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Huawei P10 Review

HUAWEI HAS MADE significant progress in presenting a strong challenge to the dominance of Samsung within the Android Market, and in providing potential customers an alternative to the usual suspects, with the key being a slightly lower price point.

The latest flagship Android device from the company is the Huawei P10, a more refined version of its predecessor that sees the return of the Leica-branded dual-camera setup on the rear of the handset and the shift of the fingerprint sensor from the rear to the front.

Does the Huawei P10 offer enough to stand up against strong competition from the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony, and other household names?

Design

As a flagship device, it’s no surprise to see the P10 sporting an all-metal and glass chassis and a focus on super-slim design, both traits the Huawei P9 shared too. Indeed, simply glance at the two phones side-by-side and there’s a chance you wouldn’t really tell them apart unless you were specifically looking for the more rounded corners of the P10.

Along the right side of the handset, there’s a single volume rocker and power switch, while the two-in-one dual-SIM and microSD slot sit on the left side. Flip the phone over and you’ll find the Leica 2 dual-sensor camera setup, and that Huawei has relocated the fingerprint sensor from the rear of the phone into the home screen button. Whether or not this is your preference is a different question, but it does happen to be mine. Some people do find it more useful, and easier to reach, on the rear of the device though, even though it runs the risk of smudging the camera lens with a greasy fingerprint.

Huawei P10 Review

Above that fingerprint sensor are a 5.1in full HD (1080p) display, single speaker, and forward-facing 8MPsnapper for selfies and video calling.

While the P10 doesn’t offer the curved edges of Samsung’s premium Galaxy range, nor quite bezel-less design, the overall size of the phone, particularly being just 6.98mm thick, is no mean feat.

Officially, it measures up at 145.3mm x 69.3mm x 6.98mm and weighs 145 grams, which makes it thinner and lighter than all of its main competitors from the crop of new 2017 smartphones, including the S8, LG G6, and Sony Xperia XZ. It does have a smaller screen than some of those, however, which is worth keeping in mind if the size is critical to you.

Huawei P10 Review

For most people, an extra millimeter here or gram there isn’t going to be the make-or-break factor, however, so the pursuit of the ‘thinnest’ phone title isn’t necessarily one worth winning for Huawei.

Coming from a slightly larger everyday phone, the 5.1in the panel, combined with the slimness, gave the impression that it’s closer to using what would have been a 4.7in (iPhone-size) device of the past.

It is, however, hard to ignore that it feels a little like a direct aim at producing an iPhone competitor – an iPhone for people that want to use Android, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Display, hardware, and storage

The exact specification of the Huawei P10 varies a little depending on your location, but for the UK, it ships with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, though this can be expanded using the microSD in the multi-function SIM slot. Other regions get between 32GB and 128GB of storage onboard.

Drawing the most attention is the 5.1in Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 432 PPI), which, despite not matching up to the Quad HD resolutions of some competitors, has a bright, vibrant image that can more than live up to the UK’s dazzlingly bright (!) sunshine.

If you opt for the larger P10 Plus, you do get a step up in resolution to 1440p, but it’s one that you’d appreciate more on the larger 5.5in the display. Practically, where the Huawei falls short on paper, you’re unlikely to notice in your everyday usage, even if that frequently includes using your phone for TV and movies.

Huawei P10 Review

The upside of this decision for the P10 is a lower power draw from the display compared to a larger or higher-resolution panel, and given most people’s battery life frustrations, the difference in visual quality is probably worthwhile. Give the screen size, the 3,200mAh battery is a solid choice, but more on that later.

Powering everything along is a Kirin 960 Octa-Core chipset, which is a pairing of quad Cortex A73 (2.4GHz) and quad Cortex A53 (1.8GHz) processors. The review model (VTR-L09) reviewed here had 4GB of RAM.

Support for 4G bands is similarly dependent on where you buy your phone, but assuming it comes from a regular UK retailer or network, there’s support for 4G on one of the SIM slots, while the other is limited to 3G, and is primarily for calling.

