Google’s new phablet is fabulous, but can Huawei’s Mate take it down?
If you’re waiting on a sweet new Android flagship right now, then chances are you have Google’s upcoming Pixel 2 XL in your sights. But there’s another contender on the horizon.
Just announced, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro matches up with the Pixel 2 XL on many counts, including design and capabilities, although there are some key details that vary between the two. Both will undoubtedly give you a top-of-the-line Android experience, but which better deserves the cash you’ll spend to get it?
Here’s our early take, now that we’ve been hands-on with the Mate 10 Pro and just posted our full review of the Pixel 2 XL.
DESIGN: TWO OF A KIND
At first glance, you might be hard-pressed to tell these phones apart.
They’re very similar from the front: large screen, bit of bezel, nothing else. The Mate 10 Pro keeps its pointy screen corners and offers very little bezel on the right or left, although it has slivers on the top and bottom. And an eyesore of a company logo on the bottom.
Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL stylishly rounds off the display’s corners but then has a bit more bezel on the sides along with the top and bottom. And when you flip it around, the two-tone aesthetic with the glass cut-out on top is a bit more alluring than the Mate 10 Pro’s glass-atop-aluminum backing.
Unfortunately, the extra bezel makes the Pixel 2 XL feel just a bit larger than it needs to be – but it’s not enough to overtake the upsides in our view. Between these two, the Pixel just has a bit more flair going on.
Likely Winner: Google Pixel XL 2
SCREEN: BIT LACKING, MATE
And as for the screens found on those familiar faces, there are similarities here as well. They’re both taller-than-normal (18:9) 6in OLED displays that both ought to be plenty gorgeous, but there’s one key difference.
It’s the resolution. The Pixel XL 2 keeps with the Android flagship trend of a Quad HD panel at 2880×1440, while the Mate 10 Pro dips into 1080p territory with a 2160×1080 display. We suspect that the 6in 1080p panel will still look pretty sharp, and it has HDR10 support, but the Pixel 2 XL has a clear win here.
Likely Winner: Google Pixel XL 2
CAMERA: PIXEL-PACKED SHOTS
We haven’t used the Mate 10 Pro’s camera enough to make a real judgment, but given the immense quality of the Pixel 2 XL’s camera, we believe it’ll take the win here.
That camera was an industry-beater, and the Pixel 2 XL makes further improvements. It still has a single 12-megapixel back camera (now at a wider f/1.8 aperture) with phase detect and laser autofocus, but what it lacks in dual-camera tricks it more than makes up for with speedy shots and incredible results.
Google’s image processing abilities ensure strong photos. Like the Samsung Galaxy S8, it snags multiple shots and then swiftly stitches them all together, leaving you with a finished product that should be as good as any you’ll find from a phone today. No matter the lighting conditions, you’re likely to get something great when you tap the shutter button.
And what about the Mate 10 Pro? Well, there’s plenty of reason to be excited there too. It sticks with the same kind of dual-camera approach as the P10 and P10 Plus, with a 12MP main sensor and 20MP monochromatic sensor alongside – both now with f/1.6 lenses to grab extra light.
Thanks to the phone’s A.I. skills, the camera quickly focuses on whatever you’re shooting and adjusts accordingly, and everything seemed laser-quick in our demo. That said, the P10 and P10 Plus photos were a bit over-processed, so we’ll see if that happens here too.
There’s reason to believe that the Mate 10 Pro will fall into the upper echelon of smartphone snappers today – but we already know that the Pixel 2 XL is the best of the best, based on our review testing. So unless the Mate 10 Pro can snatch the crown away, which we believe unlikely, it handily takes this tentative win.
Likely Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL
PERFORMANCE: OREO DELIGHTS
Google admittedly surprised us by using six-month-old silicon in the Pixel 2 XL, sticking with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 instead of something newer. It’s still one of the fastest chips on the market, of course, but with powerhouses like Samsung and LG likely readying new spring Android flagships, it’ll probably be outdated before too long.
Still, it’s plenty spritely on the Pixel 2 XL with 4GB RAM alongside, and having stock Android 8.0 Oreo onboard assures that it’s super fast. We didn’t run into any big hitches or snags during our review testing, whether it was when multitasking or calling upon the Google Assistant. Everything was crazy quick, as anticipated.
On the other hand, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro bumps up to the company’s new Kirin 970 chip, which is said to be a step ahead of the previous Kirin 960 – which was on par with other current Android leaders. With a neural processing unit within for A.I. needs, it should be a speed demon, especially with 6GB RAM here.
The Mate 10 will also have Oreo onboard, albeit with the EMUI 8.0 skin – not one of our favourites traditionally. Will that slow things down at all? We’ll have to wait and see, but until we do, we’re calling this one a draw.
Likely Winner: Draw
BATTERY AND PERKS: ALL DAY AND MORE
At 4,000mAh, the Mate 10 Pro battery pack is above and beyond most flagship phones – and that’s with a lower-resolution 1080p screen to power, to boot. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL has a more than respectable 3,520mAh battery, albeit with a power-sucking Quad HD panel inside.
In our testing, though, we found the Pixel 2 XL’s battery more than capable: it lasted a full day of heavy usage, still leaving us with about a third of its lifespan left by nighttime. That’s on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus and ahead of the OnePlus 5. We don’t know how the Mate 10 Pro compares just yet, but it seems entirely reasonable that you’ll be able to get a few more hours of uptime.
As for storage, neither is expandable. You’ll get 128GB with the Mate 10 Pro, or your choice of 64GB or 128GB on the Pixel 2 XL.
When it comes to other perks, the Pixel 2 XL has a pair of notable ones. First is Daydream VR, which offers apps and games that are a far step above Google Cardboard, albeit not nearly on the level of the Rift or Vive. And then there are the Active Edge pressure-sensitive sides, which lets you access the Google Assistant anytime with a squeeze.
We suspect more people will get use out of both of those than the Mate 10 Pro’s desktop mode, which lets you plug in an external monitor and pair a Bluetooth keyboard for a PC-like experience wherever you are. That’ll be super handy for some folks, but probably very few overall.
With a potential edge on battery life and more storage in the base model, though, we’re giving this category to the Mate 10 Pro for now.
Likely Winner: Huawei Mate 10 Pro
INITIAL VERDICT: PICK THE PIXEL
It’s too early to pick a winner for sure, but we already know that the Pixel 2 XL is an incredible phone – in fact, it’s our #2 favourite phone in the world right now. And based on our hands-on time with the Mate 10 Pro, we’d say it wins out here too.
It has the slightly more alluring design, the much better screen, and what we suspect will be the better camera. On the other hand, it seems like both should be pretty close on processing power, while the Mate 10 has advantages on battery life and base storage.
But if you’re shelling out for a top-end Android, why wouldn’t you pay a little more to get the better option? Of these two handsets, we expect that it’ll be the Pixel 2 XL – although there are several other top contenders out right now, many of which sell for less.
Likely Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL