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Huawei Mate 10 Pro hands-on review: Brains and beauty

For now, Huawei's Mate 10 Pro may only be arriving in the UK and Australia this November, but our first look makes it a promising bid for the top smartphone crown. Compared to the Mate 9, the Mate 10 Pro offers a completely new design and smarter, AI-enhanced hardware. We got our hands on The Mate 10 Pro in Munich and after our first impression, it's set to be a worthy successor to the Mate 9, but only time will tell if it delivers more.

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Huawei Mate 10 Pro release date and price

The Mate 10 Pro will be launched in the UK and Australia in mid-November 2017 for €799 (about £710), and a Porsche Design version in the UK for €1395 (about £1240). Sadly no word yet for the US market, although Huawei has also released American versions later in the past. The phone will come in three colors—‘Mocha Brown’, ‘Titanium Gray’ and ‘Midnight Blue’. The pink variant will only be available in China for the time being. Judging from the past though, it would not be surprising if Huawei releases a further color in time for the holiday season.

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What color would you choose? Mocha, gray or blue? / © AndroidPIT

There are no variants as far as memory—every Mate 10 Pro comes with 6GB of RAM and 128 GB storage. There are different SIM versions though. Service provider-locked editions are expected to have only one SIM slot, while unlocked editions will have two SIM slots. If the dual SIM feature is paramount for you, you’ll have to ask your provider which version they have when the Mate 10 Pro is available. The dual SIM model is one of the few that can use LTE on both cards in parallel—useful in times of VoLTE and All-IP.

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Most Mate 10 Pro versions will have two SIM slots. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Mate 10 Pro design and build quality

Huawei has overhauled the Mate design with the Mate 10 Pro. Even last year’s Mate 9 Porsche Edition pales in comparison. But this fantastic design may come at the expense of the device’s durability. Huawei jumped on the designed-to-break trend using a glaze on the Mate 10 Pro’s front and rear. Only the aluminium frame holds the device together in a reasonably stable manner. The headphone jack is also a the latest victim of the new high-gloss finish. After all, the device had to feature IP67 certified protection against dust and water.

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The curved design on the back makes the device feel slim and ergonomic. / © AndroidPIT

At the hands-on presentation in Germany, we were told that LTE Cat. 18 antennas were not possible for the aluminium design, although it would have been with the Mate 9. This seems to be true considering Huawei has decided not to use the GBit-speed LTE in the Mate 10 non-Pro model, but still provides offers the rugged aluminium design.

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The aluminium edges hold the Mate 10 Pro’s glass in place. / © AndroidPIT

This time, the Pro version does without dual-edge design and bets on winning over fans of conventional displays. Only the rear features a curved glass surface and makes the device feel slimmer than it actually is. Across the back, a "Signature Stripe" decorates the main camera area and gives the Mate series a new trademark look.

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The new glossy strip at the top becomes the brand's new design trademark. / © AndroidPIT

The bezels above and below the display shrink to a few millimeters. The new 2:1 format (as always marketed as ‘18:9’) gives us a 6-inch display in a body that would have been able to accommodate only a 5.5-inch display in previous models. In fact, the Mate 10 Pro’s compact feel makes a serious first impression.

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Left: a Huawei P10 Plus (5.5 inches). Right: the new Mate 10 Pro (6 inches). / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Mate 10 Pro display

Just like with the Mate 9 Pro / Porsche Design, the Mate 10 Pro features an AMOLED display. It resolves to just under 403 ppi, has the new 2:1 format and relies heavily on Android's integrated split-screen system to take advantage of the new widescreen format.

Later in our full review, we will compare the Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s display with its Samsung counterparts in detail, and also check whether it represents a significant improvement over the excellent Mate 9 display.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro special features

What’s really special about this system is that Huawei sets open standards. Any USB type C-to-HDMI adapter can be connected to the USB 3.1 Gen 1 port on the Mate 10 Pro. Thanks to Apple's decision in 2016 to use Type C, such dongles are all readily available on Amazon. And thanks to their additional power supply, they also allow longer-term operation in PC mode.

