Thursday , 2 April 2020

Huawei P10 Review: Iterative Evolution

 

It’s not drastically different from last year’s phone, but iteration pays off

While Chinese company Huawei isn’t new to the dual-camera scene (they were one of the first pioneers in using dual-camera tech in their budget Honor 6 Plus) the company really started banking on the trend when they released the P9 last year. The phone, armed with dual rear cameras that were co-developed with German camera brand Leica, proved to be the starting point for the company’s dual-camera marketing push. Almost a year later and with a few dual-camera equipped models under their belt, the Chinese company is looking to solidify their foothold on the dual-camera space with their newest flagship, the P10.

While the P10 isn’t as flashy or as cool as the recently announced Galaxy S8, it still has all the hallmarks of a flagship phone: speedy processor, good camera and a solid design. Unfortunately it’s not a huge jump from the P9, and fans that already have Huawei’s pioneering dual-camera snapper may pass on the chance to upgrade on the P10.

Huawei P10 specs

  • HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.1-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB expandable storage via microSD
  • Leica co-developed cameras, 12-megapixel color sensor, 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, f/2.2 aperture, OIS
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, Fingerprint scanner, fast charge
  • 3200mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat (EMUI 5.1)\

A safe, iterative design that’s saved by striking color options

The P10 doesn’t stray too far from established standards of Chinese smartphone design. With curved sides, a flat back and rounded corners, the P10 resembles Apple’s iPhone 6 at first glance, especially with the re-positioned fingerprint scanner on the front. But despite that the P10 is a pretty solid phone – the smaller display makes it comfortable to hold in the hands, all the controls are within easy reach and that fingerprint scanner adds a bit more functionality to the fore than the regular rear-mounted scanner that was on the previous generation.

Despite the P10’s fairly generic looks, the phone looks striking when bought in two of the special color variants designed with Pantone: Dazzling Blue and Greenery. We saw both in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and they look pretty swanky, and makes the phone stand out in the sea of grey and gold. Unfortunately our review device was colored grey, and as it stands the design really doesn’t excite us the same way that the P9’s did when we first saw it last year.

Huawei did add a few subtle elements to the P10’s design that we usually don’t find in other phones – the power button is knurled, and has a red highlight, the top strip on the rear where the dual Leica-branded cameras sit contrasts nicely with the body of the phone and side bezels of the display are nice and thin.

Physical key arrangement for the P10 is typical of a 5-inch phone – the power and volume rocker is on the right side, while the hybrid microSD/SIM slot is on the left side. On the bottom sits the USB Type-C connector, flanked by a single speaker grille and a 3.5mm jack.

Aside from being moved from the rear to the front, the fingerprint scanner also receives a couple of new tricks this time around. Huawei has made it so that you can navigate through your phone by just using that fingerprint scanner. Press on it once and it’ll take you back a screen, swipe from right to left and it’ll show you the recent apps, long press on the center and it’ll take you to the home screen, and swiping up from the edge of the screen launches the Google app.

The fingerprint scanner’s new functionality isn’t original – it’s the same concept that Meizu uses with their Flyme OS that’s present on their phones. If you don’t like using the fingerprint scanner to navigate, you can always turn on the on-screen navigation keys via settings.

The display is a 5.1-inch IPS full HD display, which is pretty small considering that your typical Android smartphone has a 5.5-inch panel. Despite this we found no major issues with the display – it’s bright, clear and has good color reproduction overall. It doesn’t have the same vibrant, sometimes over-saturated colors of Super AMOLED displays in the market, but that’s just fine with us. The only issue we have with the display is the lack of oleophobic coating, which means you’ll be wiping fingerprint smudges on the panel each time you touch it.

It’s basically the Mate 9 in a smaller body

Just like their other phones, the P10 is powered by Huawei’s home-grown HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. It worked fairly well on the Mate 9 and that holds true with the P10. Apps and games opened quickly and ran smoothly, with no major performance bumps on most Android games today. You’ll have to tone done graphics settings on titles like NBA 2K17 just a smidge to get that buttery smooth gameplay that everybody yearns for, but aside from that we didn’t have any hiccups at all.

Much like the Mate 9, the P10 also benefits from Huawei’s own UI overlay layered over Android Nougat, dubbed Emotion UI (or EMUI for short). It adds a few new features into the mix, like knuckle gestures and the ability to have either an iPhone-like home screen where all your apps are laid out in the open or your typical Android layout with an app drawer.

As for the rest of the phone, well, let’s just say Huawei is a top telecom hardware provider for a reason: we were consistently getting better signal and speeds on our Smart LTE SIM compared to when we were using MediaTek or even Qualcomm-powered phones. GPS signal is excellent, and we never had issues with call quality during our time with the phone.

Dual-camera setup is better, but not a huge improvement

While Huawei didn’t invent dual-camera phones, they’re the ones that poured substantial marketing effort and R&D to make the dual-camera dream a reality with their P9. Interestingly enough, the hardware on the smaller P10 mirrors the setup on the bigger Mate 9 – the Leica co-engineered cameras are composed of a 12-megapixel color sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, and both are paired with f/2.2 aperture lenses.

Most of the new features are in the software of the camera, which still has that same Leica feel. There’s a new portrait mode that uses software to remove imperfections in your subject’s face and defocuses the background to make them stand out in photos. The front camera is also now Leica certified, and now benefits from a better f/1.9 lens which means better photos under less than ideal lighting conditions.

So is the P10 significantly better at taking pictures compared to the P9? Yes, but we found that the phone’s performance is pretty close to the Mate 9, which is not surprising considering it packs the same camera configuration. We’re still a bit stumped why Huawei hasn’t upgraded the lens of the P10 to at least f/1.9 (that’s reserved for the more expensive P10 Plus) which makes the P10 struggle a little bit in darker scenes.

Battery that lasts all day

The P10 packs a 3200mAh battery inside its slender frame. That battery capacity is pretty much on par with the offerings of other flagship devices in the market today, and considering that the chipset in the phone isn’t particularly power hungry, it’s more than enough to last you a day with a little left over. PCMark’s battery benchmark puts the phone at almost 9 hours on a single charge.

Just like the Mate 9 the P10 has fast charging tech built into it, though you will have to use the proprietary USB cable of Huawei to be able to enjoy it.

Verdict: a more refined dual-camera phone, but it’s not a big step up from the P9

So, the big question is, should you upgrade to the P10? If you’re coming from the P9, not really – the image quality of the P10 is good, but it’s not enough to necessitate the upgrade from Huawei’s already solid dual-camera flagship from last year. If you are looking for an upgrade, you’d be better served by the Mate 9, which basically has the same guts and camera as the P10, encased in body that holds a bigger display and battery.

Should you buy the P10 as your first flagship? Absolutely. While Huawei hasn’t really made big strides with the P10 compared to the P9, it’s still a great phone by itself, though its generic looks (if the Dazzling Blue and Greenery color options are not available) may be a deal breaker for many. From previous leaks, we expect the phone to arrive with a Php 28,990 price tag which is probably the most affordable of the recently announced flagships here in the Philippines.

The P10 is expected to be priced at Php 28,990. 

One comment

  1. Avatar
    Gian James Gamones Maagad

    major bummer: the camera aperture is f2.2, and NOT IP68 waterproof

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