Huawei P10 Review

March 13, 2017 - Written By Justin Diaz

The P10 is a really solid device and definitely Huawei’s best to date.

When it comes to smartphones, Huawei certainly knows what they’re doing. They haven’t just been manufacturing smartphones for a long time, they’ve been manufacturing great smartphones, and that shines through with their latest offering, the Huawei P10. Huawei announced the P10 officially during Mobile World Congress at the end of February, and although the P10, at least the version that was shown during the event, won’t be coming to the U.S., it’s an unlocked device and works within the region. Now, because my own personal service is Project Fi I was not able to get the Huawei P10 to recognize the SIM card and therefore was not able to test the call quality out, but we’ll save that for a bit later. The P10 is everything that anyone could want in a premium flagship device, perhaps save for just a couple of things that I wish were included. Despite those things though, the P10 has been a solid phone during my time using it, and it’s almost made me want to give up using my Pixel for a while. Let’s take a look at how the P10 stacks up and what it offers.

Specs

The first thing you’ll notice on the P10 is the display as it’s the first thing you see when you open the box, and once you power it on you’ll immediately notice how good it is. This is a 5.1-inch IPS-NEO LCD screen with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 and it’s protected by Gorilla Glass 5, and although this is only Full HD, it seems like it’s higher resolution and I was quite impressed at how nice the display was compared to other FHD smartphones out there. The device is powered by Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor which is extremely powerful and capable of handling anything you throw at this phone. Paired with that CPU is a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU for the graphics processing, as well as 4GB of RAM for memory to handle multitasking, games and more. For the software, Huawei has used Android 7.0 Nougat so the phone is running on just about the newest version of Android that’s available, and it’s running on Huawei’s most recent version of their user interface, which is EMUI 5.1.

Huawei offers the P10 in both 32GB and 64GB models, though the model I have been using for the past week is the 32GB version. Having said that the phone also supports expandable storage up to 256GB via a microSD card if the 32GB or 64GB is not enough space for all of your files, apps, and games. The P10 comes with a 3,200mAh battery inside that’s non-removable which is nothing new from Huawei as most of their phones carry this kind of battery. 3,200mAh is not the largest smartphone battery out there by any means, but Huawei’s software along with the power-saving benefits of Android 7.0 Nougat help to make the battery life on the P10 fairly long-lasting, and the device also supports USB Type-C and it charges fast so even if you do tend to run out of battery power sooner than you were expecting you’ll be able to charge the battery back up pretty quickly. You also have a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones, though you can also connect headphones via Bluetooth. While most of the specs are decent and some are over and above improvements compared to last year’s Huawei P9, the real bread and butter for many will come from the camera sensors that Huawei has chosen to use here. The P10, like the P9, comes equipped with two rear camera sensors and an enhanced set of photography features that will play well with picture enthusiasts. The P10 sports both a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and a 12-megapixel RGB sensor that will offer users a wide array of picture options.

In The Box

Most people probably wouldn’t think of a smartphone as an exciting unboxing experience but with the Huawei P10 this couldn’t be further from the truth. Upon opening up the box for the very first time it felt much more exciting than I had anticipated and this is all thanks to the way that Huawei has things presented. The box unfolds from the middle outward with the left and right sides moving towards their respective directions to reveal the phone on top, and under it you’ll find a couple of different accessories that are both essential and necessary as well as a little bit of a bonus. The phone comes with a screen protector already installed on the device, though you can remove this if you’re not one who cares for this sort of thing, and of course it comes with the wall adapter and the USB charging cable. In addition to this you also get a decent-looking pair of earbuds. Beyond this, the box contains the SIM card tray ejector tool and the user guide, both of which are standard as you’ll find this with pretty much any other phone.

Display

The display used on the P10 may still be Full HD just like its predecessor from last year, but that shouldn’t take away from the brilliance that it carries and after using it for a brief period of time it becomes very apparent that Huawei has used a great display panel here. It’s bright and vivid and it was quite easy to use even in direct sunlight, though that also doesn’t meant that there is absolutely no glare at all if using the device outside during a bright day.

