Review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro (video)

Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro and PORSCHE DESIGN Mate 10 were unveiled on 16th October in Munich, Germany. Thanks to Huawei, I was able to witness the unveiling of these new handsets.

From my understanding, Huawei invited more than 800 journalists to Munich, Germany for this event. It is not an easy feat.

This banner (below) says it all. Huawei wanted the Mate 10 Series to have the ultimate performance. With AI (a first for Huawei, or even to any smartphone makers) and premium specs, Huawei is determined to differentiate itself from its competition.

It was really a hot and sunny day during the launch day. All of us were waiting outside the hall to go to the main event hall.

There were a lot of hype and leaks on these handsets before the launch. Many were anticipating the release of the Mate 10 Series. After using the Mate 10 Pro for about 5 days, here are my opinion (not conclusive yet)

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review

Design

The Mate 10 Pro has an 81.61% body to screen ratio. This is slightly better than iPhone X. In layman term, it has more screen. Currently, I think one phone that can beat Mate 10 Pro’s body to screen ratio is this.

Huawei has decided to remove the home button and replaced it with its brand name. It will look nicer without this branding since there is already one on the back.

Here are the dimensions of the various models of smartphones, including the iPhone 8 Plus. Every phone makers are going for full-screen experience nowadays. Huawei has named its full-screen display as FullView display.

On the below image, Mate 10 Pro is in the center. BTW, I am not sure why Huawei used the iPhone 8 Plus (instead of iPhone X) as a reference for this case.

Based on my conversation with Huawei’s executives, there are always different ways that phone makers are calculating the body to screen ratio. Huawei is using a very simple method of using the actual dimension of the body and screen to determine this ratio. Simple math.

Huawei chooses to make the screen with just a little curve on the edge. Maybe most will not notice it. It uses 5 layers of coating and films on the screen.

On the back, it has the dual lens system.

Here is a close up of Dual LEICA Summilux-H f/1.6 lens. The fingerprint sensor is also shifted to the back. It is a distance away from the lenses and it is less prone to having fingerprints on them. With the fingerprint sensor placement, it is easy to access even though it is a large phone.

Here is a slide that shows how other models might suffer from fingerprints on their lenses.

And for your information, Huawei has the fastest fingerprint recognition (in my opinion). In split moment, I have logged in to the phone. And here is a slide showing the speed in unlocking a phone as compared to iPhone X.

Other views on this Mate 10 Pro

On this side, there is only the SIM card slot.

Here is a close up of the SIM card slot.

This is the SIM card tray.

Note that Huawei has decided to remove the MicroSD card slot from Mate 10 Pro. And now it has two 4G SIM card slots. I am sure some are not happy with it.

On this side, it has the power button and the rocker volume button. To capture a screenshot, you have to press the lower volume button and the power button together. I guess the screenshot capture mode is too sensitive, I kept capturing unwanted screenshots.

In my opinion, Huawei should lower the sensitivity of the screenshot capture. I do like the Smart Screenshot feature though. Two knocks on one knuckle will capture a screenshot. And two knocks on two knuckles will start screen video capture. Nice.

Huawei has decided to remove the 3.5mm jack. And from the “noise” from the Internet, many are unhappy about it.

According to Huawei, it has raised the bar of lossless audio experience amongst the competitors. For example, iPhone is sampling at 48k/24bit. Huawei Mate 10 Pro is sampling at 384K/32bit.

I foresee the trend of removing 3.5mm jack is not going to stop. Instead, more headphones companies are investing in wireless headphones.

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Here is the top view of the Mate 10 Pro. It has a mic and an IR port.

Battery

In this small compact size, Huawei packs a whopping 4,000mAh battery. On the first day after the launch, many of us had issues with the battery life. Within half a day, almost half of the battery drained. We were all plugging in to our portable batteries.

At first, we attributed it to AI (Artificial Intelligence) trying to figure out our usage pattern. Finally, we realized that it is a bug related to Google and Huawei (with Google) were quick to rectify it. Within a day, a new update was pushed out to users (Current Version: BLA-L29 8.0.0.113(C432))

Once updated, I can appreciate Huawei’s innovation on battery usage. The Mate 10 Pro can last a full day without charging. And as I am traveling, I am actually using the phone intensively to take photos and videos. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), the battery is really lasting. And with AI, I am sure it will only get better.

