~ Auto Buzz ~: Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review – Beautiful, Powerful, Smart

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review – Beautiful, Powerful, Smart



Easily one of the most beautifully designed smartphones ever.

As one of the largest smartphone vendors in the world, Huawei has a lot riding on its shoulders with each flagship release. With its own processors, a very well defined hardware design and a big upgrade to its in-house developed EMUI Android skin, the Mate 10 Pro is looking to be Huawei’s best phone yet. The near bezel-less design, dual cameras with a monochrome sensor and Leica lenses, as well as improved knuckle touch functions and a new desktop-like projection function all put the Mate 10 Pro in an elite category.

Video Review

Specs

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro will initially launch in Europe for €799, sporting 128GB of internal storage and 6GB of RAM. The Mate 10 Pro comes in an array of interesting and attractive colors, including Midnight Blue, Mocha Brown, Pink Gold and our review model color, Titanium Gray. A 6-inch full-frame 18:9 Full-HD+ (2160 x 1080) resolution display sits up front with HDR10 capability, giving the phone an 81% screen to body ratio. This tall display makes the side bezels almost non-existent, and the top and bottom ones are extremely small. A Hisilicon Kirin 970 octa-core system-on-a-chip (SoC) sits inside. This octa-core is made up of a 2.4GHz Cortex-A73 based quad-core processor and a secondary 1.8GHz Cortex-A53 based quad-core processor. A Mali-G72 MP12 GPU is found alongside the CPU, and a brand new Neural Processing Unit (NPU) is located in the package as well.

The phone ships with two different RAM/storage combinations depending on market and price; the first a 6GB RAM model with 128GB internal storage, and the second a 4GB RAM model with 64GB of internal storage. Both models feature LPDDR4x RAM and UFS 2.1 grade storage, but neither have support for microSD cards. Along the front is an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 lens, and on the back you’ll find a pair of cameras. The main rear camera is a 12-megapixel RGB sensor, and the secondary camera is a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor. Both cameras feature the same f/1.6 Leica lenses with 4-in-1 hybrid focus (PDAF + Laser autofocus), Huawei hybrid zoom, and OIS. A 4,000mAh battery is located under the non-removable hood, and the glass and metal body of the Mate 10 Pro is IP67 water and dust resistant too. There’s no wireless charging support, but there is an IR blaster is located on the top.

A single USB Type-C port resides at the bottom with USB 3.1 speeds. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack anywhere, although the included USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter does deliver 32-bit high-res audio. Huawei is supporting every high quality Bluetooth audio codec via Bluetooth 4.2 including aptX, aptX HD and LDAC. A single bottom firing speaker is found at the bottom, and the earpiece doubles as a second speaker for stereo audio playback from the phone. Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi are included with support up to 802.11ac speeds, and “4.5G” Cat. 18 LTE speeds are possible on supported carriers. The Mate 10 Pro measures in at 154.2mm high by 74.5mm wide and 7.9mm thin, with a great feeling weight of 178 grams. The Mate 10 Pro ships with the EMUI 8.0 Android skin, running atop Android 8.0 Oreo.

In The Box

Huawei includes quite a few extras worth noting in the box. A film-style screen protector is pre-installed on the phone to help prevent scratches to the screen, and a clear TPU case helps keep the rest of the phone protected without any need for additional investment. A 4.5V/5A fast wall charger is included in the box, as well as a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable. There’s also a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter in the box for backward compatibility with existing wired audio peripherals, and of course the usual set of manuals and SIM tray ejector tools.

Included clear TPU case

Display

Huawei is joining the super tall screen crew with an 18:9 (2:1) display, similar to what LG packs in the G6 and V30. Like the V30 we’re looking at a Samsung-made AMOLED display, running at “Full-HD+” resolution, which equates to 2160 x 1080 pixels or 404 pixels-per-inch. This aspect ratio is excellent for running split screen apps, as it cuts the screen perfectly in half and gives a 1:1 square for apps to reside in. While the 1080p resolution sounds “low res” for a flagship in 2017, the reality is that our eyes can’t distinguish much above this resolution when using the phone normally. It won’t be quite as razor sharp as displays from some other manufacturers, but ultra sharp displays generally make the biggest difference in VR space.

