Huawei P10 review: A solid update to the series

Last year’s P9 was Huawei’s first flagship to feature a dual camera setup (monochrome and color sensors) followed by the 5.9-inch Mate 9 a few months later with 2x Hybrid zoom and a few more megapixels. Huawei may not have been the first company to come up with the idea of placing dual camera sensors on a handset, but the Chinese handset maker has definitely taken the ball and run with it in its march towards household recognition in western markets.

Huawei’s latest flagship, the P10, launched at MWC 2017 in Barcelona and follows in the P9’s footsteps but with upgraded performance, cameras, and a fingerprint reader on the front of the device. Is the Huawei P10 an essential upgrade from last year’s P9? Join us after the break to find out.

Design

The P10 follows firmly in the steps of the P9 featuring an aluminum unibody but with an anodized aluminum finish instead of the 2.5D glass found on the previous model, and can be had in black, silver, gold, rose gold, or white. There are two other colors available, called ‘Dazzling’ blue and green that feature a finish called ‘Hyper Diamond Cut’ finish that is impervious to fingerprints and also beautiful to the eye as the light ripples across. As you can see from the image above, the review unit is black. The P10 has a premium build and finish with rock-solid construction. It’s easy to see that the Huawei P10, as with the P9 before it, draws a certain amount of inspiration from the iPhone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is plain to see.

In terms of dimensions, the P10 is a smidge thicker and longer than the P9, at 6.98mm and 145.3mm, although it is 1.6mm narrower than its predecessor. The P10 is also a gram heavier, not that you can tell without weighing it.

Thanks to its rounded corners, thin bezels, and the ever so slightly smaller display, the P10 is both easier to hold than its predecessor and more comfortable when slipped into a trouser pocket although it can still feel a little slippy at times. The power and volume buttons are in familiar places, with the power button boasting a funky red accent.

The dual camera setup on the rear is housed in a glass strip sporting Leica branding, and the rest of the panel is sparse apart from the Huawei logo. You’ll notice that the fingerprint reader has been moved to the front of the handset in the traditional home button position. Antenna cutouts can be found on the top and bottom of the left and right-hand side of the phone.

Hardware

 Huawei P10Huawei P10 Plus
AnnouncedFebruary 26, 2017February 26, 2017
ReleaseSpring 2017Spring 2017
Display5.1-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD with 2.5D glass and Corning Gorilla Glass 55.5-inch (2560x1440) IPS LCD with 2.5D glass and Corning Gorilla Glass 5
ProcessorHuawei Kirin 960Huawei Kirin 960
RAM4GB4GB / 6GB
Storage64GB64GB / 128GB
Rear CameraLeica 20MP (monochrome) + 12MP (RGB) with optical image stabilizationLeica 20MP (monochrome) + 12MP (RGB) with optical image stabilization
Front Camera8MP8MP
Battery3200mAh (non-removable)3750mAh (non-removable)
ChargingUSB-C with Huawei SuperChargeUSB-C with Huawei SuperCharge
SoundBottom-facing speakersBottom-facing speakers
SoftwareAndroid 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFCBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprintAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprint
Measurements145.3 x 69.3 x 6.98mm153.5 x 74.2 x 6.98mm
Weight145g165g
ColorsCeramic White, Dazzling Blue, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, GreeneryCeramic White, Dazzling Blue, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, Greenery

Performance

If you were hoping that the P10 would feature an upgraded display you’ll be a little disappointed to find out that it has in fact shrunk to 5.15-inch and is still only a Full HD IPS display, albeit with a slightly increased pixel count of 432ppi. I say ‘only’ knowing that for some of us, an FHD display is more than adequate and it really helps with extending battery life. Still, I would have liked to have seen a panel with a few extra pixels. For what it’s worth, the P10’s display is bright with vibrant colors and easy to view outside.

The Huawei P10 boasts the same HiSilicon Kirin 960 Octa-core processor that was first seen on the Mate 9, which combined with 4GB RAM and the somewhat lighter EMUI 5.1 interface, results in a slick experience.  The Mali G71 graphics processor that first appeared in the Mate 9 means that games open as quickly as you like with graphics barely straining the GPU. This is in part to the P10’s GPU only having to push pixels to a Full HD display instead of a QHD panel that would prove more taxing. Overall, the P10 handles what is thrown at it with ease.

As we’ve commented in previous reviews, the quality and speed of Huawei’s fingerprint readers are second to none, and the P10 certainly doesn’t disappoint in this area. However, the relocation of the fingerprint reader from the rear (as on the P9) to the capacitive ‘Home’ button on the front is one that I find irksome for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I’ve gotten used to the readers being on the back panel, it’s a natural place for the finger to rest. Secondly, despite the Home button/fingerprint reader having navigation functions, it just doesn’t feel natural to be tapping it centrally to go back, swiping left-to-right to get to recents and then holding it to go home.

