Huawei P10 review

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

With the P10, Huawei signs a beautiful smartphone and a good smartphone. A logical and incremental replacement for the P9, the P10 might as well be considered a small Mate 9. But is it really different from the P9? And especially should we give in to the temptation of renewal? Answers.

One thing is for sure: Huawei has learned well by looking at its two main competitors, Samsung and Apple. The Chinese firm has been largely inspired by these two global giants. First of all, it was inspired by them to design its products, with all the proximity that this sometimes induces (we have already talked about this with the old versions of EMUI). Fortunately, the rise in quality of the Huawei catalog has led the firm to differentiate itself as well. Then it adopted some strategies. The upmarket photographic part, with the partnership signed with Leica, is a clear example.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

A renewal worth the cost?

There is another example that becomes obvious with the P10: Huawei has adopted the incremental update. The one where the difference between two models is not so obvious anymore. The one where you don’t ask yourself if it’s worth changing to this phone, because the quality is undeniably there, but if it’s worth exchanging a predecessor for a successor. The iPhone is the archetype of this fundamental question: should we exchange the iPhone 6 for the iPhone 6S, or the iPhone 6S for the iPhone 7? So for the first time, we raise this question with Huawei’s P line: is the P10 worth buying when you already own the P9? It’s the whole point of this review to find out.

And we’ll start with the usual spec sheet:

  • dimensions: 145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm
  • weight: 144 grams
  • front protection made of Corning Gorilla 5 glass
  • 5.1 inch Full HD IPS Neo LCD display with a resolution of 432 pixels per inch
  • screen-to-mobile size ratio: 71.2
  • HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset with 4 Cortex-A73 cores running at up to 2.4GHz, 4 Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.8GHz and an ARM Mali-G71 MP8 GPU
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of internal storage (expandable via microSDXC)
  • 3200 mAh non-removable battery
  • dual 20-megapixel and 12-megapixel photo sensors, 27mm Leica lenses opening at f/2.2 with aspherical lenses, true-tone flash, phase detection laser autofocus, 2160p video support
  • 8 megapixel webcam on the front with f/1.9 lens
  • fingerprint reader on the front
  • compatible with LTE category 12, WiFi ac dual band, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS (Glonass and Galileo) and USB 2.0 type-C
  • EMUI 5.1 on an Android 7.0 Nougat base

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

You’ll notice that the changes between the P9 and the P10 aren’t that glaring, although some are very impactful, especially the chipset. We’ll see just what the impact is in the performance section, especially since the P10 also gains an extra 1GB of RAM. The dual camera sensor also changes. The battery is more comfortable, while the mobile does not grow.

A happy mix of old, new and borrowed

Precisely, let’s talk about the design of the phone. Visually, the P10 is a clever mix between a P9 and an iPhone 7. Take the first of the two mobiles. Convert the metal shell and the mineral glass band that covers the dual camera sensor. Change the place of the fingerprint reader to the front of the phone (which affects the size of the screen, as we will see). Then change the layout of the separations for the antennas so that they follow the edges of the phone. Place the brand logo in the middle of the metal shell, in full view. And you get… the P10!

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

Besides these few ergonomic changes, the P10 is a true successor to the P9. It takes the premium materials, as well as the majority of the ergonomic lines. The design is very neat. An example: the power button is textured, making it easier to distinguish in the pocket. A button that it is also easier to identify since it is the only one to be highlighted with a colored border. Another novelty of the P10 compared to the P9.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

A double-cap fingerprint reader

Another new feature this year is the relocation of the fingerprint reader, as we reported. It is housed in a “fake button” that turns out to be a touch surface. We want to come back to this detail, because it has three ergonomic consequences. First, we have a preference for this location, as it is visually more convenient. Of course, this is a matter of taste. However, given that the two world leaders have taken this habit (with a slight transgression by Samsung for the Galaxy S8), it seems obvious to us that many users are as used to this position as we are.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

Second consequence, the borders around the device are wider than in the P9. This does not matter much. But the screen/size ratio is in favor of the P10. In addition, to be able to incorporate this button without making its mobile bigger, Huawei has reduced the screen size by 0.1 inch. Put like that, it’s not much. And yet… Thirdly, Huawei brings with this button an alternative solution to the virtual navigation keys of Android. The fingerprint reader thus becomes an interactive pad, like the mTouch button at Meizu. Good ideas are to be taken everywhere!

