The P10 Plus is Huawei’s best phone yet. It takes the decent P10 and improves it in a variety of ways.
Its Leica camera is excellent in both light and dark scenarios, battery life is impressive and it comes with a generous amount of storage. It’s the first Huawei handset that can easily compete with big-name flagships such as the LG G6, iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7.
It isn’t perfect – there are a few frustrating missteps along the way – but with the P10 Plus Huawei has taken a significant step forward from churning out forgettable budget phones.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – DESIGN
Huawei has been improving its basic design for some time now, tweaking its formula with every release rather than starting afresh each time. The P10 Plus continues in this vein, but with useful changes to keep it from feeling stale.
It’s clear that the design influence here is the iPhone 7. It isn’t unusual to see Android phones that resemble Apple’s flagship, but the P10 Plus takes it up a notch.
From the matte-black colour scheme, to the curved sides and flat back, the P10 Plus is almost a dead-ringer for the iPhone 7. Unoriginality aside, I’m not complaining too much about this. The P10 Plus feels great to hold; it’s thin, light and even with its 5.5-inch display I can comfortably grip the device in one hand. Initially, some may find that completely flat rear a little slippery, but you’ll quickly get used to it.
A notable change from the P9 is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Previously, it sat just below the camera sensors on the rear of the phone; in the P10 Plus it moves to the front.
The position is fine – although my personal preference is for it to be on the back – and it’s among the fastest fingerprint sensors I’ve experienced. Even with a minimal touch, it zips you right past the lockscreen to the homescreen.
I’m also a big fan of the gestures that Huawei has built into the button. Alongside acting as the home button, a lighter tap takes you back and a swipe across the pad brings up the multi-tasking menu.
It’s all very intuitive, and it removes the need for any on-screen buttons on the display, resulting in slightly more screen real-estate. Even if you find it odd at first, stick with it – after a few hours’ use it will become second-nature.
I loved the matte-black colour scheme on the iPhone 7, and I remain a fan of it on the P10 Plus. However, Huawei has also teamed up with Pantone to offer other, slightly unusual options. ‘Greenery’ is Pantone’s ‘Colour of the Year 2017’, and is one such hue that I really like. The P10 Plus is also available in ‘Dazzling Blue’ and a rather bog-standard gold. The blue and green variations feature a a ‘diamond cut’ pattern on the rear, which is heavily textured and is therefore supposed to offer greater scratch resistance.
I’m disappointed that the P10 Plus isn’t waterproof. If Huawei really wants to battle the likes of the LG G6, iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 – all of which are at least IP67 protected – it needs to match this most useful of features.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – DISPLAY
At times, the Huawei’s display is one of my most favourite things about the P10 Plus – but it’s also the phone’s biggest weakness.
In terms of resolution and quality, it excels. The 5.5-inch LCD IPS-NEO panel with a quad-HD (2560 x 1440) resolution looks superb. It doesn’t quite offer the inky blacks and saturated colours of an AMOLED panel – featured in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, for example – but it isn’t far off. The use of an IPS panel also means the P10 Plus lacks support for Daydream VR.
Out of the box, the colours on Huawei’s display are a tad on the cool side – which is my preference anyway – but you can tweak them in settings to warm them up. Whites can sometimes look a little pinkish or yellow when scrolling, but this is a minor issue.
The screen is capable of going fantastically bright, and for much of the time I was happily able to keep it at 45-50% without running into any issues. The auto-brightness is accurate, too – something I often have trouble with on Android phones.
But there’s a problem – and it’s a big problem. On unboxing the P10 Plus, you’ll discover that it comes with a flimsy plastic screen protector already in place. Remove it, however, and the screen will no longer benefit from an oleophobic coating.
You’ll find this covering on pretty much every phone, and its purpose is to stop smudges and oily residue building up. So, if you remove the screen protector from the P10 Plus – and I did, since it was scratched and almost peeling off after a few days – you’ll have a phone that becomes horribly grimy after only a few minutes’ use.
I struggle to forgive Huawei for missing off such a basic feature, especially considering the asking price of the phone.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – PERFORMANCE
The internal components of the Huawei P10 Plus are similar to those in 2016’s Mate 9; and they’re just as impressive.
