Huawei P10 Review: A perfect mix of premium features and price
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Huawei has priced the P10 to sell, but that doesn’t mean it has skimped on either features or style.
Huawei’s 2016 P9 handset was something of a surprise to the mobile market, because while it combined a dash of premium style with lenses co-developed by Leica, the Chinese company didn’t charge you a fortune if you wanted to own it.
Huawei followed up the Huawei P9 with the much larger Huawei Mate 9 before launching the Huawei P10 at this year’s Mobile World Congress, alongside the P10 Plus and Huawei Watch 2. It’s a slightly more expensive prospect than the P9 was, with more of a focus on style, but Huawei has largely made improvements in the P10 that make it a very compelling handset indeed.
Huawei P10: Design
Huawei’s pitch for its P-series phones is that they’re all about style, with gently curved edges around a relatively restrained front bezel, at least at the sides. This isn’t a Galaxy S8 in bezel terms, but it’s equally not cursed with much in the way of excess bulk.
We live in an age of increasingly large and tall premium smartphones, where the smaller models are often those with serious compromises, so it’s genuinely pleasant to see Huawei bringing the internal processor goods in a phone that comes with a 5.1 inch display. That smaller display allows the P10 to have dimensions of just 145.3x69.3x6.98 mm with a carrying weight of just 145 grams. It’s been a while since I’ve tested a phone that’s as small, light and pleasant such that I could forget it was in my pocket until it started ringing.
A very large part of the Huawei P10’s appeal is in the very wide colour range that Huawei produces the phone in. No, you’re not going to love every single colour choice, but some of them are very striking if you like ostentatious behaviour, while still leaving a few more sedate choices for the more conservative phone buyer. I personally can’t see the appeal in the green (sorry, Pantone, Greenery) coloured P10, but it does truly take all sorts.
The P10 also has a few more subtle design notes that make it stand out. The power button is ridged (a trick Huawei seems to have (ahem) “borrowed” from HTC’s HTC10) and also very subtly ringed in red. This stands out on some handset colours more than others, but it’s a lovely touch nonetheless. The dual lens camera array on the rear of the phone sits perfectly flush with the phone body, so there’s no camera bump at all. Like the iPhone 7, the Huawei P10’s front button isn’t a button at all, but instead a tiny motor sitting behind a flat plate. They’re not all original touches, but they’re handled well and with a good sense of style.
Huawei P10: Camera
Huawei really has pushed its association with premium camera maker Leica hard since the P9’s debut, and with the P10 it’s improved only incrementally, but well. The P10 features a dual lens array on the rear of the phone that, like the P9 and Mate 9, uses one full colour lens and one monochrome lens. The monochrome lens is a 20MP f/2.2 sensor, while the RGB lens drops a little to 12MP f/2.2. They’re using the same Leica Summarit lenses as the Mate 9, where the larger Huawei P10 Plus differentiates itself with a higher grade Summilux lens. Both rear lenses feature optical image stabilisation as well as the same hybrid zoom feature as found in the Mate 9.
On the front of the P10 you’ll find an 8MP f/1.9 single lens that Huawei claims is particularly fine tuned for low light situations. The P10’s party piece when it comes to selfies is what Huawei call “adaptive selfies”, where the camera detects if there are any additional faces in the frame and automatically widens the frame if you’re trying to get a group shot. This works well enough, although obviously it could also bring stranger’s faces into frame if you only wanted a tight selfie shot.
There are plenty of dual camera options for consumers to pick from in the premium space, and it’s a great way to enhance the flexibility of your photography. The monochrome lens on the P10 can capture some really fine black and white shots, and while that’s often an over-used short cut for actual photographic style, it’s one that’s also well worth exploring if you’re keen to enhance your photography skills.
Like the P9, the Huawei P10 performs best when you’re essentially shooting portrait-style shots. Huawei provides a range of post-processing tools, including the predicable beauty modes to further fine-tune shots. Here’s a range of untouched straight shots from the Huawei P10:
If there’s a weakness in the P10’s camera arsenal, it’s that, like the P9 before it, it’s much better suited to portrait than landscape photography. On the video front, it will shoot at up to 4K resolution with just a slight amount of judder if you’re shooting in a handheld style at higher resolutions.
Huawei P10: Why you’d want one
Good performance: The Huawei P10’s internals are, more or less, what would happen if you put the Huawei Mate 9’s innards into a shrink ray. It’s running on the same Kirin 960 processor as the Mate 9, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. Based on our experiences reviewing the Mate 9, we were expecting good performance out of the Huawei P10, and that’s precisely what we’ve seen. Here’s how the P10 compares using Geekbench 4’s CPU test:
Handset Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better) Samsung Galaxy S8+ 2020 6690 Samsung Galaxy S8 1989 6628 Huawei Mate 9 1925 6068 Apple iPhone 7 Plus 3374 5649 Huawei P10 1922 5633 Apple iPhone 7 3452 5599 Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 1359 5333 Samsung Galaxy S7 1378 4718 Oppo R9s Plus 1466 4415 LG G6 1810 4228 Apple iPhone SE 2449 4171 Google Pixel XL 1629 4051
It’s not quite as solid a story for straight up 3D performance, though. Here’s how the Huawei P10 compared at a benchmark level, using 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test:
Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result Apple iPhone 7 Plus 37956 Apple iPhone 7 37717 HTC U Ultra 29968 Apple iPhone SE 29276 Samsung Galaxy S7 28903 Google Pixel XL 28458 Huawei Mate 9 28457 Samsung Galaxy S8 28409 LG G6 28344 Apple iPhone 6s 28171 Samsung Galaxy S8+ 28120 Huawei P10 25168
Outside direct benchmark comparison, however, the Huawei P10 is a very nippy performer indeed. One feature that Huawei pushes as part of the P10’s arsenal of tricks is the ability for it to manage memory over the long term so that you don’t see a gradual performance decline in your handset. Typically we can’t test handsets long enough to assess that kind of claim, but having had a handset in constant use since early March, it’s a promise that seems to bear some fruit, with the P10 still just as responsive in day-to-day use now as it was when we took it out of the packaging.