Out of the box, colors are super punchy and vibrant, which may or may not be attractive to you. If you’d rather have more realistic colors, it’s as easy as flipping a switch in display settings to turn off vibrant colors. Since Android 8.0 Oreo features a new colorspace option, apps are defaulted to whatever this setting is forced to. Like most displays on mobile phones, there’s a bit of shifting when tilting the device to the side. This shift is a little different from most though, and is more like the rainbow effect we saw on the Huawei-built Nexus 6p a few years ago. When tilting the phone you’ll notice a rainbow effect on the glass, but the display underneath doesn’t shift in color at all, and when viewing from an angle when the device is sitting on a table, there is no discernible color shift at all.

White balance sits slightly cool out of the box, however this can be easily adjusted in display settings with default, warm, and cool presets, but there’s also a color wheel that can be used to adjust white balance to your preference. Black levels and contrast are perfect, as should be expected from an OLED-based display, and the refresh/pixel persistence rate is excellent as well. There’s no trailing or motion resolution loss no matter how fast things move on screen. While the display is HDR10 compliant, there’s no support for HDR in YouTube, Amazon or Netflix apps, where most other phones with HDR capability would have HDR options available. That doesn’t mean support won’t be added, but at the time of this review, they simply aren’t available yet. Huawei is adding an always on display this time around, which is located under lockscreen options, but it isn’t customizable the way some other OEMs allow. The time, date and battery level will be shown while the device is locked, as well as any unread notifications.

Amazing bezels

Since this is a tall display with an 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio instead of a 16:9 aspect ratio, apps that have not been reformatted to support this wider aspect ratio will default to a 16:9 ratio. Huawei pushes the app up to the top of the screen to match up with the notification shade, which makes a lot more sense than centering it with black bars above and below. This means there’s just a single black bar between the “bottom” of the app and the navigation bar. Apps can also be zoomed, which fills in the top and bottom of the display at the expense of the left and right sides of some apps. On the annoying side, a constant “Full screen display” button sits at the bottom of apps that don’t automatically fill the screen up, and is both distracting and irritating. There’s also no quick way to change the aspect ratio once you make it full screen; you’ll just have to go into settings and find it there. Aside from filling up more physical space on the phone’s front, the 2:1 aspect ratio in particular allows excellent split screen support from apps, particularly because it cuts apps evenly in two on the screen, giving each one a 1:1 window to work in.

Something Huawei has done for a few years now, and no other OEM really seems to have picked up, is knuckle detection. Most digitizers only work to sense a finger or stylus, while increase sensitivity to work even with gloves on, Huawei’s digitizers are ultra sensitive and feature software algorithms that can detect the difference between a finger press and a knuckle press. As a result, Huawei has built many gestures into the screen using your knuckles. By using the back of any finger’s knuckle, you can split the screen in half to launch multi-window mode, double tap to take a screenshot, draw an S for a long screenshot (for full web pages or other tall content), circle an area for a cropped screenshot, or double tap with two knuckles to start a screen recording. Huawei also gives the option to draw the letters c, e or w to launch any app on the phone from anywhere, which is ultra handy, but I wish there were more letters to draw since I frequent more than just 3 apps. It’s really impressive work and it makes common actions that much easier to perform, although I wish it were slightly less awkward, as you need to use the back of your knuckles rather than the front.

Hardware and Build

Huawei’s designs have been top-notch for years, both in the aesthetic department as well as the craftsmanship. While Huawei is no longer using all metal unibodies for its phones, the design isn’t any worse for it. Sporting a gorgeous glass back with that trademark Huawei “bar” look, everything on the back is perfectly symmetrical. Our Titanium Gray review model has a very ceramic look and feel to the back and sides, and even the finish is smoother and gentler than some other glass backed phones feel. There’s a very obvious oleophobic coating back here, which is what likely gives it the look and feel, and does an incredibly good job of keeping fingerprints and other oils from sticking to it. The fingerprint scanner is where you would expect it, centered horizontally and situated near the top, just under the camera lenses. Above it are two identical looking lenses, in perfect symmetry, each about half the size of the fingerprint scanner. On either side of these, aligned with the middle space between the lenses, are the dual-tone LED flash and the laser autofocus module. A contrasting bar hones in the look of the camera modules and wraps around the back, with a striped pattern located in the bar.

