The Huawei Mate 10 is official, along with the Mate 10 Pro and the Mate Porsche Design edition. Although they have small variations, they do share a lot in common, and the new Mate 10 will provide a user-experience baseline which is slightly sublimed by the two derivatives. We spent some time with the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, so let’s take a more in-depth look at how good they are.
Note that the devices we handled were not the final retail units, and some details, along with performance and camera numbers will be looked at when the final hardware will land in our office. The street price for this phone remains unknown at this point, but we will update this when the news comes from the channel and carrier partners. At this moment, we will assume that it competes at the high-end, and we have compiled the following list of competitors:
The Galaxy S8+, LG V30, iPhone 8+, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 and Pixel 2 XL. We may tweak this line up by the time we give our final score, but for now, this should be compelling enough as a comparison point to the Mate 10, which is a 5.9” high-end smartphone.
- Display: 5.9 inches 2560×1440 IPS LCD (Mate 10).
- Display: 6.0 inches 2160×1080 OLED (Mate 10 Pro and the Porsche edition)
- Processor: Kirin 970 SoC
- Camera: 12 Megapixel (color), 20 megapixels (B&W), f1.6 aperture on both lenses, OIS on the primary color lens.
- Battery: 4000 mAh, super fast-charge (no wireless charging)
- Operating System: Android 8.0 + EMUI 8
This smartphone feels comfortable in hand because it has a width of 77mm for a thickness of approximately 7.87mm. For reference, this is based on a medium size hand (US M gloves). You can try guessing from here. The weight of 186 grams (6.56 oz) makes it an average smartphone in this category. Thew LG V30 (158g) is by far the lightest large phone in this line-up. Everyone else weighs between 173g (S8+) to 202g (iPhone 8+), with the iPhone 8+ being the heaviest by a wide margin."A RADICAL CHANGE FROM THE PREVIOUS GENERATIONS"
The Huawei Mate 10 uses a new design language and glass on both the front and the back of the device (read our Mate 9 review). This design is a radical change from the previous generations that were all-metal phones. Huawei recognizes that the glass treatment does appeal to a broader audience, while the metal design might be more business-oriented.
The Mate 10 has a fingerprint sensor on the front, while the Mate 10 Pro has it in the back because of the edge to edge display. The Porsche edition has a vertical stripe in the back which symbolizes a race track. The Mate 10 has a horizontal stripe. Finally, the Mate 10 Pro does NOT have a 3.5mm audio connector.
It is true that a thin glass surface (usually on top of a metal layer) looks superb and is often used on high-end devices. It does seem great, but the weak point is that it is more prone to cracking upon a drop onto pavement. Despite this fact, glass/ceramic has been a favorite surface treatment for smartphones, and people can protect their device with a discreet case.
Looking at how the smartphone was built, we estimate that the risk of breaking during a landing on a hard surface to be relatively high. We have described how the LG V20 was designed to survive drops, and this is still an excellent guideline for phones’ survivability in general."ONLY THE MATE 10 PRO HAS WATER-PROTECTION"
Beyond crack-risks, the Mate 10 and the Porsche edition are not protected against water damage. The Mate 10 Pro does have an IP67 rating, which means that the phone can be submerged in about ~1 meter of water for about 30 mn. In general, we don’t recommend swimming in the ocean or the pool with it, before checking if the warranty covers that.
In the high-end space, an IP-rating of IP67 or IP68 is quite standard, so it is a bit regrettable that both the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Porsche edition do NOT enjoy this extra safety net. The Mi Mix 2 is the only other phone in the line-up to not have an IP rating. The S8+, V30, iPhone 8+ and Pixel 2 XL are all protected against water damage.
The Huawei Mate 10 is about the same size as the Galaxy S8+, but is a little heavier (+13g) and has a smaller display (-0.3 inch). That said, the Mate 10 design has the most battery for its size with about 709 mAh/Cubic Inch for the Mate 10, and it is even better with the Mate 10 Pro and the Porsche design that both reach 821 mAh/CI. For comparison, the S8+ has 617 mAh/CI, and the iPhone 8+ is last with 512 mAh/CI.
Huawei comes on the super-wide screen train with FullView, its brand of near bezel-less displays. This is not to be confused with FullVision, which is the LG branding for the same idea (introduced in Feb 2017 with the LG G6). The overall effect is just as expected: the new Mate 10 looks a lot better than its predecessors propels Huawei in a tiny club of phone OEMs which feature such a design.
