​Huawei P10 smartphone review

King of the mid-range or should you pay more an Android phone?

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Huawei P10 smartphone
  • Huawei P10 smartphone
  • Huawei P10 smartphone
  • Huawei P10 smartphone
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent camera
  • Fast

Cons

  • Low-light colour performance still iffy

Bottom Line

If you can't run to the more-expensive P10 Plus this is a superb, powerful mid-range phone thanks to the brilliant Leica camera and beefy processors.

Would you buy this?

We loved Huawei’s P9 ‘Leica phone’ last year. It redefined what photography with a phone could be. Now here’s its successor, the P10. Can it be as revolutionary or is it evolutionary? Earlier this week we reviewed the P10 Plus which is a larger, super-charged version of this. It has a bit more memory, a bigger, higher-resolution screen and, supposedly, some better optics. However, in terms of functions and features, it’s basically the same. We were certainly impressed with the P10 Plus, but can you happily save $200 by buying this instead? Let’s find out…

Key specs

5.1in, 1920 x 1080, 432ppi LCD screen, 32,64/4GB 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, 3,200mAh battery, Fingerprint reader, microSD slot, USB-C, 145 x 69 x 7mm, 145g. Full specs here.

Design and Handling

Much of the design, handling and features are the same as the P10 so we’ll repeat most of that. The main differences are that there’s a 5.1-inch Full HD LCD screen instead of the 5.5-inch Ultra HD screen. Both use the same “IPS-Neo” LCD screen and are bright, colourful and sharp. The Plus obviously gets sharper because of the higher resolution and this can be important when dealing with intricate details in fine photography. However, in practice, we really didn’t notice much difference in handling.

Physically, it doesn’t look like much more than a black box although some carriers are offering gold and also a blue variant. The fingerprint reader has moved to the front (beneath the screen) which will split the field but it’s very fast and accurate. Huawei says it will work with wet fingers but that wasn’t always the case. One thing we were very happy to see was the move to the latest-and-greatest Gorilla Glass 5 – the P9 was one of the most brittle phones we ever tested with the chassis denting and the screen prone to splintering with relatively-minor knocks.

The processor and chipset are the same as the larger Mate 9 and P10 Plus. However, unlike it’s big brother it *only* has 4GB of RAM instead of 6. This still puts it up there with the most powerful phones on the market, though. It will run everything as fast as possible, but may not quite be as fast at processing massive images as the P10 Plus - we didn't notice any meaningful difference.

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.

Google Assistant is included – something which is becoming increasingly useful on phones (especially when driving).

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.

We were impressed with the P10 Plus’ stereo speakers which offered a noticeable amount more punch than competitors. The P10’s single speaker isn’t as powerful or rounded on its own, but it’s not bad. It gets quite loud and is distinct for conference calls. For music treble can top out quicker at high volumes and bass isn’t as punchy, but it’s still up there with other top-end rivals.

Huawei P10 Camera review

The P10 has the same 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and 12-megapixel colour sensor that the P10 Plus and the Mate 9 have. However, it doesn’t have the high-end Summilux Leica lens that’s seen on the Plus. Instead it has the Summarit Leica lens seen on the Mate 9. In technical terms, it means it should let in less light – which is a concern as the low-light performance of the Mate 9 was poor.

The Leica Summarit lenses are a little lower in quality to the Summalux lenses.
The Leica Summarit lenses are a little lower in quality to the Summalux lenses.

However, the system has been updated on the P10 (and the lenses have moved back to being horizontally-aligned instead of vertical) so we hoped for the best.

In flat light the image is sharp and well exposed. However, some detail is lost in the darker shadows compared to the P10 Plus.
In flat light the image is sharp and well exposed. However, some detail is lost in the darker shadows compared to the P10 Plus.
Ramping up the colour mode to Vivid gets addictive. Here the food looks tempting but the modest low-light prowess of the P10 means it's a bit dark.
Ramping up the colour mode to Vivid gets addictive. Here the food looks tempting but the modest low-light prowess of the P10 means it's a bit dark.

Compared to the rest of the market, the camera is outstanding. The improved dual-lens system and its Bokeh effect (which sharpens the focal point and blurs the background, dramatically improving impact) means almost all quick snapshots are striking and accurately-focused more often than not (more frequently than past revisions) so long as lighting is reasonable. As with other Huawei cameras, leaving the colour mode on Vivid was preferable as colours really jumped off the screen. This can be reduced to Standard if you need more-natural hues.

The P10's Portrait mode blurs the background making portraits more striking. Even if the lighting ain't great.
The P10's Portrait mode blurs the background making portraits more striking. Even if the lighting ain't great.
The latest Leica-based software has facial recognition features which identify 190 points on a face. This optimises focusing and exposure to suit the lighting conditions.
The latest Leica-based software has facial recognition features which identify 190 points on a face. This optimises focusing and exposure to suit the lighting conditions.

While we didn’t expect there to be a big difference between the Summilux and Summarit Lenses, it is there and noticeable - especially when light drops. The P10 Plus’ shots really do let in a bit more light and this has knock-on effects which mean that the forced Bokeh transitions between sharp and blurred areas aren’t quite as accurate on the P10. It’s a minor thing for most people, but seeing as this phone is all about fine photography, it’s worth noting that the P10 Plus is a noticeable notch ahead in these regards.

It's been incredibly difficult for phones to force a Bokeh effect when hair and fluff is involved. The P10 Plus managed a similar snapshot a little better because the lens was sharper. Here some of the soft/sharp transitions are a bit iffy. But it's not by much.
It's been incredibly difficult for phones to force a Bokeh effect when hair and fluff is involved. The P10 Plus managed a similar snapshot a little better because the lens was sharper. Here some of the soft/sharp transitions are a bit iffy. But it's not by much.

Black and white photography sees the playing field level out some more. Low light performance is much better when in Monochrome mode. The updated camera system also means that the Bokeh effect is now usable in monochrome whereas it couldn’t be used on previous models.

The difference between colour and Black and White photography in low-light on the P10 is dramatic.
The difference between colour and Black and White photography in low-light on the P10 is dramatic.
As with the P10 Plus, quick macro shots are usually very-accurately focused in decent light.
As with the P10 Plus, quick macro shots are usually very-accurately focused in decent light.

The Selfie camera is also a Leica Summarit unit. The Portrait mode and the Bokeh effect mean that images are more striking than most rival cameras. However, it was certainly the case that, indoors and modest light, once again the P10 Plus' superior optics made for more-accurate transitions between sharp and blurred areas.

It's a striking Selfie, but some edges have been blurred when they shouldn't. This was one of the better efforts by the P10.
It's a striking Selfie, but some edges have been blurred when they shouldn't. This was one of the better efforts by the P10.
We've been a bit persnickety above but, in reality, in decent light, it can be impossible to separate the quality of the P10 (left) and P10 Plus (right).
We've been a bit persnickety above but, in reality, in decent light, it can be impossible to separate the quality of the P10 (left) and P10 Plus (right).

Video capture is smooth thanks to the optical image stabilization although noticeably more so in 60fps Full HD mode than 4K. In bright and dark scenes, some detail could be lost in shadows compared to top models, but not to a terrible degree. The audio captured was crisp and clear and altogether we were impressed. Video is captured using the H.265 codec and subsequently takes up much less room than rivals.

Next: Battery Life, Extra Features and Conclusion

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