Amidst all of the excitement around the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, it’s easy to forget that we’ve already had a pretty big flagship phone release in 2017: the Huawei P10.
The P10 pairs iPhone-inspired looks with mostly top-of-the-line Android tech, delivering an appealing pseudo-hybrid of sorts. It’s more intriguing than last year’s P9, for sure, but still isn’t the most exciting phone we’ve ever laid eyes upon.
On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S8 looks downright spectacular, from its taller, curvier screen to the lack of bezel and the power-packed innards. Samsung’s got more buzz, certainly, but how do the phones really compare when it comes to specs? Here’s how it breaks down.
DESIGN: FRESH VS FLAT
As mentioned above, the Huawei P10 clearly has an Apple fixation going on, and could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 7 at a glance. Little details set them apart, certainly, and it’s not an exact match top to bottom – but it also feels like Huawei didn’t try to do much new here.
Well, except for the bold Pantone-inspired colours, Greenery and Dazzling Blue. They’re sure to be divisive, but you won’t find anything quite like them on other handsets.
On the other hand, you won’t find a single other smartphone that looks quite like the Galaxy S8. A strong evolution from the Galaxy S7/S6 design, Samsung’s phone chips away at the bezel, cuts out the old physical home button, and puts just a smidge of extra space at the top and bottom of a gorgeous, curved screen.
It’s utterly striking, and is an immediate contender for the best-looking phone we’ve ever laid eyes on. The LG G6 will be strong competition in this regard, but the Huawei P10 isn’t quite at that level. It looks and feels premium enough, but it hardly screams innovation.
What’s more, while the Galaxy S8 has IP68 water and dust resistance, the Huawei lacks waterproofing. That’s a disappointing omission on Huawei’s part.
SCREEN: DAZZLE US, SAMSUNG
One of the biggest knocks against the Huawei P10’s screen is that it doesn’t match the expected Android flagship standard of Quad HD resolution. Instead, this 5.1in LCD is simply a 1080p panel. Sure, it still looks good: it’s plenty bright, rather vivid, and still pretty crisp. But, as with the Google Pixel, you can’t help but wonder why you’re paying £600 and not getting the best.
Well, the Galaxy S8 may well have the best – the best of the best, in fact. This Quad HD screen measures a steep 5.8in, but you don’t feel it in the width, as the tweaked dimensions (it has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio) make it a bit taller in portrait orientation. That gives you more screen space without making the phone uncomfortable in your grip.
It also has mobile HDR (high dynamic range) support, so Netflix originals – when Netflix’s mobile offering supports it – and content from other compatible apps will shine with stronger contrast between light and dark elements on the screen. Samsung’s AMOLED panels are already the best around, with deep blacks, dazzling colours, and incredible detail, and the Galaxy S8’s should be the strongest to date.
CAMERA: SHARP SHOOTERS
Two back cameras is better than one, right? Well, not necessarily: we’ll obviously take quality over quantity when it comes to snapshots, although the double-sensor array brings benefits.
With the P10, you get a 12-megapixel main camera and 20MP monochrome sensor right alongside it, both with Leica branding and really sterling results. Pair them together and the P10 begins showing off its party tricks, such as the ability to zoom up to 2x with no noticeable loss of quality, plus slick depth of field with its Portrait and Wide-aperture modes.
Even the regular photos, sans tricks, are impressive: punchy colours, loads of detail, and great black-and-white results from the 20MP sensor. Low-light photos tend to show a fair amount of noise, meanwhile, given the f/2.2 aperture. The 4K/30fps or 1080p/60fps video footage looks routinely great, however, although not quite on par with the Google Pixel’s.
We haven’t taken enough snaps with the Galaxy S8 camera just yet to make a call, but the Galaxy S7 had the best Android shooter of 2016, and this year’s phone brings enhancements.
It’s still a 12MP single camera with f/1.7 aperture, for vivid daytime results and very solid low-light images. However, Samsung is promising smarter software enhancements. The Galaxy S8 will grab three images every time you hit the shutter, then stealthily merge and manipulate the results until you get one brilliant shot.
We’ll need to put it through its paces before we can say for sure, but if Samsung really can build upon last year’s foundation without flubbing the output, then the Galaxy S8 may claim the throne for this year’s best smartphone shooter. But the Huawei P10 will be right up there and make no mistake: if you buy it, you’ll be very happy with its photographic abilities.
PERFORMANCE: YEAH, THEY LIFT
You needn’t worry about performance with either device: they both carry top-of-the-line processors and should fly through every app, game, or task thrown their way.
With the Huawei P10, you get the company’s own Kirin 960 chip, which has slapped around competing processors in recent benchmarks and hasn’t disappointed in this particular handset. The 4GB RAM found alongside it means no issues with multitasking either.
Over in Samsung land, we’ll get its new Exynos 8895 chip in the UK, while some regions will see the Snapdragon 835 instead. Both are sure to be at or near the top of the benchmarks once all is said and done, and you’ll see 4GB RAM in all versions of the Galaxy S8.
In terms of real-world performance, we can’t imagine that there will be any significant difference between the devices and their capabilities. You can’t go wrong here.
BATTERY AND PERKS: SO MANY EXTRAS!
Our biggest complaint about the Huawei P10 in our extensive review? Battery life. It’s OK – the average user can probably get through a day with a full charge. But we push a little harder than most, and our reviewer routinely had to top off before the evening ended. That’s disappointing for a pricey flagship, especially when it has a fairly meaty 3200mAh cell within.
The Galaxy S8 actually has a smaller battery, at 3000mAh, but we haven’t had enough hands-on time to really give a verdict on it in this regard yet. We had good experience with last year’s battery (the exact same size) in the Galaxy S7, but bear in mind that the new phone has a 5.8in screen to the old one’s 5.1 inches.
At least both devices have fast charging capabilities, although the Galaxy S8 is the only one of these two to feature wireless charging as well.
In both cases, you’ll find 64GB of internal storage out of the box, with microSD support for another 256GB on top – so that’s identical.
Where this category slants heavily towards Samsung, meanwhile, is when it comes to bonus features and abilities. Samsung’s Gear VR support is a great benefit, and the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanning returns here.
And the coolest bit of all may be the DeX Station peripheral, which transforms your Galaxy S8 into a portable PC via an external monitor. You’ll have full-screen, desktop-style apps, and can even plug in a keyboard and mouse. It’ll cost extra, of course – an estimated £150 – but it’s something that the P10 just doesn’t have any kind of answer for. And some will love it.
INITIAL VERDICT: THE S8 SATIATES?
Overall, we like the Huawei P10 a lot. It’s super fast, the cameras are feature-packed, and it feels like a premium device – although the couple of component skimps and relatively sedate design help keep it just below top-level status.
We haven’t spent as much time with the Galaxy S8 just yet, but our first impression leaves little obvious reason for complaint. It’s a beautiful and totally distinctive handset with top-of-the-line everything and some really useful and inventive perks.
Sure, we can point to the Galaxy Note 7 as evidence that Samsung can hide a massive misfire within a pretty appealing build, but the company’s track record with the Galaxy S line the last couple of years has been absolutely impeccable. There’s been no better full-bodied, flagship-level phone in that time, and the Galaxy S8 should continue that trend.
We’ll circle back and update this piece with a finalised verdict once we’re posted our Galaxy S8 review and know for sure.