- Smart fingerprint sensor: OK, yes, Huawei has lifted the idea of a fixed sensor that pretends to be a button from Apple, but even that’s licensed technology anyway. What Huawei has done that’s remarkably smart is to use the one button to cover all the standard Android interface basics. It’s a fine and fast fingerprint sensor of course, but beyond that, if you tap lightly it acts as a back button, while a longer held tap takes you back to the home screen. Swiping across the button from the left brings up your recent apps list. The one mystifying aspect here is that this rather wonderful feature is disabled by default, so if you didn’t know it was present, you might only use onscreen navigation elements and curse the fingerprint sensor as a waste of space.
Great battery life (for a smaller handset): A big part of the reason why smaller phones often have lesser processors in them is so that manufacturers can eke out the most of their often meagre batteries. In a smaller frame you can only pack so much battery storage, so that’s to be expected. We didn’t expect the Huawei P10 to dethrone the current (and much larger) battery champion, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, and indeed it didn’t. What it did manage to do, though, was impress us overall with what it could do with its 3,200mAh battery. Here’s how the Huawei P10 compared in benchmarked battery performance using Geekbench’s older Battery test:
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score Galaxy S8+ 14:55:30 8955 Samsung Galaxy S8 11:47:50 7078 Apple iPhone 7 Plus 11:11:20 6713 Huawei P10 9:31:30 5523 Google Pixel XL 9:14:20 5543 LG G6 9:09:30 5495 Huawei Mate 9 9:00:30 5330 Apple iPhone 7 7:50:10 4701 HTC U Ultra 7:25:40 4456 Apple iPhone SE 4:27:10 2671
It is possible to run the P10 down in a single day if you’re a heavy user, although the inclusion of Huawei’s supercharger in the box means it’s a doddle to top its battery up very quickly if you have a power point to hand.
- Really competitive pricing: The Huawei P10 is $100 more than the P9 was when it launched, but it’s bringing quite a bit more to the table, and, critically, it’s much cheaper outright than many other flagship handsets. If you’re annoyed by the constant stream of $1000+ flagships, the P10 is a particularly fine choice.
Huawei P10: Why you might not want one
- Where’s my water resistance? Huawei has yet to integrate proper, lab-tested water resistance into any of its phones. Its positioning on that feature is that it’s a cost-saving measure that would otherwise tilt the P10’s pricing up unacceptably. We’re seeing it increasingly as a key feature for premium phones, but without it, you get the P10 wet at your risk.
- Only a Full HD display: The larger P10 Plus sports a WQHD display, but the P10 makes do with a 1080p display instead. Ridiculously high resolutions are perhaps overkill on smaller screens, but you can get 1080p on true budget phones these days, and it’s not a great compliment to the P10’s excellent camera, either.
- Very limited colour choices: When Huawei announced the P10 back at Mobile World Congress, it seemed very likely that we’d only see a subset of the available colours officially in Australia. That’s indeed the case, with only the Graphite Black version available at full retail, while the Dazzling Blue is an Optus exclusive, and Vodafone has the Gold variant locked down. Or in other words, if you do want the other colours, you’ll have to import them.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The rise in screen sizes has been a boon if you’re a fan of the phablet form factor, but not so much if you want a smaller but powerful phone. There just aren’t that many options to choose from, and what’s available tends to be hobbled either in performance or battery life terms.
Huawei’s P10 skips merrily past both of those obstacles, and what’s more, it does so at a price point that puts the rest of the competition on notice. As such, it’s a genuinely compelling prospect if you’re after a smaller phone.
If you wanted the P10’s essential feature set in a larger handset, there’s obviously the P10 Plus, but also Huawei’s own Mate 9, which rocks in with a $100 price premium over the P10 itself. You could also consider any number of mid-range smaller phones, where you’d save on the purchase price, in some cases to a considerable degree, although you wouldn’t get the same mix of performance, camera and battery life that you get with the P10.
Where can I get it?
The Huawei P10 is available in Graphite Black outright in Australia for $899 from 25 May 2017.
The P10 is also available through Optus in Graphite Black or Dazzling Blue on contract or from Vodafone in Graphite Black or Gold finishes.
Huawei P10 Specifications
|Front Camera||8MP F1.9|
|Rear Camera||20MP monochrome/12MP Dual|
|Processor||Kirin 960 octa-core|