- Mate 10: 5.9-inch IPS LCD (2560×1440 pixels, 499 PPI)
- Mate 10 Pro and Porsche Design: 6-inch OLED (2160×1080 pixels, 402 PPI)
With 6.2 inches, the Galaxy S8+ is the largest of our selection, while the 5.5 inches of the iPhone 8+ seem quite small. The Mate 10 has a 5.9-inch display, and everyone else sits at 5.9-6.0 inches. With a display-to-body ratio of 83.1% and 81.5%, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro+Porsche design are just a hair behind the 84% of the Galaxy S8+. The Pixel 2 XL drops below 80% with 77.9%, and the iPhone 8+ is in another world/time with 67.7%.
Display surface area aside, let’s look at the pixel density: the Mate 10 hits 498 PPI which is very good, while the Mate 10 Pro and Mate 10 Porsche edition top 402 PPI because the 2160×1080 resolution is just a wide 1080p. In general, 1080p is good enough, but when competing at the high-end, the 531 PPI of the S8+ and the 537 PPI of the V30 and Pixel 2 XL should be matched. If you want to know when PPI numbers do matter, read our article on that topic.
The display’s brightness can top 730 NIT, which is very high. Both the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are certified to be HDR10 compliant. Besides watching better content, the higher brightness is most useful to see a clear image on a sunny day. The difference with a 300 NIT handset is significant.
OLED is an entirely different display technology (than LCD) that has been widely seen in handsets mainly thanks to Samsung. The basic difference between OLED and LCDs is how light is emitted. With LCD, there is a small number of white light emitters (1-2 for handsets, 2-100 for TVs) and black pixels are created by “blocking” the white light with a filter.
Unfortunately, using a filter leads to “light bleeding” and “black color” that is dark-gray. With OLED, every pixel emitts its own light. This also means that creating a black pixel means merely leaving it OFF. As a result, black color is truly black, and other colors are more straightforward to control without using complex filters and color control technologies such as Quantum Dots and Nano Dots. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article which goes deeper into the details.
CameraAs the company that has started the dual-camera war, Huawei has increasingly been getting better at mobile photography, that is undeniable. At the moment, we still don’t know what image sensor Huawei is using in the Mate 10 series, but we will hopefully know soon for a complete analysis of the photo capabilities.
What we do know is that Huawei uses an f1.6 aperture on both rear cameras. The LG V30 was the first phone to introduce this aperture size (short story: the lower the number, the higher the hole that lets the light in), but it was only a matter of time before others would follow."AN F1.6 APERTURE ON BOTH REAR CAMERAS"
The color sensor has 12 Megapixel while the monochrome one has 20 Megapixels. “Monochrome” usually means that the color filter has been removed, which lets more light reach the sensor.
The 20 Megapixel number should not be used as a metric of photo quality. In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) has little influence. Also, the physical size of each sensor pixel is critical. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (aka sensels) may have to be smaller. Each sensel obtains less light information and in low-light situations, it is better for the overall photo quality to sense more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be achieved. Today, 12 Megapixel seems to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and autofocus performance — this is promising.
On a sunny day or in very bright light scenes, Megapixel could be a good metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a cityscape photo with a higher megapixel count could lead to finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display. In the case of the Mate 10, a bright-light photo in black and white could yield extraordinary details.
The main point of having two cameras in this setup is to be able to create a depth map to produce a nice Bokeh, or “blur”. This is a natural phenomenon that happens with large DSLR lenses because of the way focusing works. Mobile phone lenses are too small to produce this effect naturally, so it has to be emulated in software. Having two lenses makes it possible to nicely triangulate how far each pixel is, and therefore know if it should be blurred or not.
Learn more: Dual Cameras vs. Single Camera
The presence of an Optical Image stabilization (OIS) module on the primary camera increases the potential for taking sharp images in daylight, and brighter images in low-light situations. The Monochrome camera does not have a stabilization. The Galaxy Note 8 was the first handset to offer OIS on both rear camera modules.
OIS helps to improve image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it possible to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (longer exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are completely different, with digital stabilization suitable to help video recording smoothness
The autofocus of the Mate 10 camera is based on Phase Detection technology. Phase-detection AF that was originally built into specific AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera image sensor. It works by having specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus. This method is very fast and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is more or less proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF (the Galaxy S7/S8/Note 8 all have dual-pixel).
The Mate 10 also has a laser-based AF assistance. It is based upon the simple idea that a lot of photos subjects are either away (infinity) from the camera, or are very close (macro). By projecting an infrared pattern (structured light) and looking at how it bounced back to the camera, it is possible to very quickly determine if we need to zoom far or close. This is important because unneeded forward/backward focus-motor motion is avoided, thus saving precious AF time. The system can also handle many in-between situations, but not all. It is possible to fall back to Contrast AF. Laser-AF is faster than contrast-AF, but is inferior to Phase Detection AF and Dual-Pixel Phase Detection AF.