The back curves at the sides and is flat in the middle, which feels a little easier on the palms when holding it. This is a slippery little devil though, so you’re best best is to unfortunately cover up the beauty with a case. Thankfully the clear TPU case that’s included with the phone does a good job of complementing the design instead of ruining it, all while providing needed grip. The smooth, curved metal sides feature the same ceramic look and feel of the back, giving off an air of elegance in both look and feel, but ultimately making it an ultra slippery phone. The speaker, USB Type-C port and a microphone hole are located along the bottom, while another microphone hole and the IR Blaster are located up top. The SIM tray is located on the left side with nothing else at all, leaving a perfect spot to prop the phone up for videos without having to worry about pressing buttons. The power button is nicely textured with a striped pattern, and located just below the volume rocker on the right side.

The front is as minimalistic as Huawei’s phones have ever been, with no buttons and almost no standout distinguishing marks. Since the screen covers most of the face of the phone, what it’s left with is a very small chin, just big enough to fit the Huawei name on it, and a forehead just large enough to the front-facing camera, sensors and earpiece. The side bezels are absolutely tiny, and there’s no curve to the display itself, only a very slight curve to the left and right edges of the glass to make the seam with the metal frame smoother. These tiny bezels allow for the phone to have a 6-inch screen, but feel smaller than many devices with a 5.5-inch screen. The weight and solid nature of the build really feel fantastic to hold, but the vibration motors inside are about as standard feeling as they come. Most phones still haven’t upgraded to HD vibration motors, so while it’s not uncommon to have standard vibration motors inside even a flagship, it feels like a missed opportunity to seal the deal on the overall build and feel of the phone.

Performance, Memory and AI

Huawei has long built its own Kirin line of SoCs for its devices, and that’s not changing any time soon. With its latest design, the Kirin 970, Huawei is upgrading the chip in the most meaningful way in quite some time. Aside from the usual spec bump in speed and processing power, Huawei is including a brand new Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which is designed to better process tasks related to artificial intelligence. While AI has traditionally been thought of in the form of virtual assistants on smartphones, Huawei is using the AI terminology for a number of non-assistant type tasks instead. This is great since Huawei is aiming to make everyday tasks faster and more efficient, but at this point we’re only looking at a few apps that have NPU functionality right now. Built into the phone are three main apps that take advantage: camera, gallery and translator.

Within the camera app you’ll find the scene will automatically change depending on what the NPU identifies in the scene, adjusting how to best process the overall image. The gallery app will automatically sort photos into places, themes and even by people’s faces. Microsoft’s Translator app (pre-installed on the phone) has been optimized for the NPU and can more quickly translate images on the fly. All these things are done completely offline, and Huawei is using the NPU as not only a way to process every day tasks more quickly and efficiently, but also to keep your information more private than sending it to the cloud. Huawei is also working on ways to utilize the NPU to work with the cloud, accelerating common cloud-based tasks. NPU usage is extremely limited right now to say the least, but Huawei is working to make this more of a commonly used part of the phone with app support in the future.

Other tasks on the phone fly as expected. With a 12-core GPU and an 8-core CPU, you should expect everything to be blazing fast most of the time, with the occasional hiccup or two during extra tough tasks. Gaming is perfect, especially thanks to the fact that the screen is only 1080p resolution. Even the toughest games ran at a perfect 60 frames per second on the phone, and the OLED screen on board makes everything look absolutely excellent. Intensive apps ran just as well too, and there were only a few times I saw the phone stutter at all while obviously busy processing anything. About the only thing the phone doesn’t support, surprisingly, is Google’s Daydream VR platform. Oddly enough the app will run and display a VR image in the Daydream dashboard, but it’ll still tell you it’s not compatible with the phone, even though it’s already working to some degree. Here’s hoping Google certifies the phone at some point so Mate 10 Pro users can get an excellent mobile VR platform on this very capable phone.

Benchmarks

Huawei’s own in-house Kirin SoCs do an amazing job at keeping up with the Jones’s, and matches the performance you’d expect from any other 2017 flagship without tripping up. In fact the internal storage Huawei is using is the absolute fastest we’ve ever seen from a smartphone, without competition. It’s multiple times faster than any phone we’ve tested this year, and it’s pretty unbelievable to see these numbers in action. Check out our suite of benchmarks run below, including 3DMark Slingshot, AnTuTu V6, GeekBench V4 and PCMark internal storage speed test.

