Watch out Galaxy Note 8, because there's a new top-spec, super-sized smartphone in town: The Huawei Mate 10. Available in two flavors, the Mate 10 has a 5.9-inch LCD screen with a home button underneath, and 64 GB of storage. The Mate 10 Pro features a 6-inch OLED display, an almost bezel-free design, a fingerprint sensor around back and up to 128 GB of storage.
If you're new to the Mate series from Huawei, these super-sized phones or "phablets" act as larger, more powerful companions to the flagships that Huawei brings out each year – in 2017 that meant the Huawei P10 and the Huawei P10 Plus, unveiled back at Mobile World Congress at the end of February.
You would opt for a Mate model for the same reason you might choose the Galaxy Note 8 over the Galaxy S8 from Samsung. More money for more of just about everything, from the display to the internal components.
To this year's models then, and specs-wise on the Mate 10 Pro you're looking at a 6-inch display and very little in the way of bezels. The OLED, HDR-ready screen has an 18:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,160 x 1,080 pixels, around 402 pixels-per-inch.
The Mate 10 has a slightly smaller, sharper 5.9-inch LCD display, with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, which is 498 ppi. The top and bottom bezels are still very thin, but not quite as thin as on the Mate 10 Pro, and that means there's room for a physical home button and fingerprint sensor on the front (the Mate 10 Pro has a fingerprint sensor around the back).
Inside there's Huawei's own Kirin 970 chip we saw in September, notable for having a 8-core CPU (for the general maths), a 12-core GPU (for powering graphics), and an NPU – a Neural network Processing Unit that handles calculations relating to artificial intelligence and offloads some of the work to the cloud. Huawei says the chip is capable of churning through some 2,000 images a minute, using AI to recognize objects inside the photos.
On tasks like image recognition, this dedicated AI NPU should mean the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro work faster than previous Huawei handsets and stay faster over time, though quite how much difference it'll make to your daily app use remains to be seen.
That AI processing affects photo taking too. Having been the first manufacturer to put a dual-sensor camera on the back of its phones, the theme continues on the Mate 10 phones. Both handsets feature two cameras on the back, both with a F1.6 aperture, one a 12 MP color sensor and one a 20 MP monochrome sensor.
The on-board AI is able to recognize the subject of your shots as well as the conditions, adjusting the camera settings on the fly (if you let it) – so if you're taking a shot of your lunch, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro can spot that and tweak the picture accordingly.
Rounding out the specs, you can get 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB storage on the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro, with a more expensive 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage available on the Mate 10 Pro only.
Both phones feature a 4,000 mAh battery, which is bigger than anything we've seen on a consumer flagship phone so far, though it's worth remembering that battery life ultimately depends on the efficiency of the internal components, the power draw of the screen, and various other factors as well the size of the battery itself. According to Huawei, it's good for around 25 hours of calls or 22 hours of video playback, which is impressive on paper.
The Mate 10 Pro offers IP67-level water and dust resistance. That drops to IP53 for the Mate 10, which is enough to protect against splashes and dust – just don't drop it into a glass of water. Also notable is the dual-SIM card slot, with support for 4G/LTE on both SIMs, and like last year, there's also a special edition Mate phone produced in partnership with Porsche.
Oh, and there's a PC Mode too that lets you power a PC monitor using your Mate 10 phone using just a cable. It's like the DeX experience offered by Samsung, but you don't need a dock to get everything working.
Huawei has impressed us in recent years with its flagship devices, as the company looks to translate its success in Asia into strong sales elsewhere in the world. Its phones might not look all that original, but they're well put together, and have plenty of power and capability where it counts. The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro look to continue that tradition, but they have plenty of strong competition to contend with.
You get Huawei's own EMUI skin on top of Android 8.0 Oreo on these phones. The Mate 10 Pro starts at €799 (about US$945) and is available in select regions from mid-November in Titanium Gray, Midnight Blue, Mocha Brown, and Pink Gold. For the €699 ($825) Mate 10, which will go on sale from the end of October, Champagne Gold and Black replace Titanium Gray and Midnight Blue. Actual US pricing, as well as availability, has not been released yet.
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