Review: Huawei P10 – a pretty good smartphone unless you already have a Huawei P9

The Huawei P10 has the fastest fingerprint sensor, an improved interface, a speedy processor and excellent Leica cameras, but the screen could be larger and there’s not much of a difference between it and the Huawei P9

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 7:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 2:14pm

Not too long ago, Chinese smartphones were almost all mediocre iPhone clones with intrusive software. The only people who bought the phones were those on a tight budget or gadget enthusiasts who like to tinker with rooting devices. But a lot has changed in the past year.

In 2016, Xiaomi, Vivo and ZTE all released excellent phones with usable, mostly clean software. Some, like Xiaomi’s bezel-less phone, even featured innovative hardware design.

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei catching up on Samsung, Apple: study

But the company that’s done the most to turn around the image of Chinese phones is Huawei, whose early 2016 flagship P9 was the first Chinese smartphone to be well received on a global scale. The Chinese telecommunication giant is back with the P10, a phone that appears to be only a minor upgrade of its predecessor.

Design and hardware When it comes to smartphone hardware design, companies tend to either keep the same design language year after year (think the iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy series) or mix it up every year with a whole new look (LG and Xiaomi). Huawei’s P10 is an odd one in that it builds on the foundation laid by the P9, but also completely overhauls parts of the hardware.

For example, the dual-Leica cameras – the standout feature of the P9 – return for the P10, keeping the same black visor look across the top of the device’s back. But the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the front, a break from Huawei’s tradition of placing it on the back of the phone. Whether or not this new placement improves user experience is arguable; what isn’t up for debate is that Huawei’s fingerprint sensor is the fastest and most accurate in the industry (if you use a Huawei phone, try going back to a Samsung or LG and you’ll notice the difference in unlocking speed immediately).

First impressions: Huawei’s P10 retains Leica dual camera and ups the processor speed

Elsewhere, the P10 keeps the brushed metal unibody with chamfered edges of the P9, but Huawei has sanded the squareish corners seen on the P9 into soft rounded corners. This makes the phone more comfortable to use, as the P9’s boxy corners tend to dig into the palm after an extended period of use.

The P10 is a small phone that’s very easy to use one-handed. But since it isn’t a “slim bezel” phone (more on this later), that means its compact build comes at the expense of screen size.

The 5.1-inch, 1080P LCD display is small by 2017 standards, and I found it harder to write long e-mails and edit Word documents on the P10 than on my other devices. Sales figures and industry trends show most consumers are on my side – in general we’d all prefer a larger display.

The P10 is really fast and smooth. It runs on Huawei’s own Kirin chip, and the 960 here is as fast as a mobile chip can get at the moment. I ran a benchmark test on Geekbench and the P10 blew away the LG G6 and the iPhone 7.

Software and features The main selling point of the P10, as mentioned earlier, is the dual Leica cameras. Just like last year, the P10’s two cameras – one 20-megapixel monochrome, one 12-megapixel standard colour – snap photos at the same time, after which they’re stitched together into one photo by a software algorithm written by Leica and Huawei. Because the black-and-white lens doesn’t need to worry about colour information, it can focus solely on capturing light. That means the P10 (like the P9) can produce photos that are brighter than other phone cameras.

The sample shot of the Spanish Steps in Rome was snapped with the P10 during sunset. Notice how bright the street and fountain are, while the sky is still visible. I tried the same shot with the LG G6, and there was no way to capture the same image – I had to either focus the lighting on the street and overexpose the sky, or capture the sunset but leave the streets dark.

Huawei’s camera software has been intuitive for a couple of years now, and the P10 continues the trend. There are various preset modes that help photography novices capture slow-shutter “light trail” shots, as well as a myriad of preset Leica filters. In all, the P10 is a very fun camera phone to play with regardless of skill level.

On the software front, the P10 runs Huawei’s own EMUI (emotion user interface) software over Android 7.0. EMUI 5.1 is much cleaner and less intrusive than previous Huawei skins, and all of Android Nougat’s software features are here with the exception of the Google Assistant, which has been replaced by Huawei’s own inferior voice search.

Performance and battery life

The 3,200 mAh battery is more than enough to power the phone for an entire day, especially because the P10’s screen is small and only 1080p.

Conclusion The P10 is an excellent device in a vacuum, but two things hold it back. It’s a refinement over last year’s P9 and all the changes are welcome additions, but it’s hard to justify the HK$5,100 price tag if you already own the P9.

Secondly, this phone’s top and bottom bezels (aka forehead and chin) look really large and clunky next to the almost bezel-free LG G6.

Samsung’s next phone, the Galaxy S8, will also feature a similar all-screen look, as will the next iPhone according to rumours. The P10 is a very sleek phone going by 2016 standards, but it will look quite dated in a few months when the streets are filled with bezel-free phones.

Price: HK$5,100

Processor: Kirin 960

Display: 5.1 inches

Dimensions: 145.3mm x 69.3mm x 7mm

Weight: 145g

Battery: 3,200 mAH

OS version reviewed: EMUI 5.1 on top of Android 7.0

Cameras: dual Leica lens (20-megapixel monochrome and 12-megapixel colour with f/2.2 aperture with a 8-megapixel, f/1.9 front-facing camera

Colours: gold, black, silver, rose gold, blue and green