Moving past this, even though this isn’t a Super AMOLED panel which generally are held in the highest regard when it comes to color saturation, the screen on the P10 actually produces some really good colors that pop off the screen more than you would expect from this type of display technology. Blacks were also quite a bit deeper than on other IPS displays, and of course there was absolutely no issues with the digitizer here, which is as to be expected since the P10 is a flagship device from Huawei and although it does come in at a lower cost than competing flagships in the high-end tier, it still commands a fairly decent price from consumers. Although the screen looks great on the P10 as is if left alone, Huawei has also incorporated the option to change the color temperature of the display if preferred, and users can switch things to be more cool or more warm to adjust the saturation a little bit, or it can be left on default if you don’t want to mess with things, and you can also move away from the preconfigured options by tapping the color circle where you want to set the temperature. It’s nice to see Huawei continuing to add this capability in their devices as it gives more control to the user on how they want their device to look.

Hardware Design & Build

Huawei’s build quality and design for their high-end devices is as always, impeccable, and it really comes through with the P10. This is one stunning device and although it’s definitely hard to ignore that it carries a little bit of an iPhone 7-like design, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The phone looks good, and Huawei knows it, and they shouldn’t feel ashamed as they’re designers have come up with something truly eye catching. What’s more is that it comes in a myriad of color choices which only adds to the allure, and some of those colors even come with a Hyper Diamond Cut design pattern on the back which adds a little bit of rigidity and some texture to the phone. This is a good thing considering the phone is made out of metal and metal devices can sometimes feel a little more slick than devices made with other materials. As a side note, this didn’t really seem to be a problem for me with the P10 black model even though it doesn’t have the Hyper Diamond Cut design.

While some of the P10 looks similar to last year’s P9, like the dual camera sensors on the back as these are in the same place, there are some things which are different. The fingerprint sensor for example, has been moved to the front of the device and now resides in the home button that sits in the screen’s bottom bezel instead of being on the back underneath the rear camera sensors. On the bottom you’ll find one single speaker, the USB Type-C charging port, and the 3.5mm audio port for headphones. On the right side you have the power button, which comes with a textured feel to it making it easy to distinguish from the volume rocker if you’re trying to hit the button before pulling it out of your pocket, and of course the volume buttons are on this same side. With the power button in particular you can see how much attention to detail Huawei puts into the design aspect when manufacturing a device. The button is black but also comes with a red border although there is no other use of red on the phone at all, and this is just a subtle touch to the design but it really does add that something extra. On the left, you have the SIM card tray while there are no ports or buttons up top.

Performance & Memory

Performance is not an issue with this device, not in the slightest. Although the phone doesn’t perform the absolute best when it comes to the benchmarks (more on that in the benchmark section), this means very little with this caliber of device as it performs exceptionally well and real world use will make this evident. During everyday use for things like opening up the camera and taking pictures, or having multiple apps open in the background, and even just browsing social media which is usually a big memory hog, the phone continues to feel snappy and responsive with seemingly no slowdown.

For users like myself, who also tend to play a lot of mobile games on their device, this is really where I was looking to see how the Huawei P10 would perform, and it certainly did not disappoint in this area. It was able to handle all of the most high-end games that I currently play on my Pixel without any problems, and these are graphically demanding games like Implosion (which actually won’t work on the Pixel due to Android 7.1 incompatibility at the moment), Need For Speed No Limits, and Mobius Final Fantasy, all three of which have high-quality three-dimensional visuals. During play of any of these games the phone played through fluidly and although it did get a little warm, this is to be expected when you’re doing any task on a smartphone that is as demanding as gaming. When it comes down to it, the Huawei P10 can keep it up with the best of them and it does so with plenty of style and rather effortlessly. This is really no change from Huawei’s other high-end phones, but it’s also likely at least in part a product of having Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1 running on the device as these are both more efficient than past versions of their respective software.

Benchmarks

When it comes to the benchmarks the P10 scored pretty well in the three tests that we usually check, which are 3D Mark for the graphics performance to test out the limits of the GPU, Geekbench 4, and AnTuTu. If you’re interested in seeing more of the in-depth details of this device for the benchmark scores, you can see the detail in the screenshots from each test below.