Screen

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has a 6-inch screen. It is considered a large screen. Thanks to the thin bezel 3mm on each side), it is still manageable.

There is also a feature that you can activate so that it can reduce the screen to a mini screen. Now, there is no excuse that the screen is too big 🙂 .

Photography

This, in my opinion, is the highlight of this phone (other than AI). Co-engineered with Leica, the Mate 10 Pro has a very bright lens (f/1.6). And Huawei is still keeping the same combo – 12 MPX RGB sensor + 20 MPX monochrome sensor for the rear cameras.

Unfortunately, I was wrong about optical zoom but I heard it might be work in progress (for future models).

Using the phone for 5 days, I have to attest that the camera is super fast, thanks to the dual ISP (Image Signal Processor). In fact, I got lazy and used just one hand to shoot.

Here are some sample pictures shot with Huawei Mate 10 Pro. Do note that they are resized to fit this post and added with TechieLobang QR coded Watermark.

Samples

I love the details. In challenging conditions, the camera is able to produce the image well.

Here is a shot in the evening. It has nice contrast and sharp and taken in Auto Mode.

Here is one that is more challenging to take. It has very strong side sunlight and the building itself is very dark but with lots of details. I shot it with HDR mode.

Here is another shot using HDR mode. The sun is behind the Charles bridge, causing shadows to cast on it. With HDR, it is able to improve the contrast and lighting.

This is shot inside a St. Vitus Cathedral with natural lights passing through. The Mate 10 Pro is able to adjust itself and retains most of the details (not over-exposed).

Below is another good example of lighting and contrast from the Mate 10 Pro. In my opinion, it has done a very good job of keeping the details.

This picture below is taken using hybrid zoom. At this level, it seems ok. However, if you zoom in to see the details, you will see a lot of sharpening and pixelation. It is still usable for blogpost like this.

Here is a 100% crop.

Nowadays, smartphone companies are coming out smartphones with dual rear camera system. One of the advantages is that it is able to create DOF (Depth of Field).

Huawei uses algorithms to process images to provide the DOF (Depth of Field). In Huawei Mate 10 Series, it has 2 modes (at least) that utilize the dual rear camera system. It is the Portrait Mode and the Wide Aperture mode. Both are able to produce the false impression of DOF (i.e. bokeh) found on high-end DSLR cameras.

Here is a picture shot in Wide Aperture mode. In one glance, you might not notice anything wrong. If you zoom in, you will see inconsistencies (hand area).

I still love this mode. It is able to “isolate” the subject from the background. For example, the picture shows a kid with 2 birds. It is not perfect (the glove area is not rendered properly). However, it is able to draw attention to him.

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One of the good points about the Wide Aperture mode is that you can still adjust the aperture (software manipulation) after you shoot it. It can be adjusted from f/0.95 to f/16.

Here is an example of a good picture with Wide Aperture mode

Here is another good picture in Wide Aperture mode.

Below is a picture that I focused wrongly in Wide Aperture mode.

Thankfully, I am able to ‘refocus’ after that. Check out the after-results.

In Portrait mode, the Mate 10 Pro is able to detect a face and apply the DOF effect immediately. It has also incorporated Beauty mode where you can adjust to give the subject smoother skin.

Note: The front camera is also capable of Portrait mode (with beauty mode) even though it has just one lens.

Here are two examples of Portrait mode that are not perfect. Notice the hair area? It was not rendered properly.

Here is another pic. Almost ok except for some minor details.

Although I kept saying that they are not perfect, the results are still considered very good. If you were to compare all dual lens smartphones, I am sure, at the moment, not one of them can give consistent results.

That leads to the next discussion on AI (Artificial Intelligence) for Photography. Huawei has incorporated the NPU (Neural Processing Unit) inside Mate 10 series via the Kirin 970 chip.

It has learned more than 100,000,000 images as of now. If you point to something that is similar in its database, it will display a small icon on the side. Currently, the images are classified into 13 different categories.

I have tried this feature and they are accurate to show the right icon. What is more interesting will be how they will use these data to adjust the camera to suit the subject.

Here is a food photo. What do you think?

Low Light Photography

The Mate 10 Pro has bright lenses (f/1.6). A few of us decided to put it to test. Here are the pictures shot in a dark area using the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S8+.

