Huawei Mate 10 Pro First Impressions

Posted on February 9, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 40 Comments

Huawei Mate 10 Pro First Impressions

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.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 2 XL (right)

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.

Sample test shot: Not quite as crisp as the Pixel 2 XL, but close

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.

 

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Huawei Mate 10 Pro First Impressions”

  1. Avatar

    Daniel Shissler

    with our government pressuring both AT&T and Verizon to cancel their plans to stock the device. Do you have a source for this? Seems more likely that Apple and Samsung would pressure the carriers not to carry this device.

  2. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    I never stop being astonished that anybody has any use for display ratios 2:1 or smaller. I don't. None. I might buy a smartphone with 4:3 or even 1:1 (if non-foldable and therefore unbroken and unbrakable) but none exists. The current ratio fashion goes in the opposite direction of what I want. The manufacturers keep adding an increasing number of reasons why I do not buy any smartphone: bad OS (unsure, not long updated Android or iOS without working general file management), missing long-term support, often unreplaceable battery, often missing repairability and now a display ratio I have no use for at all. I would not even use such a phone if I got it for free. For none of my standard applications (browsing, PDF reading, phone calls, video, shall I say office) does it make any sense. The ratio tag "modern" does not create any use for me. And no, I do not need two equally sized apps in landscape position. I never mind bezels around the display, whose filling with a taller display may have motivated the lengthening. I prefer bezels to useless display space at the top and bottom: bezels do not distract but contents pretending to be readable at the ends of tall displays distracts.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      You might want to look up the word "astonished." :) Not understanding that other people might have different needs from you---that you may, in fact, be the outlier here, not the norm---is a curious failing. Squarer form factors make more sense on computers and tablets. Tall form factors make more sense on phones. In general, not literally. This is the way the market is going, sorry.

      • Avatar

        RobertJasiek

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Different needs are granted but what are those of users preferring 2:1?

        • Avatar

          glenn8878

          In reply to RobertJasiek:

          Versus 4:3 or 1:1. Those were the only other 2 options you mentioned. How do you hold it in your hand? You need 2 hands to hold a phone with that ratio. Or do you prefer tiny phones?


          So you’re the person that brings your iPad to parties and takes pictures with it.

          • Avatar

            RobertJasiek

            In reply to glenn8878:

            I have good use for every ratio from 4:3 to 1:1, less for 3:2, even less for 16:9 and none for taller ratios. 1:1 is for special (in my case: frequent) use: viewing + editing Go (a game with a square board). The more realistic case of discussion for potential smartphones is 4:3. Since I do not need phablet size but small to intermediate size will do, 4:3 does not create any problem for easy holding in one hand. (In fact, one can hold in one hand, if carefully, an 8" tablet.)

            I am not the person to take lots of snapshots. If I want to photograph seriously, I'd rather buy a digital reflex camera for that purpose. For the rare "proof of parcel damage" photo at home, a tablet or scanner does the job; I do not need a smartphone for that purpose.

  3. Avatar

    Max Daru

    Ridiculous to pay this much for a device that will survive 2 years or less. The best strategy is to wait until a new model is about to be released and then get the previous version. I did this to snag a LG v20 for about $300 after the V30 came out.

  4. Avatar

    rameshthanikodi

    I admire Huawei's stamina, but I think Americans are too brainwashed by anti-china hysteria. Each time I see a Huawei review, I never fail to see many (inaccurate) comments from Americans about Huawei, about how these phones are spying on people, and other criticisms that are supposedly meant to discredit.


    Unfortunately, I think it works, all you need to sow division these days is to just get people talking about the same thing, even if everything being said is wrong. And to be successful, all you need to do is to put a prototype into a rocket even as your main production line is struggling to clear a massive backlog of orders. (no offense to Tesla, but they really need to deliver on the orders to be considered successful)


    I don't know man. I wish Huawei well. But America is not the most rational market.

  5. Avatar

    Ballistichydrant

    The problem with Huawei isn't the phones, they are awesome, I loved my Mate 8 and still love my Mate 9 but the problem is service. I travel a lot for work and unlike Samsung and Apple who have service centers in all corners of the globe it is extremely hard to get service for Huawei in most places in the world and even in many States in the US. It is a sad disappointment for me because I actually really like the devices but I probably won't buy another because when things do go wrong there just isn't any service. I'm currently working in Hanoi and their is a service center here but they told me they won't service my Mate 9 because they don't sell that specific model in Vietnam. Super lame. The girl in the shop actually told me to fly to Taiwan to get service. That was her actual suggestion. Even after I offered to pay for the shipment of the needed parts and service from China to Vietnam, (literal neighbors), she still said she wouldn't help and I should fly to Taiwan or Hong Kong. For that cost I can just buy a new phone, likely not a Huawei, unfortunately.

