Honor Note 10 first impressions – huge handset will put off many, but it is perfect for gaming and watching video
The Note 10’s 7-inch display is its main selling point, but although it’s not that easy to hold in one hand or put safely in your pocket, its outward-facing speaker grilles, epic battery life and hardware shutter button are big pluses
Mobile phone giants Apple and Samsung continue making headlines stateside for things that aren’t exactly new.
From the 4,000 mAh battery on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to the 6.5-inch display of the iPhone XS Max, American media hail such developments as first-time offerings for consumers.
But that’s not right. A 4,000 mAh cell and 6.5-inch screen are puny compared to what Huawei sub-brand Honor is offering: its Note 10 boasts a 5,000 mAh battery and 7-inch display. Is the new device too large, though?
Design and hardware
The Honor Note 10 continues Huawei’s 2018 design aesthetics of vertically aligned camera module; a notch; and a shiny, shimmery glass back. The Note 10 does not look and feel too different from Honor’s other releases this year, including the Play or the 10, just blown up in size.
There are subtle deviations, though, such as outward-facing speaker grilles on both the top and bottom of the handset (or on the left and right sides when the handset is held in landscape mode), and an additional hardware button that can be used as a camera shutter button. Otherwise, even the chip set inside – Kirin 970 – is the same as the processor found in the last few Honor and Huawei releases.
People who buy this phone will probably do so because of its 7-inch display. The Note 10 is noticeably bigger than relatively “large” phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and looks comically large next to a smaller phone like the iPhone X.
Weighing 230g and 85mm wide, the Note 10 isn’t exactly easy to hold. With a height of 177mm, it is likely to stick out of many trouser pockets too.
But the phone isn’t impossible to use with one hand thanks to Huawei’s easy-to-trigger one-hand mode (which shrinks the screen down to something resembling a 4-incher) and Android’s homescreen flexibility that allows users to place apps on the bottom of the screen for easier reach. (Apple’s weird insistence on forcing apps to sit in a top-to-bottom grid makes the XS Max much more difficult to use one-handed.)
Software and features
The Note 10 does not come with any unique features so it behaves like any other Honor release this year. There’s Huawei’s EMUI skin over Android 8.1, and the software is generally smooth, but looks a bit garish compared to stock Android.
The GPU Turbo software algorithm designed by Huawei to enhance gaming performance that was introduced in the Honor Play can also be found here, which, paired with the stereo speaker grilles, makes the Note 10 a superb gaming device.
Performance and battery life
The year-old Kirin 970 chip set – which is about to be replaced as Huawei’s flagship chip set in a couple of weeks – is starting to show its age. It can handle everyday tasks fine, but it cannot handle 4K video recording at 60fps, and it cannot handle graphic-intensive games such as Hero Hunters on ultra setting. I’m nitpicking, of course.
Do we really need to talk about battery life on Huawei devices at this point? With a 5,000 mAh cell and EMUI’s usual aggressive but smart battery optimisation, the Note 10 has epic battery life. It is just about impossible to run out of juice during a single day for any user.
The Note 10’s 16- and 24-megapixel camera system is very similar to Honor’s previous offerings; this means the camera is solid but not spectacular.
Images tend to be overly sharp, as on other handsets from the Huawei stable, but they’re well detailed and full of contrast. The hardware shutter button is welcome, as the device is so large that hitting the on-screen shutter button while holding the device sideways could be hard for some.
The Honor Note 10 is a device with a clear audience in mind: people who want a huge screen, and are willing to compromise a bit on in-hand and in-pocket comfort. The handset is so large that it’ll scare off anyone who does not already belong in that camp.
Those who want that screen will not be disappointed. Its sheer size alone makes the Note 10 an excellent device for media consumption and gaming.
Dimensions: 177mm X 85mm X 7.7mm
Display: 7-inch 1080 X 2220 LCD panel
Battery: 5,000 mAh
OS version reviewed: EMUI 8.2 over Android 8.1
Processor: Kirin 970
Cameras: 16-megapixel f/1.8 lens with a 24-megapixel f/1.8 monochrome sensor
Memory: 6/8GB RAM, 64/128GB ROM
Price: US$410 (6GB RAM/64GB ROM); US$530 (8GB RAM/128GB ROM)