The Kirin 960 processor is a real winner, and easily the quickest and most efficient of any previous HiSilicon chipset. It tops the Snapdragon 821 in general use and is likely more comparable with the upcoming Snapdragon 835, which will sit inside the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Apps open without judder and that random slowdown that used to be common in Huawei phones is finally a thing of the past. In Trusted‘s regular benchmark tests, the Huawei P10 Plus outperformed most of the big-hitters, scoring 6237 in Geekbench 4’s multi-core score. That’s more than the Snapdragon 821-equipped Pixel XL (4152) and the iPhone 7 Plus (5793).
While general performance is superb, the handling of graphics could be better. The Mali G71 GPU is perfectly capable, but games present slower and less smooth than on an iPhone 7.
The P10 Plus offers 6GB of RAM – that’s 2GB more than the regular P10 and the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S7, but the same as the OnePlus 3T – and while more RAM is nice to have, it isn’t a necessity. I tend to use around 2.5GB-3.5GB of RAM at a time, so I’m not inclined to get too excited by Huawei’s generous inclusion here.
The 128GB storage as standard is appreciated, however; it makes the 32GB in the LG G6 positively tight. In addition, there’s a microSD slot supporting cards up to 256GB, if you wish to increase that amount further.
Both call and Wi-Fi quality are excellent, something I’ve come to expect from Huawei devices. The speakers aren’t quite so good, but the dual setup – one face down and one pumping out of the earpiece – is more than serviceable.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – SOFTWARE
Huawei’s hardware has been good for a few years, but it’s only in past six months that it’s managed to bring its software onto a similar level. EMUI – that’s Huawei’s layer that sits atop Android – used to be a reason to avoid the ‘P’ series altogether, but that’s no longer the case.
While it’s true that EMUI isn’t as naturally good-looking as stock Android on the Pixel, it’s greatly improved in version 5.1. The old bugs that stopped proper access to Google’s services appear to be gone, and items such as the notifications panel and Settings menu are now much more in line with Google’s guidelines.
It even features parts that I like over and above your typical version of Android. The vast array of battery-saving modes are fantastic, while the gesture inputs on the home button are clever and actual time-savers. There’s split-screen multi-tasking, too, plucked straight from Android 7 – but the lack of support for Google Assistant is a tad annoying.
I’d still like to see the batch of pre-installed apps reduced, however – thankfully, most can be uninstalled – and you’ll likely be waiting a while for Android O to hit the P10 Plus. You’ll also continue to suffer from the constant badgering about certain apps using too much power – but, in all, this really is the best version of EMUI yet.
Huawei claims to have made a number of tweaks under the hood, too, all of which should keep the P10 Plus running more reliably for longer. The company says the phone should run just as smoothly on the day you unbox it as a year down the line. Although too early to test this claim right now, I’ll update this article with more thoughts later in the year.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – CAMERA
Huawei’s cameras appear to divide opinion more than any other. If you judge a camera’s ability on benchmarks such as DxO Mark, then you’ll probably believe the smaller P10 is among the best. In our review, however, we found it disappointing in low light and not good enough to compete with the Pixel and iPhone 7. Benchmarks will only tell you so much; more important is how the camera performs in real-life situations.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the P10’s camera, but the optics in the P10 Plus are far superior, making it a much better snapper than its smaller sibling.
The basics remain the same in both cameras. Each has a dual-camera layout, with a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and a 12-megapixel RGB version with optical image stabilisation. Having a higher megapixel monochrome sensor allows the capture of far more detail and greater light, without sacrificing speed and efficiency of the colour sensor.
The big difference between the P10 and P10 Plus is the lens that sits on the sensor. While both are co-engineered with Leica, the P10 Plus has a wider f/1.7 aperture that lets in far greater light than the narrow f/2.2 lens on the regular P10. More light means brighter shots; you should always look for a wider aperture if you take lots of night-time shots.
Low-light shots from the P10 Plus are excellent, with dark spots not overly noisy and colour still visible. I’m impressed with the sheer amount of detail in the shots; the camera here manages to compete with both the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel.
Low-light shots look great, with deep black sky and bright lights accurately picked out
Even in the dark, the camera can pick out bright colours and expose the shot well
Well-lit daylight shots are superb too, and here the wider aperture results in more natural background blur when taking portraits, meaning you won’t need to use the odd-looking ‘Portrait’ mode as much. Skin tones are captured nicely, but on occasion colours can look a little subdued and a little on the cool side. It’s nothing that a touch of editing won’t easily sort out, though.
