Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Huawei P10: Which is best?

Huawei's latest runs right into 2017's flashiest flagship

Amidst all of the excitement around the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, it's easy to forget that the first big flagship phone release of 2017 was the Huawei P10.

The P10 pairs iPhone-inspired looks with mostly top-of-the-line Android tech, delivering an appealing pseudo-hybrid of sorts. It's more intriguing than last year's P9, for sure, but still isn't the most exciting phone we've ever laid eyes upon.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is downright spectacular, from its taller, curvier screen to the lack of bezel and the power-packed innards. Samsung's got more buzz, certainly, but how do the phones really compare when you go beyond the flash? Here's how it breaks down.

Design: Fresh vs flat

As mentioned above, the Huawei P10 clearly has an Apple fixation going on, and could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 7 at a glance. Little details set them apart, certainly, and it's not an exact match top to bottom – but it also feels like Huawei didn't try to do much new here.

Well, except for the bold Pantone-inspired colours, Greenery and Dazzling Blue. They're sure to be divisive, but you won't find anything quite like them on other handsets.

On the other hand, you won't find a single other smartphone that looks quite like the Galaxy S8. A strong evolution from the Galaxy S7/S6 design, Samsung's phone chips away at the bezel, cuts out the old physical home button, and puts just a smidge of space at the top and bottom of a gorgeous, curved screen.

It's utterly striking, and is surely the best-looking phone we've ever laid eyes on. The LG G6 is solid (but not equal) competition in this regard, however the Huawei P10 isn't quite at that level. It looks and feels premium enough, but it hardly screams innovation.

What's more, while the Galaxy S8 has IP68 water and dust resistance, the Huawei lacks waterproofing. That's a disappointing omission on Huawei's part.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Screen: Dazzle us, Samsung

One of the biggest knocks against the Huawei P10's screen is that it doesn't match the expected Android flagship standard of Quad HD resolution. Instead, this 5.1in LCD is simply a 1080p panel. Sure, it still looks good: it's plenty bright, rather vivid, and still pretty crisp. But, as with the Google Pixel, you can't help but wonder why you're paying £600 and not getting the best.

Well, the Galaxy S8 does have the best – the best of the best, in fact. This Quad HD screen measures a steep 5.8in, but you don't feel it in the width, as the tweaked dimensions (it has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio) make it a bit taller in portrait orientation. That gives you more screen space without making the phone uncomfortable in your grip.

It also has mobile HDR (high dynamic range) support, so Netflix originals - when Netflix's mobile offering supports it - and content from other compatible apps will shine with stronger contrast between light and dark elements on the screen.

Samsung's AMOLED panels were already the best around, with deep blacks, dazzling colours, and incredible detail, and the Galaxy S8's is now the strongest to date. It's brilliant.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Camera: Sharp shooters

Two back cameras is better than one, right? Well, not necessarily: we'll obviously take quality over quantity when it comes to snapshots, although the double-sensor array brings benefits.

With the P10, you get a 12-megapixel main camera and 20MP monochrome sensor right alongside it, both with Leica branding and really sterling results. Pair them together and the P10 begins showing off its party tricks, such as the ability to zoom up to 2x with no noticeable loss of quality, plus slick depth of field with its Portrait and Wide-aperture modes.

Even the regular photos, sans tricks, are impressive: punchy colours, loads of detail, and great black-and-white results from the 20MP sensor. Low-light photos tend to show a fair amount of noise, meanwhile, given the f/2.2 aperture. The 4K/30fps or 1080p/60fps video footage looks routinely great, however, although not quite on par with the Google Pixel's.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S7 had the best Android shooter of 2016, and this year's phone brings enhancements.

It's still a 12MP single camera with f/1.7 aperture, for vivid daytime results and very solid low-light images. However, Samsung has brought along smarter software enhancements. The Galaxy S8 will grab three images every time you hit the shutter, then stealthily merge and manipulate the results until you get one brilliant shot.

The results are consistently spectacular with strong lighting and better than expected in low light, and we'd put it right up there with the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel as packing the best phone cameras right now. The Huawei P10 isn't close behind, but we think Samsung has a slight, slight edge here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Performance: Yeah, they lift

You needn't worry about performance with either device: they both carry top-of-the-line processors and will fly through every app, game, or task thrown their way.

With the Huawei P10, you get the company's own Kirin 960 chip, which has slapped around competing processors in recent benchmark tests and hasn't disappointed in this particular handset. The 4GB RAM found alongside it means no issues with multitasking either.

Over in Samsung land, we'll get its new Exynos 8895 chip in the UK, while some regions will see the Snapdragon 835 instead. They're both powerhouse processors, and the 4GB RAM means there's no sluggishness in sight.

In terms of real-world performance, there isn't really any significant difference between the devices and their capabilities. Depending on which benchmark test you read, you might find one over the other, but there's not enough of a disparity here for us to call a clear winner.

Winner: Draw

Battery and perks: So many extras!

Our biggest complaint about the Huawei P10 in our extensive review? Battery life. It's OK – the average user can probably get through a day with a full charge. But we push a little harder than most, and our reviewer routinely had to top off before the evening ended. That's disappointing for a pricey flagship, especially when it has a fairly meaty 3200mAh cell within.

The Galaxy S8 actually has a smaller battery, at 3000mAh, but it didn't seem to be gasping for life as quickly as the Huawei's. Maybe the Kirin processor isn't quite as energy efficient, but even with the Quad HD display here, the Galaxy S8 proved to be a strong all-day performer.

At least both devices have fast charging capabilities, although the Galaxy S8 is the only one of these two to feature wireless charging as well.

In both cases, you'll find 64GB of internal storage out of the box, with microSD support for another 256GB on top – so that's identical.

Where this category slants heavily towards Samsung, meanwhile, is when it comes to bonus features and abilities. Samsung's Gear VR support is a great benefit, and the Galaxy Note 7's iris scanning returns here.

And the coolest bit of all may be the DeX Station peripheral, which transforms your Galaxy S8 into a portable PC via an external monitor. You'll have full-screen, desktop-style apps, and can even plug in a keyboard and mouse. It'll cost extra, of course – an estimated £150 – but it's something that the P10 just doesn't have any kind of answer for. And some will love it.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Verdict: The S8 satisfies

Overall, we like the Huawei P10 a lot. It's super fast, the cameras are feature-packed, and it feels like a premium device – although the couple of component skimps and relatively sedate design help keep it just below top-level status.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S8 offers very little reason for complaint. It's a beautiful and totally distinctive handset with top-of-the-line everything and some really useful and inventive perks. And in every category but processing power (in which they're about even), it takes the win.

Sure, we can point to the Galaxy Note 7 as evidence that Samsung can hide a massive misfire within a pretty appealing build, but the company's track record with the Galaxy S line the last couple of years has been absolutely impeccable. There's been no better full-bodied, flagship-level phone in that time, and the Galaxy S8 absolutely continues that trend.

You'll pay another £90 for the Galaxy S8 over the P10, of course, at £689 versus £599 – but if you're already splashing out several hundred quid, then it's surely money well spent to go all-out and get the best. Right now, that's the Galaxy S8 by a fair margin.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Get the Samsung S8 (64GB) SIM free here for £689 or on contract here