- Takes good pictures in low light
- Great performance
- Very good battery life
- EMUI software is a pain
- 5.8-inch quad-HD HDR10 LCD touchscreen
- Kirin 970
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
What is the Huawei Mate 10?
The Mate 10 is one half of Huawei’s latest duo of phablets, sitting alongside the company’s Mate 10 Pro.
Given the latter’s branding, you might assume that the regular Mate 10 – featuring a pretty boring LCD, not OLED, screen, less RAM and half the storage – is the lessor phone in the lineup.
On some level, you’d be right. However, following a solid fortnight with the device, I’ve found a number of subtle differences that in some ways make the Mate 10 a superior handset to the Pro.
If you can get your mitts on a regular Mate 10, then, it’s a solid phablet that’s well worth a gander. But given the fact that Huawei isn’t planning to ship the device in the UK or the States, this may prove a difficult task.
Huawei Mate 10 – Design
Visually, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are pretty similar – which is no bad thing. The review unit I tested has a slightly curved, shiny black glass rear, with a sleek black strip at the top running over its Leica-branded dual-camera sensors. Combined with the metal sides, the end result is a phone that looks like a pretty refined, significantly more top-end, HTC U11.
In addition, the slimmed down screen bezel on the Mate 10’s front also marks it out as a noticeable step up on the company’s previous Huawei P10 Plus, and one of the prettiest phablets currently on the market.
On the Mate 10’s sides you’ll find a few important additions that differentiate it from the Pro device. Chief among these is a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD slot.
Some people may deem these two ports pointless additions, especially considering the Mate 10 Pro comes with 128GB of built-in storage, as opposed to the regular phablet’s 64GB. But for me, the headphone jack is still a useful inclusion.
Ever since every company under the sun decided to follow Apple’s lead and ditch the 3.5mm jack to save space, audiophiles have been put between a rock and a hard place. You can either invest in one of the multitude of flimsy USB-C adapters, which usually break within a week or two, or compromise on audio quality and invest in a wireless set.
Words can’t express the joy I’ve experienced using the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 without a dongle during my morning commute throughout last week.
Elsewhere, the Mate 10 features all the trimmings of a 2017 flagship. There’s a USB-C port with Huawei’s proprietary SuperCharge tech on its bottom, and a front-facing home button with a built-in fingerprint scanner. Like all Huawei phones I’ve tested recently, the scanner is wonderfully snappy, reading my fingerprint with zero issue or lag.
My only minor quibble with the design is that, like all glass-backed phones, the Mate 10’s rear is a smudge magnet. Within minutes of using the device, the back was covered in fingerprint marks and needed a wipe down.
I’m also not convinced that the rear of the device will survive anything more than a minor drop scratch, or worse still, crack-free. Although, being fair to Huawei, this is a risk with all glass-backed phones, including the iPhone X and Galaxy S8.
Huawei Mate 10 – Display
The Mate 10 has a completely different screen to the Pro. Specifically, the regular Mate 10 comes with a 5.8-inch, quad-HD LCD panel, while the Pro packs a 6-inch, HD+ OLED display.
On paper, the quad-HD resolution gives the Mate 10 the edge. However, unless you really try to spot pixels, the Pro’s HD+ 2160 x 1080 is more than sharp enough. The real difference will be in terms of the classic LCD vs OLED debate.
In general, OLED screens offer better contrast ratios, deeper blacks and are more vibrant than their LCD rivals. This is because they electrically charge each individual pixel to generate colours, but also work to reduce the screen’s power consumption. By comparison, LCD screens charge the entire panel. The downsides as a result are that whites appear dirtier, viewing angles aren’t the best, and the displays are more of a faff to calibrate.
All the above holds true in this instance. The Pro’s screen is more vibrant, has warmer colours and, in general, looks a little punchier.
That said, the regular Mate 10’s screen is far from terrible. Whites are significantly cleaner, and although blacks don’t live up to those of OLED, they’re suitably deep. A few members of team Trusted felt that colours were a little on the cool side; but in my opinion they appeared balanced to the naked eye. All in all, I had no issue with the regular Mate 10’s screen during my time with it.
Brightness levels, too, were solid – and, according to Huawei, will meet the HDR10 mobile standard. However, until the apps are updated to unlock HDR content on the Mate 10, I can’t check high dynamic range performance.
Huawei Mate 10 – Software
The Huawei Mate 10 is one of a select few phones, outside of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, currently running Google’s latest Android 8.0 Oreo software.
I have to tip my hat to the company for getting its phone running Oreo so quickly. But this doesn’t mean I’m completely happy with the Mate 10’s software.
The phone runs Huawei’s EMUI skin over Android Oreo. In the past, I’ve found EMUI to be one of the most intrusive and pointless Android skins around. Key offences include a flood of bloatware, clone applications that offer at-best equivalent services to Android’s native apps, and plenty of needless and confusing UI changes.
Being fair to Huawei, many of these issues don’t present themselves here to the same degree, but the skin is still one of my least favourite. The central app tray remains absent by default, with the OS flooding the main UI with every installed app – in the same way iOS does. The Settings menu is still in a completely different order to that of native Android, and duplicate apps for music, photos and contacts still flood the UI.
