Hands on: Huawei Mate 10 review

Artificially intelligent smartphones are coming

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

On paper and in the hand the Mate 10 looks like a limited upgrade, but powerful new internals may make this one of the top phones to buy for those who are looking for a device that doesn’t stop or slow down.

For

  • Bright and clear large display
  • Large battery size

Against

  • No wireless charging
  • Not waterproof

Update: The pricing and release date for UAE for the Huawei Mate 10 are now added.

The next big buzzword in smartphones is set to be artificial intelligence. You know the term, but it’s set to be used by phone manufacturers to try and better predict how you use your device and use that information to optimize your phone to perform better.

That’s the major new upgrade bundled in with the Huawei Mate 10. The newly debuted phone from Chinese manufacturer Huawei has a lot of the same features and design traits as we’ve come to expect from the brand, but this new focus on AI is the major selling point. 

Below we’ll speak more about AI and how it can benefit your smartphone use, but you’ll also find our feelings on the new device that has launched alongside the Mate 10 Pro and Mate 10 Porsche Design.

Huawei Mate 10 release date and price

The Huawei Mate 10 will be coming to the UAE on the 30th of October which is also the Middle East launch event date for the phone.

In the UAE, the Huawei Mate 10 is priced at AED 2,299 for the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Preorders for the Mate 10 have already started at retailers such as Axiom.

Design and display

If you own a Mate 9 or Mate 8, you’ll know what the design is like here. The phone immediately feels like a blown up Huawei P10, but this time instead of a full-metal uni-body it’s a glass-backed design.

It feels comfortable in the hand despite the 5.9-inch screen on the front. If you have smaller hands you may find this a little unwieldy, but if you’re used to using a phablet with around a 6-inch screen this should be the optimum size for you.

There’s a USB-C connector on the bottom of the phone and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, but the phone isn’t waterproof like the Mate 10 Pro is.

On the rear there's a vertical dual-sensor Leica camera – more about that later – while the fingerprint scanner is now on the front below the screen, and works in a similar way to how it does on the P10.

Huawei is releasing the phone in gold, pink, black and a unique looking brown shade that we particularly like the look of.

The display itself is a 5.9-inch LCD one with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1440 resolution. Compared to the Mate 9, this looks like a significantly improved experience with 730 nits of brightness, which Huawei claims is 30% more than before.

We had an opportunity to compare the Mate 9 and Mate 10 screens, and this new display looks a lot bolder and sharper than the 1080p Mate 9, though the Mate 10 Pro's bezel-less OLED display looks far more captivating than the Mate 10's screen.

The issue with the design and the screen is that the Mate 10 feels and looks dated. 

It looks rather similar to the Mate 9, just with a glass back, and when phones are switching to different aspect ratios and looking as great as the iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, it’s hard to get excited by the conventional design here.

Huawei’s new Mate 10 Pro is likely the way for you to go if you agree that the design here looks a little stunted.

Huawei Mate 10 OS and power

The Mate 10 is Huawei's first phone to run Android Oreo software, but it won't look like it does on the Google Pixel 2. That's because this has the new version of Huawei's own overlay - Emotion UI 8, which changes the look and gives you some extra added features.

If you’ve followed Huawei for a while, you may be surprised by the name Emotion UI 8 as the last version was called 5.1. Huawei sees this as a significant upgrade, but the new name is mostly to keep pace with the release of Android 8.

New features include a way to start split screen with a single tap and smart tips to help optimize the way you use your phone.

Huawei has cleaned up its user interface a lot in recent iterations and the Emotion UI does add a few new useful features that we find means it has a worthwhile difference to Google's raw OS.

Power is the big selling point Huawei is using to hook you in with the Mate 10, and it’s new Kirin 970 chipset is likely to be the company's best yet. 

It uses Huawei's new artificial intelligence technology, which records the way you've used your phone in the past to better optimize how it works in the future.

How exactly this will impact you on a daily basis is a little unclear right now, but the company wants it to stay that way. The NPU (neural processing unit) and AI tech should work behind the scenes to better optimize the way everything on your phone works.

The main example Huawei showed us is that it's much faster than the competition at processing images in quick succession, but what that will mean for everyday usage isn't very clear.

The Mate 10 will come with 4GB of RAM onboard, and there's only one storage version with 64GB of space and microSD support up to 256GB.

In our limited testing time we found the Mate 10 to be speedy in loading up apps, but we will be sure to push it to its limits for our full review.

Huawei Mate 10 battery and camera

Once again, Huawei has opted for a 4,000mAh battery. That’s the same size as we saw perform well in the Mate 9. Hopefully that means it will work well in the  Mate 10, but we won’t know for certain until the time of our full review.

The company has opted to keep its SuperCharge fast charging tech to the same level as before, but it claims to work 50% faster than the iPhone 8 Plus. You should get from 0% up to 58% in an hour according to Huawei’s testing and we will be sure to try it out in our full review soon.

Despite including a wireless charging-friendly glass back on the Mate 10, you'll need a charging cable to pump battery into this phone. Wireless charging is something Huawei seems open to including on future devices, but you won’t be able to use it here.

As for the camera, there don’t seem to be many major upgrades here from what we saw work well on the Huawei P10. Again, there’s a 20MP monochrome sensor and a 12MP color one working together.

When you take a photo it will use both cameras to take the image and then lay the results over the top of each other. The aim here is to gather more detail with the monochrome sensor and then use the RGB sensor for color, and it has worked well on previous Huawei devices.

The Mate 10 includes all of the features we’ve come to get used to, along with some improvements. Each sensor has an aperture of f/1.6 and that should allow for far improved night time shooting, which is something a lot of phones struggle with right now.

For taking quick shots, Huawei has included its 4-in-1 hybrid autofocus technology, but the AI tech mentioned above should help out too, as it will be able to detect motion through the sensor to optimize for the best shot. How exactly that works is currently unclear though.

AI also works behind the scenes of other camera features, as it will allow for automatic detection of what you’re shooting. If you’re taking a photo of a dinner plate for example, the Mate 10 will realize this and optimize the settings on your camera.

The same goes for if you’re taking a photo of a cat, but if you don’t agree with what it’s doing to your images you can tweak the settings or override it altogether.

There are fourteen of these scene modes at launch including landscape, selfies, food, cat, dog and a few others, and we’d expect Huawei to push more of these in the future too.

The quick shots we took with the Mate 10 turned out well in a variety of lighting, but we want to have more time with the camera on the phone before passing judgement.

Early verdict

Only time will tell how impressive the new artificial intelligence capabilities of the Huawei Mate 10 are in practice. 

Right now it’s a little unclear exactly what this will add to the day-to-day experience, but if it lives up to the hype it may have the ability to revolutionize the way we use our devices and expect to be served apps and services.

But the AI features need to be a major upgrade here as otherwise the Mate 10 feels like a poor update on last year’s Mate 9, which is all the more problematic when then there’s the far more impressive Mate 10 Pro on sale too.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.