The Huawei P10 marks Huawei and Leica’s third collaboration. Not only does the P10 have a Leica-branded dual-camera system on the back (the third iteration, no less), even the front-facing shooter carries the same branding now. We’ve already established that the P10’s camera performance is impressive, but how does it perform as a daily driver?
Well, the P10 is definitely an improvement over the Huawei P9, but unfortunately, it’s also lacking in the same department.
Design & First Impressions
Off the bat, the Huawei P10 feels like a more refined and premium smartphone over its predecessor. Now, the P9 itself is already a well-built smartphone, but the P10 definitely feels like a class above in my hands. I also like the fact that the plastic antenna lines at the bottom of the P10 curves outwards to the bottom portion of the device – it’s a familiar design, yes, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing.
That said, the P10’s design could definitely use some work, especially by today’s standards. Just look at the Xiaomi Mi Mix, the LG G6 or even the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 devices: they all have very minimal bezels with high screen-to-body ratios. In contrast, the P10 still has these sizeable top and bottom bezels. If Huawei could minimise the bezels of the Mate 9, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that the company can do the same with the P10 as well.
In addition, much like its predecessor, the Huawei P10 is a slippery little device. While the matte finish of the P10’s back panel doesn’t attract fingerprints easily, it also makes the P10 one of the most slippery phones I’ve used.
It’s worth noting that this applies to the Mystic Silver variant of the P10 we have for our review: the Dazzling Blue and Dazzling Gold models of the P10 have a more…nail file-like finish, while the Ceramic White variant has a glossy – and more grippy – back panel.
Aside from that, the fingerprint sensor of the P10 is as excellent as ever. Huawei phones are known to boast some of the fastest and most accurate sensors in the market, and it’s no different with the P10. A quick, light tap on the sensor is enough to unlock the device, and rarely does it fail to recognise my fingerprint accurately.
While this isn’t an aspect most would consider…well, “important,” I’m not a big fan of the P10’s volume rocker and power button. While they’re very tactile, they also give out a very audible click whenever I press them. This, in turn, makes it feel like a rather…well, cheap phone, which the P10 is definitely not.
Taking everything into consideration, the Huawei P10 is a sleek-looking smartphone, but I can’t help but to think that it is somewhat of a…safe design. In fact, I actually prefer the classier-looking Mate 9 Pro, which has a design flair that’s missing on the P10.
Nonetheless, there’s more to a phone than design alone.
In many ways, the Huawei P10 can be seen as a smaller Mate 9 with some key differences here and there. Though the P10 shares the same dual-camera system and very capable processor as the Mate 9, the P10 does have some new camera features as well as a Leica-branded front-facing camera; it’s actually a pretty decent selfie shooter.
In comparison to its predecessor, the P10 also packs a slightly bigger 3,200mAh battery over the P9’s 3,000mAh cell, but this doesn’t exactly translate to a huge difference in battery life. I’ll elaborate more further down this review.
On the surface, EMUI 5.1 feels and looks remarkably similar to EMUI 5.0 on the Huawei Mate 9 series. The operating system is fast and fluid, and there’s barely any noticeable performance hiccups throughout my time with the P10. This can be attributed to the capable Kirin 960 processor of the device and the lightweight nature of EMUI 5.1 – though it does have quite a bit of bloatware built-in as well.
There’s a reason why EMUI 5.1 doesn’t feel that much different from the previous version: most of the improvements lie in optimisation. One such new feature introduced in EMUI 5.1 is what Huawei calls “Ultra Memory,” which is based on EMUI’s Machine Learning Algorithm.
By keeping your most used applications in memory, Ultra Memory promises faster app launch times. After a while of using the phone, there wasn’t much noticeable differences in app launch times – most probably because the phone is still brand new. The effects of this feature is likely to be apparent six or more months down the line.
Another noteworthy feature in EMUI 5.1 is the alternative navigation method first introduced on the Huawei Mate 9 Pro. See, unlike the Mate 9 Pro, the P10 does not have any capacitive keys to act as the menu and back buttons. To make up for this, the same fingerprint sensor gestures found on the Mate 9 Pro is implemented in the P10.
Basically, a tap on the sensor acts as the back button, a left or right swipe summons the Recent Apps page, and a long-press brings me back to the home screen. Swiping up from the bottom of the display, on the other hand, activates Now on Tap. Now, I did not like this one-button navigation method at first, but after giving it some time, I actually got used to it.
Of course, those who are not a fan of this navigation method can always opt to activate the on-screen buttons, although this comes at the cost of a smaller display size – the very reason why I forced myself to live with Huawei’s new navigation method.
All things considered, EMUI 5.1 is a pleasant version of Android to use. It’s polished, responsive, and most of all, stable; I had virtually no issue with EMUI 5.1 throughout the review period. Sure, it’s not as “pure” as stock Android, but you can do much worse with other versions of Android.