Another repercussion of this is that to launch the Google app you have to swipe upwards from the edge of the display, instead of holding in the Home button. While my irritation with the location of the fingerprint reader is mostly just a personal preference, I wish that Huawei had rather made separate capacitive buttons for recents and back on either side of this new fingerprint reader/Home button, as seen on the Honor 9 that recently launched.

Luckily, you can choose to keep on-screen navigation keys and leave the Home button functioning simply as a fingerprint reader, which is what I did after the first week of trying to get used to the other method of navigating. After that, I was just unhappy that the fingerprint reader was taking up valuable real estate on the front of the handset.

Battery

With a bump in battery capacity to 3200mAh from the 3000mAh seen on the P9, the P10 will get you through the day with medium usage with 4-5 hours screen on time.

If you are running low on juice, you can extend battery life by running the display at a lower resolution or by enabling the Power-saving mode that limits background activity and visual effect. As a final step, if things are getting desperate, you can enable the Ultra power-saving mode that takes more drastic measures such as switching to a monochrome background and the choice of apps to just 6. The P10 may not have the battery life of the Mate 9, but charging the battery back to capacity is a cinch thanks to Huawei’s SuperCharge technology that boosts the battery from 0-50% in just 30 minutes.

Software

The P10 runs Android 7.0 with the latest version of Huawei’s EMUI (5.1) running on top. EMUI comes with features such as Ultra Memory that focusses on freeing up RAM while using machine learning to speed up and resume the apps that you most use, as well as Ultra Response that allows for lower touch latency and faster touch response. It’s a cleaner design from previous versions, with most menu functions being accessible within 3 taps; no longer are you spending your time hunting down an elusive function in the menu.

One of the traditional complaints about EMUI traditionally has been the lack of an app drawer, thankfully, since EMUI 5 there has been a choice of having an app drawer or having the apps spread across the home screens, although you have to enable the app drawer manually.

As is common with devices running EMUI, there are Knuckle gestures that allow the user to take static and scrolling screenshots by rapping a knuckle firmly on the display and you can even cut out irregularly shaped shapes to share with contacts by tracing said knuckle around the chosen image.

Pre-installed apps include Huawei’s HiCare and HiGame services as well as Phone Manager, Health, Themes and ‘Top Apps’ such as Booking.com, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Todoist.

While EMUI 5.1 is much slicker and lighter than it used to be, if you are a stock Android fan then you’ll probably need to check this guide on how to install a third-party launcher on your device. Regardless, this is the best version of EMUI yet, full of features and generally easy to navigate.

Camera

With both a 20MP monochrome sensor and a 12MP RGB (color) sensor on the rear along with the dual-tone tone LED flash, the Huawei P10 is capable of taking some stunning shots. As with the P9 and Mate 9 before it, Huawei has again partnered up with Leica and the branding is featured on the rear panel alongside the camera sensors. The P10’s aperture of f/2.2  is perhaps a little dated for a 2017 flagship, especially when you consider that its bigger sibling, the P10 Plus, boasts lenses with a f/1.8 aperture.

In practice, the P10’s dual camera setup will give you some outstanding images, especially when snapping pictures in good lighting. In low light, the resulting images tend to be a little darker than you might expect. Taking pictures is speedy enough, and I didn’t notice any lag between pressing the button and the picture being taken even in HDR mode.  For users wanting more control over their images, there is a ‘Pro’ mode available on the camera app.

The P10 boasts a new feature called Portrait mode which is a combination Huawei’s Beauty mode and fake bokeh effect that tracks more than 190 points on the face to determine where to focus the cameras. It’s a nifty software trick and can result in great images of people if you keep it dialed down to 5 and below. A word of warning though, if you turn the scale up to ten the person’s face will look a little surreal, almost glowing with the lack of features. As you can see from the gallery below, the P10 is more than capable of snapping some awesome pictures, with the monochrome sensor, in particular, producing some great black and shots.

Closing

It’s the last paragraph of the review, but have we come any closer to answering whether the Huawei P10 is an essential upgrade to 2016’s P9? That is a difficult question to answer. The P10 has a bright, vibrant display, and the powerful Kirin 960 processor offers slick performance, it’s all-metal design feels good in the hand and is pleasing to the eye. But, despite spending a couple of months with the P10, I never fell in love with it and in many ways, I’ve found that this has been the most difficult review to complete.

If you currently own a P9 then the P10’s incrementally improved specs may not be quite enough to justify upgrading to the newer model, especially with its £549 price tag. But if you are coming from an older or lower range model, then you’ll be more than happy with the Huawei P10. The P10 is an evolutionary improvement on the P9, nothing more, nothing less, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it featured a higher resolution display and f/1.8 Summilux camera lens like the P10 Plus does, I’d be saying it was a handset capable of competing with the LG G6, Pixel, and Galaxy S8. However, this is the regular P10, with slightly lower specs, and as such, it doesn’t quite match up to the big hitters of 2017.

Buy it now: Huawei


About the Author: Peter Holden

I've been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being my first phablet. I currently carry around a Huawei P10 and a Galaxy Tab S2 8.0. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, I'm an avid sports fan, and like all South Africans, I love a good Braai (BBQ).