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

A classic design (despite everything)

For the rest, no change vis-à-vis the P9: SIM on the left, volume and power on the right, mono speaker on the bottom edge, with the USB port (here type-C) and the 3.5 mm jack. The top edge is almost blank (since it only hosts the secondary microphone). Note that the aluminum shell does cover the edges, but stops under the 2.5D mineral glass slab, as with the P9. The P10 also comes with an additional screen protector, which is pre-installed.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

The screen of the P10 is therefore smaller than that of the P9, but the definition is identical. Thus, the screen resolution rises to 431 pixels per inch. Even if this figure is far from equaling that of LG, Samsung or HTC on the top of the range, it is largely sufficient to enjoy all content. Especially since the P10 benefits from a much better brightness than the P9. Its contrast ratio is also better and the viewing angles are still as wide. On the other hand, the colors are not always well respected. Whites are not quite white. And everything is slightly tinged with blue. This is not considerable either. Especially since it is possible to counteract this problem at the software level.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

The same interface as the Honor 8 Pro

Once the screen is turned on, we arrive in EMUI 5.1, based on Android 7.0. Aesthetically, this interface is relatively identical to EMUI 4.1 (a few widgets have changed places, but that’s really all the changes we’ve noticed), while taking into account some of the new features of Android Nougat. We’ve talked at length about the various functional additions Huawei has made to EMUI 5.1 in our review of the Honor 8 Pro. We won’t go into detail about them. Note, however, that the graphic design (icons and themes) is slightly different, certainly to create a distance between the two brands.

Notez que l’intégration du lecteur d’empreinte comme pavé tactile n’entraîne pas la suppression du menu flottant qui sert à améliorer l’expérience à une main du téléphone (en positionnant ce bouton virtuel à proximité du pouce). Il est toujours accessible depuis le menu des paramètres (rubrique « Assistance intelligente » où se trouvent aussi les contrôles par mouvement, les commandes vocales et même le « mode gant ») ou par le biais de la zone de paramétrage rapide. Notez aussi que Swiftkey est toujours le fournisseur de clavier intelligent de Huawei.

EMUI 5.1 comes with a few additional applications for the prerequisites (system applications and Google suite). We are pleased to find Phone Manager, always very useful, HiGame, a marketing shortcut to some Gameloft games, HiCare, a hub for customer service, or Health, an additional help to do sports. The Tools folder presents a backup software, the mirror, the flashlight, a file explorer, or the weather. In addition to Swiftkey and Facebook, the third-party applications are, Instagram, TripAdvisor or Todoist.

A very good autonomy

The operating system is as greedy in the P10 as the Honor 8 Pro. And the P10, unlike Honor’s phablet, takes ample advantage of its fourth gigabyte of RAM here, since the operating system still monopolizes 1.5 GB of it, which still leaves 2.5 GB to the user for games or video, for example. The same goes for storage, since the operating system and pre-installed applications leave more than 50 GB for the user to store photos, games or applications. This brings us to the autonomy of the mobile, which exceeds 7.5 hours of continuous use (that is, without taking any breaks, which is not a normal condition), just under an hour more than the P9.

Let’s get to the performance. As a reminder, the P10 is equipped with a Full HD display, 4GB of RAM and a Kirin 960, already crossed with the Mate 9 and Honor 8 Pro. As always, we publish here the best score obtained in each set of reviews. And we will make our comments afterwards. On Antutu, we get 145566 points. On Basemark OS II, we get 2946 points. On Geekbench, we reach 1865 points in single-core and 6388 points in multi-core. On Basemark X, we get 44403 points in medium quality and 381236 points in high quality. Finally, on 3DMark, we reach 28346 points on Ice Storm Unlimited, 26128 points on Slingshot ES and 2113 points on Slingshot ES Extreme.

Greatly improved performance

We compared these figures with those we obtained previously with six terminals: the P9, with Kirin 955, the Mate 9 and Honor 8 Pro, with Kirin 960, the OnePlus 3, with Snapdragon 820, the OnePlus 3T with Snapdragon 821 and the Galaxy S7 Edge, with Exynos 8890. We discarded from the outset the Helio X20/X25, which is largely below, and the Exynos 8895, which is largely above. First of all, we confirm here that the Kirin 960 is far above the Kirin 955. The difference on all benchmarks is in the range of 30% to 40%. This is due to the Cortex-A73, which replaces the Cortex-A72, but also the number of graphics cores, which increases from 4 to 8.

