Huawei has pinned its hopes on the Mate 10 Pro as its flagship phone for the year. It was designed to be just as good as the Galaxy Note 8. And with its huge display, powerful processor and cool camera, it gets pretty close.
The Mate 10 Pro isn't quite as fully featured as the Note 8, missing as it does the S Pen stylus, expandable storage and its own virtual assistant (though we're not totally sold on Bixby Voice). At around £700 or AU$1,099 (that converts to about $920), this phone isn't cheap. But solid all-round performance makes it a good option if you want a gorgeous, big screen, high-end phone without the Samsung name or the Note 8's staggeringly high price (£869 or AU$1,499; the Note 8 costs about $950 in the US).
The Pro here isn't the only phone in the Mate 10 series. The standard Mate 10 has a smaller 5.9-inch display, a fingerprint scanner on the front (rather than on the back) and it isn't waterproof. Internal specs are much the same and it should be the cheaper model, although pricing and availability aren't cemented just yet.
Only the Pro version sells in the UK, however, while the Mate 10 will be available in Australia. Neither phone has been announced for the US.
With its 6-inch screen, there's no escaping the fact that the Mate 10 Pro is a large phone. The tiny bezel on all sides means that the body hasn't had to balloon out any more than is necessary, but even so, I struggled to type with just one hand. The glass back makes it a bit slippery to juggle around when you're trying to tap an icon that's just out of reach. If you've got smaller hands, you'll have some adjusting to do to hit that fingerprint reader on the back.
To help with one-handed use, Huawei has added an on-screen button called the Navigation Dock, which can replace the navigation bar. It floats over whatever you're looking at and can be moved into just the correct position for your thumb to reach. A single tap takes you back a step, press and hold to go home, or press and swipe right to open your multitasking wheel. It does mean you have a small white orb hovering over everything you're looking at, but it's easy to move out of the way or turn off altogether.
Huawei achieves that slim bezel by moving the fingerprint scanner from beneath the display to the back, below the camera. It's fast and accurate. The screen now dominates the front of the phone, giving plenty of room to show off your favourite Netflix shows. The 2,160x1,080-pixel resolution is a step below the Note 8's 2,960x1,440-pixels, but in everyday use you're unlikely to see much difference. It's crisp, with vibrant colours and it's bright enough to sear your eyeballs right out.
Huawei shoehorned a bunch of gestures into the "Smart Assistance" section of the Mate 10 Pro's settings app. For example, you can take a screenshot by knocking the screen with your knuckles, and launch split-screen mode by swiping your finger horizontally across the screen. These are largely frustrating gimmicks rather than time-savers. You can largely ignore them, but they still let us down, and needlessly pounded our knuckles.
Huawei has taken a cue from Apple in switching the rear design from metal to glass. While Apple made the move to support wireless charging, however, Huawei's decision is purely down to aesthetics -- there's no wireless charging on this phone. I do love the design, however, despite the glass being an absolute fingerprint magnet. It looks sleek, modern and classy. It's the sort of phone you won't feel embarrassed about pulling from your smart jacket pocket and you'll enjoy the sideways glances as people look and try to make out what it is.
CNET reviewers got the Mate 10 Pro in both slate and brown shades. Surprisingly, we liked the brown best. It might seem like the least exciting colour for a flashy gadget (shoutout to anyone who remembers the brown Zune), but it makes a refreshing change from the usual black or silver phones on sale. It's the colour I'd choose if I were buying the phone myself.
On the back is a similar dual camera setup to the ones we've seen on the Huawei P10. A 12-megapixel sensor takes shots in colour, while a 20-megapixel sensor shoots exclusively in black and white.
Shots from both sensors look great. Colours are rich, with great exposure balance between bright skies and shadowy foregrounds. The white balance does seem to err a little on the cold side, but it's an easy couple of taps to adjust that and warm the scene up a bit. It performs well in low light too, producing bright, clear shots with minimal image noise.
You can take portrait photos with a tap of an on-screen control. While the Mate 10 Pro doesn't save both versions, like the Galaxy Note 8 does, portraits from the Mate 10 have a decent amount of background blur, which helps your subject pop out from the scene. The "cut-out" around the subject isn't always particularly neat (the iPhone 8 Plus was more consistent in my experience), but it's good enough to help jazz up your Instagram portraits.
Black and white photos look great too, with deep black levels giving the sort of rich contrast you'd normally get after spending a while editing a black and white shot in apps such as Snapseed. They're as good as shots from the P10's black and white mode, so if you have that phone already there's no need to upgrade for camera quality alone. If you're into your moody artistic monochrome portraits, the Mate Pro will suit you well.
You'll be able to quickly dive into camera settings from the bottom of the native camera app, which helps fine-tune settings such as ISO, metering and white balance without having to waste time switching to another mode.
