​Huawei P10 Plus phone: Full, in-depth review

There's nothing better than Huawei’s new Leica flagship Android smartphone

Huawei P10 Plus phone
  • Huawei P10 Plus phone
  • Huawei P10 Plus phone
  • Huawei P10 Plus phone
  • Expert Rating

    4.75 / 5

Pros

  • Superb camera
  • Very fast

Cons

  • Still not great in low light

Bottom Line

Huawei's phones have arguably been the most innovative in recent years. The P10 Plus is an impressive flagship with an outstanding camera and no real weak point (except for annoying low-light camera performance).

Would you buy this?

Huawei’s P9 ‘Leica’ camera impressed the pants off us last year and redefined what we could expect from a phone’s camera. The subsequent Huawei Mate 9, which used an ‘upgraded’ version of the same camera system, provided some impressive improvements but proved a bit more frustrating as it was very poor in low light. Now Huawei is launching the P10 and the P10 Plus. The latter has an upgraded screen, optics and price. Does it fix the Mate 9’s foibles? Is this the new standard for camera phones? Is it the best all-round camera you can buy? Let’s find out...

Key Specs

5.5in, 1440 x 2560, 540ppi LCD screen, 128/6GB RAM; 2.4GHz Octa-core Cortex A53 CPU on Kirin 960 chipset, Mali-G71 MP8 GPU; Dual 20/12MP rear with 8MP front cameras, Android 7, 3,750mAh battery, Fingerprint reader, microSD slot/dual-SIM card, USB-C, 154 x 75 x 7mm, 165g. Full specs here.

Design and Handling

These phones aren’t much to look at – they’re almost identical to the black box we saw with the Oppo R9s. Some retailers offer gold and also a blue variant but there’s not a lot to write home about here. They do feel very solid though and we’re fans of the ‘serated’ power button which makes it easier to instinctively press the right one. Compared with the Mate 9, the 10 Plus feels significantly smaller but is when doing anything.

Android 7 is the platform and Huawei’s EMUI OS runs on top of this. It’s not overly intrusive and offers features like Huawei’s “Ultra Memory” optimization and Machine Learning to improve app usage. To be frank, it’s hard to see how this helps more than other phones (which frequently use similar technologies). All we care about is speed and battery life (we discuss the latter below). That said, having a memory defragmentation app, which ensures that app updates stay sitting in place with the original apps, should mean that several months down the line, this phone is still running quickly while competitors start slowing down.

There are some other potentially-nifty features. One is the AVAST-based virus scanner – we don’t see too many phone viruses but, hey, it’s there. More usefully there’s a built-in App Lock and File Safe so you can secure all your important work files and nudie pics and subsequently pass your phone to friends, colleagues and family in confidence. Another potentially-useful feature is App Twin which allows you to use two versions of the same app but with different accounts logged in.

For the first time in a while, we were impressed with the audio. Not only do conference calls get loud and clear, playing music on the device isn’t terrible… the stereo speakers are actually quite good. Music gets relatively loud and sounds almost full bodied. Treble doesn’t top out and there’s even a bit of punch to the bass. It’s no ghetto blaster but compared to most phones we’ve reviewed in the past year, this is one of the best in this area.

Huawei P10 Plus Camera Review

The press materials that come with this phone are packed with terms for new technologies that make photographs better. They include 3D Facial Detection, Hybrid Zoom, Embedded ISP and Dynamic Illumination. We’re normally very wary of such things, but then you only have to glance at the P10 Plus’ pictures to know that something special is going on behind the scenes.

The two Leica lenses are completely flush with the back.
The two Leica lenses are completely flush with the back.

The 10 Plus has two cameras at the rear: a 20-megapixel monochrome camera plus a 12-megapixel colour unit. These sit behind optically-stabilised Leica Summilux F/1,8 lenses. At the front is another Leica F/1.9 8-megapixel camera. But what does all this look like?

A snatched macro shot comes out sharp and colourful with the background blurring for added impact. We didn't have to do anything in post.
A snatched macro shot comes out sharp and colourful with the background blurring for added impact. We didn't have to do anything in post.

In general use, the camera is fast and accurate to focus and has minimal shutter lag which instantly makes it a joy to use. We found ourselves leaving the aperture features on and colours set to vivid. When doing this, even the most mundane photos could look interesting if not amazing. The dual-lens/sensor system means that extra lighting (and therefore colour) information is captured which can be used for interesting pre-focusing effects plus additional re-focusing effects later. The fast processors mean that this all happens without lag and that more-complicated, natural-looking photographic effects can be easily achieved.

The Huawei-Leica partnership has done very well to help force the Bokeh effect accurately here. Usually when hair and fluff is involved transitions between sharp-focus and blur can go awry, yet this shot came out accurately first attempt.
The Huawei-Leica partnership has done very well to help force the Bokeh effect accurately here. Usually when hair and fluff is involved transitions between sharp-focus and blur can go awry, yet this shot came out accurately first attempt.

