Huawei P10 review: All the greatness of the Mate 9 now fits in your pocket

  • Editors' rating
    8.7 Outstanding
  • $629.00

Pros

  • Outstanding design and feel in the hand
  • Very responsive with useful EMUI 5.1 UI
  • Fun camera software and solid performance
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • Unique single button navigation option

Cons

  • Display holds fingerprints
  • No high level water resistance

Big phones fit well in my hand and I don't mind using phones measuring 6 inches or less. However, I also love sliding a 5.1 inch phone into my front jeans or shorts pocket and feeling it disappear. The Huawei P10 will not appear directly in the US, but I've been using one for the past couple of weeks and might even give up the Mate 9 for the P10.

Huawei Mate 9 review: Meet the new best Android smartphone for business users (RIP, Note 7)

At a whopping 5.9 inches, Huawei's latest combines the big screen and big battery of the Mate 8 with the fantastic dual-lens Leica camera of the P9. At just $599.99, it is a compelling offering priced much lower than models released outside the US.

One compelling feature of the affordable Mate 9 that cannot be matched by the P10 is the whopping 4,000 mAh battery. The Huawei P10 does have a 3,200 mAh battery, which is larger than the massive HTC U Ultra and even bigger than the new Samsung Galaxy S8 so it is no slouch.

CNET: Huawei's new P10 phones: Dual Leica cameras, 3D face detection and plenty of Pantone

Huawei sent me the Dazzling Blue model to check out and it is stunning. Blue is my favorite color and the blue on the Huawei P10 is an interesting shade that looks good in the office and out on the town. The other colors are also unique and with limits on how far smartphones can be distinguished, Huawei is doing all it can do to make these stand out from the crowd of black slabs.

Specifications

  • Processor: Huawei Kirin 960 2.4 GHz octa-core
  • Display: 5.1 inch 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution, 432 ppi
  • Operating system: Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1
  • RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: Dual 20 megapixel monochrome and 12 megapixel color rear f/2.2 OIS cameras. 8 megapixel f/1.9 front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 BLE, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: 3,200 mAh non-removable with Huawei SuperCharge
  • Dimensions: 145.3 x 69.3 x 6.98 mm and 145 grams
  • Colors: Ceramic White, Dazzling Blue, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, Greenery

As you can see, these are nearly the same specifications as the Huawei Mate 9 with the exception of a smaller display and smaller battery. The Mate 9 is a rather large device so it's a wonderful option to have the same powerful phone in a much smaller form factor and it has been a true joy to carry around the Huawei P10 for the last couple of weeks.

Hardware

The Huawei P10 has a front glass panel constructed of Gorilla Glass 5 while the Mate 9 uses Gorilla Glass 3. Gorilla Glass 5 adds an element of drop protection to your phone and is what you should be looking for in a 2017 phone. The Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and HTC U Ultra also use Gorilla Glass 5.

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The Huawei P10 comes with a screen protector applied out of the box and the manual recommends that you leave it installed, which I did. I read reports on some Android sites that stated the bare display has limited oleophobic coating so may be tougher to remove fingerprints. The screen protector was fine and I just slid the P10 up and down my pants or shirt to wipe it clear a couple times a day.

The Huawei P10 is the world's first smartphone with a capacitive under-glass fingerprint sensor for seamless navigation. Similar to the recent Moto G5 Plus I tested, you can use this new fingerprint sensor as a single navigation key and skip using the on screen navigation bar. Tap to go back, touch and hold to go home, swipe left or right across the navigation key to view recent tasks, and swipe up from the edge of the screen to launch Google Assistant.

The Dazzling Blue color is present on the rounded edges and on the back panel and it looks awesome. The dual cameras, flash, and sensor are found at the very top of the back while the majority of the back panel is composed of a textured metal finish. If you run your fingernail across the back, it sounds like you are running it along a record. Fingerprints are less obvious and there is a bit of grip provided by the textured back. I've never seen anything like it on a smartphone before and it gives the Huawei P10 a bit of a unique look and feel.

You will find a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and mono speaker on the bottom. The microSD card and SIM card slot are on the upper left while the power and volume buttons are on the upper right. The power button has some texture to it and on the blue model you can see red highlights around the sides of the button. A single mic opening is found on the top.