Fingerprint Sensor

With this being a high-end phone and it coming from Huawei, I was expecting the fingerprint sensor to work flawlessly and for the most part it does just that. While it did give me an issue a few times during the last week or so, it generally works without any problems and it recognizes my fingerprint quickly. In fact it actually feels like it recognizes my fingerprint and unlocks the device just a tiny bit faster than my Google Pixel which is already really fast, and this didn’t seem to change regardless of whether the screen was asleep or awake before I tried using the fingerprint sensor to unlock it. By all accounts the fingerprint sensor used in the P10 is of top quality and users should have no problems with it. If I had one complaint, it’s over Huawei’s decision to move the fingerprint sensor to the front of the device and place it at the bottom of the screen within the home button. With the way I personally hold smartphones, using the fingerprint sensor just feels more natural when it’s on the back, but this is a personal preference and not a reflection of how it works, and there are many users who will actually prefer this placement to being on the back of the device.

Phone Calls & Network

Because I use Project Fi I was not able to test the actual call quality of the P10, but since it is unlocked it can be used with other GSM networks in the U.S. like T-Mobile, AT&T, MetroPCS, Cricket Wireless, and others. While the version we received is not a model meant for the U.S., it still does support quite a few different LTE bands, and some of these are even the same LTE bands that T-Mobile’s network suppports, such as band 2, band 4, and band 12, all of which are supported by the P10 according to Huawei’s technical support website for this phone, which means you should be able to get LTE. You can find the full list of supported frequencies below.

2G GSM/Edge: 850/900/1800/1900

3G UMTS: Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 19

4G TD-LTE: Bands 38, 39, and 40

4G FDD LTE: Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, and 29

Battery Life

The battery inside of the Huawei P10 is a 3,200mAh battery so it’s more than most smartphones in its size range, and due to the Android 7.0 Nougat software as well as Huawei’s own EMUI 5.1 software the battery life is pretty good. Better than most actually, although this is also due to Huawei’s adjustments to the software that help it optimize the battery life to extend it. Beyond the standard battery optimizations that are utilized out of the box, Huawei employs a special set of battery optimizations that can help you extend the battery life even if you need to keep the device going. If you utilize this feature you can easily get a huge chunk of extra time out of the phone before you need to plug the device back in, and even then the P10 supports quick charging so it’ll get quite a bit of battery life in no time at all.

During the past week or so I would use the phone fairly averagely most days, which consisted of browsing social networks, emails, the occasional movie, and some pictures as well as a few hours of gaming here and there. While I didn’t really use the phone extremely heavily, I did use it a fair amount and I was able to take it through the entire day without having to worry about plugging it in. In fact I actually didn’t have to plug the device in until I was ready to go to sleep which is more than I can say for the Pixel, which I frequently have to plug in at least once before the day is over. In addition to testing out the battery life in average everyday use, I also put the phone through PC Mark’s battery test, which simulated everyday use to calculate the screen-on time, and it ended up with seven hours and fifteen minutes, which is a little bit less than I got but this is also likely because I wasn’t the using the phone as much as I normally would use my device. Overall, there was no issue with battery life here and Huawei has engineered quite an impressive device when it comes to the battery. Although it’s nice to have a phone with great specs and powerful hardware, the battery life has been one of the more overlooked aspects in recent years and should be the most important element for the majority of consumers, as you can’t use your device with a dead battery. Thankfully, Huawei believes heavily in having a phone that is more than capable of lasting at least a day or more without having to charge it, and they have come through with the P10 in this regard.

Software

Huawei has always used their own software on top of Android and their latest flavor to accompany Nougat is EMUI 5.1. There isn’t a major change in the actual look of the software as it looks a lot like the last version that can be seen on previous flagships from 2016, but it does come with some nice adds and this is definitely one of my favorite software user interfaces now having spent more time with it. With EMUI there is no app drawer so all of your installed apps end up on the display much like they do on iOS, but there are also more similarities between iOS and Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 as even the settings menu and toggle buttons for enabling and disabling certain functions look pretty similar. This isn’t a bad thing at all, just an observation of Huawei’s design choices. When it comes to differentiating themselves from stock Android, Huawei puts plenty of little touches into the software that set it apart.

