The Huawei Mate 10 is for those who prefer their phablets the way they once were - beefy, with a headphone jack and an SD card slot.
Sure, it's not as sleek and fancy as its cool Pro and Porsche Design brothers, but you're still getting the same top-level specs as packed into those two, including the twin Leica cameras and mighty Kirin 970 chip that takes AI to a whole new level. Unlike Apple and Samsung's AI assistants, this one is an onboard brain, fed with machine learning, image recognition and neural network power. What does this mean? Auto camera settings based on whatever you’re pointing your Leica lens at and the capability to translate languages in the blink of eye are just some of the things your new Huawei Mate 10 can do.
DESIGN & BUILD
If you've handled the Huawei Mate 9, you'll be familiar with the Mate 10's size. It still feels chunky in the hand and it's hard to get a good grip, unlike with the Galaxy Note 8 or Apple iPhone 8 Plus in comparison. But for those who love familiarity or a giant phone that doesn't get lost in your bag, this may be the right size.
Across all the Mate 10 variants is a new glass back panel, bonded to an aluminium frame just like every offering from the big boys today. It’s a fingerprint magnet, but the phone does come with a free case to alleviate the problem - though the case does take away from the beautiful sheen and professional look. Looking forward to seeing better cases from Huawei.
On the flip side, this model keeps the Home button on the front. It’s so much easier to scan your fingerprint this way rather than searching for the sensor on the rear, even if the top and bottom bezels are so much wider than on the Pro to accommodate this. And the phone unlocks at a lightning fast speed, just like the Huawei P10 - probably faster than your eyes can blink.
There’s water and dust resistance too, but only IP57 rated (unlike the IP67 rating on the Mate 10 Pro), though that's enough to enable you to answer calls in the rain.
And if you really want your Spotify fix on the best pair of wired cans possible, you’ll be pleased to know the Huawei has kept the headphone jack on the top of the phone, unlike with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro or the Porsche Design models.
SCREEN & SOUND
There is a lot of screen on the Huawei Mate 10 - the 5.9in 16:9 aspect makes reading e-mails and scrolling the web much more of an eye-opening affair, particularly as Huawei claims screen brightness has increased by 30%. This is thanks to its new RGBW display, which also comes with backlight power savings of up to 14% even, under the heat of the sun.
While it is no OLED screen, the RGBW display still throws up pretty pictures and video in great colour and contrast. The main speaker on the bottom of the phone (to the right of the USB-C port) works well with the earpiece speaker for better-than-average audio, so your favourite show on Netflix plays just the way you like it.
Bezels are still present on both sides of the phone but they're teeny tiny - in fact, when holding the phone in-hand, you still get that end-to-end screen look that all the smartphones are sporting nowadays.
CAMERA: CLEVER PAIR OF SHOOTERS
This time around, all editions of the Huawei Mate 10 come with a pair of f/1.6 Leica Summiliux lenses, in the same (and still working) 12MP RGB and 20MP monochrome setup. Only the colour sensor houses the OIS to help your shaky hands shoot steady photos.
The standout feature of the the Huawei Mate 10 is its new subject recognition ability. Thanks to the AI-enabled Kirin 970 chip, the Mate 10 is able to recognise what your camera is pointing at, and is able to match it with the right camera settings and colour.
There are 13 different things the Mate 10 is able to detect - from plants, to your lunch and even your dog (or cat). And for portraits, colours are boosted accordingly to help your subject pop. The phone recognises your subject before you can even blink, thanks to the impressive NPU power of the Kirin 970. There’s also a new “moving picture” feature to freeze frame subjects in motion.
However, we noticed our test shots resulted in some oversaturated and oversharpened images (just like the photos from the Huawei P10 Plus), in particular for landscape and buildings. We’ll be sure to update this section with sample pictures from the Huawei Mate 10 once we are able to properly test it.
SOFTWARE & OS
Turn on the Huawei Mate 10 and you’re greeted with the latest Android 8 Oreo mobile OS, dressed in Huawei’s latest custom EMUI 8 OS. The icons look a little different, but there are a number of brand new additions to Huawei’s OS.
The standout feature is the new Desktop mode. All you need is a USB-C to HDMI cable, plugged directly to a monitor - no extra dock required. Certain apps that are able to run in desktop mode will convert automatically on the big screen, and if you don’t have a physical keyboard or mouse, the Huawei Mate 10 can become a digital version of either.
And you can still use your phone and receive calls even when plugged in.
Another cool feature is the smart split-screen mode - when you get a WhatsApp notification while watching a YouTube clip, the notification bar that appears on top of your screen will have a small icon next to it. Tap it, and the phone will automatically split screen to both views, so you can reply your texts while laughing to your favourite cat videos.
There’s also a floating navigation dock that replaces the home buttons.
And to take advantage of the Kirin 970 AI power, there’s a dedicated Microsoft translator app made specifically for the Mate 10, using the AI power to its fullest. Either take a picture of something you need translated, type it in or speak directly to the phone, and the app translates it right away. You’ll need to download the appropriate language pack to use it offline.
We tried using the app on a few things like a Chinese newspaper article and a French menu - while it’s not 100% perfect, it’s certainly legible and makes much more sense than using Google Translate.
This is supposed to be the first of many incoming AI apps using the Kirin 970 - Huawei says they are opening the tech to be explored by third-party companies.
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY
Talk about battery life - it is insane how long this phone can last.
A gigantic 40000mAh battery powers the Huawei Mate 10 - bigger than anything Apple, Samsung or Google has to offer. Huawei says this is good enough for close to two days of use fully charged. And with Huawei’s Supercharge (which they say is the only certified safe fast-charging mechanism out there) you should be able to recharge 58% in half an hour. Unfortunately, wireless charging isn’t an option.
When it comes to performance, the Kirin 970 doesn’t disappoint - scrolling through the home screen and running multiple apps seems a breeze, with no lag when jumping through different games.
Huawei’s mobile network expertise also contributes to the new Mate 10, supporting 18 LTE bands for a potential 1.2GBps of speed. How fast is that? Think downloading a full movie in 10 seconds on a mobile network…if only there were a mobile network that could actually go that fast. But this phone is ready for when we actually make the jump to the future.
HUAWEI MATE 10 INITIAL VERDICT
Huawei knows there’s still a market for those for those who need a headphone jack and the option of extra storage.
You’re not losing much when it comes to the specs compared the Pro model, and if you prefer a slightly beefier phone for extra screen real estate, the Huawei Mate 10 should be your go-to phone. Its beautiful glass rear is truly a thing to admire.
Then there are the new AI features - auto-setting your camera to match your subject is a boon for budding Instagrammers, and the Microsoft translator could be the next go-to app for your next holiday.
But it will be daily usability that will be the deciding factor when it comes to whether the Huawei Mate 10 can triumph over the other flagships released over the year. Safe to say, last is definitely not the least.