Huawei P10 Review

It's good, but also overpriced

One of Huawei’s biggest flagship reveals each year is the P series. Known for being the stylish flagship for their younger fans, while the Mate series is targeted for power/business users. The two phones are often very similar in terms of specs and the P10 is quite similar to the recent Mate 9. Let’s see what the smaller, stylish Huawei P10 has in store for us this year.

Design

Like the P9 from last year the Huawei P10 features a 1080p display, however this year it’s slightly smaller coming in at 5.1 inches. While I normally prefer QHD resolutions on a screen this small 1080p gives an acceptable 432 pixels per inch, especially when dealing with a high-quality display like the one on the P10, where the colors look vibrant with dark blacks giving a nice contrast to the display.

Huawei also kept the dual Leica camera setup from last year, and yes it is still flush with the back of the phone. A design touch that always stands out to me in the best of ways.



The hyper diamond cut back is where the P series gets even more stylish this year. This causes the back to sparkle as the light hits it from different angles. Not only does this give the back of the P10 some texture it is also fingerprint resistant. Sadly I have the Moonlight Silver version here which is completely uninteresting, and simply normal on the back.

With the antenna lines at the bottom moved along the edge and the others at the top hidden behind the glass, it gives the P10 a very clean look on the back, made even cleaner by the absence of the fingerprint scanner.

The movement of the fingerprint scanner to the front is one of the biggest changes this year. This is a design change I don’t particularly care for. Even after using several phones with a fingerprint scanner on the front, I can never get used to it. Despite spending the past four weeks with the P10, I still do not like it. Phones that house the scanner on the back just feels so natural, plus, I don’t constantly hit it with the palm of my hand or another finger and have to feel it buzz because of an invalid input.

The volume rocker and power button are on the right side of the phone with the volume rocker on the top and the power button below. This is my favorite configuration of hardware buttons and I wish every manufacturer would put them in this order. The power button has a nice texture on it make it easy to tell apart from the volume rocker by feel alone. I also enjoy the red around the sides of the power button. It’s a subtle little flourish of the design but shows attention to detail and I appreciate it.

On the left side, you’ll find the combination nano-SIM slot and microSD tray which supports up to 256GB. The bottom features a USB-C port, headphone jack, and speaker. The speaker is loud and clear but can get muffled by your hand in landscape due to the placement.

Software

The Huawei P10 is running Android 7.0 Nougat with their EMUI 5.1 skin on top. Now, generally, this is where reviews turn from good to very very bad for Huawei. However since the release of EMUI 5 Huawei has really turned things around with their software. Does that mean it’s perfect? No, it certainly does not. There are still some bugs present in EMUI 5 but it’s far from the mess that EMUI 4 was.

See Also: EMUI 5 makes Huawei phones usable

EMUI 5 now features an app drawer, but it seems someone at Huawei is still learning their alphabet. The apps are in alphabetical order, but only by the first letter. For instance, Android Pay comes before ABC app, or Arlo comes before Angry Birds. At least they included an app drawer this time, and who knows, maybe next time they’ll get it right.

Launchers are easy to change, though. What really matters are the elements which aren’t so easy to change. The notification panel is a great example of this. You can now swipe down to see the quick setting tiles and swipe down a second time to expand them. Finally, Huawei has updated their UI to catch up with modern Android. The notifications even come in the card interface now without the annoying black text on black background bug.

EMUI 5 also changes the recent apps screen to the card stack view from stock Android. Making it easier to see previews of your apps. This also comes in handy when using the multi-window feature in Nougat.

With all the fixes EMUI also still kept many of the great enhancements such as one-handed mode, rearranging and adding nav key buttons, and fingerprint scanner gestures. It even added a blue light filter called eye comfort mode to protect your eyes at night.

One of the biggest improvements, while not visual is that all their task management comes turned off by default. No longer do you have to dig through settings and fix your phone out of the box just to get your notifications.

This is the best version of EMUI Huawei has ever released. As I mentioned there are still bugs in the software, but what would EMUI be without bugs? While EMUI 5.1 isn’t perfect it is still a massive improvement over EMUI 4 and it has finally made Huawei phones usable, for the most part.

Camera

The P10 uses the same dual-camera setup that the P9 used from last year with laser focus, dual tone flash, and Leica branding. This year Huawei bumps up the monochrome sensor to 20MP while the RGB sensor stays at 12MP. They also upgraded the camera with optical image stabilization. Disappointingly the aperture is still stuck at f/2.2 and I would have rather seen it dropped to f/1.8 than a megapixel increase.

Photos can be taken at 20MP in color and B&W with the monochrome sensor, but you are restricted to 8.9MP if you want to use HDR. The monochrome mode is fun to use and it’s great to get a different look at your surroundings. It’s still not something I’d use very often and I find it more of a gimmick than anything else.

Besides monochrome and HDR the camera app offers many other options such as panorama, night shot, light painting, time-lapse, and more. Huawei also has a pro mode that is easily accessible by swiping up on the main camera app at any time. Thanks to the Camera2 API support you can save out RAW images and use other third party cameras to take RAW images.

Despite all the praise the P10 camera has received from DxOMark and others, I was a bit underwhelmed by the camera. Don’t get me wrong the photos come out sharp and have good color saturation. Yet I found the photos could have too strong of a yellow cast. Huawei also pushes the exposure to the brighter end sometimes losing details in the highlights, and low light images could show a lot of noise. Even matched up against my Nexus 6P I found I preferred the older Nexus 6P shots many times.

The front-facing selfie camera carries the Leica branding this year just like the back camera. It also offers beauty, portrait, and artistic modes. All of these tend to blur your photos in one way or another. The portrait mode would be fantastic if it was accurate. It often blurs what it shouldn’t or around the edges of your face. Beauty mode blurs your face until you become a porcelain doll, this is best used as low as possible. The artistic mode pumps up the color and saturation and blurs the image enough to where it should never be used in my opinion.

All of these are very gimmicky and what I found missing was a good camera to take portraits of yourself with clear details and good exposure.

For video, you have options to shoot 1080p at 30fps and 60fps with stereo sound and 4K at 30fps all in 16:9. The videos look good and the bonus of the stabilization and OIS helps a lot. There is also a slow motion video mode that records in 1080p.

Performance

Performance is great on the P10 it’s running Huawei’s latest and greatest Kirin 960 SoC along with 4GB of RAM. It was always quick and snappy and games played smooth for me. The graphics performance is helped here by the fact it’s only pushing 1080p instead of QHD like most flagships.

Battery Life

Battery life was about average for most flagships I’ve used with around four to four and half hours screen on time. It was enough to get me through the day, but Huawei usually excels in this arena. By using a 1080p screen and large battery I’m used to seeing better from them. I reset my phone just to be sure but I didn’t see a change in battery life. It’s not bad by any means, I just expected more. If more is what you need, something like the Mate 9 may be a better option.

Conclusion

Overall the P10 is a good phone and there isn’t much to dislike about it. At the same time, for the price Huawei is asking, I would expect more. When you’re asking top dollar for your flagship, I expect to be wowed. LG and Samsung flagships all pack in a lot of extra features and have that wow factor that I found the P10 lacks. The P10 isn’t waterproof, there is no QHD display, no always on display, no curved display. If it were $100 less I would be much more impressed, but at its asking price, I think it leaves a little to be desired.

 

Huawei P10
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