Feature Articles

Hands-on with Huawei Mate 10

By Peter Chu & Liu Hongzuo - 19 Oct 2017

Hands-on with Huawei Mate 10

Earlier this week, Huawei announced three new flagship smartphones for the current season of phone releases: the 5.9-inch Huawei Mate 10, the edge-to-edge 6-inch Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and the very exclusive Huawei Mate 10 Porsche Edition. In this hands-on feature, we'll be taking a closer look at the smaller Mate 10.

At its Munich keynote, Huawei said that the 150.5 x 77.8 x 8.2mm Mate 10 uses a 3D Curved Design and glass back finish. The slightly rounded finish is purposefully made to provide better grip, especially when the Mate 10 is compared a phone that uses an angular design. The bezels on its side are just 2.2mm thick, and they help give the front panel an even more immersive experience. The Mate 10 has an IP53-rating for its water and dust-resistance.

The Mate 10, despite its average 8.2mm profile and 16:9 aspect ratio screen, actually felt a little wider than typical smartphones when held in one hand. It's also quite heavy, at 186g, but the weight felt more prominent only when you're adjusting your grip.

The display is 5.9-inch RGBW HDR FullView display with a 2K (2,560 x 1,440) resolution. HDR itself is self-explanatory, and FullView refers to its high screen-to-body ratio (Mate 10's at 81.79 percent). RGBW refers to the combination of a display's primary colors (RGB) and White, which allows the Mate 10 to achieve a maximum brightness of 730-nits, and a minimum darkness of 1.8-nits. The wide brightness range is for better readability under bright sunlight, and also power efficiency in suitably dark places. We find that the Mate 10's display is sharp, immersive, and well-lit under most situations. It also has a cool color temperature, which is quite refreshing to the naked eye.

Over at the bottom is a thin fingerprint slate, which was fast, but not remarkably unique – it also doubles as an Android Home Key. The phone's size meant that the Mate 10 could have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top frame, and a microSD card tray hidden in its left flank. The model we received had a hybrid card tray, which meant that it could take one primary nano-SIM and one microSD card, or it can swap out the latter for a secondary nano-SIM card. Both trays are capable of 4G connectivity and VoLTE support.

Powering the Huawei Mate 10 is a unique, proprietary chipset built by Huawei – the Kirin 970. What's new is the inclusion of a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that offloads all AI-related tasks to itself, taking the strain off the CPU and GPU. Honestly, the NPU is meant to be an unsung hero, as it lurks in the phone and learns about the user's habits over time, before helping them optimize the device better. It's not a noticeable upgrade, but it's in there.

Huawei claims that the phone is able to perform at its best for up to 18-months, thanks to the NPU optimizing your every move. The AI's knowledge is all built into the phone, and it's designed to be an offline component as much as possible, in the interest of user privacy and security. It is, however, able to receive AI-related OTA updates from Huawei, which will happen as the Chinese firm expands its capabilities beyond image recognition and translation.

Over on the rear, you'll find the signature stripe of the Mate 10 – a deliberate deisgn choice by Huawei, as the company claims that the streak helped the phone stand out from the other rivals in the market. You'll also find a pair of Summilux-H lenses from Leica, both with an aperture of f/1.6. Huawei said that these lenses are the brightest ones you'll find on any smartphone, and the Mate 10 is the first to have it on both its rear shooters, since the LG V30 uses f/1.6 aperture on only one back camera.

The Mate 10 shares the same dual rear camera configuration as its photography-oriented flagship device – the P10 and P10 Plus. You can find one 12MP RGB sensor and one 20MP Monochrome sensor. Only the RGB sensor comes assisted with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). The camera system uses 4-in-1 Hybrid Focus - a combination of laser, depth, contrast, and phase-detection autofocus.

The Mate 10 and it's brethren, the Mate 10 Pro, have one Image Signal Processor (ISP) on each rear camera, giving them dual ISPs. This increases its response throughput by up to 25 percent and offers 15 percent better response time. The crown jewel is the wealth of knowledge provided on the AI Engine - the Kirin 970's NPU has been taught to recognize 13 broadly-defined objects and scenes (e.g., text, dog, night shot, food, to name a few). This teaching was done across 100 million images. In return, the user gets real-time post-processing based on what they point the camera at. Below is an example.

By pointing the device at the scenery outside of the hotel room window, the Mate 10 was able to recognize the blue sky instantly, and quickly adjust its camera settings accordingly. Kirin 970's AI optimizes the resulting photo. With this feature, even a terrible smartphone shooter can produce half-decent images. It also works in low-light situations, and you don't need an Internet or data connection for the feature to work.

Easy Projection's settings page.

There are plenty of other features of the Mate 10 devices that we've yet to try, including one called EasyTalk, which uses the onboard AI for phone calls. It learns the user's voice over time, allowing the phone to detect each person's unique sound. As a result, it can pick up and isolate your voice - and only yours - when you whisper into the receiver, or when you are in a loud environment. Other features include its real-time Microsoft translation capabilities, its 384k/32-bit lossless audio support, Split Screen apps, and dockless monitor connectivity called Easy Projection. There's too much for us to go through in one hands-on, so we'll leave the rest for the full review.

The Mocha Brown and Black variants of the Huawei Mate 10 are currently available for pre-order through Vmall.my, as well as HUAWEI Experience Stores and Display Zones nationwide for RM2,699.