Huawei Mate 10 Pro review: A beautiful, big-screen bruiser

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.

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It lets you capture some great monochrome shots. (Click here to see full size.)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

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The beauty mode on the front facing camera can really go overboard, resulting in mushy details and... has it given me lipstick? (Click here to see full size.)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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 ($460 at Walmart) and Pixel 2 XL ($168 at Walmart), and the iPhone X ($374 at Amazon). 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.

Waterproof, but at the cost of the headphone jack

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 ($109 at Walmart), as did LG with the V30 ($100 at Walmart), 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.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro benchmark scores

Huawei Mate 10 Pro
1,900
6,723
31,167
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
1,870
6,411
40,543
Google Pixel 2 XL
1,911
6,393
28,999
OnePlus 5
1,935
6,692
40,467

Legend:

Geekbench 4 (Single-core)
Geekbench 4 (Multi-core)
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars equals better performance

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 ($207 at Amazon).

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.

Beefy battery

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 specs comparison chart


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
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
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
Storage 128GB 64GB 64GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 6GB 4GB 6GB 4GB
Expandable storage None Yes Up to 2TB None
Battery 4,000mAh 4,000mAh 3,300mAh 3,520mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back of phone Beneath screen Back cover Back cover
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No Yes Yes No
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)