Introduction, Design and Features
Huawei has come a long way since the unveiling of its first-ever Android smartphone, the U8230, back in 2009. Who would’ve thought that despite the general apprehensiveness of consumers towards Chinese-made products, the Shenzhen-based telecommunications company would eventually end up becoming the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world – leaving Apple to settle for third place?
This should be all but expected, considering that Huawei managed to ship more than 100 million smartphones within the first three quarters of 2017 – a feat that the company would undoubtedly struggle to achieve if they were churning out lackluster smartphones which, judging from recent releases like the Mate 9 Pro and P10 Plus, evidently isn’t the case.
But the impressive track record that Huawei has established for itself can potentially end up being a double-edged sword, because consumers are naturally going to expect Huawei’s new flagbearer, the Mate 10, to be nothing short of phenomenal.
That probably explains why Huawei wasted no time singing praises about the Kirin 970 chipset of the Mate 10 in the weeks leading up to its launch, particularly its AI-capabilities that came courtesy of its dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU).
Now that we have the device in our possession, it’s time to find out whether its dedicated AI is truly the game-changer that the company is leading us to believe.
Design and features
But before we get to that, let’s first talk about just how beautiful the Mate 10 looks with its glass back and bezel-less display. Be warned, though, the reflective mirror-like finish of its back requires constant tender loving care to keep it free from fingerprint smudges and hairline scratches. You could protect it with the protective casing that comes bundled together with the Mate 10, but you will effectively be blocking out its glimmer by the frosted finishing of the case itself.
There’s more glass to be found on the front of the Mate 10 as well, specifically a 5.9-inch 2K (2,560 x 1,440) RGBW HDR display. Unlike the Mate 10 Pro or the Galaxy Note 8, which are given an OLED and a Super AMOLED display panel, respectively, the Mate 10 uses a more conventional LCD panel instead. You might think that this would result in its colors coming off as dull and drab, but let us assure you that this certainly isn’t the case, as visually bright and colorful movies such as The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water turned out to be absolute eye candy when viewed on the Mate 10.
Located beneath the display of the Mate 10 is a solid-state home button that functions as both a fingerprint sensor and a navigation key. When the ‘off-screen navigation mode’ is activated, you can tap on it to return to the previous screen, long-press it to return to the home screen, and slide left to bring up the recent applications menu. It works as it should, but of course, you can still choose to stick to the more traditional on-screen Android soft keys if you wanted to.
The 8MP f/2.0 front facing camera of the Mate 10 comes replete with a Portrait mode that, when activated, will grant you access to a beautification slider and an ‘artistic bokeh’ effect to help isolate your beautiful face from the background. The software enhancements aren’t overzealous when it comes to working their magic, but nonetheless, you probably shouldn’t expect the resulting portrait photo to have the same image quality as one that was captured by a full-fledged DSLR.
This brings us to one of the main reasons why you would be torn between the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro: the former comes with a 3.5mm audio jack, while the latter doesn't. They both support 32-bit 384k high-resolution audio playback, however. It's just that with the Mate 10 Pro, you're going to have to resort to using an USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter, a pair of Bluetooth headphones, or the USB Type-C earphones that comes with the device.
The speakers on the Mate 10 are loud enough to ensure that you won't end up missing important calls when you're in a noisy environment. It's great for music listening too, but try not to crank up the volume to the maximum, because it will only make its warm and pleasant audio sound harsh and tinny – particularly when playing rock music.
There are a couple of AI-driven features that are available on the Mate 10, including a special version of the Bing translator app that Microsoft has developed specifically for Huawei to take advantage of the Kirin 970’s NPU. It comes with a couple of ways for you to have a language translated from one to another: you can either snap a photo, speak the word, or type it out. Keep in mind, however, that the translation isn’t always perfect, so you might want to refrain from depending on it too much, especially if you intend to use it overseas.
Speaking of which, the Bing translator app comes with a number of offline language packs that you can download and install on the Mate 10, so that you can use it overseas without needing to incur additional roaming data charges.