As a sidenote, Huawei, is one of the few smartphone vendors shipping phones with support for the multi-constellation satellite setup on offer today, meaning it connects to GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou (BDS).

Naturally, for a top-of-the-range smartphone, there are the usual accouterments you’d expect to find nowadays too, such as Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC.

Performance

Given the hardware, it’d be concerning to find that the P10 suffered during everyday tasks, or even with fairly intensive multi-tasking. Thankfully, that’s not the case for the P10 and it’ll sail through most of what you can throw at it.

Switching between apps, or indeed opening them, doesn’t leave you waiting for a response and gaming is fun, rather than frustrating.

If you’re more benchmark inclined, the P10 scores respectably across the barrage of standard tests too. On Geekbench 4 tests, it scored a solid 6,424 on its multi-core tests, putting it far ahead of devices like the Galaxy Note 7, S7, or OnePlus 3. It performed similarly in the single-core tests too.

Huawei P10 Review

In 3DMark graphics benchmarking (Sling Shot Extreme) tests, the phone scored 2,616, which puts it above handsets like the OnePlus 3T and ZTE Axon 7, which scored 25,31 and 2,533 respectively.

In the Antutu mobile benchmarking, the P10 fared less well, scoring just 124,775 putting it above the P9, but below the S7 Edge or iPhone 6S, among many others.

Numbers, however, aren’t really what I judge on, and the P10 didn’t let me down significantly with its performance in terms of sheer power or graphics at any point.

As part of the core OS, the P10 has a feature that learns your favorite apps over time and dedicates more phone resources to them, ensuring that they launch quickly and run smoothly. Whether this functions so well that I never had an issue, or the hardware was sufficient to breeze through everything. Either way, it shouldn’t struggle with whatever you throw at it in the line of everyday tasks.

It’s also worth making a small note here that the speaker on the P10 is better than many other smartphones, delivering a less tinny and richer sound than other handsets can manage. It’s a small point, but if you spend a lot of time listening to music or podcasts out of the internal speakers, it’s probably an important one.

With Android Nougat, albeit running Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 UI, under the bonnet, the P10 has a solid OS. Whether or not you appreciate the addition of EMUI, however, is another question. Personally, I’m not a massive fan and prefer a more straightforward Android experience, but some people might find value in some of the changes EMUI brings.

Thankfully, you get the choice between having an app drawer or not, and the universal phone search feature accessible from swiping down from towards the top/middle of the home screen can make it quick to find things if you do opt for the no app drawer setting, which is the default. If you don’t like the visual tweaks made to your phone, it’s easy enough to customize the main aspects of it without the need for third-party apps.

Huawei P10 Review

While some of the Huawei apps are duplicative of services you probably use already, in other places features like ‘App Twin’, which lets you log in to two different accounts on apps simultaneously is genuinely useful if you have multiple accounts to manage on multiple services.

Other changes, such as making the default gallery app far closer to the experience offered by Google Photos (but without the free cloud storage, of course) will be welcomed by people who prefer to keep their images on the device and entirely disconnected from Google or other services.

Moving the fingerprint sensor from the rear of the phone to the front also had another function, in that the home button is now truly multi-functional, supporting gesture controls to get around your phone, rather than requiring you to bring up the virtual ‘home’, ‘back’ and ‘recent’ keys. Again, whether this is your preference is likely to be debatable, but if it’s not, you can revert to the standard functionality, so it’s either a nice extra or business as usual, depending on your view.

What the software changes don’t amount to, however, is any perceptible increase in battery life.

While Huawei put a slightly larger 3,200mAh battery pack in the P10 (the P9 has a 3,000mAh cell), it hasn’t really led to an increase in the overall duration of a full charge.

Exactly how long it will last you, as always, depends on what you do with your phone, but the average user that doesn’t spend all day listening to music and watching videos via Bluetooth headphones will get through a day. Two days? Almost certainly not.

In fact, if you are the sort of person that hammers your phone hard all day long, there’s a good chance it’ll be dead by the end of the day. An average user will get a day, which is pretty much the standard for most phones, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting more.