Against the two Snapdragon 82x, the Kirin falls between the two. The P10’s scores put it closer to the Snapdragon 820 than the Snapdragon 821. Against the Galaxy S7 Edge, its graphics scores are very similar. On the other hand, it is well above on the overall benchmarks, thanks to its 4 GB of RAM (against 3 GB of RAM at Samsung) and its Full HD screen (against QHD for the S7 Edge). Finally, against the other two models with Kirin 960, the P10 does much better overall than the Mate 9 and almost as well as the Honor 8 Pro, with a slight advantage for the latter (certainly thanks to the 6GB of RAM). So the P10 offers a very balanced platform (more so than the Mate 9), nervous when it needs to be, but not always able to fight against the high-end models of the beginning of the year, like the Galaxy S8.

Better in multimedia…

This balance and nervousness, we find it in video games. Our benchmark game, Dead Trigger 2, surprised us by automatically setting itself to the best graphics settings, unlike the Mate 9 and Honor 8 Pro, where we had to force this setting. This is, in our opinion, a direct consequence of the integration of the 4 GB of RAM and the maintenance of the Full HD definition. The game did not make a mistake: the gaming experience is very good graphically, with fluidity in the phases where the enemies are more numerous and precision in the controls. We still have a small regret about the location of the speaker, which is regularly obstructed by a finger.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

In video, we have exactly the same remarks as with the Mate 9 and Honor 8 Pro. A good overall experience, thanks to screens that offer wide visibility and good brightness. A speaker not very well placed (fortunately, there is a headphone jack to compensate for this). A video application that is practical to use, but limited in terms of compatibility (although we’ve seen much worse). A quick trip to the Play Store counterbalances this. The somewhat cold color grading is less annoying with film than with photos. However, since the colors tend to be blue, the light emitted may make your eyes a little more tired, especially in the evening…

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

… but also in photos

Finally, let’s talk about photography. As we said earlier, the Huawei P10 is the third model of the Chinese firm to benefit from the partnership with Leica. For this third model, Huawei has kept the configuration of the Mate 9 with a 20-megapixel sensor, a second 12-megapixel sensor, lenses with aspherical lenses that open at f/2.2, a hybrid autofocus, an optical stabilizer and a dual-tone flash. For the purposes of this review, we took two sets of shots: the first for comparison with other models to observe the light balance, and the second to use the portrait mode with the famous bokeh effect, facilitated by a new manual aperture setting (a very interesting setting, by the way) that complements the Pro mode integrated into EMUI a year ago with version 4.1.

So what is the result? It is mixed. For the landscape photo, we are a little disappointed. Certainly, there was a lot of sun the day we took the picture below. But the sensor was not able to counterbalance that. The whole series of photos, made with the default automatic settings, is overexposed: the clouds and the wall are totally shining. On the other hand, the building in the lower left corner is in shadow. This is less striking than the P9, which offered a perfect balance. Among the positive points, note however a very good sharpness in the photo. The grain appears only very late if you zoom in.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

Let’s move on to the second photo. This one is much better. By playing with the manual aperture of the sensor, we get a detailed, balanced photo (even in the blurred parts of the background), with a much better colorimetry. The result is finally up to the reputation of Leica. Our conclusion: the P10’s dual sensor offers very heterogeneous, even random shots, especially if you let the camera make all the decisions. If you want to get quality pictures (and the P10 is more than capable of it), take some time to master the few important settings, like aperture and white balance.

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

A relatively prudent successor to the P9

In conclusion, the P10 is a balanced, nervous and ambitious smartphone, taking advantage of Huawei’s progressive move upmarket. The mobile is without a doubt better than the P9 in almost every respect (autonomy, interface, photo, power, ergonomics). Even the screen, which is not a total success here, offers an improvement over the P9. The differences will be felt mainly by those who use a P9 on a daily basis, even if we would not go so far as to advise them to renew their mobile with this successor. We would almost go so far as to recommend replacing the P9 with the Honor 8 Pro (or even waiting for the Honor 9…).

Huawei P10 review - Choose a Smartphone

Because the difference is noticeable, but it is certainly not worth the cost that it induces. Which brings us to a more global reflection on the P10: is it really a high-end model or is it still a mid-range premium model? Even if Huawei is gradually approaching the standards of the most expensive segment where Samsung and Apple sit, Huawei still seems to be reserved. Still a little behind technically, whether it is on the chipset or the photo. Never really innovative in terms of ergonomics, with a design already seen or inspired by the competition. Huawei’s products still lack a clear proof of its vibrant ambition to one day replace Samsung at the top of the world market. Between a Galaxy S8 and a P10, there’s no debate. Between an iPhone 7 and a P10 either. So, when will a flaghip at Huawei put everyone in agreement?