One of these aspects can be seen straight from the lock screen before you unlock the device. In the bottom right corner you’ll have a quick access button that will launch the camera if you slide up on the display from this point, and on the left side you can see the time and date, but if you slide up from the very bottom edge where the time and date is you can bring up a navigational task bar that has even more quick access shortcuts that will open up following a device unlock, and this is a nice touch as it makes getting to things quick and easy. The shortcuts that are present here are for the sound recorder, the calculator, the flashlight, setting an alarm, and a QR Code scanner. Just above these shortcuts are a series of other buttons as well which have completely different functions, like a button to enable Huawei Share, and a button for getting to your photos. Not everyone will use this feature, but it’s a nifty functionality that many will definitely appreciate especially since you can get to it from the lock screen.

Icons and folders of course look pretty much the same as they do with EMUI 5.0, but again this isn’t a bad thing as the design of the icons and folders is pretty decent. You can even change the looks of the icons and the home screen a little bit by applying one of a handful of different themes that are available with Huawei’s built-in theme chooser, which will change the looks of the icons slightly but also change the color of them to match the overall theme color, and you get a matching background. Other less noticeable software adjustments have been incorporated into the device that many users are sure to miss if they have never used a Huawei device before, let alone a more recent one. Like the “Eye comfort” feature for example, which filters out blue light so it’s easier on the eyes when using the phone in darker lit rooms. This is something that is starting to make its way onto a lot of phones actually, but last year and before it was more scarce. There is also a floating dock that you can enable that gives you access to things like an app cleaner which clears open apps when pressed, a lock button that you can tap, and then it also has the navigational buttons included too, though these three buttons and the lock button feel redundant, as the navigational buttons are already present at the bottom of the display, and tapping the power button will also lock the device. This doesn’t seem to be configurable so you’re unfortunately stuck with those options. If you do like the idea of having it though, you can enable this from the quick settings menu or from the regular settings menu, which is the same for enabling and disabling the Eye Comfort feature.

Huawei also employs a number of gestures within the software which is certainly one of the benefits of EMUI. You can do things like flip the phone to mute it or pick up the device to reduce the ring volume. These are part of the motion gestures, but the P10 also has knuckle gestures available that allow you to use your knuckles for taking screenshots, and you can draw various letters to open up applications from the lock screen. For instance, drawing a letter c would open up the camera, while drawing a letter e would open up Chrome and drawing a letter w would open up the weather. These are also just the default settings, and if you prefer these letters to open up other functions or apps you can configure them to do so, as Huawei is giving you a decent amount of control for this particular feature set. You also have other nice touches like the one-handed UI feature which can enable the shifting keyboard. If you’re a right-handed or left-handed user, you can turn this feature on and shift the keyboard to whichever side suits you best. Though this only works with Huawei input methods and not third-party keyboards. Overall, EMUI 5.1 with Android 7.0 Nougat offers up a nice experience, and although it may be a bit different than some are used to, it’s actually pretty nice and not that hard to become acquainted with.

Sound

Sound quality on the device was pretty good and there were really no complaints, although the device does only have one speaker and it could always be better. That being said, this is still a smartphone and it shouldn’t be expected to carry the absolute best sound you’ll find in consumer electronics, but that also doesn’t mean it has to be bad, and it’s really not. On the contrary it’s actually quite good and this is in spite of only having one speaker. What’s more is that Huawei’s placement of this keeps it from being covered up by my palm when holding it in landscape mode for playing games or watching videos, a common issue that I come across with the Pixel all of the time. If you truly want excellent sound on a smartphone though, you’re still going to have to plug in a pair of high-quality headphones or connect a really nice speaker as smartphone speakers can only take things so far. In short, users won’t be disappointed with the audio on the P10.

Camera

For most smartphones the camera is either an afterthought or it simply doesn’t have a lot of options to pair with the good photos it takes. That simply isn’t the case with the Huawei P10. Huawei has partnered again with Leica on this phone just as they did on the P9 and the result is a stellar camera that really has to be experienced to understand just how good it is. When it comes to smartphone cameras, being able to take a decent quality picture is only part of the equation. Good software is needed just as much as the hardware, and Huawei has opened things up to an almost unbelievable level on the software side of things, which is excellent if you really love your photography, and still excellent even if you don’t as you’ll still have plenty of options to play with should you decide to venture down that path. On the face of things, the camera app is just a good camera app and even if you don’t mess around too much with the different options and configurations, it will still take a good picture and that’s the beauty of it. If you want to open things up though, you will have a lot to comb through at your fingertips.

