For years, Huawei has been cranking out smartphone flagships that rival the best that Apple and Samsung have to offer. And now, for the first time, one of them—-the Mate 10 Pro—will be made available to consumers here in the United States.
Yes, the excitement of Huawei’s long-awaited U.S. debut has been dimmed by political xenophobia, with our government pressuring both AT&T and Verizon to cancel their plans to stock the device. But no matter: Huawei is pushing ahead, and you will be able to purchase the Mate 10 Pro via Amazon.com and other retailers and then bring it to your carrier of choice.
And it looks like an option you should seriously consider.
The Mate 10 Pro checks all of the boxes we’re looking for today in a modern smartphone flagship: A stunning and tall high-DPI display with “barely-there” bezels, a dual camera system, high-end specifications, and an elegant design. It also delivers this package at a price that puts Apple and Google to shame: Where their comparable flagships are now selling for about $1000, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro costs just $800.
It’s a beautiful device, with a glass and metal body that can be had in two fun colors—Midnight Blue and a Zune-like Mocha Brown—plus the less dazzling Titanium Gray of my review loaner. Viewed side-by-side with the Google Pixel 2 XL, the Huawei is about the same size and weight. And while it’s a tad thicker, there’s no camera bump as with the Google handset.
The body is shiny and super-slippery, even compared to other smartphones, many of which are described as being soap-like in their ability to slip out of one’s hand. But the Mate 10 Pro is more slippery than any phone I’ve ever used. Fortunately, Huawei provides a clear rubber case in the box. I recommend using it.
Huawei places the volume and power buttons on the right side of the device, but in the opposite layout of the Pixel 2 XL, with the volume buttons on the top.
The SIM tray is on the left, and you’ll find a USB-C port—but no headphone jack—on the bottom. The device has stereo speakers, but they are biased to the bottom side of the device, which is somewhat common. Kudos to Huawei for also including nice USB-C-based earpods and a USB-C-to-headphone jack dongle in the box.
Like any self-respecting smartphone, the Mate 10 Pro utilizes a fingerprint reader on the center back of the device. It is lightning quick, almost too quick in that it seems like it’s even doing anything. It is also in the correct location: Below and separated from the camera lens.
Speaking of the cameras, there are two Leica lenses on the rear and both are 12 MP units with a f/1.6 aperture. One is color and one is monochrome, and as with other dual camera systems, they are used in tandem to create various depth effects.
In a few quick tests, I can see that the cameras are excellent, and while it’s far too early to suggest that they are giving the Pixel 2 XL a run for the crown, the Huawei—like the iPhone X—is absolutely in the ballpark. This seems like an excellent set of cameras. (The front camera is an 8 MP lens with a f/2.0 aperture.)
The display is fantastic. It is a 6-inch OLED display with a tall 18:9 aspect ratio. The resolution is “just” 1080p—2160 x 1080 to be exact—but it has a super high contrast and rich, lush colors. The effect is impressive, and it almost appears to be liquid.
As noted, the internal specs are solid too, but with one odd bit. The phone is powered by a Huawei Kirin 970 processor, which a bit of Google researching tells me is roughly on par with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. That’s great, but of course, the rest of the smartphone world is moving to the 845 this year, so it’s not clear how well it will match up.
Huawei, like other big hardware makers, is enhancing its devices with custom silicon too. In this case, a so-called Neural Network Processing Unit.
Beyond that, we see 6 GB of RAM, which is excellent, and 128 GB of non-expandable storage. The device supports NFC and provides gigabit LTE capabilities and Bluetooth 4.2. It’s powered by a large 4000 mAh battery and supports fast charging capabilities.
Like OnePlus, Huawei offers a custom version of Android, which in this case it calls EMUI. Based on the very latest Android version—8.0 Oreo—EMUI is both familiar and, in places, slightly strange. It uses its own theme and icon style, neither of which is jarring, and has performed well so far.
It’s early, of course, but the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is clearly a contender and a viable alternative to today’s flagships. I’ll be issuing a full review once I’ve had more experience with the device.