Samsung and HTC have been doing great work to clean up TouchWiz and Sense in recent years, and next to these the iteration of Emotion on the Mate 10 feels a little busy and old-school.
Hopefully, Huawei will take note and do more work to address issues with its skin with the release of its next phone. In the meantime, I’d recommend users install the Pixel or Nova launcher if they get a Mate 10.
Huawei Mate 10 – Performance
Fortunately, the skin doesn’t appear to have had an adverse effect on the Mate 10’s performance.
It’s powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 970 and 4GB of RAM. The stats don’t match the Mate 10 Pro, which has a 6GB of memory, but I didn’t notice an serious performance differentiations during my benchmarks. In general, the Mate 10 is still a powerhouse handset.
It easily blitzes through everyday tasks and feels super-smooth in use. Outside of the occasional inexplicable application crash, I’m yet to find a process it can’t handle.
Games load in milliseconds and, apart from a few screen tear issues, they run stutter-free. The phone heats up during prolonged sessions, but not to the point that I noticed any CPU throttling.
As an added element of future-proofing, the Mate 10 is also one of the first Cat 18-enabled phones. Right now this means next to nothing, but in the future – when ISPs finally rollout next-gen data connection speeds – the device will work with 1.2Gbps networks.
The Mate 10’s synthetic benchmark scores matched my real-world findings. You can see how the phone performed against the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Huawei P10in the table below.
Geekbench 4: 1897 single- 6560 multi-core
My only quibble regarding the Mate 10’s performance is that its solo rear-facing speaker sounds a little weedy. It’s fine for taking video calls in quiet environments, but it has a slightly tinny quality at high volumes, which is particularly annoying when watching videos.
Huawei Mate 10 – Camera
Despite Huawei’s constant marketing spam about the greatness of its ‘co-engineered with Leica’ dual-lens cameras, I’ve always found them to be good; not great. Which is why I didn’t put much stock into Huawei’s pre-release claims about the Mate 10’s slightly tweaked camera setup.
The Mate 10 has a similar setup to the P10 series, featuring a dual-lens rear camera that pairs a 12-megapixel colour camera with a dedicated 20-megapixel monochrome camera. The only significant change is that both now have a wide f/1.6 aperture, and the colour sensor also comes with OIS (optical image stabilisation). In theory, both changes should help improve low-light performance.
Huawei claims it’s also tweaked the camera’s software to improve autofocus times and improve noise reduction. The end result is a camera that, while significantly better than the company’s P10 handsets, is still a smidgen behind the Pixel 2 and iPhone 8 – which remain Trusted’s camera phones of choice.
The camera app is lightning-quick, and images taken in regular light look uniformly sharp. Low-light performance is also notably better than the original P10. Focus speeds diminish, but not to uncomfortable levels. I managed to capture usable photos for social media in conditions that the original P10 seriously struggled, such as dim bars.
But there are still a few performance niggles. Colours don’t always look natural, especially in mixed lighting conditions. The autofocus is solid, but generally requires a quick tap or reset to work in even moderately dark environments. Contrast is also a little off, especially in mixed dark and light settings – although, being fair to Huawei, this is an issue on next to all the phones I test.
Even with these issues, however, the camera is top-notch. And when you consider that the Mate 10 is over £100 cheaper than most flagships, it’s great value for money.
Video performance is par for the course. The camera can shoot in 4K at 30fps, although in doing so will be a serious drain on the battery. Personally, I found 1080p at 60fps a better compromise. Footage appeared sharp – albeit shaky without a tripod and the microphones – but a little noisy. Nevertheless, it was easily good enough for capturing home video snippets to share on social media.
You can see sample photos taken on the Mate 10 below.
Huawei Mate 10 – Battery life
Huawei as packed a sizeable 4000mAh cell into the Mate 10. The result is a device that offers above-average battery life.
Using the Mate 10 as my main work and personal phone, I easily managed to achieve a day and a half of use from it. Regular use entailed making and taking a few calls, listening to music during my morning and evening commutes, regularly checking my email and social media feeds, plus an hour’s video streaming at the end of the day. Tasked with the same usage, I’ve seen many other smartphones struggle to last 24 hours.
More intensive tasks do put a bigger drain on the battery, however. Streaming video with the screen brightness at 75%, the Mate 10 lost an average of 10-12% of its charge per hour. This is pretty good going for a phone of this size. Many others lose at least 15% per hour in the same test.
Gaming, as always, is an even bigger drain. Looping Riptide GP2, the Mate 10 lost 15-20% of its charge per hour. Once again, this is above average for a phone of this size.
Why buy the Huawei Mate 10?
The Huawei Mate 10 is a great phablet and one of the only flagships on the market to retain the hallowed 3.5mm headphone jack.
This combined with its super-fast CPU, above-average battery and good for the money camera make it a worthy choice for those who can’t afford the super-expensive Galaxy Note.
However, with only the Pro set to ship in the UK, getting your hands on the Mate 10 may be tricky. Its EMUI software also remains a sticking point, likely to annoy buyers and therefore making the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 a better choice for those who can afford it.
A solid phablet with excellent hardware and okay software.