Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: the weigh-in

Will the latest Pro-level Mate take Samsung’s big-phone throne?

19 October 2017
by Stuff Staff

Nobody is making stylish, high-end phones quite like Samsung right now, although Apple’s iPhone X and Google’s Pixel 2 XL will try mightily to take the crown away from the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus.

And here’s another big contender: Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro. Last year’s Mate 9 Pro looked strikingly like a Galaxy S7 Edge, but this year’s edition embraces the extra-tall screen trend and sheds quite a bit of bezel accordingly.

By and large, it keeps with the large flagship standards with some tweaks, going big in some areas while paring down in others. All told, if you’re looking for a top-end phone with a huge screen, is the Mate 10 Pro really worth considering over the Galaxy S8 Plus?

Here’s how this battle looks so far, based our hands-on time with the Mate 10 Plus and the specs.

DESIGN: APING SAMSUNG’S STYLE

Like the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 XL, and LG G6, the Mate 10 Pro has embraced a nearly all-screen face with less bezel all around. It’s a little flashier than the surprisingly straightforward Pixel 2 XL from the front, but not quite on the level of Samsung. And the tiny Huawei logo below the screen is a bit of an eyesore. Are we really still doing front-facing logos in 2017?

Actually, they look rather similar at a glance. But Samsung did it first, and the Galaxy S8 Plus is still the leader of the design pack here. The Infinity Display takes up 85% of the face, which means there’s barely any bezel at all around the curved screen and just a bit on the top and bottom, which artfully blend in well with the display.

Both of these glass-and-metal phones look and feel plenty premium, but the Galaxy has more style with its little flourishes, including the rounded edges on the top and bottom and the curved display.

SCREEN: A CLEAR DECISION

Samsung’s Galaxy flagships consistently boast the best-looking screens on the market, and that’s definitely been the case again with the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Galaxy Note 8. They’re absolutely stunning Quad HD AMOLED displays at a taller-than-average 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and the S8 Plus does it at 6.2in (2960×1440) without feeling too overwhelming in size thanks to the dimensions.

Meanwhile, the Mate 10 Pro goes for a 6in panel at a close 18:9 aspect ratio, also AMOLED, but there’s a key difference here: it’s only a 1080p panel at 2160×1080. That’s fine, certainly, but there’s sure to be a degradation in clarity compared to the pixel-packed Galaxy S8 Plus screen. This one’s a clear win for Samsung.

CAMERA: ONE OR BOTH?

We can’t really judge a camera until we’ve used it extensively, but based on the hardware alone, Huawei might have an edge here. The company stuck with the pairing of a 12-megapixel main sensor and 20MP monochrome sensor from the great P10 and even better P10 Plus, albeit now with f/1.6 aperture lenses for both.

That tweak could let in extra light and make for much better low-light results, and only the LG V30 matches it on that front. It also has phase detection and laser autofocus, and everything was super speedy in our hands-on – thanks in part to machine learning that recognises what you point at and adjusts accordingly to ensure the best possible shot.

We found the images with the P10 and P10 Plus to be overwhelmingly auto-sharpened at times, though, so hopefully Huawei has dialled that back a bit here.

On the other hand, Samsung has one of the best smartphone snappers in the world right now with the Galaxy S8 Plus – but not the best, in our estimation. It’s a single 12MP shooter on the back with a f/1.7 aperture lens, optical image stabilisation, and dual-pixel autofocus, plus some crafty processing to help you snag brilliant shots.

Thanks to multi-frame image processing, the phone can take a trio of snaps with a single tap, and then immediately blend them to give you one brilliant result without delay. Great contrast and colouring ensure that images stay true-to-life here.

We’ll see how it shakes out. The Mate 10 Pro has the advantage of dual-camera perks like bokeh effects and optical zooming, and it might do better in low light. But if the shots end up being overly processed, then Samsung could still come out ahead with its single snapper.

PERFORMANCE: SPEED DEMONS

It’s too early to tell which phone will be speedier in everyday use, or even which will come out on top in benchmark tests. But the Galaxy S8 Plus is already one of the speediest phones on the market, and we have a hunch that the Mate 10 Pro will be at least on the same level.

Samsung is using its own Exynos 8895 chip in many territories or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in others (with 4GB RAM either way), and both are top-of-the-line in the Android world. Meanwhile, the Mate 10 Pro uses Huawei’s new Kirin 970 CPU that purportedly packs a punch over the previous version, with 6GB RAM to help speed things along.

The Mate 10 Pro also comes with a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that’s said to help automate some tasks, such as turning on the low-light mode and doing near-real-time language translation, but we’ll see whether that actually ends up providing any noticeable advantage. For now, we suspect they’ll be close enough to call even.

BATTERY AND PERKS: BIT OF A MIX

What do you get when a phone has a lower-resolution screen and a larger battery cell inside? More battery life, we presume – and that could help nudge some folks towards the Mate 10 Pro over the Galaxy S8 Plus.

With a 1080p screen and 4,000mAh battery pack, the Mate 10 Pro seems likely to squeeze a few more hours out of a charge than the Galaxy S8 Plus, with its 3,500mAh battery and Quad HD display. The S8 Plus can already last a full day of pretty heavy usage without a top-up, so that’s a really alluring thought. Both phones offer fast charging, however the Mate 10 Pro lacks wireless charging.

When it comes to storage, though, the Galaxy S8 Plus takes the advantage. It has half the built-in storage, with 64GB vs 128GB in the Mate 10 Pro, but the Galaxy has a microSD slot for cheap, expandable storage. The Mate 10 Pro doesn’t, so you’re stuck with the starting cache.

Samsung also gets a nod for Gear VR headset support, which is something the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t have an equivalent for, although mobile VR might not be for everyone. It’s pretty entertaining, though.

Both Samsung and Huawei have the ability to use the phone as the brain of a desktop-like computing experience: you’ll need to buy the DeX Station dock for the Galaxy, while the Mate 10 Pro just uses a USB-C-to-HDMI cable with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard. The DeX Station was a bit underwhelming, but Samsung has been updating it – and we haven’t used the Mate 10 Pro desktop mode enough to know how well it truly compares. But it’s something.

Bit of a mixed bag in this category, really. If you’re big on battery life, then the Mate 10 Pro could well have an advantage if its beefier battery pack translates into longer run times. On the other hand, Galaxy S8 Plus offers the option for more storage via microSD cards, plus it has Gear VR support. There’s no clear winner here at this point.

INITIAL VERDICT: TOO CLOSE TO CALL

It’s a close call, and Huawei can take that as a statement of praise – because the Galaxy S8 Plus will be a tough phone to beat. We still think Samsung has the slight edge on design, and it has the higher-resolution screen.

Meanwhile, when it comes to camera quality, processing speed, and perks, the jury’s still out. They’ll probably be pretty close, but one phone or the other might emerge as the winner during our review testing. That’s when we’ll find out whether something really sways the decision here.

And when it comes to price, Huawei may have the advantage. We don’t have an official Middle East price yet, but it tends to skew far lower in our market than elsewhere in the world. We’re expecting it to be lower than the €799 price tag that was announced at the Munich launch event earlier this week.

We should know more by the end of the month.

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