Huawei Isn’t a stranger to good-looking phones, pretty much all of the P series and Mate series have been pretty phones, and that extends down to the younger brother that is Honor. So when Huawei announced the P10 at MWC a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised that it was a solid phone, I wasn’t surprised that it was fast, or that it had a great camera, not even the price or specs because Huawei has done what was expected, they took last year phone, and made it better in every way.
Disclaimer: Huawei Provided this P10 to us free of Charge. We have been using it as our primary device since the 26th of February, and in that time we have received 2 software OTAs that both improved stability and performance. As of writing this, the build I am using is B113. I do not know if this is the shipping firmware or not, but I am going to treat it as beta until told otherwise.
Well, nearly every way.
- 5.1” 1080p IPS-Neo Display
- Kirin 960 octa-core processor
- 4x Cortex A73’s @2.36Ghz
- 4x Cortex A53’s @1.84Ghz
- ARM Mali-G71 MP8 @1037Mhz
- Manufactured on TSMC 16nm FFC
- 12mp RGB Camera sensor w/OIS
- 20mp Monochrome Camera sensor
- Up to 2160p with H.265/HEVC encoding
- 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
- 64GB UFS2.1
- USB-C 2.0
- 3200mAh Battery
- Huawei SuperCharge (5v4.5a/4.5v5a)
For more specs, head on over to the GSMArena page for the P10
Hardware – Huawei P10
As you’ve no doubt already seen, the P10 does draw influences from a certain fruit shaped company’s phone. The P10 does share more than a Passing resemblance to the iPhone 7, not that it is necessarily a bad thing, but if you didn’t really like the look of the iPhone 7, there is a high likelihood you won’t be too fond of this either.
Starting off with the front, we have the 5.1” 1080p IPS-NEO display, for those that aren’t aware, this is basically the same display as last year, just a smidge shorter (5.1” compared to 5.2”). Which means that it’s nice and bright with surprisingly nice colours and dark blacks for an IPS panel, the part where the P10 gets a little mark against it’s name is when you realise that once it’s powered on, the display doesn’t actually extend to the white part of the bezel, there is actually a black border in between the 2, which is much more apparent on the white and silver versions than it is on others.
Above the screen is the usual array of sensors, including ambient light and proximity sensors, an 8mp front facing selfie camera (now Leica branded as well) with an F1.9 aperture for even better Bokeh in your selfies. There is a small RGB LED notification light next to this that is very well hidden and lastly the earpiece, which is nice and loud, though I feel could be a tad wider than it is.
Below the screen is one of the coolest and one of my least favourite changes from the P9 to the P10. Huawei has continued being a pioneer of insanely fast and accurate fingerprint scanner, that is not changing here, with the P10 and P10 plus having fingerprint scanners that also doesn’t even feel like they’re scanning, they’re that fast. Huawei is utilising Fingerprint Cards’ FPC1268 sensor here under a Gorilla Glass 5 cover sheet. There is no actual button, but the glass is sunken in a fraction of a millimeter just to give you some reference as to where the scanner is, and although it looks it, it is not actually a separate piece of glass shoved in there, it’s a single pane of glass they’ve maneuvered to get like this, pretty cool.
The thing i’m not fond about though, is it’s placement. I have been very much against front facing fingerprint readers for a long time, I think they take up space, I think they break up the clean lines and featureless facade of a nicely designed phone. Sure if you leave your phone on a desk more often than not it is easier to unlock it without picking it up, but there are other tradeoffs. With the rear mounted scanner, you could use it for pulling down the notification shade, swiping through photos and more, I’d much rather have this scanner be on the back and they shrunk the height of the phone a little bit, but that is just me, It is still an insanely fast and accurate fingerprint scanner, it’s placement is just not ideal for me.
Then we come to the flaw of the front in it’s almighty idiocy. There is no Oleophobic coating on the screen. The P10 comes with a pre-applied plastic screen protector, and as Alex Dobie from Android Central found out, there is a reason it is pre-applied, because Huawei made the absolutely asinine decision to not include an coating over the glass that resists oils, and makes the cleaning of it much easier. Now, much like Alex, I removed mine, and I still prefer the feel of glass over plastic, even greasy smudgy glass. And being Gorilla Glass 5, it’s going to be harder to scratch than the plastic screen protector that scratched literally the first time I put it into my pocket.
Looking at the perimeter, the left hand side has nothing but the SIM card and MicroSD tray, on the P10 that is dual-NanoSIM or a NanoSIM and a MicroSD, whatever you choose, and that microSD? Huawei has certified that cards up to 256gb will work, if you want to splash the cash. Flipping 180 onto the right hand side, we have the Power Button and volume rocker. Now this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the clickiest power button I have ever felt, and I know it sounds weird, but it is so satisfying to just click, it has a nice tactile feel and the sound is very reassuring Oh, and the power button? It’s also anodised red, because reasons, that’s why.
