Review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro, a brilliant flagship phone for an affordable price

Chinese phones continue to have an impact on the mobile phone market, with impressive entrants like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Android market is heading up like never...

Chinese phones continue to have an impact on the mobile phone market, with impressive entrants like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Android market is heading up like never before. The great news for consumers is that as competition increases in the high-end, smartphone manufacturers continue to push more features into the devices that ultimately means you end up with a better phone in your pocket.

Design & Features

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro features a 6″ display in a 18:9 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 2160 x 1080. Normally I’m not a fan of weird and wacky aspect ratios, with anything other than 16:9 usually causing headaches for developers and black bars for consumers. Thankfully Huawei gives users the extra vertical space for apps and content, while intelligently scaling content to fill the screen. After weeks of using the device, I don’t remember ever seeing black bars that annoyed me. Typically playing back videos horizontally means the black bars are at the left and right of the video, but vertically the video fills the screen. Its not ideal, but its also not the big issue I thought it would be, given applications content does fill the screen.

The bezels in this year’s flagship have shrunk (just 7.9mm) considerably over the Mate 9 and the whole feel of the phone is much more polished and higher-end than before, but that is matched by an equally premium price tag.

Inside the phone you’ll find a HUAWEI Kirin 970 Octa-core CPU. That’s 4 Cortex A73 2.36 GHz along with 4 x Cortex A53 1.8 GHz chups as well as an i7 co-processor, Mali-G72 MP12 GPU and a fairly unique Neural Network Processing Unit. All that correlates to a phone that’s fast, like really fast. Launching applications, switching between tasks, snapping photos, this thing just flies, likely helped by running the latest OS from Google – Android 8.0 Oreo.

The performance of the phone is helped by a massive 6GB of RAM, that’s more than many computers had just a couple of years ago. Internally there’s a crazy 128GB of storage to play with. After loading all my regular apps, taking plenty of photos and video, downloading lots of podcasts, I still had more than 90GB to spare. This thing feels enormous in terms of space, so you never feel the need to select lower quality options in the camera app, shoot at max resolution all the time without fear of running out of space.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro features dual 4G sim support. This is an upgrade over the Mate 9, which had 4G/3G capabilitiy. This means those looking for a single phone that’ll allow them to live their personal and work lives on a single device, that it is a fantastic device to service that increasingly growing need. If you’ve never used a dual SIM phone before, it works easily, simply insert SIM cards into the sim tray in slot 1 and 2 and slide it into the phone. The SIM in slot 1 is the primary sim and therefore the data is used from that sim, while calls and messages come in on either. You can set a custom ring tone so you can easily differentiate betweet business calls where you may answer with a formal greeting, compared to a personal call where you answer with a more casual persona.

In terms of coverage, you’ll be able to leverage the 4G network regardless of personal or business, which is actually a big leap forward as the country firmly moves past 3G and eyes off the upcoming 5G trials. Some workplaces may actually consider using the dual 4G SIM slots for 2 business SIM cards on different carriers like one with Telstra and one Optus, to optimise for maximum coverage.

Camera

The new dual camera comes with the help of heavyweight Leica which proudly recieves branding on the rear camera. It features a tight f/1.6 aperture meaning you’re able to still take great looking photos in low light. The dual lens means you can pull off those DSLR-style depth of field effects and the software allows you to adjust the focus point after the photo is taken.

The camera sensors are made up of a 20MP monochrome sensor and 12MP RGB sensor with OIS and the photos that you take with it are simply stunning, some of the best available on any smartphone.

The front camear is a little light on in the megapixel count at 8MP, you’ll definitely find higher counts out there in the market. That aside, the front facing camera takes very decent shots, only perhaps tarnished by comparisons to the fantastic rear camera.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the optimisations done by Huawei is pretty amazing. They do a great job of maximising the 4,000 mAh battery and most days I was hitting bed with 30-40% left in the phone. Can you burn through it in a day, yeah of course, if you’re the absolutely most agressive user, but for general users this phone legitimately lasts a day and a half, if you’re a light user, you’ll get 2 days out of it. I can’t say that about any other phone I’ve used.