During our short time with the Mate 10, both the AF speed and the shutter action seemed quite fast. We took daylight photos, so we are looking forward to challenge it in low-light conditions as well. This is where the differences are magnified.
AI is a central point of the Mate 10 series, and how it was applied to the camera software is quite good. As you may have seen, many cameras have different “Modes” (food, night, portrait…) that are simply different presets that are likely to increase the photo quality. Those modes are quite good, if you use them. The truth is that most people don’t because it’s a couple of taps away."THIS AI-DRIVEN CAMERA HAS A LOT OF POTENTIAL"
The Huawei Mate 10 series Camera has “Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition” and is smart enough to sometimes understand the current photo scene or subject and switches to a different preset by itself. It can recognize some things such as food, plants, flowers, people, landscapes, some light conditions, etc. When it does, it changes to the best mode – you don’t have to do anything other than shoot. There is no friction, and this AI-driven camera has a lot of potential. Also, you cannot disable this at the moment.
When I played with the camera, it worked quite well, and although it is not perfect, it is certain that Huawei will improve the learning over time, just because more data is coming. As is, you have little to lose: if the Camera does not recognize something, then it stays with the default settings, which is what you would have done anyway.
Huawei didn’t seem to have gone overboard with saturation and other image tweaks, but this is really a matter of preferences.
The Huawei Mate 10 series runs on Android 8.0, with Huawei’s user interface (UI) layer called EMUI, version 8.0 this time. Huawei jumped a few numbers to land on 8.0 to match the Android numbering scheme. This may indicate that every year, we will get an EMUI update, which makes sense anyway.
We will do a separate article about EMUI in general, but it is Huawei’s vehicle to create a different experience and to innovate with many time-saving / productivity features. For example, on the Mate 10 Pro, it is possible to replace the bottom home buttons with a floating bar to gain a maximum of usable display surface.
For this launch, Artificial Intelligence is more important than ever. You may recall that Huawei had introduced AI or machine-learning (a less smart AI) in the previous EMUI to study how the apps were used (by individual users). From there, the system would learn how to best use memory or which apps to shut down. The main goals were to preserve speed and battery. Essentially, Huawei promised that phones would not slow down (as much) over time.
In the Mate 10, the Huawei software team has continued to push in that direction. The same goals are said to be improved. More has been added as well. For example, if your Mate 10 senses that you are reading in the dark, it will ask if you want to switch to a yellow hue to ease the strain on your eyes. If what you are doing could be better in Split Screen, that will be proposed as well. There are much more use cases and Huawei will add more as they go.
The same team is also building an internal AI API so that the OS and third party developers can leverage the AI hardware.
New with the Huawei Mate 10 series is the ability to work in Desktop Mode via a cable link to a large display or TV. This works by having the USB-C port of the phone use the DisplayPort via USB-C protocol, which allows it to be connected to a monitor via a 3rd party standard adapter. When you connect the Mate 10 that way, it switches to a full-on desktop interface.
The good thing is that you don’t need to buy an expensive dock – a direct jab at the Galaxy Note 8 Desktop abilities. The experience may be a little less slick, but this gets the job done efficiently and at low-cost. Also, the desktop rendering is done off-screen, so the phone remains functional. When you are presenting, things like notifications do NOT appear on the big screen, so you can keep things private at all times.
I have yet to try this in the real world, but the demo was quite convincing, and I can see how this would be handy for presentation or basic office work. It’s up to you to decide if you would like a dock or not. At first sight, the Samsung Note 8 experience seems a bit slicker, but the affordability of this solution is very powerful and should not be underestimated.
The battery capacity of Mate 10 is 4000 mAh, which is excellent in general, and also excellent in its own category. The second batch of phones land within ~3300-3520 mAh (Pixel 2 XL, S8+, Mi Mix 2 and V30). The iPhone 8+ has only 2691 mAh of battery, but with a lower PPI display and a different operating system, it is not completely comparable. So far, the Mate 10’s battery crushes the competition."THE MATE 10'S BATTERY CRUSHES THE COMPETITION"
Battery life is one of the most critical features of a handset. A key factor is, of course, the battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by a lot of factors, but the main ones are the central processor, display and wireless radios (broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is impossible to precisely pinpoint through benchmarks how much energy drain YOUR unique usage pattern will create. However, two things are undeniably always good:
- A higher battery capacity
- Faster charging
It is impossible to predict real-world battery life by running synthetic tests. Factors such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will vary too much. Also, the number of apps installed and their activity is unpredictable. Battery capacity is the best battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
This product does NOT have a removable battery, which is the norm for a smartphone nowadays. Closed batteries cannot be swapped or easily repaired, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery size within the same product design. As we said earlier, the Mate 10 Series has the most efficient industrial for battery capacity since they pack more battery (per CI) than other phones listed here.
