A modest upgrade to last year’s P9, the Huawei P10 comes with improvements in every way along with a beefed up rear dual-camera array that delivers excellent snaps and some of the best mono shots seen on a smartphone
The successor to last year’s P9, the Huawei P10 isn’t so much a radical reimagining of its predecessor as it is an incremental upgrade of a proven design. The Huawei P9 was an impressive sleeper hit, blending as it did a very agreeable price tag at RM2,099 for what it represented: the first fruits of Huawei’s alliance with Leica in the form of the rear dual Leica licensed camera that offered some of the best mono shots yet seen on a smartphone camera along with a sound if somewhat conventional design.
The new P10 aims to strike gold a second time with a similar premise as its sire though with improved hardware all around and to date, the most colour options ever seen at launch. When it made its debut at MWC 2017, it had, perhaps for the first time ever for any phone ever hitting the limelight in Barcelona, the most colour variations at launch ever with a whopping total of eight colour variants. Two of the shades are even Pantone-endorsed: Greenery which seemed to untrained eyes as a sort of lime looking green and a brighter, almost marine shade of blue dubbed Dazzling Blue. Not all colour variants will be making it to our region but for now, Malaysian buyers can acquire it in either gold or graphite black. Or test unit came in the latter shade.
Externally, the phone is sized similar to the P9 with a smidgen of an increase in weight by a gram but it’s a near dead ringer for the P9 to untrained eyes. The graphite black finish of our unit was matte , which helped in repelling fingerprints. In keeping with modern phone design, the edges are curved though the chamfering is more pronounced on the P10 such that you can feel where the edges of the casing meet the screen. The antenna band on the top and bottom of the P10 has been shaved down to just the top and bottom of the phone to present a unified, seamless facade on the backplate. When held, it presented a remarkably reassuring heft , helped by the graphite black finish that shrugged off fingerprints like rain off a tank to give it a classy look befitting one of Huawei’s flagship devices.
Up front, it comes with a 5.1-inch full HD touchscreen display framed by incredibly slim bezels on the sides and by slightly larger bezels on the top and bottom. The base of the P10 sports a non-clicky fingerprint reader which is a major change seeing as the P9 originally had it on the rear. There are pros and cons to either placement but having it on the front means that the phone is markedly easier to unlock when placed on a desk versus a rear-backplate placement that would make it easier to take selfies in lieu of the touchscreen.
The craftsmanship on offer here is exceptional as the fingerprint reader is almost a part of the glass without any of the expected characteristic seam lines. Bar the indentation, it’s almost one solid piece alongside the touchscreen. The top comes with a Leica-licensed 8-MP selfie camera with an F/1.9 aperture and the ability to capture Leica-style portraits via a ‘portrait mode’ that artistically blurs out the background while keeping the subject in focus. This feature also works for the rear cameras.
The left side of the phone is featureless save for a hybrid SIM card while the right side comes with a knurled power button finished in red metallic trim along with a metal volume rocker. The base of the P10 comes with a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type C port as well as a speaker grille.
The rear is where the P10’s best feature is located: the rear dual camera system which consists of a pair of Leica-designed dual cameras. One camera has a 20-MP sensor capable of catching monochrome images while the other camera has a 12-MP sensor capable of capturing colour images with both packing a F/2.2 aperture and Leica’s ‘Summarit’ lenses. The general premise is similar to the P9 with both cameras working together to create an image – the colour camera sensor performs the grunt work of capturing an image while the mono sensor reads detail and depth to an image. The best hardware that Huawei currently has to offer goes to its larger sibling the P10 Plus that has an otherwise similar setup but has larger aperture F/1.8 lenses. If you’ve been keeping score, the P10 comes with not two but three Leica-licensed snappers: two on the rear and the one on the front.
In terms of tactility, the P10 is easy to grip, shrugs off fingerprints and is compact for a 5.1-inch phone, making it easy to use and deploy even for those with small paws. It doesn’t break new ground but it’s well designed, soundly made and beautifully crafted. If it works, don’t fix it is the adage here with the P10’s design and it’s the right call to make in this case.
