The Huawei Mate 10 Pro ticks all the right boxes, with a good screen, camera and performance, but truly excels on battery life. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
Huawei’s Mate smartphones have made a bit of a name for themselves as powerhouse devices that come with long battery life and a big screen. With a 50-hour battery life and premium design, the Mate 10 Pro is no exception.
Huawei has tried to tread the fine line between being good value for money and offering a top-notch experience, but the Mate 10 is the Chinese firm’s first real winner.
The front of the device is practically all screen with thin bezels at the sides and slim top and bottom sections, rivalling the Samsungs of this world but without the curved screen.
The 6in full HD+ OLED screen, with its elongated ratio, looks great. It’s not as high resolution as some of its competitors, and isn’t quite as stunning as Samsung’s best, but still has inky blacks, rich colour and wide viewing angles.
The curved glass back and metal sides feel great in the hand, but photos do not do the mocca brown colour justice. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
The metal band around the sides meets the curved glass back and feels incredibly solid and ergonomic in the hand for a large smartphone. The Mate 10 Pro is really rather attractive, particularly in the mocha brown colour.
At 7.9mm thick, the Mate 10 Pro matches Google’s Pixel 2 XL and is 0.2mm thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy S8+. The three are similar in weight too, with the Mate 10 Pro weighing 178g, the Pixel 2 XL 175g and the Galaxy S8+ 173g.
The Mate 10 Pro is also water resistant to IP67 standards, meaning up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes – good enough to survive a trip down the loo or into the bath.
- Screen: 6in FHD+ OLED (402ppi)
- Processor: octa-core Huawei Kirin 970
- RAM: 4 or 6GB of RAM
- Storage: 64 or 128GB
- Operating system: EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0 Oreo
- Camera: Dual rear camera 12MP colour with OIS, 20MP monochrome, 8MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS
- Dimensions: 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 178g
50 hours between charges
The Mate 10 Pro has an IR port on the top for using the phone as a remote to control your TV and other bits. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
Huawei is one of very few companies that makes its own processors and chips, the others being Samsung and Apple. The Mate 10 Pro has Huawei’s new Kirin 970 octo-core processor, which is more powerful and more efficient than previous generations. It also has a new “neural network processing unit”, which is the new hotness in technology with Apple and Google also bundling some form of AI processor in their new smartphones.
In day to day activities there’s no doubt the Mate 10 Pro is snappy, keeping up with the best of the rest, including the Google Pixel 2 XL, which was impressive.
Apps, even big games, loaded faster than most competitors. Switching between apps was instant, while unlocking the device and getting into the action was very fast indeed. That’s a function of Huawei’s excellent fingerprint scanner on the back, which is arguably the best in the business, as much as the performance of the smartphone.
The fingerprint scanner on the back is quick and accurate. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
The neural processor is designed to help Huawei run machine learning systems on device. Most of these run behind the scenes and are not obvious to the user. The phone can predict when you’re likely to want to load an app and get it ready. I can also clean the system, with Huawei promising that the phone will run as fast as it does on day one on day 365. I can’t test that, but anecdotally other Huawei smartphones have proven consistent in performance in my extended testing beyond six months.
The most impressive thing about the Mate 10 Pro, however, is its fantastic battery life.
Most smartphones can just about make it through a day of hard use. The Mate 10 Pro managed a full two days between charges, switched on at 7am one day and dying at 9am on the third day, making that 50 hours without using any special power-saving modes, where the best of the competition has only made it to around 30 hours.
That was while using the Mate 10 Pro as my primary device, browsing and using apps for five hours with hundreds of push emails and messages, 60 minutes of Netflix, the odd spot of navigation in Google maps, around 30 photos and listening to around five hours of music via Bluetooth headphones. Most users will easily be able to go two days between charges.
It fast charges too, reaching just under 60% in around 30 minutes using the included charger, but unfortunately it’s not compatible with wireless charging.
The dark interface mode with EMUI switching whites and light colours for blacks. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
Huawei modifies the standard Android experience to create what it calls Emotion UI. The Mate 10 Pro runs the new EMUI 8 based on Android 8 Oreo, making it one of the first new devices to be released running the latest and greatest version of Android.
EMUI 8 is the most refined version yet. It can look as different or as similar to regular Android as you’d like, with plenty of theme options, and settings to make it behave like Apple’s iOS – with every app icon on the home screen – or use an app drawer most other Android variants.