Up top is nothing but the secondary noise cancelling microphone, and down below, is the 3.5mm headphone jack the main microphone, a USB-C 2.0 port that is once again flanked by 2 pentalobe screws (Yes, those pentalobe screws) and the main loudspeaker for the P10. Don’t ask me why it has pentalobe screws, don’t ask me why it is still USB2.0 instead of 3.1 Gen1 (or ideally Gen2) because I simply do not know. At least it has Type-C and a headphone jack, which is not always something we can say.
Lastly we have the rear of the phone which is nicely quite spartan. It’s like someone took a P9 to an industrial sander/grinder and curved off the boxiness and increased the radius of the corner curves, and the end result? A phone that feels much sturdier and nicer to hold in the hand for longer periods. One thing that hasn’t really changed much externally despite a lot on the inside changing is the camera setup. Inside it’s almost entirely different, but outside, it is near identical, as only the larger P10 Plus got the new, faster, fancier Sumilux lens, the P10 is stuck with Last years Summarit F2.2 lens, still a great lens, but not quite as fab as the f1.8 with nicer glass that the plus model gets. Still, we have both lenses, then the dual tone LED flash and laser autofocus module, and then the Leica branding with the lens specifications.
Below is the Huawei Logo and below that is the regulatory information. Quite a spartan back as I said. Though one weird thing, the antenna lines and been moved, they’ve become a lot more iPhone 7-esque, or more appropriately, more Meizu-esque, not a bad thing, just a very obvious departure from last year.
Software – Huawei P10
We finally have a Huawei phone with software that doesn’t make me instantly want to regurgitate my last meal. Under EMUI 5.1 on the P10 is Android 7.0, now yes, that is a few builds old at this point, and I’m not sure when that will change, but at least we are starting with a version of Android that is new enough. I would still much prefer android 7.1.1, but at least we are on Nougat, which means we get some great new features, as well as some EMUI improvements.
As it sounds, EMUI 5.1 is an iterative update on 5.0 released a few months ago with the Mate 9, things are tighter and neater and a little more pulled together and that I can certainly agree with. Huawei still doesn’t make my favourite skin, but at least the things they’ve changed have been scaled back this time. They’ve changed the notification shade, that is true, but it is still very close to the stock way, the colours are just a little off and so are the animations, but on the other hand, no notifications are just broken, like they were in EMUI from every major release I’ve tried it on since the P6.
Then we have multitasking or the recent menu, which, once again is pretty much unchanged from stock, aside from one or two tweaks like an easier clear all button and the rounding of the corners or the programs. What I can say about EMUI is that whilst it is still an eastern inspired skin, it is at least adopting more western influences into it, with the option to add back in an app drawer, and some more toned down colours etc. Huawei has listened to user feedback and has created the best version of EMUI yet (though, let’s be real, the bar was super low)
The latest build as of writing this (B113) is the second major update i’ve gotten on my P10, and it improved stability and performance once again. When I picked up my P10 on day 1, It never felt slow on B108, then B112 came and made that feel like i was living life through bullet time, and now B113 is here and feels just as dramatic to me, which is impressive that they are able to eek this much performance out without sacrificing battery or experience at all, good job Huawei.
If I had a complaint it is that it is on the February 1st security Patch, now that is last month as we are writing this, and the phone is not technically released as of writing, so they may update it soon and negate this paragraph, but as it stands, I’d have preferred a more up to date security patch.
Performance – Huawei P10
In a word, blistering.
The Kirin 960 has shown to be a beast of a chip, as did the Kirin 950 and 955 before it. The things that change with the 960 are the newer core architecture (A73 over A72) and GPU Architecture (Bitfrost over Midgard). Now the change from A72 to A73 is actually a lot more significant than you’d think, it actually derives from the Cortex A17 lineage, instead of the A15 Lineage than the A57/A72 get theirs from. The A73 is a much more area efficient design as well as power efficient and powerful, a wonderful architecture that AnandTech ran down here. The G71 is also a much newer and all around better GPU than the T880 it is replacing. It’s better in every way, oh, and this time, Huawei/HiSilicon put a decent amount of GPU cores in there, so it has a chance competing with the big boys. An 8-Core G71 vs a 4-Core T880, it doesn’t even seem fair to compare them, so I won’t.
Lastly is the process it is made on. Now this is the only real area which feels like a downgrade, the 16nm FFC instead of the 16nm FF+, FFC was developed to keep most of the great parts of FF+, but bring the price significantly down as well as the operating voltages. In doing this, I fear that HiSilicon might have gone to low and shot themselves in the foot here a bit. FFC is still a good process node to build upon, but in a direct comparison, I’d choose FF+ for a high performance chip.