The box also comes with a handy array of goodies including a proprietary USB Type C cable and charger that supports fast charging on the P10, a hard translucent silicone casing and a pair of in-line headphones. They’ve even taken the liberty to apply a screen protector on the phone too to save you the bother of doing it yourself. That’s quite a lot of goodies for what you pay for and salves the somewhat hefty price hike of the P10 over its predecessor.
Performance and Camera
In terms of hardware, the P10 comes with the latest Android Nougat 7.0 overlaid with their EMUI 5.1 user interface on their in-house Kirin 960 processor which is one of the most powerful chips they’ve ever made. This is paired with 4GB RAM and a generous 64GB of expandable storage via a hybrid SIM card, making it a match for any of the flagships on offer this year.
The hardware is an upgrade over the P9’s Kirin 955 processor with better overall performance. In benchmarking tests the P10 yielded a single core score of 1849 and a multicore score of 6,339 on Geekbench 4. The figures are impressive, edging out several of last year’s leading flagship phones. In Antutu Benchmark, the phone scored an equally impressive 132,892 points which again outperforms many of last year’s heaviest hitters. In 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme test, it yielded a score of 1,866 while PC Mark yielded a score of 5,831. This paints a picture of the P10 as packing one of the most powerful processors currently in the market.
In field tests, the P10 did not falter with apps, games and the like loading up in seconds and running smooth as silk while remaining reassuringly cool. Heavy use of the camera does warm it up somewhat though.
Getting about on EMUI 5.1 is a brisk, breezy affair, more so for the fact that Huawei has added in a host of interesting refinements. The biggest change is that you have the option to use the front-facing fingerprint reader as a multi-functional home button of sorts in lieu of the usual virtual home, back and menu buttons via an option in the settings menu. Hold it down and you’ll head back to the usual home screen. Tap it and it’s like hitting the usual virtual ‘back’ key. This method ekes you a few more inches of screen real estate; handy if you’re reading a long website or a novel. You can, of course, go back to the traditional way by selecting the virtual on-screen buttons and the P10 is able to handle both options with equally deft aplomb.
Most of EMUI 5.1’s benefits are more subtle though such as their Ultra Response feature which preemptively registers touchscreen feedback to have an instantaneous response onscreen. To make things run faster, EMUI 5.1 also has what they call Ultra Memory which actively learns what apps you use more than others and prioritises them in the P10’s RAM for even faster loading. These features need a suitable ‘breaking in’ period for it to accustom itself to your user-related foibles though the benefits are only apparent after a couple of weeks of use. It would presumably get better and faster after its Ultra Memory gets used to our usage patterns but during our test period as the P10 still ran in a consistently zippy fashion without any noticeable slowdown or lag. The fingerprint reader was similarly swift with accurate, recognition of any fingerprints and nigh instantaneous unlocking of the phone on demand.
The main quibble with EMUI 5.1 is that there’s still quite a bit of odd bloatware lying around. One odd addition is their HiGame app that attempts to curate and recommend a bunch of oddball games that don’t even appear on the top ten list on the Google Play store and helps you keep them updated though whether you’ll find this feature useful is dubious at best. Another feature of dubious functionality is a Top Apps shortcut that comes preloaded with the CNN, Booking.com, Flipboard, Facebook Messenger and Instagram app. You may not necessarily use all of them but you can uninstall them to free up space.
The P10’s 5.1-inch 1080p IPS-NEO LCD display is somewhat of a step down from the P10 Plus’ larger 5.5-inch 2K display but this works to its advantage in terms of battery endurance. Onscreen, text, images and videos were bright, crisp and viewable even under daylight conditions with good blacks onscreen and vibrant colours, making it a delight for movies and gaming.
Music and gaming on the internal speakers are good if unexceptional on the P10’s sole mono speaker at the base of the phone. There’s a decent amount of detail in tracks though the placement of the sole mono speaker at the base of the phone means that it can easily get muted if you inadvertently place one of your digits on it when viewing it in landscape mode.
