Huawei has announced the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, two new phones that occupy the highest end of its lineup. The Mate 10 phones see the Chinese giant get on board with the skinny-bezel trend of 2017 while leveraging its ability in silicon design to supposedly improve AI-related performance.
The main difference between the two phones is in screen size and shape. The Mate 10 features a 5.9-inch 2560 x 1440 LCD while the Mate 10 Pro’s display is a 6-inch 2160 x 1080 OLED; both have thin, symmetrical bezels at the top and bottom. The Pro feels like the smaller phone, however, due to the narrower 18:9 aspect ratio it shares with many of this year’s similarly sized “bezel-less” phones.
The regular Mate 10’s sharper 16:9 screen makes for an unusually proportioned device, albeit one that’ll probably work well for YouTube and other casual video watching — it feels very wide in the hand, but the combination of a huge, standard aspect ratio screen with slim bezels lends a distinctive heft.
Both phones feature glossy glass construction and come in “mocha brown” or “pink gold,” with additional black and gold finishes for the Mate 10 and blue and gray colorways for the Pro. There’s also a Porsche Design special edition Mate 10 Pro with a “diamond black” finish. The Mate 10 is 8.2mm thick and has a fingerprint sensor below the screen; the Pro is 7.9mm and has its fingerprint sensor around the back. The Pro features IP67 waterproofing and an IR blaster, while the Mate 10 gets a headphone jack and a microSD card slot in return.
Beyond external differences, both phones are similarly specced. They each feature a Kirin 970 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 4,000mAh battery, 64GB of storage, and dual cameras with f/1.6 lenses. That camera setup includes a 20-megapixel color sensor and a secondary 12-megapixel monochrome sensor designed to gather additional luminance information and detail, as with the P10 and other recent Huawei flagships. The Pro has an additional variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the Porsche Design model comes with 6GB of RAM and ups the storage to 256GB.
Both phones use USB-C, as you’d expect, and Huawei has developed a desktop docking solution that’s similar in concept to Samsung’s DeX, which in turn is similar in concept to Windows Continuum and the Motorola Atrix and a lot of other things that didn’t work out. Huawei’s spin doesn’t require a dock, however — you can plug your phone directly into a monitor with a cable and expect to get around three hours of use in the desktop environment, which features resizable windows and Office support. The system allows you to use your phone as normal while it’s powering the larger monitor, and there are privacy controls that allow you to stop notifications from popping up.
But the biggest differentiator for Huawei this year is the Kirin 970 chip, developed in-house at the company’s HiSilicon semiconductor arm. The Kirin 970 includes what Huawei is calling an NPU, or neural processing unit, which is designed to handle tasks related to AI and deep learning. Apple announced much the same with the iPhone 8 and X’s A11 Bionic chip, which includes a “neural engine,” but Huawei is leaning harder into making the Kirin 970’s NPU a core feature of the device.
One of the biggest claims is that Huawei’s AI processing will be able to significantly reduce the phone’s performance degradation over time, which the company has identified as a major problem with Android devices in general. The Mate 10 uses on-device processing to build a model of how you use the phone and allocates resources accordingly with machine learning predicting user behavior. And while Apple’s lead in raw CPU processing speed is seemingly unassailable in the mobile space, Huawei believes it will be able to outstrip the new iPhones when it comes to on-device deep learning tasks such as image recognition.
It’s hard to judge any of this without having the phone in hand — in fact, it’ll be hard to judge much of it without having used the phone for several months. But it’s clear that dedicated AI hardware is going to have its uses, and Huawei is demonstrating a significant advantage by managing to spin up its own take on the idea before the likes of Qualcomm.
Huawei’s last flagship, the P10, came with some disappointing quirks, and the company’s claims about the Mate 10 require that we reserve judgement even further. On paper, though, Huawei’s latest are intriguing devices that carry a lot of potential.
Huawei has set European pricing at €699 ($824) for the Mate 10, €799 ($942) for the Mate 10 Pro, and a staggering yet unsurprising $1,395 ($1,645) for the Porsche Design Mate 10 Pro — the release date hasn’t been announced yet, nor have any plans for a US launch.