 x 77.8 x 8.2mm Mate 10 uses a 3D Curved Design and glass back finish. The slightly rounded finish is made to provide better grip, especially when the Mate 10 is compared a phone that uses an angular design. The bezels on the side are just 2.2mm, and that gives the front panel an even more immersive experience. The Mate 10 has an IP53 rating for its spill- and dust-resistance.

The Mate 10, despite its average 8.2mm profile and 16:9 aspect ratio screen, actually felt a little wider than typical smartphones when held in one hand. It's also quite heavy, at 186g, but the weight felt more prominent only when you're adjusting your grip.

The display is 5.9-inch FullView display with RGBW HDR, rated at 2K (2,560 x 1,440 pixels resolution). HDR itself is self-explanatory, and FullView refers to its high screen-to-body ratio (Mate 10's at 81.79%). RGBW refers to the combination of a display's primary colors (RGB) and White - this allows the Mate 10 to go up to 730-nits maximum brightness, and as dark as 1.8-nits. The wide brightness range is for better readability under bright sunlight, and also power efficiency in suitably dark places. We find that the Mate 10's display is sharp, immersive, and well-lit under most situations. It also has a cool color temperature, which is quite refreshing to the naked eye.

Over at the bottom is a thin fingerprint slate, which was fast, but not remarkably unique - it also doubles as an Android Home Key. The phone's size meant that the Mate 10 could have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top frame, and a microSD card tray hidden in its left flank. The model we received had a hybrid card tray, which meant that it could take one primary nano-SIM and one microSD card, or it can swap out the latter for a secondary nano-SIM card. Both trays are capable of 4G connectivity and VoLTE support.

Powering the Huawei Mate 10 is a unique, proprietary chipset built by Huawei - the Kirin 970. What's new is the inclusion of a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that offloads all A.I.-related tasks to itself, taking the strain off the CPU and GPU. Honestly, the NPU is meant to be an unsung hero, as it lurks in the phone and learns about the user's habits over time, before helping them optimize the device better. It's not a noticeable upgrade, but it's in there.

Huawei claimed that the phone could perform at its best for up to 18 months, thanks to the NPU optimizing your every move. The A.I.'s knowledge is all built into the phone, and it's designed to be an offline component as much as possible, in the interest of user privacy and security. It is, however, able to receive A.I.-related OTA updates from Huawei, which will happen as the Chinese firm expands its capabilities beyond image recognition and translation.

Over on the rear, you can find a signature stripe - this look was a deliberate choice by Huawei, as they claimed that the streak helped the phone stand out from the other rivals in the market. You'll also find a pair of Summilux-H lenses from Leica, both rated at f/1.6 aperture. Huawei said that these lenses are the brightest ones you can see on smartphones, but they are the first to have it on both rear shooters since LG V30 uses f/1.6 aperture on only one back camera.

The Mate 10 shares the same dual rear camera configuration as its photography-oriented flagship device - the P10 and P10 Plus. You can find one 12-megapixel RGB sensor and one 20-megapixel Monochrome sensor. Only the RGB sensor comes assisted with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). The camera system uses 4-in-1 Hybrid Focus - a combination of laser, depth, contrast, and phase-detection autofocus.

What's exciting in the rear are the features that require the Kirin 970. Mate 10 (and it's brethren Mate 10 Pro) have one ISP (image signaling processor) on each rear camera, giving them dual ISPs. This increases its response throughput by up to 25% and offers 15% better response time. The crown jewel is the wealth of knowledge provided on the A.I. Engine - the Kirin 970's NPU has been taught to recognize 13 broadly-defined objects and scenes (e.g., text, dog, night shot, food, to name a few). This teaching was done across 100 million images. In return, the user gets real-time post-processing based on what they point the camera at. Below is an example.

By pointing the device at the scenery outside of the hotel room window, the Mate 10 was able to recognize the blue sky instantly, and quickly adjusted itself. Kirin 970's A.I. optimizes the resulting photo. With this feature, even a terrible smartphone shooter can produce half-decent images. It also works in low-light situations, and you don't need an Internet or data connection for the feature to work.

Easy Projection's settings page.

There are plenty of other features which we've yet to try. Mate 10 has EasyTalk, which uses its onboard A.I. for phone calls. It learns the user's voice over time, allowing the phone to detect each person's unique sound. As a result, it can pick up and isolate your voice - and only yours - when you whisper into the receiver, or when you are in a loud environment. Other features include its real-time Microsoft translation capabilities, its 384k/32-bit lossless audio support, Split Screen apps, and dockless monitor connectivity called Easy Projection. There's too much for us to go through in one hands-on, so we'll leave the rest for the full review.

The 4GB RAM + 64GB UFS 2.1 storage Huawei Mate 10 will retail on Lazada at S$888, with a Registration of Interest period between 17th October to 23rd October 2017. The two colors that'll be available in Singapore are Mocha Brown and Black. More visibility on its availability and purchase bonuses will come at a later date.

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