Wireless Connectivity

While Huawei is only selling the Mate 10 Pro in Europe at the start, our review unit worked flawlessly on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network here in the US. Huawei is packing some seriously amazing global radios into the Mate 10 Pro, and it all starts with speed. At Cat 18 speeds, you can expect gigabit wireless internet if you carrier supports such a thing, which is mind blowing to say the least. All the other expected wireless communications are here too: dual-band WiFi up to 802.11ac speeds, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC radios as well. Signal strength for both cell network and WiFi were very strong, among the best out there, and call quality is excellent thanks to VoLTE support and HD Voice, however there is no WiFi Calling support out of the box. Huawei offers a number of different ways to manage your data too, so folks on a metered data connection can rest assured they can control each app’s data usage through cell or wifi networks to help save precious data.

Battery Life

Utilizing some of the latest tricks in Android 8.0 Oreo, Huawei has taken battery life to a new level with the Mate 10 Pro. At 4,000mAh this battery is larger than most phones, but Huawei’s software trickery also helps keep that larger battery lasting longer than expected. Most days ended with between 45% and 60% battery left, which is about 15 hours off the charger on average. My heaviest day resulted in almost 6 hours of screen on time, something I almost never achieve with any phone.

It’s not all rosy at first though, as there seem to still be issues out of the box with power management, specifically related to suppressing apps from running in the background. Without any tweaking at all I would constantly miss emails, messages from Hangouts or Discord, and plenty of other notifications that require background data to be present. Once I went in and disabled all of this stuff, everything worked as expected, and I really didn’t see a tangible enough difference to keep these settings on, especially given the negatives they bring. Huawei needs to keep these things off by default and let users opt in for slightly better battery savings instead, as these options cause havoc with notifications.

Sound

Top-tier quality sound is essentially a given for any flagship-level smartphone nowadays, and that’s even more true thanks to strides Google has taken in Android 8.0 Oreo. While Huawei has unfortunately followed the trend of removing the dedicated 3.5mm audio jack from the phone itself, the USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter included in the box still delivers 32-bit high-res audio for audio enthusiasts that require it, or anyone just looking to still use their existing audio equipment too. USB Type-C headphones are included in the box for instant listening without having to buy a new pair, and those that are looking to utilize the best in wireless audio don’t need to look any further either. Huawei is utilizing the full spectrum of wireless audio on Android 8.0 Oreo, with support for regular SBC Bluetooth quality, the better aptX, and the best from aptX HD and LDAC. There’s even granular adjustments to bit rate and which codec is used in developer options if you want better control over these functions.

Huawei isn’t just stopping there though, it’s providing stereo speakers without the slightly larger bezels that would be required to make them both front-facing. The usual bottom-firing speaker is located next to the USB Type-C port, but Huawei is also utilizing the earpiece above the screen as a secondary speaker for stereo sound. This earpiece doesn’t get as loud or deliver as full of sound as a dedicated speaker would, but in the end it’s still a better option than only having a single bottom firing speaker would be, and it makes the sound that much more full. Volume and clarity on these speakers is absolutely fantastic as a whole, and you can easily listen to and enjoy music on this phone without need for an external speaker. An external speaker will still bring about a higher quality experience, but this is more than adequate for providing good, full sound in many cases.

Software

Huawei has improved its EMUI Android skin significantly over the years, and this year they’re re-numbering the skin to match the version of Android it’s running on. The Mate 10 Pro launches with both Android 8.0 Oreo and EMUI 8.0, jumping several version numbers over previous phones. This jump brings about a few visual changes and some nice little additions to the mix, as well as feature parity and user experience similarities to stock Android. The multi-tasking carousel, for instance, visually looks similar to stock Android’s, however instead of bringing the foreground task all the way to the bottom of the screen as it does on stock Android, Huawei is keeping the foreground card in the middle of the screen. Huawei is also improving things like split screen functionality by adding in automatic split screen notifications, so if you’re watching a video and receive a text message, a small button next to the notification will appear and allow users to automatically split the screen between the current video and the messaging app without having to navigate away at all.