    It is doubly unfortunate that Huawei can’t figure out the service side of things because they really do make great phones. My present struggles with Huawei service do bring back memories of poor service from Huawei not long after I bought my Mate 9. It was a little over a year ago and after buying the phone I wanted to switch all my household chargers over to USB 3 and get a nice case for my brand new thousand-dollar phone. The problem was and still is, because Huawei doesn’t have many of their own stores and in Taipei where I bought the phone they have exactly zero of their own stores. At the time of buying the phone Huawei didn’t even have an online store where you could buy accessories for the phone. You could buy the phone through one of their local partners but you couldn’t buy anything from them in a store or even online. I thought it was pretty weak because I have a couple of online stores myself and I know how easy they are to set up. So I was pretty disappointed that a billion dollar company couldn’t figure out how to create a couple of jobs at the same time as improving the customer experience surrounding their products. Here we are 14 months down the road and it seems the company still hasn’t figured out how to solve these really minor issues. At a time when they are spending millions of dollars on marketing trying to penetrate the US market it seems od to me to continue to neglect the other areas of customer experience that could help foster strong brand loyalty. 

    I believe this service issue is a greater oversight than the company is capable of recognizing at present. The customers that will buy the high end versions of their phones are precisely the customers that will find themselves in need of service when away from their home country. People with higher salaries travel more and have a higher likelihood of have international jobs that like me need to travel for work. The issue doesn't even require a heavy-handed solution , an internal memo directing device staff to ensure service to all huawei customers would alleviate a high percentage of the issue. With the addition of an online store that ships anywhere in the world would require about 3 additional staff for a global portal. A small price to pay to ensure the level of service expected . 

    Come on Huawei, you can do better. 

    Article by

    Paul Morgan


  6. Avatar

    ben55124

    Should be priced to compete with the OP5t -- $600 or less. It will appeal to the same customers. Ask HTC/LG how pricing for flagships go when you're not Applesamsung.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to ben55124:

      I looked at the OP5t when I was looking for a new phone last month and still ended up going with the Mate 10 Pro. It feels a like a much better device. The price feels a little steep, but I think it is about right for what you get. I'll be interested to see how it pans out over the next couple of years, but so far, I think it was worth the money.

      If you don't want to pay those sort of prices, take a loot at the Huawei P-Smart, released last week in Europe, it also has a bezelles display, although smaller dimensions, a mid-range processor, fingerprint sensor, NFC, bluetooth, LTE, 3GB RAM 32GB storage for $250. My wife is happy with it so far.

  7. Avatar

    wright_is

    One problem I had with the EMUI front end is that you can't resize all widgets, like you can with stock Android 8.1 on the Nexus. I put in the Microsoft Launcher, my preferred launcher anyway and everything is working great.

    The device is reall nice to use, it is almost the same size as the Nexus 5X (about half a centimetre or so longer), yet the screen size difference is amazing. My daughter bought the Mate 9 and is very happy with it, the Mate 10 Pro is a big step forward.

    The glass back is very slippery, I find myself holding it extra tight, before removing it from my pocket, to make sure I don't drop it. I have been using the supplied case up until now, which does help, but I don't like such cases, generally, so I am experimenting without it. I may go back to using it, just because the phone is so slippery.

    On another note, my wife's new phone turned up today, a Huawei P-Smart, which has just been launched over here, in Germany. This is a smaller version (slimmer and slightly smaller than the Nexus 5x it replaces). It is a very nice and expensive feeling device (it looks like a blue iPhone at first glance, from the back, although the dual cameras (top left of case) and the fingerprint sensor give it away. It also has an 18:10 display and thin bezels. It uses the mid-range Kirin 670 processor and only has 3GB RAM, but it still feels fast, especially compared to the Nexus 5x. My wife is happy that when she starts an app that there is now 5 second wait for it to start, it starts instantly.

    For 250€, it is certainly a very nice little phone and well worth looking at if you want a bezelless display at bargain basement prices.

  8. Avatar

    Xatom

    Now the legitimate national security concerns of the US Government for its citizens are xenophobia. Wow, just wow.

  9. Avatar

    nerocui

    Kirin 970 is just ARM's architecture, not there custom architecture. While it has much more silicon transistors than Snapdragon 835 an Apple A11, it's performance is just almost on par with 835. Kirin SoC also are not well optimized for it's supposedly good 10nm process making it consumes more power than other 10nm SoCs. That's why they put a 1080p screen and 4000 battery in it. The two cameras on the back are not really Leica, they are just normal camera with Leica certificate filter data on top of the interface. The photos are good looking b/c they use AI to recognize different scenario and apply filters accordingly. But if you put the result under professional benchmark, it is not where near the level of Pixel or Samsung. Huawei is also famous for cutting corners on flagships. Just search for storage gate Huawei P10, and you will see how they announced the phone with UFS 2.1 and delivered with emmc 5.1. And they are one of the first ones that started the whole fake benchmark thing back in the old days. Once they detect a benchmark app is running, they kill everything else and over clock the CPU to get a mark as high as possible.