Playing a fairly demanding game or streaming HD content drains around 15 percent of the battery, depending of course on your screen brightness and whether you’re listening via Bluetooth headphones or speaker.

Cameras

The dual-sensor Leica-branded camera will be a huge selling point for many people considering the P10 as their next smartphone, and it’s definitely a step forward compared to the P9. Nonetheless, it’s still not perfect.

The dual-camera setup is, essentially, a system that uses a 20MP monochromatic sensor (to capture the black and white elements of a shot) and a 10MP RGB sensor. The end result is an image that’s a composite of the two sensors, in theory, bringing the best of both sensors to the final shot.

Huawei P10 Review

Like many high-end smartphones, if you give the Huawei P10 bright, sunny conditions outdoors, or well-lit indoor shots, you’ll be pleased with the results on the default automatic settings. Bring it indoors or try to take shots at night, however, and you’ll be closer to disappointed, with the results becoming Granier the darker you go.

The P10 has a slightly wider angle lens than the P9, therefore allowing more light into each shot, but it hasn’t seemed to really help with the low-light performance. It’s a system that genuinely benefits it if you have sufficient light, but doesn’t seem to when you don’t. The outcome is a camera setup that’s not best in class, but perhaps that’s acceptable with the reduced cost in comparison to ultra-premium handsets like the Galaxy S8.

Huawei P10 Review

If you like poring through multitudes of camera settings in manual mode on bright, sunny days (only) and photos high in ‘bokeh’ then you’ll probably find it ideal, but as an ‘any time, any situation camera’ it’s going to let you down eventually.

Those same bokeh effect skills arguably come into more use on the forward-facing camera, along with some ‘beauty’ features added to the camera settings. It’s not always the most convincing of effects, but it does make the classic ‘bokeh’ look easy to achieve.

One thing the camera does do consistently well at (providing you have enough light, still) is making the colors in the shots really pop. In some of the demo shots, you can see that the colors leap out, even if the autofocus doesn’t do so well on the macro of flowers, choosing to focus right on the middle, rather than on those in the foreground.

Price and verdict

The Huawei P10 is available on contract from all major UK networks, with varying monthly commitments depending on the up-front cost. Most are around £40 a month and up though. If a SIM-free option is more up your street, you can buy the phone outright via Amazon for around £450 currently, though electrical retailer Clove is still selling it at the higher £550 launch figure.

For £450, in comparison to the £700 price point of the S8 or even the £650 RRP of the LG G6, the Huawei is a relative bargain for anyone wanting a premium device from a big-name company without breaking the bank.

However, handsets made by smaller manufacturers like OnePlus also occupy a similar space in terms of aiming to deliver value for money and do so without the arguably irritating EMUI interface.

Huawei P10 Review

Who it should appeal to, however, is anyone that doesn’t really approve of the trend of large screens. 5.1in is by no means small, but it feels it relative to its super-size rivals or the larger P10 Plus model, helped along by its sub-7mm thickness. As a personal preference, the software isn’t my favorite, though it’s worth noting that the few visual tweaks Huawei’s made to EMUI do help it along a little and it’s much-improved over the EMUI of a year or two ago.

If you’re a Huawei fan, you’re going to be sold on the P10 (or P10 Plus, which also bumps up against other specs) without too much consideration. It’s slim, light, and the best P-series device to date. For its current price point, rather than its RRP, the phone has enough going for it to make you seriously consider handing over the cash, but exactly where you draw the line of value versus price varies for everyone. You’re unlikely to be disappointed by the P10 though, as long as you buy it knowing its low-light camera and battery shortcomings.

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Our verdict

Huawei has been so smug and bullish about the P20 that you could be forgiven for thinking it would be a disappointment at some level. But it just isn't. When we reviewed the Mate 10 Pro earlier in the year, we loved it and now we've got all that we loved about that and a simply mind blowing, game changing camera that will give all its rivals food for thought. A triumph.

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