The new floating window functionality from Oreo is here as well, and many apps like YouTube or Google Maps will automatically put the active video or navigation into a floating window if you navigate away from them. This window can be moved anywhere or resized, and of course closed if you don’t want it hanging around. Huawei also features its own cloud backup service for backing up photos and videos, contacts, app data and more. Users concerned with cloud privacy issues can of course turn these off, or just not make a Huawei account at all, which will keep them from using these services in the first place. Huawei is making privacy a big part of the phone though, and it’s starting with the fingerprint reader on the back. While there’s no fancy new iris or face scanner on the Mate 10 Pro, the fingerprint scanner is faster and more accurate than ever, which is saying a lot if you’ve ever used a Huawei phone before.

Huawei has created a feature called “Private Spaces,” which effectively clones the entire phone’s apps into a second virtual “desktop” of sorts, keeping certain apps, profiles and information away from the other virtual instances of the phone. These private spaces are called up by unlocking the phone with a different fingerprint, one that you specifically registered for such a space. This could be useful for if you regularly have more than one person using a phone, or want to keep work and private apps separate, for instance. Switching between spaces takes a few seconds, so it’s not entirely seamless, but it doesn’t require any extra user interaction over simply unlocking the device with a different fingerprint. This phone has the absolute fastest fingerprint scanner on the market next to the Pixel 2 family, and often will unlock with even the slightest swipe at the scanner. It’s quite a difference from some other flagship phones out right now that might take a few second to utilize its biometric unlock modes.

Huawei is also doing something most OEMs don’t bother with: giving users a way to turn their phone into a desktop with a single cable. For our testing we used Choetech’s excellent cables, specifically the USB Type-C (Thunderbolt) to HDMI cable, although they also offer a USB Type-C to DisplayPort cable for folks that have monitors with this port instead. The functionality couldn’t get any easier; simply plug the HDMI/DisplayPort end into a monitor or TV, and then plug the USB Type-C end into the phone. Within a second or two a desktop-like interface appears on the screen, and you can control everything with the phone’s touchscreen. Huawei has a dedicated square that’s used like a laptop trackpad, and of course the virtual keyboard of your choice below it for typing. Bluetooth mouse and keyboards can be hooked up, and if you really want to be fancy, a USB Type-C hub with USB Type-A ports will allow regular wired keyboard/mouse combinations to be plugged in as well.

This desktop projection mode is incredibly useful and versatile too, as it not only looks and functions exactly as you would expect a desktop computer interface to behave, but it runs all the apps on your phone without any need to download or configure things differently. These apps will run in a window upon first launch, but can be full screened or minimized at your leisure. Apps behave as if they were running in tablet landscape mode, and in testing I only found a few apps that wouldn’t function properly. Netflix is unfortunately one glaring app that doesn’t work right, and while you can browse the library just fine, playback of videos simply doesn’t work. Gaming may be less than ideal for this too, but mainly because the inputs on most smartphone games aren’t designed for use with a keyboard or mouse, and without direct touch screen input they are pretty difficult to control. Productivity and chat apps are beyond perfect like this though, and it’s pretty clear that a lot of thought went into this mode so that the phone could act as a proper desktop replacement in many cases.

Camera Software

While the camera software on the Mate 10 Pro looks identical to other Huawei phones released recently, Huawei has reworked quite a bit of the backend to tie in with its new NPU AI processor. While the interface still features many separate modes for different tasks, accessed by swiping to the left “page” on the main interface, Huawei is actually changing between many of these modes on the fly thanks to automatic image detection. As you point the camera at different objects, the NPU inside the Mate 10 Pro attempts to identify these objects or scenes on the fly, automatically adjusting the scene type to best fit what it thinks is on screen. For instance if you point at food you’ll notice a little food icon appear on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. This denotes that the phone has identified food and will adjust things like contrast and saturation to make the food appear more attractive.

Likewise there are many different automatic modes for many different types of objects and scenes, and Huawei’s intelligent camera app will automatically adjust settings to best capture the moment. Some modes are still completely separate though, and at times make one wonder why they are separated at all. HDR mode, for instance, needs to be selected from the left-most page to be enabled, making it a three step process before you can even use HDR at all. In a world where most phones have automatic HDR, or in Google’s case always use HDR+, this is a very strange decision by Huawei indeed. Monochrome mode makes sense to have in this left-most menu, as do long exposure “light painting” modes and slow motion modes as well.