What’s really special about this system is that Huawei sets open standards. Any USB type C-to-HDMI adapter can be connected to the USB 3.1 Gen 1 port on the Mate 10 Pro. Thanks to Apple's decision in 2016 to use Type C, such dongles are all readily available on Amazon. And thanks to their additional power supply, they also allow longer-term operation in PC mode.

The Mate 10 Pro display will completely dim if you do not touch it for a while in Easy Projection Mode. This is an important feature because AMOLED technology could otherwise cause an ugly burn-in effect. If you touch the darkened display, it will be turned on without a lock screen.

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Using a standard USB-C adapter turns the Mate 10 Pro into a PC substitute. / © AndroidPIT

If you are called or receive notifications while in Easy-Projection mode, your projection on the large screen will not be interrupted. You can accept the call as if your smartphone is not connected to the monitor and you can continue working on the screen as if you didn’t have someone on the line.

In our detailed review, we’ll find out how multitasking between the two screens - small and large - works exactly, how the sound output is managed and what are the drawbacks of using this nifty feature.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro software

The Mate 10 debuts Huawei’s Oreo-based EMUI 8.0. This new version replaces the Nougat-based EMUI 5, and provides drastic artificial intelligence enhancements in addition to the Oreo core features. The brand-new Neural Processing Unit in the chipset will be automatically accessed by future apps in order to exploit performance advantages in particular.

The first app where this is visible is the pre-installed translator from Microsoft, who translates offline text and OCR-recognized texts into photos incredibly fast.

Other EMUI 8 innovations and how they compare to EMUI 5 require some more detailed testing. So far, XDA Developers' analysis of the beta has proven to be the best word on what's new in the software.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro performance

As the hardware star feature, the new Kirin 970 chipset has become more energy-efficient than the previous 960 due to 10nm technology, but the CPU and GPU remain otherwise largely unchanged. The Mate 10 Pro only delivers its performance advantage from the Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which is supposed to be designed specifically for future AR and VR tasks.

The NPU was also well advertised in the event. So what exactly is it good for? Currently, that added value is limited to just a few Huawei-specific apps. In the long term, Huawei wants to accelerate third-party apps with the NPU. Together with Microsoft, Huawei has pre-installed a translator app on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which translates text modules from one language into another of 40 other languages at unbelievable speeds—and without an internet connection. The NPU’s impressive talents don’t end there. There are some impressive ways it enhances camera use too.

The Mate 10’s 128 GB UFS-2.1 memory is fast and plentiful. But a MicroSD slot can still be practical for various reasons. Unfortunately, just like the Mate 9 Pro/Porsche Design and other recent phones, MicroSD is missing in the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro audio

Another NPU application is the normalization of call volume. If you whisper into the phone because you have a cold and your voice is ‘just not very good’, the volume adapts to project the voice at normal volume on the other end of the call. Conversely, if your counterpart answers particularly loudly, his voice will normally reach you loudly but at a slightly moderated level.

But, if there is a lot of noise in your surroundings, the Mate 10 Pro lifts the output of the loudspeaker accordingly and makes sure that you understand your caller well. If you speak then into the Mate 10 Pro, your caller won’t hear any of the noise around you thanks to intelligent filtering. Huawei has traditionally been one of the best in the field of speech quality, so we can hardly wait to test this feature out in detail.

And then there is yet another quiet farewell to the headphone jack. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro comes with an adapter though. There’s lots of talk about the change in audio tech but if you want my take on this, have a read here later.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera

Compared to the Mate 9, little has changed on the camera hardware front. Now there are two f/1.6 optics of the Leica Summilux-H brand and an unequal double sensor. The black-and-white resolution is 20 megapixels. The RGB sensor only resolves 12 megapixels, but has an optical image stabilizer. Each of the sensors has its own image signal processor, whose data is merged from the artificial intelligence on the NPU to an image, analyzed in real time and processed thereafter.

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The Mate 10 Pro uses Leica Sumilux optics. / © AndroidPIT

The NPU detects every scene in real time and adjusts both exposure and post-processing accordingly. Exposure time, focus and saturation adjustments ensure that photos get an defined look even without manual post-processing. For this purpose, the NPU uses offline ‘training’ data that Huawei had evaluated on domestic servers from 100 million photos.