Up close and macro pictures were captured crisp, sharp and quickly. Pulling back, the Bokeh effect quickly made itself known with sharp focus with a blurred backgrounds making even mundane pictures pictures more interesting and dramatic. This effect can still go wrong on occasion but it seems to be getting better as Huawei’s cameras evolve. Any errors are usually remedied simply by taking many pictures as though you were an enthusiast or professional.

Despite the poor lighting, this is well exposed and detail has been captured in dark areas that are usually challenging for other cameras.
Despite the poor lighting, this is well exposed and detail has been captured in dark areas that are usually challenging for other cameras.

Portraiture has been boosted considerably with the phone now measuring multiple points (192 of them!) on the face and using them to help expose correctly for various lighting conditions. Whatever is actually going on, we can vouchsafe that these are among the best portrait shots we’ve taken on a camera that’s not a decent SLR.

We found ourselves using the aperture mode with vivid colours for every shot we took. It made it's HTC rival look particularly good.
We found ourselves using the aperture mode with vivid colours for every shot we took. It made it's HTC rival look particularly good.
The P10 Plus idetifies 190 points on the face in order to help analyse the scene and apply the best exposure settings. What we can tell you is that the results were impressive whenever we tried them. That it's managed to retain detail in the hair while blurring the background is very impressive..
The P10 Plus idetifies 190 points on the face in order to help analyse the scene and apply the best exposure settings. What we can tell you is that the results were impressive whenever we tried them. That it's managed to retain detail in the hair while blurring the background is very impressive..
There are plenty of high-quality filters to play with meaning you can go the full film-grain or Film Noir... or a messy mixture of them all.
There are plenty of high-quality filters to play with meaning you can go the full film-grain or Film Noir... or a messy mixture of them all.

A good addition is that the Bokeh effect is now available in Monochrome. Black and White photos suddenly look even better than before and the great many easy-to-access filters turn your phone into a veritable dark room. Like the P9, we had a lot of fun using this camera.

The technical prowess meant food shots could look very good - but less so in not-so-great lighting.
The technical prowess meant food shots could look very good - but less so in not-so-great lighting.
The Bokeh effect in Monochrome means you can unleash your inner Cartier-Bresson.around town.
The Bokeh effect in Monochrome means you can unleash your inner Cartier-Bresson.around town.

What bothered us with Mate 9 was the very poor low-light performance – in even modest light it would struggle badly to focus and take very grainy shots. While the P10 Plus still isn’t in the league of the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel XL in terms of low-light performance, it’s a bit better and can create usable, if grainy, results going down to very low light. But There is still a great deal of room for improvement.

In uniform low light results could be impressive with only minor grain occurring. However, we still expect much better in the case of the Luna Park picture - the camera should be capable of more.
In uniform low light results could be impressive with only minor grain occurring. However, we still expect much better in the case of the Luna Park picture - the camera should be capable of more.
Not a bad effort in poor-lighting, but there's still considerable grain present.
Not a bad effort in poor-lighting, but there's still considerable grain present.
Focusing is accurate and technical prowess is impressive, but again grain significantly softens the image more than it should.
Focusing is accurate and technical prowess is impressive, but again grain significantly softens the image more than it should.
In very low light there's a usable image but this is still a long way from the Samsung S8 and Google Pixel XL.
In very low light there's a usable image but this is still a long way from the Samsung S8 and Google Pixel XL.

The Selfie camera is everything we hoped it would be. Pictures are sharp and the artificial Bokeh effect regularly looks great. There's also an automatic feature where the camera will digitally zoom in and out to widen the image if a friend steps into/out of the shot.

Despite all the hair and curves, the forced Bokeh effect only blurred the background thereby creating an arresting Selfie.
Despite all the hair and curves, the forced Bokeh effect only blurred the background thereby creating an arresting Selfie.

In terms of video, we preferred the smooth 60fps Full HD over the 4K capture. There’s some slight image wobble when shooting but overall this is one of the best video cameras we’ve used on a phone. Dynamic range is impressive and while detail can be lost in very low-light, impressive detail can still be seen in shadows without things getting too grainy. 4K video was less smooth but still captured impressive detail considering the size of the lenses. It’s also worth mentioning that the video is captured using H.265 codec meaning its results are almost half the size of competing video file sizes.

All in all, the camera is generally fantastic and that bit better (and more accurate) than the excellent Mate 9 before it. Low-light performance is noticeably improved but still lags behind the best on the market. We also found that where the Mate 9 could get extremely hot (and even shut down) during monster photo sessions (think 200+ photos) the P10 Plus stays cooler, in part (at least) to an additional two cooling chambers over the Mate 9's six.

Next: Battery Life and Conclusion

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