Huawei has instead chosen to prioritize sub-modes like portrait, moving image, wide aperture and enhanced colors along the top row of quick selectable icons. When in wide aperture mode or portrait mode you’ll find a quick floating 1x/2x zoom button that appears on side of the middle of the viewfinder, which helps to crop the frame to someone’s head for better portrait shots, or just more dramatic “bokeh style” effect on objects. Along the bottom is the usual row of buttons found on most smartphones; quick gallery thumbnail, a button to switch between photo and video modes, and a button to take a picture or start a recording, which changes depending on what mode you’re currently in. Having to switch between photo and video modes means an extra second or two before you’ll be able to start a video recording or take a picture; an unnecessary delay that many OEMs have solved by having dedicated record and shutter buttons.

Huawei’s manual mode is rather fantastic, not only giving tons of available options to users, but making it easier than ever to quickly adjust these features from photo, video and monochrome modes. A quick swipe up from the shutter/record button will expand the white rounded rectangle that sits just above the button, revealing all the manual modes instantly. Both photo and video mode feature manual controls, but each is a tad different. In video mode you can control the exposure bracketing type, exposure value from -4 to +4, choose between standard or continuous autofocus, a manual focus slider and a white balance adjustment complete with presets or a custom slider that ranges from 2800k to 7000k. Manual photo mode expands the options a bit, giving all the same controls as manual video mode as well as ISO adjustment from 50-3200, and shutter speed from 1/4000th of a second to 30 seconds.

Huawei offers users a boatload of options to choose from, all found in the rightmost “page” on the main viewfinder interface. From here you can adjust photo resolution, enable RAW format, object tracking, smile capture and more. The camera can be quick launched by double tapping the volume down button while the screen is off, and can also be configured to instantly take a picture when the camera is called up this way. This can also be turned off if you find yourself accidentally bringing up the camera while trying to simply adjust the volume though. There’s unfortunately no way to quickly double tap the power button while the phone is on to launch the camera, although you can use the knuckle mode to draw a C on the screen to launch the camera from anywhere. The volume button can also be mapped to function as the shutter button, zoom or focus.

Camera Performance and Results

Camera launching speed is extremely fast, normally 1-2 seconds at most, but generally closer to the 1 second or less mark most of the time. Switching between photo and video modes is super fast too, changing in just under 1 second flat, but could be faster if these buttons were dedicated photo and start record buttons instead. Switching between other modes can be finicky though, and I found many times where I would swipe to the left to bring up the mode grid, but nothing would happen. When it does appear though, switching between modes is quick enough, however having only black and white icons with text takes a little longer to identify what mode you want to switch to. If this interface featured different colors for each mode or some kind of more obvious icon, this would likely be easier to quickly find what you need.

Shots in general are of good quality, sporting good color and white balance, good dynamic range and mostly good processing. Quality can vary wildly though, and while the camera seems to deliver above average shots some of the time, there are quite a few shots taken that look softer than they should. I also found that, since there’s no automatic HDR, dynamic range can be lacking in certain types of shots. This results in overexposed or underexposed shots in many different lighting conditions, and colors that end up more muted than they are in real life. This really is a shame too since Huawei does a great job of balancing shutter speed and ISO; not being afraid of pushing a high ISO when needed (up to 3200 in auto mode), but also keeping the shutter above utlra slow levels most of the time. The slowest I saw the shutter drop to in auto mode was 1/4th of a second, and this was only in one area where there was very little light found.

The importance of building HDR into auto mode

Not having an automatic HDR mode hurts Huawei’s camera quality more than anything else, as it simply restricts dynamic range too much. This weakened dynamic range caused many of our shots to be over or underexposed. In fact shots during the day were far less impressive than indoor shots, or shots taken during the night. During most lighting conditions, Huawei’s processing is normally quite nice, striking a good balance between eliminating noise, but also keeping a good deal of detail in the process. This processing is generally marred by overexposure a lot of the time, but becomes a bit of a mixed bag in lower light situations. It seems the automatic identification of imagery in the scene may play part in the inconsistent nature of processing quality we’re seeing, as it’ll sometimes capture lower light scenes perfectly, and other times will muddy them up with overly heavy processing, or produce images that have muted, dull colors.

Huawei is using a larger sensor this time around, and this helps significantly in its low light processing abilities. One area where the Mate 10 Pro particularly impressed me was capturing pictures of my 3 year old son; particularly indoors and at night. Many smartphone cameras still struggle with capturing moving objects without blurring them, but Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro camera software did an incredible job at not only keeping my son blur free in these photos, but still being able to capture lots of light and other details in the scene. I just wish this great imagery performance happened more often, as the phone really does well when it nails a shot, but far too often misses the mark.