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The software recognizes there's a human in the image. / © AndroidPIT

The Mate 10 camera understands whether you are photographing a pet, a person, plants or food and applies filters that are commonly used for taking pictures with these kinds of subjects. Especially in the case of fast-moving objects, it is helpful that the focus of that movement follows consistently until you snap the pic.

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The Mate 10 Pro sensors are the same as in the Mate 9. / © AndroidPIT

The Bokeh effect that was implemented in the Mate 9 with great effort, is now used more sparingly, intelligently and accurately. The new portrait mode, similar to the 2017 versions of the iPhone or Google Pixel, expands the range of functions of the photo software. Later in our detailed review, we’ll take a closer look at this function and see if Huawei really delivers on our expectations in this department.

For selfies, the front camera features the f/2.0 fixed focus snapshot. Here too, a focus effect is possible which unlike in older versions, can also detect groups cleverly. Blurred faces become a thing of the past: I was able to successfully test this out for myself quickly.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro battery

The 4,000 mAh battery can be charged quickly with Huawei's proprietary Safe SuperCharge technology. When fully charged, the Mate 10 Pro will provide 20 hours of video playback or 2.4 days of mixed use. Wireless charging is sadly missing here and the battery cannot be easily replaced.

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The Mate 10's USB Type-C connector is the only port. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Mate 10 Pro technical specifications

Dimensions: 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 178 g
Battery size: 4000 mAh
Screen size: 6 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2160 x 1080 pixels (402 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 20 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 8.0 - Oreo
User interface: Huawei EMUI
RAM: 6 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: Not available
Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 970
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.36 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.2

Early Verdict

The Mate 10 Pro’s promising performance, impeccable design and premium price make for a strong flagship for Huawei. But the fact that it simply followed many trends like fragility in terms of design, headphone jack omission, and rehashed some hardware show that its betting a lot on jumping on the AI bandwagon. Though necessary for the competition, this has yet to give Huawei some sense of originality.

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Huawei can't take over without catching up first. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei is betting on becoming top dog in the race for the best smartphone and is only serving western markets with the pro version—anything else would simply not do. Despite an astonishing amount of hardware from the previous year being hidden inside the Mate 10 Pro, Huawei is betting on a major breakthrough with its new NPU, the little ‘brain’ in the Mate 10 Pro.

If this brain gets the job done right with software updates and is as strong as it's hoped, the Mate 10 Pro can actually start winning Huawei more fans. But this is something only extended use will show us over some time.

Until then, what did you think of Huawei’s big unveil? Did the Mate 10 Pro live up to your expectations? Let us know!

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4 comments

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  • Huawei gets major points on design with the Mate 10 Pro, but I feel they really missed the mark with such a low resolution at this price point. Western consumers are used to high resolution screens and this just won't cut it. They didn't do themselves any favors by cutting out the headphone jack either. Just a few changes and this phone could have gone toe to toe with the Note 8 and the V30, but it won't now.


  • Samsung learnt from there big mistake by not offering the micro sd card slot on there Galaxy S6 & Note 5 models,and there sales were not so good,so Huawei might have made the same mistake,and releasing these phones a little later in the year some people might wait to see what's on offer early 2018 before buying these new phones,no 3.5 headphone jack will also deter people purchasinget these phones,Samsung as started a super trend now with there S8 design


  • Karl E 1 month ago Link to comment

    Its translated from the original article in German language....

    My opinion: the mate 10 pro is a beautiful but in some way stupid product .... it has no MircoSD-Slot but only dualsim (that cannot be a big difference in production costs), no headset connector and a lower resolution than the Mate 10.... and its called pro... I doubt it will be a great success....


  • solis 1 month ago Link to comment

    This article feels like a bad translation and I couldn't follow it in detail, but for sure there's at least one big error - the GPU in the Mate 10 (all variants) is a brand new, 12-core Mali 72. Huawei said it's 20% with a 50% power consumption reduction compared to the one used in the Mate 9.

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