Bar that little design quibble, the P10 is otherwise a compact, powerful performer of a phone but the main draw here is what they have bolted on the rear – a Leica-licensed rear dual camera array. One rear camera has a 20-MP mono sensor while the other 12-MP sensor that takes snaps in colour with both possessing an F/2.2 aperture. The P9’s calling cards – beautiful bokeh in shots and delightfully detailed black and white photos are all present on the P10 with slight improvements all around over its predecessors. There’s also a comprehensive manual mode too that lets you get some exceptionally creative shots out of the phone. Complementing it are the usual line-up of Huawei’s alternate modes including HDR, a night shot mode, their light painting mode and a slo-mo mode for videos.
Shots under most lighting conditions were excellent with pleasing colour reproduction and excellent detail. Low light performance was excellent as well with it garnering some very shareworthy shots. Mono shots on the P10 were fantastic with scads of detail and continue to be some of the best seen on a smartphone.
One particular feature of interest is the addition of a ‘Leica portrait mode’ that helps to take pleasing shots on both the front and rear cameras. These act in effect to put a subject in focus and to automatically defocus the background while tracking facial features to keep them sharp, smoothing out blemishes and tweaking the lighting too. It’s a pretty interesting feature to play with and generally delivers great results on both the front and rear cameras. The front 8-MP selfie camera has another nifty trick up its sleeve as it is able to assess the number of people in the shot, adjusting its focal length to make sure up to ten people gets crammed into the shot along with the ability to use the touchscreen as an ersatz flash for low light situations.
Front camera aside. the rear dual Leica cameras are highly capable, fast on the draw and able to deliver great shots overall on auto mode though they reach their true potential when held in the hands of someone who knows their way around a camera.
Battery Life, Price and Performance
The battery on the P10 is larger than on the P9 at 3,200mAh and features a host of power management tweaks to eke out more usage on a single charge. It also has their own Super Charge fast charging support though with the caveat that it only works with the provided USB Type C cable and charger. Use anything else and it won’t recognise it, relegating you to standard charging speeds. Word: don’t lose it or be prepared to chunk out for another official charger and cable.
In standard usage scenarios with data constantly on all day, web browsing, social media and some camera use, it lasted the better part of a full day with a top-up needed by early evening though you can eke out quite a bit more if you kick in the P10’s power saving mode that reduces screen resolution and reduces background app activity significantly. If you’re charging with the provided cable, you can get a close to half a full charge in half an hour or less so you can top up the phone over coffee. It’s serviceable as far as battery life goes though it doesn’t knock any other smartphone out of the ballpark in terms of endurance.
All in, the P10 is a highly capable phone worthy of flagship status with what it brings to the table – swift performance, good build quality and an excellent rear Leica-issued dual-camera array that reaches its full potential in skilled hands, all crammed into a compact form factor that’s sized just right for one-handed use. There are plenty of camera-oriented flagship-class contenders in its price range including the recently launched Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom at RM2,099 and last year’s Galaxy S7 phone that can be had for about 2 grand or so if you shop right but the P10 has its own unique charms and along with a relatively complete set of accessories (casing, headphones, screen protector, fast charger) thrown into the bargain to sweeten the pot. If you’re already sold on what the P10 has to offer, this is an easy choice to make though the P10 Plus offers better optics in the form of F/1.8 rear cameras, more RAM, a bigger battery, more storage and a sharper display for RM600 more than the P10 at RM3,099 and a commensurately larger form factor.
WHAT WE LIKED Solid performance, excellent mono shots, fast fingerprint reader, great rear camera, nice build quality, fast charging
WHAT WE DIDN’T Modest step forward in terms of upgrades from its predecessor, fast charging only works with bundled cables
WE SAY A modest upgrade to last year’s P9, the Huawei P10 comes with improvements in every way along with a beefed up rear dual-camera array that delivers excellent snaps and some of the best mono shots seen on a smartphone
Display 5.1-inch IPS-NEO LCD, 1920 x1080 pixels, 432ppi
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor
OS Android 7.0 Nougat
Memory 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage +microSD card slot
Camera 20MP+12MP w/ F/2.2 and Leica Summarit lens (Rear) / 8-MP w/ F/1.9 (Front)
Size/Weight 145.3 x 69.3 x 7 mm / 145g
*Review unit courtesy of Huawei Malaysia