Huawei's Mate 10 is fast, has great cameras and a beautiful big screen. It's also a good deal cheaper than an iPhone 8 Plus or Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
It's hard out here for Huawei. The Chinese company is responsible for many great phones, but it's rarely given its due credit. Whether or not the Mate 10 changes this can't be predicted, but Huawei has done its part: The Mate 10 is a standout phone, one that's several hundred dollars cheaper than competition from Samsung, Google and Apple -- and even shaves down the price of Huawei's own superpowered Mate 10 Pro.
The phone is powered by Huawei's estate-made Kirin 970 processor, which offers grunt in line from what you'd get from Qualcomm's premium Snapdragon 835 chip. Its beautiful 5.9-inch screen pops thanks to a 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution and the phone's slim bezels. Finally, those dual cameras shoot great pictures (see more below).
It's got its flaws, namely Huawei's imperfect EMUI software that rides on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. Plus, the camera, while impressive, falls a little shy of the Pixel 2 and new iPhone 8 range. But that's much easier to forgive when you factor in price. The Mate 10 retails for AU$899 in Australia, which converts to roughly $685 in the US and £520.
That's a chunk cheaper than Apple's iPhone 8 Plus ($799, £799, AU$1,229), Google's Pixel 2 XL ($850, £799, AU$1,399) and Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 ($950, £869 AU$1,499). If the phone were to come to the US or UK, it'd probably be even less expensive, since those are conversions from the Australian price, and Australians almost always pay more.
But therein lies a real issue: Right now, the Mate 10 is not officially available in the US or UK. Its bigger brother, the Mate 10 Pro, is getting a UK release, and there are rumours of it coming to AT&T in the US early next year, but there are no such plans for the Mate 10.
But still, if you're after a premium phone but find what's out there a little too expensive, the Mate 10 is worth it.
Phones out of Chinese companies often look too much like other, more famous phones, most commonly iPhones. The Huawei Mate 10 doesn't have this problem. Its design is distinct, thanks mainly to it being kind of fat -- it's a wide phone, but that's a good thing. It helps the phone feel different, and its extra surface area makes it less flimsy than other phones.
However, like many big-screen phones, the Mate 10 may be a challenge if your hands are on the smaller size. Huawei gives you some help here, with a few different navigation options. There's a navigation dock, like the iPhone's Assistive Touch, which is a circle on your screen that acts as a toggle for you to go back or return to the home page. Then there's the option to remove the virtual home, back and overview buttons from the screen, and instead integrate them into the physical home button. I personally didn't use these options, but they're nice to have.
A premium design would mean nothing if the materials weren't equally luxe. Huawei has gone the Apple route here, with the Mate 10 coming with a glossy glass finish. Unlike Apple's new iPhones, though, there's no wireless charging.
The salient physical difference the Mate 10 has to the Mate 10 Pro is the fingerprint scanner. The Mate 10 Pro has slighter bezels since the scanner is on the back, while Huawei crammed a tiny home button that doubles as a touch scanner below the Mate 10's screen.
The Mate 10 has one thing the Mate 10 Pro doesn't: a headphone jack. This is becoming standard with premium phones, with both Apple and Google ditching the good ol' 35mm jack. Enjoy it while you can.
Dual-lens cameras have found their way onto phones by Apple and Samsung, but Huawei beat both of them to the punch: Its first dual-camera phone was the P9, released months before the iPhone 7 last year. (LG technically beat them all to dual camera with a second telephoto lens.)
As with the Mate 9 and P10 phones, the Mate 10's dual cameras were co-engineered with high-end German photography company Leica. On the back you'll get a 12 and 20-megapixel lens combo, while the front has a wide-angle 8 megapixel selfie camera. These cameras are impressive.
As with the Mate 10 Pro, Huawei says the Mate 10's AI powers let the phone identify 13 different scenarios, including people, flowers, food, cats and dogs, and optimise the camera accordingly. An icon will pop up telling you the phone recognises one of these categories, but it's not evident how much of a difference this actually makes. Regardless, the phone's cameras are top tier.
The Google Pixel 2 XL is arguably the best Android shooter out there, and the Mate 10's cameras are often in the same league. They're not quite as good -- for instance, the Mate 10's photos sometimes look a touch washed out, particularly in portrait photos -- but the difference is barely significant.
Selfie cameras are rarely truly impressive, but I managed to capture some surprisingly good shots on the Mate 10's front camera. A lot of this isn't actually because of the hardware, as you can get some bokeh action (a depth-of-field effect typically reserved for dual cameras) thanks to Huawei's software. As with most Android phones, there's also a beautify mode that aims to soften your features. Not my cup of tea, but it's there.
The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are mostly the same on the inside. Like the Pro, the Mate 10 is powered by Huawei's Kirin 970 processor. The 970 is loaded with a neural processing unit (NPU), which the company says gives it extra horsepower and helps with AI. How much this NPU makes a difference, as with the camera, is hard to say, but the Mate 10 is among the fastest phones out there.
Our benchmark tests put it alongside the Pixel 2 and the Galaxy Note 8 for processing power. It lagged behind slightly on the GPU benchmarks, but I never had any issues when playing demanding games like Need for Speed: No Limits or Asphalt 8 on the phone.
One problem I've had with Huawei phones previously is the company's EMUI Android user interface. The software was often less premium-feeling than the hardware, with some official Huawei themes looking surprisingly amateurish. That's improved here, with a new EMUI, running on Android 8.0 Oreo, looking smoother than before.
The Mate 10 has 4GB of RAM, lower than the Pro's 6GB, and while both phones run on a 4,000mAh battery, the Mate 10's battery doesn't have the same endurance. Here's possibly the phone's biggest weakness: It lasted just under 12 hours in our battery test, far less than the Pro's stellar 17-hour run. That's not a terrible result, but it's not terrific either.
Whether to choose the Mate 10 or the Pro could be a toughie. How important waterproofing is to you will be a big part of that decision, though there's also the latter's boosted battery life to consider. Some of us at CNET are split: I'd take a headphone jack over an IP67 rating, but others would rather pay extra for the peace of mind.
You come out on top either way though, because both the Mate 10 and the Pro are winners.
|Huawei Mate 10||Huawei Mate 10 Pro||Samsung Galaxy Note 8||Google Pixel 2 XL|
|Display size, resolution||5.9-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||6-inch; 2,160x1080 pixels||6.3-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||499ppi||402 ppi||522ppi||538 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.9x3.1x0.3 in||6.1x3x0.3 in||6.4x2.9x0.34 in||6.2x3.0x0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||151x78x8.2 mm||154x75x7.9 mm||162.5x74.8x8.6 mm||157.9x76.7x7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.59 oz; 186 g||6.27 oz; 178 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||Yes||None||Up to 2TB||None|
|Fingerprint sensor||Beneath screen||Back of phone||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 $700||Converts to $860||AT&T: $950; Verizon: $960; T-Mobile: $930; Sprint: $960; U.S. Cellular: $963||$849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£530||Converts to £700||£869||£799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$899||AU$1,099||AU$1,499||AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)|