Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: The gap between Huawei and Samsung has never been closer
Overview, Design, Display, Audio & Software
Huawei has been hot on the heels of Samsung for years now, and has firmly cemented itself as the world's number two Android smartphone brand, thanks in large part due to its flagship Mate product line, which consistently delivers great specs and a premium design, at a price point generally much lower than Samsung's S and Note offerings.
The latest Mate comes in two flavors: the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro. The Pro model features a 6-inch 18:9 Full View OLED bezel-less Mobile HDR-certified display, an IP67 build, an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor, 6GB RAM, a dual rear camera system engineered by Leica, and a massive 4,000mAh battery, all for just $1,098. But how does it compare to more expensive phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and Apple iPhone X? Let's find out.
|Huawei Mate 10 Pro|
Huawei has moved away from the all metal design of previous Mate smartphones, and like most 2017 flagships, the new Mate 10 Pro now sports a glass back with an aluminum frame running around the sides. It actually reminds me a lot of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (only without the curved display).
Similarities to other phones aside, I like the updated look, as it gives the Mate 10 Pro a more modern, refined finish, but I was surprised to find out that, despite the change to a glass back, the Mate 10 Pro still doesn't offer wireless charging.
Jumping on the bezel-less bandwagon, the Mate 10 Pro, like many other 2017 smartphones boasts an extra tall 18:9 display. The screen doesn't curve around the sides like the Samsung Galaxy Note8, but its side bezels are still impressively slim. In fact, the Mate 10 Pro boasts a screen-to-body ratio of around 81 percent, which puts it ahead of the likes of the Google Pixel 2 XL and LG G6, and only slightly behind the Note8 and iPhone X (both 83 percent).
Having said that, the bezels at the top and bottom of the device do stand out a bit. The top bezel holds the front camera, flash and top speaker, while the bottom one has the Huawei logo on it. On most bezel-less phablets like the Galaxy Note8 and Google Pixel 2 XL the front bezels are black, which lets them blend in a bit, but on the Mate 10 Pro they're the same color as the rest of the phone.
The rear of the phone is curved at the edges, which gives it a nice, comfortable feel in hand.
The dual rear camera setup is vertically orientated at the top of the device, sitting on a stylish strip of color that's slightly different from the rest of the phone to make it stand out. There's a tiny camera bump on both lenses, but it's not too bad. Just below the camera modules is a fingerprint scanner that's easy to reach and works fairly well.
The volume rocker and power button are both on the right-hand side and in easy reach.
There's an IR blaster and mic on the top, and at the bottom there’s a second downward firing speaker, another mic and a USB-C port. Unfortunately, unlike the regular Mate 10, there’s no headphone jack - so you’ll need to go wireless or use an adaptor, which Huawei supplies in the box.
It's worth noting that despite being dual-SIM, there is no MicroSD card slot on the Mate 10 Pro, so you're stuck with 128GB internal storage.
In a first for Huawei, the Mate 10 Pro is IP67 dust and water resistant, which is always a welcome feature.
The Mate 10 Pro comes in two colors: Mocha Brown, which has tones of gold and pink in it, and Midnight Blue, which reminds me a lot of the bluish Amazing Silver color on the HTC U11.
Display & Audio
While every other Huawei phone (including the regular Mate 10) uses an LCD display, the Mate 10 Pro has a gorgeous OLED display, made by BOE Display. The 6-inch Full HD+ display has a 2,160 x 1,080 pixels resolution (~402ppi) which actually gives it a lower pixel density than the QHD 5.8-inch LCD panel found on the regular Mate 10 (~498ppi).
Despite this, the difference in clarity is negligible and the rest of the display is fantastic. Colors are slightly on the warm side, but are vibrant and punchy, without being too oversaturated. Contrast is deep, with dark blacks, and it's only at extreme off angle viewing where you start to notice a slightly blue color shift, but it's nowhere near as bad as what I reported with the Google Pixel 2 XL. The display is also reasonably bright for an OLED, offering about 440 nits at maximum brightness in manual mode, but up to 620 nits in automatic mode under bright sunlight.
