Huawei’s P10: Great camera, poor battery
By Chong Jinn Xiung April 27, 2017
- Aims to tempt the photography crowd with its Leica-branded cameras
- Held back by lacklustre battery performance and average video recording capabilities
HUAWEI took centre stage at Mobile World Congress 2017 as it made a big splash with its latest flagship device, the Huawei P10.
Coming in two sizes with the 5.1-inch P10 and 5.5-inch P10 Plus, these are Huawei’s opening salvos to take the smartphone market by storm.
We managed to get the smaller P10 for review and while it may not have the high-end optics of its larger cousin, the P10 Plus, it does give users a taste of what Huawei’s high end smartphones have to offer.
The P10 keeps to the elegant polished design that Huawei has been touting with its high-end devices. Opening up our review unit, the finish is impeccable and it has soft rounded edges that make it comfortable to hold.
Smartphone makers have been obsessed with trimming down the bezels this year and the P10 is one of those models that follows suit. Huawei has managed to shrink the bezels to make the P10’s 5.1-inch screen appear more prominent.
The P10 sports a full HD IPS display. Though it isn’t as sharp or able as deep a black as an AMOLED screen, the images and text are acceptably sharp and vibrant. Though it is protected by Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 5 screen Huawei thought it would be a good idea to put a screen protector over the review unit.
The smaller bezels also narrow the width of the phone, which coupled with the soft rounded edges makes the P10 feel really comfortable to hold. The alloy back of the P10 does, however, feel mildly slippery and it picks up some smudges after continued use.
So while you can’t have it all, the P10 is nonetheless a pretty good-looking phone.
Last year Huawei embarked on a journey with Leica to offer dual cameras that are co-engineered with the high-end German camera maker. This year they are at it again as the P10 has dual rear cameras, sitting flush with the body with no visible camera bump.
Surprisingly, the rear is also protected by Gorilla Glass 5 that is said to be scratch resistant.
One major difference in the design of the P10 is that Huawei has moved the fingerprint scanner from the rear to the front, right under the screen. The scanner retains its quick and accurate performance that unlocks with just a slight tap of your registered finger.
In bringing the scanner to the front, Huawei has consolidated the controls into a one button control that marries all three function buttons that you typically find on Android handsets. This means that you need only perform a single tap to go back, hold it longer to go home and swipe from left to right to bring up the multitasking menu.
It does take some getting used to but after a while, the interface feels almost second nature and convenient to use on the whole.
Hidden beneath the P10’s premium-looking exterior, the specs show that it uses Huawei’s own Kirin 960 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.
These are pretty decent specs but if you are looking for something more powerful there is the larger P10 Plus that features 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The Kirin 960 had a reputation as a real performer when it was deployed on models like the Mate 9 Pro and it is no different on the P10. The performance was solid as the P10 swiftly opened apps, juggled them during multitasking and handled demanding games with ease.
We backed our experience with some benchmark tests and here is what we found.
With Antutu and PCMark Work 2.0 we managed to get a nice 115,927 and 6,204 score respectively and that really puts the P10 up above with flagship-class productivity performance.
Geekbench 4 managed scores of 1,853 and 6,013 for single and multi-core scores, which is quite impressive compared to other phones we have tested in the past.
Even the graphic intensive 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme was handled relatively well as the P10 coasted through the processor hungry scenes while maintaining acceptable frame rates, meaning to say that it is a capable gaming phone.
Just like other Android makers, the P10 runs Huawei’s own take on Android. Called EMUI 5.1. It runs Android 7.0 so you can expect common features like a split screen and the ability to reply from the notifications shade to be present.
Just as the benchmark scores indicate, the P10 is a strong gaming smartphone. Having tested several graphically demanding games from Modern Combat 5: Blackout, Asphalt 8: Airborne to Star Wars: Force Arena, the P10 managed to run all of them smoothly.
One area the P10 disappointingly falls short in is battery stamina. Despite boasting a 3,200mAh battery that is larger than average for a phone this size, the P10 was barely able to last a day on a full charge.
Starting the day at 10 am with a fully-charged handset, the P10 was put through its paces with some web browsing, social media checking, photo taking and gaming. All of that drained the battery down to nearly 30% by 4pm and it clearly needed a recharge.
