Huawei P10 First Impressions: Attention to Detail Paves the Way to Solid Hardware
Just over two weeks ago at MWC, Huawei announced the successor to the P9, the Huawei P10. This new device comes with dual Leica-branded cameras, a Kirin 960 chipset and several unique color choices. I have now been daily driving the Huawei P10 for two weeks, so I’ll be sharing a few of my personal observations and opinions before our full review is published.
Build Quality & Design
The first thing you’ll notice about the P10 is the build quality — most premium Huawei phones feature exceedingly high build quality standards, and the P10 is no different. The back of the phone is finished with a process that Huawei’s marketing team is calling “Hyper Diamond Cut”. This involves leaving the back of the phone with a very fine crosshatching texture that adds slight roughness. While this is great for those of us who are not fond of “slippery” phones, I have found that fingerprints do tend to build up on the back and make the surface look unpleasant, and while inconvenient, it is nothing that a quick buff with a cloth can’t fix.
“Most premium Huawei phones feature exceedingly-high build quality standards, and the P10 is no different”
The sides of the device also show impressive construction, and the antenna bands are almost unnoticeable as they wrap around the device acting as a border between the glass and the top and bottom of the phone, and cannot be felt on the sides of the phone either. The sim/SD tray sits flush to the side of the unit and ejecting it with a sim tool is certainly not an unpleasant experienc,e which I have found to be an occasional issue with other phones across the market. On the bottom of the phone, the USB Type C port is flanked by a single speaker grill and a 3.5mm port.
The buttons offer a satisfying mechanical feel to them with an audible click unlike many premium devices whose buttons tend to feel “mushy”. The power button, like that of its predecessor, sits within a recess and is again crosshatched, with a red highlight around the edge, which while not contributing to the phone’s functionality certainly makes it stand out and adds to the phone’s aesthetic.
The P10 ships with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 based on Android 7.0, which is certainly a step in the right direction from EMUI 4, with the most immediately noticeable change occurring in the notification shade which was previously split into pages, notifications, and shortcuts. The panel is now much closer to vanilla Android than previous versions with notifications appearing under your quick settings in a familiar setup.
An interesting (and often-infuriating) change was the decision to replace the navigation buttons with a series of gestures centered around the fingerprint sensor: a short tap will take you back, while a long press will take you home, a horizontal swipe will open your recent apps and finally Google Now is opened with a swipe up. Unfortunately after two weeks of daily driving the phone, I still struggle to open recent apps or Google Now from time to time, and will often find myself backing out of an app one screen at a time while I swipe across the sensor. Thankfully, you can change to virtual keys in the settings, but I feel that since the hardware is clearly capable of removing the need for on-screen navigation keys, the end user shouldn’t be forced to limit their screen space due to poor implementation. For now, I have found myself using a 3rd party pie menu from the Play Store and hope a future update will polish this functionality.
A welcome feature to see return is knuckle gestures, which while being present on several Huawei and Honor devices now, it is still a great feature. Allowing you to take cropped screenshots, simply dragging a knuckle into the rough shape of the area you want to capture and options to edit, share and save appear (see left).
RAM management has certainly improved from previous versions of EMUI as well, which have been frequently overzealous in the handling of apps in RAM in an attempt to increase battery life. This often caused notifications to be missed or having to reload apps each time you used them. RAM management appears to be resolved with the P10 to an extent suitable for most users.
The first time you turn on the phone you will undoubtedly notice the collection of Huawei apps, which most users will already have preferred alternatives for, such as Health and HiGame as well as a number of game demos. These can all be uninstalled without the need for root, which is a pleasant option not offered by all OEMs.
The camera is where the P series truly shines, and the dual Leica-branded rear cameras now boast a 20 MP monochrome sensor with a 12 MP RGB sensor capable of 4K video recording. This a step up from the P9, which featured two 12 MP sensors, although the rear lens apertures have not changed at F/2.2.
As smartphone cameras are significant selling points, the P10 comes with an exceptional app — users who want to fine-tune their experience can do so in the slide out “pro” controls or one of the preset modes with the option to download additional features from within the camera app itself. These optional camera add-ons include the ability to add audio notes to images, a “good food” mode, a document scan mode and a watermark mode which allows you to edit and place a large list of premade watermarks to your images before you take them.
The camera features a few curiosities in that it includes a “hybrid zoom” which uses data from the 20MP monochrome sensor to improve the quality of images when zoomed up to 2x. The camera application also supports standard zooming up to 10x, although at this level image quality is understandably poor. While you can set your phone to capture images at 20 MP, I found that due to the inability to zoom at this level I stuck to 12 MP for the majority of my usage, which is more than adequate for the average user’s needs.
Like many phone enthusiasts, I carry two devices with me. While I don’t feel that the P10 offers enough to drag me away from my OnePlus 3T, it certainly has gained a place in my other pocket as a device with great battery life and camera. For users who may not want to flash a lot of ROMs or mod their device heavily, the Huawei P10 presents a formidable choice. With exceptional cameras, build quality, and a Kirin 960 processor it’s easy to see this device becoming one of 2017’s better premium devices.
Check out XDA’s Huawei P10 Forums!