The A73’s at 2.36Ghz and the A53s at 1.84Ghz are perfectly performant and I didn’t see any struggling or stuttering unless I played some games for much longer that I usually would (it’s for science, trust me). The UI always seemed to move at a smooth framerate above 60fps with no noticeable dips in normal operation. For those of you who want them, here is a small gallery of benchmarks.
Camera – Huawei P10
To say that Huawei blew us away last year with the P9 would be an understatement. It wasn’t the first company to do a dual camera setup, but it was the first to do it in the way it did, and It really paid off.
The P10’s camera is an advanced version of what we saw last year, instead of 2 12mp cameras, we have a 12mp colour sensor and a 20mp monochrome one, the extra detail in the monochrome sensor allowing for what Huawei calls “hybrid zoom” a mix between the “optical” zoom from the differences in lens focal lengths and the resolution difference and digital zooming. It’s not a perfect optical Zoom like what Apple has done with a doubled focal length, or the crazy periscoping 5x zoom that Oppo showed off at MWC, but it’s way better than standard Digital zoom, and up to 2x, I don’t really see all that much degradation, which is awesome.
Just ‘Leica’ with the P9 (I’m not even sorry). You can take monochrome only photos with the monochrome sensor, and for those saying “Why don’t you just take a photo and de-saturate it” because it’s a different type of photo. The monochrome only sensor catches so much detail that is blocked out by the colour filters in an RGB one, the sharpness, the detail, the dynamic range etc, all look far better on a native monochrome image, it also happens to have the benefit of being a 20mp image.
But most of the time you’ll be shooting with the P10 you’ll be shooting in auto mode or pro mode, both of which use both sensors in tandem to create the best image for you, and you know what? It really, really works. I’m running out of great things to say about the stills part of this camera, so instead, here is just a gallery of images.
Now how about some Monochrome ones?
And Lastly, some video work. The 1080p out of the P10 is awesome, as is the 4K (2160p) video, but as friend of the site Juan Carlos Bagnell points out, the P10 uses the HEVC/H.265 encoding format, which not everyone is quite ready for yet (and by that i mean editors and hosting sites) So you may or may not see a 4K video sample from the P10.
Battery – Huawei P10
Another thing that I never really had to worry about. In my time with the P10 (so nearly a month) not once have i gone to bed with a dead phone and I think only 2 times have I gone to bed with it under 15%. Huawei’s 3200mAh battery pack in the P10 is a solid battery, it’s small, it’s dense, it’s good chemistry and it also has one of the best charging solutions on the market.
Huawei’s SuperCharge is what it sounds like, it’s a Third generation fast charging technology (first gen was 5v2a, then 9v2a) and the Supercharger can output at 5v2a, but it rarely does, in fact it goes to 4.5v5a or 5v4.5a. That’s a tad higher than Oppo’s VOOC at 5v4a and the USB-IF Rapid Charge part of the UPS-PD spec at 5v3a (what the Pixels use). The Supercharger requires a special plug, obviously, and also a special cable. As it is carrying a lot more amperage than your standard cable, Huawei have a thicker cable for supercharging so it doesn’t get as hot, this cable is signified by look inside the Type-A port and the purple plastic shows you it is a super charging cable. Now, having to use a special cable and plug is just as annoying as it sounds, but it is no different than having to do it with your OnePlus 3/3T with Dash Charge, or an Oppo Phone with VOOC, or a Motorola phone and TurboPower. It is not ideal, but as long as Huawei make the cables and plugs readily available, then it’ll be frustrating, but not unusable.
Signal/Radios – Huawei P10
Continuing the theme of “Huawei does great here”… Huawei has done great here, the usual dead spots in my office or university are no longer dead spots, just weaker reception spots, speeds are admirable and call quality is surprisingly great.
With an LTE Cat12/13 modem inside, If the P10 was suffering, something would be seriously up, but as Huawei is a major player in the infrastructure market, I think it is very obvious that they know how to make something connect to a network, and have it stay connected. We have Bluetooth 4.2 on board as well as Wifi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac at 2.4ghz and 5ghz, as well as NFC and everything just works, nas you can guess by now, just as it should
Conclusion – Huawei P10
As if It wasn’t blatantly obvious, despite it’s insane flaw of not having an oleophobic coating on the glass, I am incredibly enamoured with the P10, It has one of the most amazing cameras on a smartphone, some of the best performance, one of the nicest screens and best builds, the fastest most accurate fingerprint scanner i’ve ever tested and more. This is going to stay as my personal device for a long while, just as the P9 and Honor 8 before it did.
Huawei is doing better and better, and others should be worried.
- Gorgeous camera setup
- Insane performance
- Great Battery and Charging
- Manageable size
- Starts at 64GB with MicroSD
- No Oleophobic Coating on the Glass
- Front facing scanner irks me
- Software is still EMUI
- Did I mention no Oleophobic coating?
- Also, no Oleophobic Coating on the screen.