The Kirin 960 processor means that the Huawei P10 flies and I never saw any lag in performance while testing it out. The P10 battery is quite large for a device of this size, the Google Pixel only has a 2,770 mAh battery, and I was able to go a full day every day I used it.

Software

The Huawei P10 launches with Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1. After seeing Nougat on Samsung Galaxy and LG G6 devices, I personally prefer the EMUI look and feel. The top black quick controls is much better than the bright white found on Nougat devices and that area is kind of a pet peeve for me.

There are a few Huawei utilities installed by default, including an email app, file manager, flashlight, Huawei Health, HiCare, music app, messaging app, notepad, gallery app, phone manager, voice recorder, theme manager, video player, and weather app. You cannot uninstall these apps, but I just put them in a folder and ignore them.

Similar to iOS, one function I particularly enjoy on EMUI 5.1 is the swipe down to then quickly find apps, contacts, and messages. It improves my efficiency and productivity so that is why I don't install a third party launcher.

You can also enable knuckle gestures, powered by Qeexo FingerSense, and once you get used to making the gestures you may find yourself using them more and more. You can choose to launc up to four different apps with the letter c, e, m, and w. You can also slide your knuckle across the display to enter split screen mode. Give it a try and you may find it to improve your productivity.

Whenever I use one of these Huawei dual camera smartphones, I end up taking more photos more often than with any other phone. As I mentioned when I checked out the Huawei P9 the camera software is powerful and helps you be creative with your shooting. There are a plethora of available modes; auto, monochrome, video, HDR, panorama, night shot, light painting, time-lapse, slow motion, document scan, and more. You can also swipe up to switch to full manual mode and shoot exactly what you want.

The wide aperture mode is there with a simple tap on the proper icon and this allows you to capture photos with different focal points applied after the shot. There is a new portrait mode, thank you Apple, that helps you capture fun photos of people with the background blurred. For even more fun, the Huawei P10 includes a portrait toggle on the 8 megapixel front facing camera, also branded by Leica. The portrait software on the front-facing camera may yield funky results though. Check out my image gallery for a few samples. I also have some comparison shots in this Flickr gallery with the Moto G5 Plus and in this Flickr gallery so you can compare the original images for yourself.

Price and competition

The Huawei P10 standard price is EUR 649. By comparison, the Huawei Mate 9 is EUR 699 so you save EUR 50 going with a smaller device.

There are not many small smartphones being sold today, but the closest in size is last year's Samsung Galaxy S7 that also has a 5.1 inch display and the Apple iPhone 7 with a 4.7 inch display.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

I fell in love again with a small phone while using the Huawei P10 and it sure helped that the color and design is fantastic. It took a couple of days to adapt, but I like using the single home button to navigate all of the options without using the on-screen navigation buttons traditionally seen on Android devices.

The camera is a blast and if a phone encourages you to capture a bit more of the world around you then that's exciting. These small Huawei devices help me be more creative and I enjoy photography more when I am having fun.

When you look at the Huawei P9 from last year, we see the fingerprint scanner move from the rear to the lower front, more rounded corners on the P10, the display downsized from 5.2 to 5.1 inches, Gorilla Glass 3 to Gorilla Glass 5, a new processor, a more powerful monochrome sensor, and an upgrade in battery capacity by 200 mAh. Overall, I find the Huawei P10 to be a very nice upgrade to the P9.

I understand the Huawei P10 has an IPx2 rating, which means it may be good for a slight splash or light rain. I would love to go running with a device like this due to its size and if I did then I would pack it in a Ziploc bag or waterproof case.

The Huawei P10 is great for those looking for a very capable and powerful smartphone in a smaller package. There is definitely a focus on the camera experience too. The P10 looks great and US customers can buy the P10 through online retailers such as Amazon as a GSM unlocked device for about $800.

Huawei also released the slightly larger Huawei P10 Plus that will be reviewed here on ZDNet soon. I see this device can be purchased on Amazon for about $820.

Topics: Mobility, Google, Huawei, Reviews, Smartphones

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