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Saturday 18 November 2017

Review: Low light highlight as Huawei P10 aims lenses at iPhone 7 Plus

The Huawei P10 comes in two sizes and its quad-antenna system boosts reception

Huawei P10  
Huawei P10  
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Is there any alternative to Samsung and Apple at the top end of the smartphone market?

Actually, there is. While both Sony and HTC have introduced impressive premium handsets of late, Huawei’s new flagship P10 has impressed me over the last month. I’ve been using the 5.1-inch device (with 64GB of storage) fairly regularly.

The phone has two standout features: its rear camera and its mobile reception.

This handset’s Leica-designed camera system – with two rear lenses – makes it among the best camera phones you can buy on the market.

The camera system comprises a 12-megapixel sensor and a second 20-megapixel monochrome sensor. This means that black and white shots are a step above what you’ll get with almost any other camera. But the P10 also excels in low light, beating every other phone I’ve tried for photos in dimly lit conditions.

And it can create pretty effective depth of field using the two lenses, meaning that your photo subject stands out in comparison to the blurred background. (The iPhone 7 Plus has a similar feature, called ‘Portrait’ mode, that also uses its two lenses.

The P10’s camera also offers almost full manual controls of the camera, including dialling its aperture down (through a combination of hardware and software) to a powerful f0.95. This level of aperture control combines with the second camera lens to create the aforementioned shallow depth of field that makes pretty stunning portrait shots.

Does this mean that it’s the outright best camera phone? Maybe not,as the iPhone 7 Plus also has two lenses, one of which is at a 50mm (more zoomed in) focal length. I find this versatility incredibly useful and use it all the time. So your ultimate choice will depend on what kind of photos you like to take.

The P10’s other standout feature is its coverage reception. This is easily the best phone at picking up weak mobile signals I’ve ever used. It comes courtesy of a quad-antenna system that compares to the dual antennae that most smartphones have. Huawei claims this boosts reception by 30pc. Based on my usage, I believe them. Rooms in my house that struggle with reception suffer no dropped calls or interrupted signals here, using the same mobile network as before.

As for the P10’s exterior design, it’s actually very reminiscent of an iPhone 7. Its main aesthetic difference probably lies in the colours that Huawei have added to the collection. My 64GB model, for example, is a metallic light blue whereas one can also choose green. The usual colours of silver, black and gold are also available. I should point out that there are actually two models – the 5.1-inch P10 and the 5.5-inch P10 Plus. The bigger model costs a little more but comes with more storage (128GB, with memory card support bringing it up to 256GB).

The battery life on the P10 is decent: you should have little problem getting a full day out of it.

The only qualification I have over this phone is that the user interface still didn’t quite perform as fluidly or slickly as some rival systems. For example, on my model, touches weren’t always flawlessly registered. However, I’m conscious that the first batch of production models often get firmware updates that sort out issues such as this so this may be the case here.

Samsung and Apple look set to dominate the very top end of the market for the foreseeable future. But Huawei’s P10 is a worthy rival.

Huawei P10 (from €619)

Rating: ****

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