The picture below shows a tree in a very low light area taken with Mate 10 Pro

The same tree taken by the Samsung Galaxy S8+ in the same area (note that the aspect ratio on S8+ is set as 16:9 aspect ratio while Mate 10 Pro is set as 4:3 aspect ratio).

If you observed, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ provides a more vibrant color. This can be achieved on Mate 10 Pro by adjusting the color tone and etc.

The next two images will show more details on these two pictures. I have cropped them in 100% and focus on one area.

Shot with Huawei Mate 10 Pro and 100% crop

Shot with Samsung Galaxy S8+ and 100% crop

Of course, one picture cannot conclude the performance of the camera. Truthfully, I am a little disappointed by the Mate 10 Pro as some details are lost. On Samsung Galaxy S8+, I can still read the wordings (the image on S8+ seems to be sharpened by its internal algorithm).

On Macro Photography, the Mate 10 Pro is really good. Love that it can capture the details well.

Videography

For videography, in general, Huawei Mate 10 Pro is doing a great job. However, there are some issues that need to be addressed.

The jello effect is evident in this video sample. I shot it in low light condition. Even with better lightings, I still can see the jello effect. Hopefully, Huawei can solve it with software update.

One of the features about the Mate 10 Pro video mode is that it can shoot video in Wide Aperture mode. It uses software to mask the subject so that the rest of the scene has a DOF feel.

I like the idea and love the results seen on the phone. Here is a video sample of using the Wide Aperture Mode during video recording.

As you can see, it is not perfect. The algorithm to generate the depth of field is inconsistent. I have tried very hard not to have fast movement during the filming. The result shows that it is still looking artificial.

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Summary

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is the latest Mate series from Huawei. In this Mate 10 Pro, Huawei decided to remove 2 features from its predecessor – the 3.5mm jack and the SD card slot.

In my opinion, I foresee that the 3.5mm jack will be a thing of the past. Moving forward, many companies are already improving on wireless headphones. So, it might not be long that everyone will forget about it.

However, for the SD card slot, it is a little painful. With better camera, I am sure many will take more pictures or videos. The storage will soon deplete and you are left with nothing except to use the cloud to store all the memories. I hope that Huawei can reconsider bringing back the SD card slot in future.

On the camera, I really love it. With challenging condition, it is able to take nice pictures without meddling with any settings. However, on the video recording part, Huawei needs to really look deep into it. There are room for improvement.

On low light photography, my initial review is not a positive one. I will continue to explore it since I only got this phone for a short period of time. If anyone thinks that I made a discredit on it, let me know.

On AI, as it is working behind the scene, I really cannot comment on it. As time goes, I am sure it will become better. During the interview with Mr. Tom Chen, Senior Director, Product Marketing of Huawei Consumer Business Group, I asked a few questions on AI and Wireless charging.

My questions are more on the future of Huawei’s vision on AI. Currently, with concerns on privacy, Huawei only allows AI data to be stored on the phone (and not to any cloud services). That means your AI related data is stored on the phone only.

If you want to transfer to a new Huawei phone in future (including AI info), you can use Huawei’s different methods of transfer to do that. But if you lost or damage your phone, your AI information will forever be gone.

Maybe Huawei can consider having the option to back up the AI data with Huawei account ID. In this way, once you are logged in to the Huawei ID on Huawei smartphones with NPU, it can download the AI data immediately.

On why the Mate 10 series is without wireless charging, Huawei mentioned that their SuperCharge is fast and reliable while wireless charging is slow (4x slower).

I agree on the slow charging part (even though Samsung already has fast wireless charging, it is not as fast as QC 3.0). However, in circumstances when the charging port (USB-C) is damaged (this is based on real life experience), wireless charging will be a life saver before any repair. Thankfully, Huawei mentioned that they are always listening to consumers’ need on any features.

Overall, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is premium phone that has nice design and great photography capability. If you are looking for a great camera on smartphone, Huawei Mate 10 Pro (or Mate 10) is the phone you should be looking at.

Based on the close discussion with Huawei recently, I feel that it is a company that listens to consumers and try very hard to differentiate itself from the competition. For example, the new Mate 10 Pro is now IP67 certified and has a really sleek look that scream premium. These, I believe, are through their R&D and consumers’ feedback.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro pricing and availability will be announced on the 26th October. It is target to be available in mid-November 2017.

If you are thinking of Huawei Mate 10, check this out.