There’s plenty of detail and well defined colours; use the ‘Pro’ mode to bump up the colour saturation
Detail isn’t lost in poor light
The wide aperture gives a lovely natural bokeh effect, without software enhancements
Photos have great depth to them
Portraits and landscapes are the cameras two biggest strengths, but the results are best with all the extra modes are turned off. The HDR mode isn’t automatic and, as such, leaving it on all the time can result in some weird effects in some shots. The Night Shot mode, too, seems to crank up the noise, blowing out exposure and leaving disappointing results.
These extra tweaks might be needed with less than impressive optics, but the strong sensors and lens at play here make them redundant.
One mode that can improve your shots, however, is the Pro mode. This is easily accessed with a swipe up, and it lets you alter the ISO, white balance, focus and shutter speed. It will also save shots in the uncompressed RAW format. It’s a little fiddly, but work with it and you’ll see the results.
Personally, I love the monochrome shots taken with the dedicated black-and-white sensor. The 20-megapixel results are sharp and nearly always have that professional touch about them. Simply layering a lack-and-white effect over a colour photo doesn’t leave you with quite the same results.
The monochrome sensor takes excellent pictures
Having two cameras of differing resolutions also allows the P10 Plus to take advantage of some clever zooming features. While it’s no replacement for a different focal length, as is the case with the iPhone 7 Plus, it does give better results than your typical phone zoom. You can zoom to 2x before the app will advise against going further, and the transition is smooth.
(above: normal; below: zoomed 2x)
You do lose a bit of quality – it basically zooms into a 20-megapixel picture and caps it at 12 megapixels – but I’d happily take the hit to get a little closer to a subject in certain situations.
The front-facing 8-megapixel f/1.9 camera is impressive too. Huawei has reduced its reliance on garish beauty modes and it will now automatically switch to a ‘wide selfie’ if it detects multiple faces in the shot. You’ll still get some odd results if you turn on the Portrait mode, but as with the main camera, the best results are achieved with the extra options turned off.
Video tops out at 4K at 30fps and looks good; smooth and detailed, although I’d stick with 1080p at 60fps for even smoother footage.
HUAWEI P10 PLUS – BATTERY LIFE
The P10 Plus is powered by a 3750mAh, non-removable battery – which is pretty sizeable, even for a 5.5-inch phone. The Google Pixel XL, by comparison, has 3450mAh battery and the larger 5.7-inch LG G6 has a much smaller 3300mAh cell.
In terms of real-world performance, so far this phone has lasted a full day every day for the past few weeks, even with heavy use. Screen-on time seems to hit 4.5-5 hours consistently, and an hour of Netflix streaming consumes about 7% on Wi-Fi and 9% on 4G.
Doze, Android’s native way of stopping power-hungry apps from munching through lots of data when the phone is idle, is a fantastic feature for extending standby time – but it appear to not work so well here. I’d put this down to EMUI’s own features that stop intensive apps, but it doesn’t work quite as well and it leaves the P10 Plus with slightly worse standby times than the competition.
I can leave an iPhone 7 or Pixel XL unplugged overnight and they’ll consume 2-5%, but with the P10 Plus it’s more like 10-12%.
Thankfully, recharging the Huawei P10 Plus via the USB Type-C port is quick. What I really like here is that there are three charging modes that automatically trigger when you plug in the correct charger.
Using the one included in the box, ‘Super Charging’ mode will kick in and fully power up the phone in about an hour. Use any other quick charger and ‘Fast Charging’ mode will take an extra 30 minutes to get you to 100%. Finally, if you plug the P10 Plus into a computer or older charger then it will charge more slowly at around three hours.
SHOULD I BUY THE HUAWEI P10 PLUS?
The P10 Plus is Huawei’s best phone to date. It isn’t perfect, but it ticks most of the boxes for an impressive 2017 flagship. It’s fast, looks attractive and has an excellent-sized display. The Leica-engineered camera is ace too, and the wider aperture makes a huge difference when comparing it to the regular Huawei P10.
There are a couple of drawbacks, however. The lack of an oleophobic coating on the screen leaves you with a smudgy, oily display, plus there ’s no water-resistance here as there is in the majority of the competition.
For $360, the P10 Plus represents much better value than the $340 P10, especially with that generous amount of base storage. It’s a great phone, one that I wouldn’t think twice about recommending.