When you do need to charge, there’s fast charging which is basically a must have checkbox feature on phones this year. A surprise inclusion was a much longer USB-C cable. It may sound like a little thing, but this year’s cable is now long enough to plug-in behind your bedside table and still allow you to use your phone while on charge. Thankyou Huawei, this demonstrates you actually use your product and understand the needs of your customers.

Software

I’ve seen some conjecture online relating to the software from Huawei. The Mate 10 Pro ships with Android 8.0 Oreo, layered with EMUI 8.0, Huawei’s latest round of customisations. This offers some duplicated apps over the core Android experience, but ultimately the changes to the OS are pretty tame. Its at this point that I want to remind you about the power of Android, you can install other launchers and during my time with the phone, I spent most of it using the Microsoft Launcher, the latest version of which is brilliant. The ability to change how your phone looks and works is one of the real strengths of Google’s platform and a strong attribute of any device that runs it. The capacity to set default apps for Calling, Messaging, Camera, gallery, Music, Email, Browser, Voice input and more, really displays just how customisable this device is. I think the software on this phone is a real asset, the only caveat being future updates, something that’s always difficult to understand at the time of purchase.

 

Issues

There are very few issues with the Mate 10 Pro, I really loved this phone and could easily see it being my next phone. The couple of issues I found was the lack of a headphone port. I know this is hardly the only phone moving into a wireless headphone future, but there was a moment when my Bluetooth headphones were flat, I went to connect the 3.5 jack of another wired pair and was abruptly reminded that’s not an option. The answer is a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, so its not the end of the world, still something I wish could have been included.

About the only other criticism I could lay on this phone is the consumption of the microSD card slot by the second SIM card. Maybe I’m being greedy, but I’d love the phone to be able to accept a microSD card in a separate slot, to transfer photos from a DSLR.

Price and Availability

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is available now through Optus or MobileCiti, but here’s the one gotcha.. on the Huawei Australia website the list a single colour, Midnight Blue or nothing. This is a rather strange decision given the colour of your most personal device could absolutely be a deal breaker for some. As far as blue goes, its a nice shade of blue that looks well at home on the table of a business meeting, its a premium blue that blends nicely with the black screen when the display is off. That said, some people want different coloured phones and with only 1 colour available, if that’s you, you’ll have look elsewhere, which is a shame, as this is genuinely a fantastic phone.

Now here’s the weird thing, Other vendors like Amaysim have another colour, Mocha Brown. Vodafone in the UK, also offer a black version. Kogan actually has multiple colours listed on their site, inlcuding a Pink Gold, but at the time of writing is currently out of stock. Obviously Aussies would rather have a choice of any colour available across the globe, so I encourage Huawei to release additional colour options down under.

When it comes to price, the best I’ve found is Kogan, with the 128GB Huawei Mate 10 Pro (BLA-L29) Dual SIM version in midnight blue, costing a very affordable A$999. When flagship phones from Samsung and Apple are priced at close to A$1,500, then Huawei’s top phone looks like a dead set bargain.

Overall

This flagship device (ignoring the nearly Porsche version) is a brilliant entrant to the market. There’s so much on offer here between a slim body, barely there bezels, great camera, amazing battery life and the latest Android features. The price tag well undercuts the big players Samsung and Apple in the market at around 50% more and they don’t offer dual 4G SIM card slots. For the money you pay, this phone represents amazing value for money and I have no problem recommending it.

Chinese brands like Oppo and Huawei entered the Australian market looking to steal marketshare and quality devices like the Mate 10 Pro will help them handsomely in this mission.

9.4
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
The Good
  • Display
  • Speed
  • Camera
  • Battery Life
  • Dual 4G SIM
The Bad
  • No headphone port
  • Design
    9.4
  • Features
    9.3
  • Performance
    9.3
  • Value
    9.5
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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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