On the front is an 8-megapixel camera, which does a good job of capturing your grinning selfies. It's sharp and keeps image noise to a minimum when you're shooting indoors in low light. There's a beauty mode, which smooths out imperfections in your skin (you can -- and should -- tone down the effect, to avoid looking like a ceramic doll). It's quite a wide-angle camera too, so you likely won't need an embarrassing selfie stick to get all your friends in shot.
You can even apply a portrait mode to selfie shots, which is something that only a handful of phones do, including the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and the iPhone X. The background blur is subtle, but it manages a reasonably neat cut-out of your face (my ear was made very blurry, although most of my hairline was still sharp).
You can launch the camera app by double pressing the volume down button from the lock screen. Do this again to take a quick snapshot. The quick-fire camera is useful if you're worried about missing a fast-moving shot.
Huawei has also gone down the iPhone-Pixel 2-Moto route and ditched the headphone jack. Instead, you'll have to use Bluetooth headphones, or find a wired pair that plugs into the USB-C socket. This might be a bummer if you've just splashed out on new wired headphones, but Huawei says that removing the headphone jack allowed the phone to be made water resistant.
The company claimed that it was simply too difficult to waterproof the headphone jack -- indeed, the standard Mate 10 features the jack and is not waterproof. Samsung managed this perfectly well on the Galaxy S8, as did LG with the V30, so I'm not happy that Huawei hasn't put more effort in here. The Pro is IP67 rated, meaning you can submerge it in up to 1.5 metres (5 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes at a time. It's really there though to keep it safe from spilled drinks or for taking calls in the rain. In my own testing, it survived being submerged in a foot of water for 29 minutes twice.
The phone packs Huawei's latest Kirin 970 octa-core processor, backed up by 6GB of RAM which is every bit as speedy as you'd expect from a top-end phone. Navigation is swift, apps load quickly and demanding games such as Asphalt: Xtreme play well with no discernable stuttering. On the Geekbench test, it's right up there with the Note 8, although it fell short on the 3DMark graphics test. Check out the comparison chart below for a full rundown of the scores.
At the phone's launch, Huawei explained that the processor's skills are not just for everyday apps, but will deliver particularly good performance for AI. That's all well and good, but for now the only app that's been optimized for this processor is the Microsoft Translator app, which provides near real-time language translations. It worked well, but I can't say I noticed it being any faster than using the Google Translate app on the iPhone 8.
It also helps the camera automatically recognise scenes and adjust settings accordingly. This worked quickly, although I'm not sure how much difference it really made in the resulting photos. It's early days for the processor and it's possible that more services will be optimised for use with it. For now though, all that really matters is that it's blazing fast.
It's not just the headphone jack that's AWOL here -- there's no expandable storage either. Sure, the phone comes with a standard 128GB of storage space, which for most people is probably more than enough. Still, on a top-end Android phone that calls itself "Pro", I'd like to see a microSD slot on board.
The Mate 10 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery stuffed inside, which Huawei reckons will give at least two days of use. That's an ambitious claim, but it's not far off, based on our own testing. It kept going for a touch over 19 hours in our video rundown test, which beats the Note 8, Pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 5.
Your own times will of course depend entirely on how demanding you are of the phone. If you're reasonably careful with your use (keep the screen brightness turned right down and avoid streaming video or gaming) then you'll comfortably get through a whole day and well into the next.
|Huawei Mate 10 Pro||Huawei Mate 10||Samsung Galaxy Note 8||Google Pixel 2 XL|
|Display size, resolution||6-inch; 2,160x1,080 pixels||5.9-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||6.3-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||402ppi||499 ppi||522ppi||538 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.1x3x0.3 in||5.9x3.1x0.3 in||6.4x2.9x0.34 in||6.2x3.0x0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||154x75x7.9 mm||151x78x8.2 mm||162.5x74.8x8.6 mm||157.9x76.7x7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.27 oz; 178 g||6.59 oz; 186 g||6.9 oz, 195 g||6.17 oz; 175 g|
|Mobile software||Android 8.0 Oreo||Android 8.0 Oreo||Android 7.1.1 Nougat||Android 8 Oreo|
|Camera||Dual cameras, 12-megapixel (colour), 20-megapixel (mono)||Dual cameras, 12-megapixel (colour), 20-megapixel (mono)||Dual 12-megapixel||12-megapixel|
|Processor||Huawei Kirin 970 Octa-core||Huawei Kirin 970 Octa-core||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz+1.9GHz) or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz)||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Expandable storage||None||Yes||Up to 2TB||None|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back of phone||Beneath screen||Back cover||Back cover|
|Special features||Water resistant (IP67)||S Pen stylus, water-resistant, wireless charging||Google Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready|
|Price off-contract (USD)||Converts to $860||Converts to $700||AT&T: $950; Verizon: $960; T-Mobile: $930; Sprint: $960; U.S. Cellular: $963||$849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£700||Converts to £530||£869||£799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,099||AU$899||AU$1,499||AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)|