Huawei’s dual camera setup is different from most OEMS. While OEMs like Samsung and Apple have chosen to outfit their second camera with a zoom lens, OEMs like LG utilize a wide-angle lens for their second camera. Huawei, instead, keeps the same f/1.6 Leica lenses on each camera sensor, instead choosing to outfit very different types of sensors. The main color camera is an RGB 12-megapixel sensor, while the secondary camera is a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor. Huawei has been using its monochrome sensors to go hand-in-hand with the Leica name and lenses, giving users a different photography experience than most smartphones offer. This monochrome sensor is absolutely beautiful, and takes what I would consider the best pictures on the phone. Shots are considerably better exposed than ones found on the color sensor, and details look simply stunning. These are photos that don’t look like they come from a smartphone in any way, and provide a more dramatic view of the world than standard cameras do.

Huawei also utilizes this secondary sensor for portrait mode, and uses it in a way to detect the foreground apart from that background. The background is then separated from the foreground, creating a blurred background that’s lovingly called the “bokeh” effect. The phone normally didn’t do a very good job at identifying foreground elements, and this effect seldom looked good. Huawei also offers a “Wide Aperture” mode that allows you to virtually select between a 0.95 and a 16 aperture, but these effects look fake in every way and don’t provide the natural drop off that a proper lens would. Likewise Huawei offers a 1x/2x zoom button in these two modes, however it’s not an enhanced zoom like the optical zoom on some other dual-camera phones offers, just a quick way to switch between 1x and 2x digital zoom modes, meaning the picture won’t be any clearer than if you had just cropped the full resolution image.

The front-facing camera is a mixed bag in general, but usually presents passable shots under most lighting conditions. It’s high resolution enough to look crisp in good light, but falters quite a bit under lower lighting conditions and ends up being quite soft. There’s also a portrait mode available that attempts to identify foreground from background, but it’s pretty clear Huawei’s software game isn’t anywhere near Google’s in this regard. Portrait mode on the front-facing camera looked terrible in every situation I tried it on, and I would recommend just keeping this off for front-facing shots. Video mode is average at best too, with 4K recording and the ability to record slow motion at 1080p/120FPS. Dynamic range is decent, but image stabilization is pretty terrible. Video is super shaky during the normal walking test at 4K, and the only way to get any stabilization is to run the camera at 1080p/30FPS. In the end this feels like a camera that belongs on a smartphone from a couple years ago, not a flagship in 2017.

The Good

Absolutely gorgeous design

Exterior coating does a great job at keeping fingerprints away

IP67 water and dust resistant

Tiny bezels

Case, screen protector and USB Type-C headphones included in the box

Lightning fast fingerprint scanner

Knuckle gestures come in handy

Desktop projection mode is just awesome to use

EMUI 8.0 is simply great

Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box

Excellent overall performance

The fastest internal storage speed anywhere

Amazing battery life

High-res audio output via 3.5mm adapter

All high fidelity Bluetooth codecs supported

Stereo speakers on the body

Monochrome camera is a great addition

IR Blaster

The Bad

Camera software design is clunky

Photo quality is sub-par

No 4K video stabilization

No 3.5mm audio jack

Screen is only 1080p

No Daydream VR support

Attracts pocket lint like mad

No WiFi calling support

Conclusion

Aside from some big faults in the camera department, the Mate 10 Pro is a great phone. It’s got everything you could think of, from a gorgeous and water-resistant build, a near bezel-less design, and gorgeous AMOLED display as well as plenty of software features worth talking about. It sports the latest build of Android and a significantly improved EMUI skin from Huawei, with lots the ability to project your screen onto a monitor or TV and use it like a desktop PC. Being able to turn your phone into what amounts to a desktop computer with a single cable is a thing of beauty, and everything else Huawei has done on the software front here is simply fantastic. It’s an incredibly solid experience overall, and the promise of what the NPU AI processing chip can bring to the table in the future is certainly high. Let’s just hope Huawei irons out the issues with the camera, because that’s one of the only real choking points here, but it’s one that can be completely fixed with software.

The post Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review – Beautiful, Powerful, Smart appeared first on AndroidHeadlines.com |.


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