The Google Feed sits at the left-most home screen pane, but can be turned off. Google’s new adaptive icons, that look round for apps that have been updated, are included, while there’s even some nice animated wallpapers to choose from.
There are some odd quirks, such as the “eye comfort” mode, which is Huawei’s version of the option to reduce blue light to help eye strain and getting to sleep at night. You can schedule it for a specific time, but not to match the sunset and sunrise times for your location as most others do.
There’s even an option to turn the interface to black, similar to “night” modes in some apps, to save power. It works for all the default user interface and Huawei’s apps, but not third party apps.
The various power-saving modes on offer in EMUI 8 also work well, whether it’s the general monitoring for any rogue apps that try to destroy your battery life, or the ultra power-saving mode that disables some functions and limits the number of apps you can use to extend battery life past four days.
The dual camera system on the Mate 10 Pro is Huawei’s best by some margin. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
The Mate 10 Pro has Huawei’s third generation of Leica-branded dual camera, and this one stands head and shoulders above the company’s previous efforts.
On the back is one 12-megapixel colour camera with optical image stabilisation and one 20-megapixel monochrome camera, both with fast f/1.6 lenses.
They work together to boost detail and light in colour scenes, and to create a hybrid two-times zoom, which works pretty well in all but the worst lighting conditions.
Low light performance is very good, but in good lighting conditions some photos could be a bit overexposed in automatic mode. Huawei uses its neural processor to run very fast object recognition for scene selection, detecting anything from text to food to flowers and optimising the camera for the shot. The results are pretty good.
The Mate 10 Pro produced all round great shots, but didn’t preserve quite as much detail as Google’s Pixel 2 smartphones. I also think Huawei’s lack of automatic HDR is a misstep in the normal point-and-shoot mode, but there’s no faulting the sheer number of camera modes and features.
Pro-mode includes manual controls for pretty much everything, but there are lots of other creative modes, from light painting to 3D panorama. I had the most fun with the dedicated monochrome mode using the monochrome sensor. The portrait mode isn’t as good as rivals from Apple and Google, however.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera is pretty good, but struggles on detail in middling light. Most will be happy with it.
The glass back has an attractive diffuse shine to it. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
- There’s an IR blaster for controlling your TV
- There’s no Bluetooth 5 support, just 4.2, but it does have aptX/aptX HD and LDAC HD Audio support
- You can hook the Mate 10 Pro up to a monitor with a standard USB-C to DisplayPort or similar cable and attach a keyboard and mouse to use it as a desktop-like computer experience
- The glass back is surprisingly grippy, but picks up fingerprints pretty easily
- It comes with a screen protector fitted and a soft plastic case in the box
- There’s no headphone socket, which is disappointing
- A dual-Sim version is available for using two phone numbers and plans at the same time
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro costs £699 with 128GB storage.
For comparison, Google’s 6in Pixel 2 XL costs £799 with 64GB of storage, the 6.2in Samsung Galaxy S8+ costs around £680 with 64GB of storage (£779 at launch), the 5.8in Galaxy S8 with 64GB costs under £540 (£689 at launch), the 6.3in Galaxy Note 8 with 64GB costs under £820 (£869 at launch), the 5.5in OnePlus 5 with 64GB costs £449 and the 5.5in iPhone 8 Plus with 64GB costs £799. Apple’s upcoming 5.8in iPhone X with 64GB of storage will cost £999.
The Mate 10 Pro is the first Huawei smartphone that proves the Chinese firm can genuinely compete at the top end with Samsung and Apple.
It’s got a great camera, a good looking screen, a premium look and feel, a powerful processor and built-in artificial intelligence that should keep things running smoothly. But the real star of the show is the two day-plus battery life.
Sure, there’s no wireless charging, no headphone socket and no expandable storage. Some may not love Huawei’s EMUI, but it’s really quite good in places and in line with others elsewhere. It’s also slightly cheaper than its big screen, premium rivals, but without sacrificing quality, making the Mate 10 Pro extremely competitive.
If you’re fed up with your phone not going the distance, the Mate 10 Pro is the phone to buy. It has set a new standard for battery life.
Pros: outstanding battery life, Android 8 Oreo, great performance, good dual camera, premium design, water resistance
Cons: no headphone socket, no microSD card slot, no wireless charging, screen not the highest resolution, no Bluetooth 5 support