Like all extra tall displays, the 18:9 aspect ratio means that 16:9 aspect ratio content will display with black borders on the sides. When watching 16:9 content on the Mate 10 Pro, the amount of screen displayed is roughly equivalent to a 5.5-inch smartphone.
The display also offers an always-on mode, although strangely it's off by default, and turning it on requires you to go deep into the settings menu. To enable it, go to Settings > Security & Privacy > Screen Lock & Passwords > Always Display Information. Once turned on, it looks and operates similar to Samsung's always on display, showing the time, date, battery percentage and what music is playing, as well as app notifications — although these notifications only seem to work with Huawei's own apps.
The display is HDR10 certified, but for some reason I couldn’t get Netflix or YouTube to display HDR content on it. There is a pre-installed HDR video on the phone, so I can confirm that it does indeed have an HDR display, but I'm not sure why Netflix and YouTube don't recognize it. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
Like many phones with stereo speakers (including the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and HTC U11), the Mate 10 Pro uses one front-facing speaker (which is also the earpiece speaker), and one downward-firing speaker at the bottom of the phone. The speakers are pretty loud, but at max volume there's some noticeable distortion. Audio is always a little tinny, especially from the earpiece speaker, but it gets worse once you go past about 75 percent volume. Unfortunately, at all volumes, there's hardly any bass.
Somewhat to my surprise, the Mate 10 Pro is running on the latest version of Android 8.0 Oreo. It's almost impossible to tell though, due to Huawei's continued insistence on completely overhauling the UI with its own EMUI skin. EMUI is back again on the Mate 10 Pro, and for some reason has jumped from version 5.1 on the P10 Plus, to EMUI 8.0 on the Mate 10 Pro (presumably to match the version of Android it's running on).
While Huawei has cut back on a lot of the bloatware that used to come pre-loaded on its phones, EMUI still needlessly reworks several Android features, including the Settings menu, of all things, which makes it frustrating to find exactly what you're looking for. As with most Chinese UIs, it also removes the app drawer from the main menu, favoring instead an iOS-like layout of pages and pages of apps. Fortunately, you can restore the app drawer by going to Settings > Display > Home screen style, then selecting Drawer style.
EMUI 8.0 does have some nice features though: there's a Desktop Mode, which doesn't even need a dock like the Samsung Dex, and instead functions simply by connecting a USB-C cable to any monitor. You will need to buy a USB-C to HDMI/DVI/VGA cable though, as one isn't supplied with the phone. Once you’re connected, you’ll see a desktop screen that looks a lot like Windows. And unlike the Samsung S8 and Note8, when you connect your Mate 10 Pro to an external monitor, your phone’s display can be used as a makeshift trackpad.
App Twin is an interesting feature that I really like. If you have multiple Twitter or Facebook accounts (I have one for personal use, and one for work) App Twin lets you create multiple instances of the same app on your phone. You can then stay signed in to a different account on each instance. App Twin, like a lot of the Mate 10 Pro’s best features, is hidden deep in the settings. To enable it, go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > App Twin. Only apps that are compatible with App Twin will be listed here.
Huawei's bizarre Knuckle Sense feature is once again present on the Mate 10 Pro. As before, you can knock on the screen twice with your knuckle to quickly capture a screenshot, or you can capture just part of the screen by drawing around the area with your knuckle. Knuckle Sense also has a new split screen launcher to take advantage of the Mate 10 Pro's new extra tall screen. Simply drag your knuckle across the screen to enable split screen mode.
One final feature worth mentioning is the Mate 10 Pro's modem. The 4.5G modem supports LTE Cat.18 D data speeds, which means it can theoretically provide download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. Unfortunately, no Singapore telco currently supports Cat18 modems - Cat16, which provides 800Mbps download speeds is the fastest right now - but it should only be a matter of time until Cat18 is supported.