One consolation is that the P10 comes with fast-charging capabilities that should get the phone up to speed though this means that you will need to carry a power bank wherever you go.
One of the P10’s big selling points is its cameras. Last year Huawei tied up with German camera maker Leica to co-engineer optics for its flagship P-series phones.
This year that trend continues as the P10 carries the Leica-brand on not just two but three of its cameras with dual-rear facing cameras and a front facing camera for selfies.
The back of the P10 features a 12-Megapixel colour sensor and a 20-Megapixel black and white sensor. The idea is that the camera takes photos using both sensors and combines the two images to get more contrast and detail; at least that’s how Huawei tells it.
Taking photos on the P10 was satisfactory with the camera promptly launching at a moment’s notice and the interface clearly designed for easy access to Pro mode that allows for more manual controls. The autofocus was satisfyingly quick whether shooting pictures of people or scenery.
Serious photographers would be pleased to know that the P10 is capable of capturing images in RAW format, in which an unprocessed image is captured so that it can be fully tweaked with software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
In bright daylight, the P10 delivered superb picture quality, capturing lots of detail and contrast. It sometimes struggles to expose between bright and dark areas, overexposing highlights a little but these moments are few and far between.
Truth be told, the P10 is not a terrific low light shooter, thanks in most part to its smaller f/2.2 aperture compared to competing models that have brighter f/1.7 apertures. Photos that were taken at night or under dim conditions still appear noisy and over-processed.
Just like last year’s model, there is the Wide-aperture mode that applies a blurred background effect (or ‘bokeh’) via software to pictures to distinguish your subject from the background. The effect isn’t 100% perfect as there are times when the camera “guesses” incorrectly what is foreground and background.
One new addition to the P10’s repertoire of features is Portrait mode. Huawei claims the mode is specifically designed for enhancing portraits by detecting facial points and offering beauty enhancements (i.e. air brushing) to one’s face.
This is all well and good but the mode tends to be too aggressive in applying contrast and saturations, resulting in an unnatural-looking image.
The P10 also records videos up to UHD (or 4K) in resolution. Video quality, for the most part, looks good with the most details present in UHD recording at 30 frames per second (fps) while full HD is still fine though appears a little compressed though at a smoother 60fps.
Though recording videos in daylight is fine, the camera’s limitations in low light shooting really show when night videos appear very dark upon playback.
The P10 also brings the Leica-branded camera goodness to its 8-Megapixel front camera. Similar to the rear camera, you can apply Portrait mode to take higher quality selfies of yourself.
Interestingly, the camera has a smart feature that automatically adjusts the angle (be it wide-angle for groups or standard for solo selfies). It really is helpful at times but it would have been better if there was manual control to switch between wide-angle or standard.
With that, here are some sample photos taken with the P10.
This is a converted RAW image taken with the P10 in low light. Having processed it with Adobe Lightroom, one is able to recover blown out highlights and bring out the shadows in the image.
Wide-Aperture mode lets you apply bokeh (blurred background) effect to your subjects. However, it is not perfect as you can see certain parts of the flower are incorrectly blurred out.
Aside from the serious Pro modes available there are also shooting modes like Food mode that enhances the look of your meals. Ready for prime time on Instagram.
Finally, the P10 takes excellent black and white photos thanks to its second lens.
The P10’s narrow form factor combined with a generous 5.1-inch full HD display feels great in hand and the button control layout is all within easy reach.
The software experience with Huawei’s EMUI in the past felt constricted but the latest version coupled with features from Android 7.0 make it feel much better to use with more customised options available.
The P10 tries to appeal to the photography crowd with its Leica-branded goodness. No doubt it takes pretty photos and videos while offering a fun experience for selfie lovers but its low light performance will leave you dissatisfied.
The one major downside for the P10 is that its battery life simply isn’t great. This is one of those phones that needs a power bank at ready when the juice runs out and that is a shame for a handset that is purported to be of flagship quality.
Priced at US$567 (RM2,499), the P10 is a bit pricey for an incremental upgrade from last year’s model. Newcomers may find its big brother the P10 Plus more enticing with its bigger screen, storage battery and superior optics.
But if you are on a tight budget and don’t mind the imperfections with its battery, consider the P10.
Design - 4
Performance - 3
Value - 3
Overall - 3 1/2