    • Avatar

      rameshthanikodi

      In reply to nerocui:

      Every single ARM processor is based on ARM's reference designs to various extents. It's what makes ARM processors....ARM.


      Also, Huawei has been very clear that the Leica camera is more of a fine-tuning of photo quality than an actual Leica camera. What else would it be? All smartphone cameras today take this route to get the most from the camera hardware. They were also the pioneers of dual camera lenses in phones.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        I love how obvious things are to everyone. In Huawei's marketing materials, both for the press and for the public, these lens are very clearly identified as being made in partnership with Leica.


        Here is every single mention of this in the reviewer's guide:


        "Partnering with Leica, the HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro packs a New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses.."

        "We partnered with Leica to co-engineer a new dual camera for the HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro."

        "The HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro combines Huawei’s AI capabilities with Leica’s camera expertise to enable computer vision technology that supports AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition."


  10. Avatar

    jrickel96

    Huawei makes a good handset. Always liked my Nexus 6P and have used other phones they've made for testing. I prefer them against most of the other Android makers. The one that I might like more is HTC. Samsung is the worst of the group of the big names, IMHO.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to jrickel96:

      The speed of security updates is one of the things that put me off Samsung. I looked at the S8 when I bought my Mate 10 Pro and the Mate 10 Pro was on Oreo with December updates (mid January), the S8 was several months behind on securtiy updates (and Oreo should be rolling out soon).

  11. Avatar

    MikeCerm

    It's impossible to recommend this phone to anyone when the OnePlus 5T exists and costs $300 less. If it were launching at $499 or $599 it might be worth a look, but even then the wonky EMUI software and the lack of headphone jack are dealbreakers in the face of the OnePlus 5T.

    • Avatar

      Subhadip Sen

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      I agree. Except for the camera, OnePlus 5T is similar or better in every other area. Granted, the camera is a very important aspect of a phone, but one that definitely does not justify paying 60% to 100% a higher price on its own.


      I don't think calling a phone "just $800" should be seen as a positive.

      • Avatar

        yangstax

        In reply to Sen1:
        Its camera is rated just a hair below Pixel 2 and it is the first camera that is AI controlled. It also requires no Dock to support its Continuum like function. Overall, it does provide better values than OnePlus 5T.


    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      It's not impossible, but I agree the OnePlus 5T is a better value overall. But the camera in the Mate 10 Pro is immediately obviously superior, and that alone might justify the cost for many.

  12. Avatar

    shameermulji

    I'll wait for the Galaxy S9

  13. Avatar

    mrdrwest

    No Live Tiles, no deal!

  14. Avatar

    MacLiam

    Even though my Nexus 6P is still going strong, I know it is on the edge of being an older phone and will at some point need replacement. If Google would just let Project Fi move to a greater number of high-end devices (or any device, for that matter), the Mate 10 would be high on my list of possible 6P replacements. Under the circumstances, I'm kind of resigned to getting a Pixel one of these days. I just hope that the Pixel 3 is more impressive than what I have seen so far in the first two generations.


    Just to be clear, the 6P is my backup phone in case the HP x3 ever fails on me at a critical moment. I have always found Windows Phone to be the preferable mobile operating system. Notice I am not saying it is "superior" or "better." It's just the one I like. If Polaris works as I expect it to on whatever the Andromeda device turns out to be, I expect that will become my favored telephony tool.

  15. Avatar

    aelaan

    The mere fact that it is "just" $800 USD means it will be over $1000 CAD and to me that is not worth it for a phablet wannabe. I am not sure why people keep looking at these devices when I can purchase a Zen Phone for like 300 bucks CAD unlocked and with 64GB storage and 4GB RAM - maybe not top of the line, all I need is to be able to communicate with it. Anything else is a want at what cost?

    Why don't techwriters really talk about what grinds their gears? Again, an I have made this statement many times, these are computing devices that crack by the first sneeze, that have poor repair ratings (if at all) and frankly a normal user does not have this kind of money to "just" spend.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to aelaan:

      The price was worth it to me, although my wife went for the 250€ Huawei P-Smart, which is a bezelles device, fingerprint reader, NFC and Bluetooth for a small price. Very well made and a metal (Apple like) casing. It feels very good in the hand.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to aelaan:

      A few things.

      This is a first impressions article.

      I'm not sure what the accusation bit is all about. How do you know this thing will crack if I sneeze? It seems really well made to me.

      More to the point, I complain about pricing so much that *I* get complaints about that.

  16. Avatar

    crmguru

    Just got done using the Mate 9 for 6 months. Fantastic phone. The camera is fantastic. Some of the Very best photos I have seen on a mobile. To really get great photos you have to muck about with the Pro Mode to adjust exposure settings. But I have had some great photos. Fingerprint reader is so fast. The only issue I had was that it didn't do group messaging, and required 1+ in front of all my phone numbers to do texting. Could never figure out how to fix that problem. But Over all Solid phone. I almost got the Mate 10 Pro but went with a Note 8.


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