This device has a very high resolution display (2560×1440). This is great to look at extremely crisp images, but handling 1.61M pixels more than a 1080p/FHD (2M pixels) screen will require a bit more power from the battery. This is a departure from previous Huawei phones which stuck with 1080p. Note that the Mate 10 Pro and the Mate 10 Porsche edition are almost 1080p phones and might have better battery life.
Hyper Fast charging
Huawei says that the Mate 10 series can charge from 0% to 58% in 30mn. This means that it can top the 77 mAh/mn that we measured with the Mate 9. The Mate 9 and 10 are the fastest-charging phones on the market (that we know of). To give you an idea, most very good phones charge at ~50-55 mAh/mn. The OnePlus 5 tops 65 mAh/mn and the LG V30 clocked at 58 mAh/mn.
Note: there is no integrated wireless charging.
The Huawei Mate 10 Series uses the new Kirin 970 chip which was announced during IFA in Berlin. We are waiting for the retail handsets before running benchmarks to stress different points of the chip.
- Mate 10: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage + microSD slot (256GB max)
- Mate 10 Pro: (4GB RAM + 64GB storage) or (6GB RAM +128GB storage)
- Mate 10 Porsche Design: 6GB RAM +256GB storage
Huawei claims that both the CPU (4*A73 + 4*A53) and GPU (Mali-G72 MP12) have gained 20% in performance, with the GPU being 50% more power-efficient as before. Since the Kirin 970 chip is manufactured with a leading 10nm semiconductor process which has probably contributed to the efficiency.
The new Neural Network Processing Unit of Kirin 970 is a dedicated unit which is optimized for Artificial Intelligence (AI) computing, especially inference. Inference is about “using” the learning that has occurred in a datacenter with a lot of data and server. This kind of unit could also be used for learning (edge AI) but outside of a datacenter, the bandwidth and storage become real issues.
This NNPU could alleviate the CPU or GPU by taking over AI-related computing such as image recognition and other tasks that are possible, but not slow and not as energy efficient with these other units. It is capable of 1.97 trillion operations per second in FP16 in a low-power budget that no other units on the chip can rival.
According to Huawei, the NNPU is 25X faster than a CPU core, with a 50X power-efficiency. When compared to a GPU, the NNPU would be 4X faster, with 8X the efficiency. These are huge numbers, but they seem believable since the NNPU is a dedicated unit built to perform specialized work. That is similar to how a GPU is designed for graphics and is vastly superior in performance and efficiency to a CPU, that is for general purpose computing.
Right now, the number of apps that use this kind of AI is very small, but with Android scheduled to have an AI update with a standard interface for developers to use, things may heat up well before next year. At the moment, Microsoft is using Huawei’s AI hardware search.
The network performance of the Huawei Mate 10 is labelled as CAT18, which means that broadband communications can top 1.2 Gbps. Samsung announced something similar in July, and Qualcomm had its X20 LTE discrete modem (Feb 2017) which also had similar specs.
However, Huawei is the first to field a phone with CAT18 LTE integrated into the main processor (SoC). It remains to be seen which carrier will deploy this, but this is a testament to Huawei’s expertise in LTE technology. In general, the goal of faster LTE isn’t really about downloading at 1.2Gbps, but as speeds go higher, the networks become less congested, and everyone’s experience is better and more consistent.
The Huawei Mate 10 series is shaping up to be an excellent upgrade to a popular line of smartphone. With a refreshed design, Huawei can reach a broader audience and it is undeniable that these phones keep getting better and nicer fast. As it stands, the Mate series will continue to be the best battery-oriented phone. How far it can expand from there will be the subject of our attention.
When the street prices will be available, we will have a better analysis of the Mate 10’s positioning in the market. Traditionally, Huawei has been very value-conscious and has been relatively aggressive with quality/price ratios. We expect this trend to continue.
The AI focus is an interesting factor to look at. Right now, it may sway some enthusiasts, but the broader public may not yet be in tune with that message. However, by choosing pain points such as long-term performance and camera usage, Huawei may make a name for itself in mobile AI. Only time can tell.
The Mate 10 is very promising and we expect to see the Mate brand continue to rise in popularity. Come back for the full review after we get the retail unit.