Powered by a 3,200mAh battery, I was initially…optimistic of the P10’s battery life. I used the Huawei P9 for quite some time before this, and while it was a good smartphone, its battery life leaves much to be desired. I was really hoping the average battery life would be improved with the P10.
Unfortunately, the same thing still applies here. On average, I was only getting about four hours of screen on time with the P10. It’s not what one would expect from a flagship smartphone with a 1080p display, to be honest. Regardless, I could still eke out a day’s worth of battery life out of the P10.
As for Huawei’s proprietary SuperCharge feature on the P10, I managed to charge up the device to 50% within 30 minutes of charging, which was…pretty odd. See, with the Mate 9 and Mate 9 Pro, the same period of time charged up both of these devices to 60%, and they have bigger 4,000mAh cells.
Equipped with a 5.1-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS-NEO display, the P10 has a bright and vibrant display. It has good white balance, and despite being “only a 1080p” display, it’s still plenty sharp. Of course, an AMOLED display would’ve been great for deeper blacks and even more vibrant colours – not to mention lower power consumption – but I imagine this will drive up the P10’s asking price.
As is always been the case for Huawei smartphones, the P10’s bottom-firing mono speaker is…well, decent. It can get loud enough, and there’s no noticeable crackling or buzzing at maximum volume, but that’s pretty much it. It will get the job done, but the P10’s speaker wouldn’t blow anyone away with its audio quality either.
We were impressed with the Huawei P10’s camera performance in our camera shootout, and after spending more time with the device, it really is a capable shooter; even more so than previous Huawei smartphones.
The highlight feature of the P10’s new “Leica Dual Camera 2.0” is the new Portrait Mode. By taking advantage of “precise 3D facial detection, dynamic illumination, and natural portrait enhancements,” the new shooting mode is actually…pretty good. It isolates subjects well from the background, and the bokeh effect looks quite natural too.
Round the front, the Leica front-facing camera also comes with the new Portrait Mode. Understandably, the front shooter isn’t quite as good. Don’t get me wrong, it does a decent job, but the subject isolation of the dual-camera system is definitely better.
Aside from the Portrait Mode, the P10’s camera performance in other areas are impressive. It takes good shots in both daytime and less ideal lighting situations, and the autofocus speeds are fast too. However, the P10’s shooting experience still isn’t quite as pleasant as the competition. While it’s not sluggish by any stretch of the word, the camera interface just…isn’t as responsive as, say, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge‘s camera.
All in all, the P10’s camera performance is easily one of the best in the market, but it’s not the one to beat in this department. Also, it would’ve been great to see the P10 Plus’ f/1.8 aperture lens on the P10 too; I imagine its camera performance would be even better with a larger aperture.
Carrying a RM2,499 price tag, the Huawei P10 isn’t an affordable flagship smartphone. At that price point, the P10 faces some tough competition, and none is arguably more obvious than Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
Despite retailing at RM2,699 when it was first launched here, the Galaxy S7 can easily be bought for much less than that now. We even saw it go for as low as RM2,099, and that’s RM400 less than the P10’s asking price. Top up a little more and you could even grab an S7 edge with its larger 5.5-inch screen and 3,600mAh battery.
In comparison to the P10, the Galaxy S7 offers a sharper 5.1-inch 1440p Super AMOLED display, an arguably more capable 12MP dual-pixel camera, as well as a sleeker-looking glass and metal design. However, the Galaxy S7 also has half the storage size of the P10 at 32GB, not to mention a slightly smaller 3,000mAh battery.
Another noteworthy competition to the P10 is the recently launched OnePlus 3T, which is going for RM2,229. For RM270 less, the OnePlus 3T offers a bigger and more vibrant 5.5-inch 1080p Optic AMOLED display, a slightly bigger 3,400mAh battery, more RAM at 6GB, and a more minimalist version of Android. Alternatively, consumers can also opt to get the OnePlus 3 instead for only RM1,699.
That is not to say the P10 doesn’t have its own advantages against the OnePlus 3T. Without a doubt the P10 has the better camera performance of the two, and the P10 also supports expandable storage; the OnePlus 3T only has 64GB of non-expandable internal memory.
The Huawei P10 is definitely a commendable flagship smartphone. While its battery life could definitely be improved, its other attributes are that of a capable high-end device. It has a solid camera, premium (albeit familiar) design and performance expected of a flagship smartphone.
But at a time when smartphone performance is reaching a plateau, a premium smartphone needs to stand out in other ways. It may be in design, camera, battery life, or even in price. Unfortunately, while the Huawei P10 does a good job in all of them, it does not excel in any of them.
Photography by Terry Bass and Leon Lam.