For starters, the P10 has a pro mode that can be accessed if you slide your finger from the right edge. You’ll know where to slide in from as there is an indicator button to denote the location, and once it’s opened up and you’ve switched over to pro mode, this is where you have all of the major options to adjust and tweak your pictures before you take them. From adjusting the ISO to increasing or decreasing the Exposure Composition, you can play with these settings to get the perfect picture. In all, the full spectrum of things you can adjust within pro mode are the ISO, the Exposure Composition, the Metering, the Shutter, the Focus, and the White Balance. While most people won’t care to adjust any of these settings and just let the normal photo mode do all of the work, you will generally get a better picture if you tweak these things so long as you know what you’re doing. Aside from pro mode, there are tons of other things to like about this camera. For example, you have three color settings that will tweak how much focus goes into bringing out the colors in your shots, these include standard, vivid, and smooth colors. Smooth tends to soften things out just a bit while standard doesn’t really do much but present the colors as they are, while vivid really brings out the brightness of each color and tries to accentuate the different hues as much as possible. This is sort of akin to how some of the colors might look in an HDR photo that you’d find on other smartphone cameras. In addition to these settings, there is also an option to widen the aperture which will essentially allow you to add a fairly realistic bokeh effect to your pictures.

When wide aperture is enabled, you can adjust the aperture from 0.95 which is the lowest, all the way up to 16 which is the highest, and this range will allow you to tweak how much focus is put on the subject in the foreground while how out of focus the subjects in the background are. There is also a portrait mode that you can enable that will focus on the highlights of people when you’re taking a shot with just yourself or others, and you can adjust how many people are in the shot with a slider bar at the right of the screen which goes all the way up to 10. The last setting on the left edge just above portrait is the option for all of your different color effects that can be applied to the picture before taking it, and this is where you’ll find the option to turn your pictures black and white, although there are 7 other filters you can apply as well, and the nice thing is that it puts everything into a preview before you select one so you can see what each filter effect looks like in real-time, with the middle being no filter at all so you can compare them all side by side to a standard shot.

While that pretty much all of the tweaks you can do from the viewfinder, there are still more options to adjust and play with from the settings. In this menu you can adjust the resolution of your shots, and even toggle the shooting in RAW format which will give you a RAW image file as well as the JPEG file every time you take a picture. While most people will stick with JPEG, those who like to process their photos on their own instead of letting the phone’s camera app do the work for them will want the RAW images as they provide all of the detail that the sensor captures. Software aside, the camera itself is just generally really good. It captures an amazing amount of detail and it snaps photos quickly so you can go back to taking another shot. Overall, there was nothing disappointing about the P10 camera and it really does a great job at showing how good a smartphone camera can be.

The Good

Excellent camera

Varied set of picture features in the camera software

Good audio quality

Fantastic design

Plenty of color choices for consumers who like to personalize their device

Really good screen

Fast fingerprint sensor

Excellent build quality

Great battery life

Fast charging

Performs really well during everyday use and during gameplay

The Bad

Fingerprint sensor is on the front instead of on the back. Feels less natural for unlocking, though this is a personal preference

EMUI can feel daunting at times as there is so much to it compared to stock Android

Won’t be coming to the U.S. market

Wrap-up

As expected Huawei has put out a really great device with the P10 and there is a lot to love about it, from the unique Huawei touches on the software to the stellar design and build quality that has come to be expected from Huawei and their top-end devices. All around the P10 is just a fantastic phone from head to toe. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who aren’t afraid to venture out of the ordinary and try something new, giving the Huawei P10 a shot is certainly recommended.

Should you buy the Huawei P10?

Well, that depends on what you want and honestly what carrier you’re with. If you’re outside of the U.S., chances are this will work with just about any carrier, and if you don’t mind not having stock Android, then you definitely should at least consider picking up the Huawei P10. If you’re inside of the U.S., and you don’t mind not having stock Android, then you should also consider it. However, if you prefer something more akin to the software on the Pixel or Nexus devices, or if you have Sprint or Verizon, then the Huawei P10 won’t work for you, unfortunately. Overall, the P10 is a really solid device and definitely Huawei’s best to date. That being said, the Huawei P10 is not yet available for purchase and it won’t be sold in the U.S., so U.S. consumers will have limited availability of this device, but when it goes on sale it’s definitely a phone you’ll want to at least think about even if you have to import it.