New big-screen smartphone boasts significant camera, display and design upgrades
Huawei's Mate 10 closing the gap with Apple and Samsung
Reviewing Huawei’s impressive Mate 10 smartphone made me think of what it must have been like to be one of the original reviewers of Wiliam Friedkin’s film Sorcerer.
Now remembered as a classic, the 1977 thriller starring Roy Scheider bombed at the box office, as the United States and the rest of the world were more interested in another film that dealt with events that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Just as Sorcerer (and every other movie of the year) was utterly eclipsed by the first Star Wars film, the launch of the Mate 10 has been largely overshadowed by Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone X, which went on sale earlier this month.
But for those not swayed by Apple’s hype machine (or those who don’t have Dh4,099 to shell out on a smartphone) Huawei’s latest is another very compelling package, with an improved display and cameras, while still retaining its predecessor’s stunning battery life.
Huawei has overhauled the Mate 10’s design, with a glass-back finish replacing the metallic trim of the Mate 9. The effect is a little lost on the black model I tried, but is very appealing in the “Mocha” brown version.
While it still falls a little short of the curved-edge aesthetic of pricier models like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, not to mention the iPhone X, Huawei’s design team continue to make progress against their rivals. The one major downside is a lack of waterproofing, although the presence of a 3.5 millimetre headphone jack makes up for this at least in part.
The 5.9-inch display has also had a welcome refresh to Quad HD from the Full HD of the Mate 9 and 8. Resolution and pixel density is higher as a result, drawing out the vivid colour palette of the Justice League trailer. It's not quite up there with the Amoled displays of high-end Samsungs and the iPhone X (or indeed Huawei’s own Mate 10 Pro), but given the Mate 10’s lower entry price it’s still an impressive performer.
Huawei has been keen to big up the Mate 10’s AI capabilities, with what it claims is the first dedicated ‘Neural Processing Unit’ (NPU) for a smartphone. Among other things, this means that the Mate 10 gradually learns about your app-usage preferences and works to get an app ready for you before you even know you’re going to run it. It’s quite a prospect, although I didn’t notice much of a difference in my limited time with the device.
Its AI capabilities are more apparent within the Mate 10’s camera, consisting of a dual 20MP and 12MP Leica lenses, each of which sport an f/1.6 aperture. Crucially, the NPU can quickly identify different types of object and rapidly adjust the camera’s settings to deliver better shots, particularly in darker conditions. Images are extremely impressive in a wide range of lighting settings, putting the Mate 10 up there with the very best camera systems on the market.
The main selling point of the Mate range traditionally has been its best in class battery life, and the Mate 10 does not disappoint. The Mate 9’s 4,000 mAh battery is once again present and correct, and an array of power saving tweaks mean that the Mate 10 will survive well over a day’s worth of regular usage on a single charge. Some may be disappointed at the lack of wireless charging, but there are few longer-lasting smartphone batteries available.
The Mate 10 retails for Dh2,299, making it significantly cheaper than rivals like the Galaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone X. For such a price, it inevitably falls a little short of such flagships in areas like design and display. But its great cameras and superb battery life, together with solid performance in all other areas, make the Mate 10 a very tempting proposition for those looking for a great value, high-end smartphone.