Huawei Mate 10 review: two phones better as one

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2017 08:53 AM

Huawei's Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are shown side by side. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Huawei's Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are like identical twins who grew apart. They share the same core, but on the surface, they differ in sometimes head-scratching ways.

Both pack two of the Chinese electronics giant's strongest selling points in a reflective glass shell - a 4,000 mAh battery that outlasts most flagships and Leica-engineered dual cameras that produce rich colors and detail.

Huawei's in-house Kirin 970 provides the brains for the twin devices. The chip's dedicated artificial intelligence unit functions without storing information in the cloud, making machine learning faster.

Such computer-speak translates into real world usage when the camera instantly recognizes subjects such as food and night scenes and automatically adjusts the settings.

The vanilla Mate 10 is the less attractive of the twins. The fat one, whose 16:9 LCD screen seems left behind by this year's tall display trend. It's front-mounted fingerprint sensor makes it look like a wide Galaxy phone from 2015 and is not water resistant.

But the regular 10's QHD resolution is bright and sharp and is more pleasing to the eye compared to its Pro brother, whose resolution is a notch lower at Full HD+.

While dialing down the resolution could save battery, Huawei should have given users the QHD option, like Samsung did with this year's S8 and Note 8. We ran the regular Mate 10 on QHD and still had enough juice for nearly 2 days.

The Mate 10 (L) has a sharper LCD panel but the OLED screen on the Mate 10 Pro (R) displays deeper blacks and reds

Screen aside, the Pro is more ergonomic. The fingerprint sensor is located on the back where your index finger would normally rest. The tall display also makes it easier to use with one hand, something that's impossible with the vanilla version.

Both phones' displays measure 6 inches diagonally, but the wider 10 looks much bigger. The Pro's panel feels like using an iPhone Plus, but with extra space at the bottom for those unnecessarily long Instagram captions.

The Pro, unlike the regular variant, is also water-resistant, something that should be standard for flagship devices. Think of it as built-in accident insurance against water damage.

Huawei's EMUI skin is not the prettiest of Android overlays. The inconsistent fonts and colors on the notification shade are eyesores and the rounded corners of the prompts that pop up from the bottom of the device don't blend with the square Android aesthetic.

Too bad because it is one of the first devices to run Android Oreo out of the box.

Every time you delete a picture, the device will remind you that it won't disappear completely until after 30 days. Once is enough. If users missed a button or they have to drill down the settings to get rid of that prompt, something needs to be fixed.

Thankfully, the clunky interface nearly disappears with the speed of the device. The Kirin 970 shows no mercy for transition animations and the 10 did not lag in the 2 weeks that we tested it.

We struggled to max out the battery in our tests. With the screen on the 10 set to QHD, constant messaging app alerts, Spotify, YouTube and iFlix, we got a day and a half on work days.

Minus work communications, the Mate's battery lasted the entire weekend. Something only the iPhone 8 Plus could challenge.

The camera captures deep reds and greens, too vivid at times that some detail gets buried but it's not necessarily bad. It also takes the brightest images in low light. See samples from our first take here.

The controls can be overwhelming, but properly sorted. A swipe from the left calls out the shooting modes, the settings from the right and manual controls from the bottom.

It takes some thumb acrobatics to press the selfie camera switcher, located on the top right corner. Samsung has it worse, on the top left, where only your other hand can reach it.

Casual photographers will find the pre-set modes handy. Monochrome makes mundane subjects like street signs pop, night shot illuminates portions of the shot that would otherwise be dim in auto mode and light painting simulates long exposure.

A sample photo using 'night shot' mode on the Huawei Mate 10. ABS-CBN News
A sample photo using 'light painting' mode on the Huawei Mate 10. ABS-CBN News
A sample photo using 'monochrome' mode on the Huawei Mate 10. ABS-CBN News

The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro would make a potent challenger to the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 if Huawei made just one Mate for 2017 without compromising on features.

Both offer fast performance, AI smarts and one of the best smartphone cameras around, but one is hobbled by the lack of water resistance, and the other, by a screen that is not as sharp as the competition.

It will boil down to how much you are willing to pay. The regular 10 retails for P32,990 while the Pro sells for P38,990.

While the Mate 10 Pro is among the priciest Huawei phones available locally to date, it is still priced considerably lower than the P64,490 iPhone X and the P49,990 Galaxy Note 8.