Those who are familiar with the Mate series will notice how different the latest flagship looks compared to previous generations. In place of a matte metal finish is a glossy glass back with a horizontal inch-high gray stripe under the cameras. This band subtly blends in with the rest of the rear but catches your eye when it reflects light, making for a fetching effect. All four sides of the handset are slightly curved, too, so the device feels sleeker and easier to grip.
The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro differ in a few ways. The Pro has a larger 6-inch OLED screen than the regular model (which measures 5.9 inches diagonally and uses an LCD panel). Strangely, the Pro's display resolution is just 2,160 x 1,080, while the smaller phone has a sharper 2,560 x 1,440 screen. Huawei said it did this to conserve the Pro's battery, among other reasons it declined to share.
Other differences between the two phones include RAM and storage capacity, as well as the type of LTE radio. The Mate 10 has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, while the Mate 10 Pro has 6GB of memory and 128GB of space. To compensate for its lower capacity, the regular Mate 10 has a microSD slot but its bigger brother doesn't. The Pro also has a Cat 18 radio, which means it supports gigabit LTE speeds of up to 1.2GBps, while the smaller phone doesn't. Finally, the Mate's fingerprint sensor is built into the home button, while the Pro's is located on the rear under the cameras. All these differences considered, the Pro doesn't necessarily feel like the superior of the two; it has a slightly bigger and technically better screen, though I didn't notice a change in quality as I switched devices.
I eventually learned to tell the difference between the phones by their overall shape. The Mate 10, with its 16:9 aspect ratio, is wide and squat compared to the Pro, which has a ratio of 18:9. Like many of this year's flagship phones, the two Mates' displays stretch across the front for an "all-screen" effect with almost no bezel. Despite the different resolutions and display types, both phones appeared equally colorful and crisp though they seemed a little dim under direct sunlight.
Both phones sport the same dual rear-camera setup, which Huawei co-engineered with Leica -- a partnership that has been ongoing for several years now. A 12-megapixel RGB camera is paired with a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor here, and both lenses feature apertures of up to f/1.6 -- which is the largest on smartphones to date, alongside LG's similarly equipped V30. The V30 uses a glass lens, though, which may deliver better image quality than the Mates, and LG uses wide angle and telephoto lenses instead of color and monochrome sensors. Still, the Mate 10 phones yielded lovely pictures with vivid colors and sharp details.
That's thanks in part to Huawei's AI in the native camera app. When you point the Mate 10's camera at an object, it recognizes the subject and automatically adjusts the settings. It'll not only tweak capture settings like ISO, exposure compensation and white balance in real time, but post-processing effects as well. I aimed the phone at some cupcakes on a plate, and a food icon appeared at the bottom left of the screen. The phone then bumped up the saturation to make the colors richer.
Huawei says the camera can recognize up to 13 scenes right now, including landscapes, low-light, portrait, flower, sunset, snow, cat, dog and text. I don't know why there are different settings for dogs and cats (Huawei has yet to answer my question on this), and I unfortunately didn't get to try the camera out on those animals. But during my demo, the Mate 10 phones accurately distinguished between people, food, flowers and landscapes. Over time, Huawei says the AI-powered model will evolve so that it recognizes more scenes and learns to identify more objects. The company will train its AI using users' photos in the cloud, and then push out updates periodically.
I was impressed by how quickly the cameras recognized things. An icon for the detected object appeared almost instantly after I pointed the phone at it, and even when there was a delay, it was never longer than a second. This is likely due to the Mate 10's Kirin 970 CPU, which carries a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) to manage AI-based tasks. While the graphics processing unit handles things like rendering the image on your viewfinder and the main processing unit takes care of saving the image to your phone or capturing metadata, the NPU focuses on processes like object recognition. On other chipsets without an NPU, the latter task would be slower since it would be performed by another unit that's already in use.