(Pocket-lint) - Good things come in small packages. So do better things come in larger ones? That's the sentiment of the Huawei P10 Plus: this 5.5-inch smartphone is the top drawer P-series device from the Chinese maker, expanding not only on size compared to the smaller P10, but also flexing extra spec muscle with its higher resolution screen, more capacious battery, improved cameras and additional power.
It's also an example of Huawei's progression over the years. Not so long ago you could mention the brand name to typically be met with blank faces - "Hua-who?" - but the Chinese brand has put in the legwork to refine its offering and, as of 2016, it's the third largest smartphone maker on the planet. That's not by chance.
One glance at the P10 Plus gives way to its fashion focus: with colours like dazzling blue and greenery available, it's not entirely conventional. Saying that, its form echoes the appearance of the iPhone 7 Plus more than a little, which gives us the sense that's the customer base that Huawei is really gunning for in order to move further up the rankings. Its £680 price tag suggests much the same.
With all that in mind, does the P10 Plus get enough right to make it the go-to device for Android users? We've been living with one for a week to get a sense of its plus and minus points...
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Having used the P10 Plus for a week, we know for sure that we won't be stepping back into the smaller P10 (despite having the more exciting looking blue colour in that device). Why? Because the Plus is the better device. And while it's not quite as budget as was suggested at Huawei's unveiling press conference, it's still worth its asking price considering everything that's on board.
Visually it's one of the best looking Huawei devices to date (and, yes, it'll pull iPhone comparisons), the EMUI software is the most mature it's ever been, the battery life is great, the dual cameras are capable, there's loads of power and storage on board and, well, as Android phones go it's right up there.
It's not perfect though: the screen's finish means smeary fingerprints are more of an issue than we've found in other devices (once the screen protector is off), which is frustrating from a flagship product. The camera software isn't always perfect in its handling of depth-mapped images. And for all the speed of the software, there's the odd hiccup when gaming and it's not that pretty to look at by default.
It's also worth mentioning the £680 price tag. It's a far cry from the £599 we were expecting (but at least it helps segregate it from the standard P10), which is going to make that purchase decision between this, the LG G6 and imminent Samsung Galaxy S8 that bit tougher. Because in the world of 5.5-inch phones there are certainly many other options.
That said, the P10 Plus shows that Huawei has put in the legwork. It's paid off, too, as for the most part this is a solid example of a 5.5-inch phone.
The alternatives to consider...
The G series has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with the G5's modular approach really not taking off. The G6 sweeps that under the carpet and pulls out a cracker, though, with a 2:1 ratio screen that looks stunning. It doesn't have the best-of-best processor on board, but that doesn't affect its fluidity in use. This feels like a well oiled machine and the first great flagship smartphone of the year.
Read the full review: LG G6 review: The first truly great flagship phone for 2017
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Sure, the predictably ultra-expensive S8 is just around the corner, but let's not discount just how good the S7 is - especially in its striking "edge" form, with rounded screen edges. It's super-fast, great to look at and was the phone of the year 2016, so it's a strong option - and slightly cheaper than the brand new Huawei, too.
Read the full review: Samsung S7 edge review: Still a smartphone champion
Ok, so the OnePlus isn't in the same pricey league as the Huawei, but given its £280 saving by comparison you're not letting a lot slip by the wayside. Its software experience is better looking and generally cleaner, too, we feel. Well worth a look in, if budget is a driver of your purchase.
Read the full review: OnePlus 3T review: The best mid-price phone
iPhone 7 Plus
The inevitable comparison. If Android isn't for you then Apple's option makes a lot of sense. It's got a sleeker software design for starters, but it will cost you a pretty penny for the privilege of owning one.
Read the full review: iPhone 7 Plus review: Big changes from the big iPhone
Huawei P10 Plus
- Most mature software offering to date
- Excellent battery life
- Interesting colour choices in a great-looking and slender design
- MicroSD card expansion or dual SIM
- Smooth operation and ample or power on tap
- Screen has fingerprint/smear issues
- Default Themes still look jarring
- Camera bokeh effect can be overkill
- Fingerprint gesture control not consistent
- Gaming fluidity can take a moment to get into gear
Huawei P10+ review: Colourful design
- Colours: Graphite black, mystic silver, dazzling gold, dazzling blue, greenery
- 5.5-inch screen; 153.5 x 74.2 x 7mm device dimensions; 165g
While the standard P10 appeals on the very fact that it's not a big phone, the P10 Plus manages to slip into larger phone territory - but it's not so big that it feels ridiculous. It's slightly less wide than an iPhone 7 Plus or Huawei Mate 9, for example, which makes it a lot more comfortable to hold (especially compared to the latter, which we've used for many months of 2016).
The colour options are the first striking point about the phone. In the UK there will be five options - black, silver, gold, blue and greenery (Pantone colour of the year 2017) - with the gold, blue and green options featuring diamond cut textured rears which are designed to avoid prominent fingerprinting. We've seen the dazzling blue option in the P10, which looks lovely (albeit not specifically "dazzling" in our view), but it can collect deep set marks that are difficult to remove. Our P10 Plus review sample is a more conventional metallic silver.
Beyond the colour options the P10 Plus isn't a wild reimagining of the P-series: it looks like a nip and tuck revision of the P9 Plus. Those subtle design changes between the two devices are very noticeable, however, with the back plate avoiding antenna lines cutting through the body, by instead bending them along the top and bottom edges of the device. The rear camera plate extends almost right across the phone, too, making it look more complete and considered compared to the earlier P9 Plus.
Size wise it's worth pointing out how slender the P10 Plus feels too. At just 7mm thick it's slightly thinner than the iPhone 7 Plus. The Huawei avoids a curved back like the Mate 9 Pro (which, for us, appears to be the best Huawei phone to date - shame this Plus doesn't follow that form), so can feel a little "squarer" in the hand as a result. Those smoothed edges ensure it's comfortable to hold though.
Huawei P10 Plus review: Fingerprint scanner
- Front-positioned fingerprint scanner
- Optional swipe- and press-based gesture controls
One thing that's new for the P10 series is a front-facing fingerprint scanner, laying to rest the once hallmark Huawei rear-positioned scanner. It might not look like it, but the scanner is under the same single piece of glass as the phone's screen, it's just recessed within the body design.
It's a bold move, but one with purpose: this new scanner can be used instead of Android's soft keys for navigation, via gestures, should you chose to activate the feature. It also offers haptic feedback to gently vibrate when pressed to simulate a sort-of button press - much like the iPhone 7 Plus's Home key - but only for long Google Now On Tap presses (there's no Google Assistant).
The gestures feature works as so: press to go home; swipe left to go back; swipe right to open recent apps. It's responsive, but some inconsistencies such as the back gesture not functioning the same way within all apps have seen us turn back towards soft key usage instead. Sometimes it's tricky to learn a process; some will instantly get on with the method, others won't; some might never know it's a feature as it's off by default.
There's lots of potential here though. With no soft keys on the screen itself it means more screen real estate for viewing your content - which can only be a good thing - and after some learning you'll need not to thumb around the screen so much (which can only be a good reason given the screen's coating - which we'll come to in a moment).
Huawei P10+ review: Screen
- 5.5-inch, 2560 × 1440 resolution IPS LCD display
- No oil-resistant coating, so fingerprints can be a problem
One area where the P10 Plus really surpasses its smaller P10 brother is in the screen department. With extra scale to fill across that 5.5-inch panel, Huawei has opted for a higher-resolution qHD panel (not Full HD) - meaning heaps more resolution and sharpness. Brightness is ample (although auto-brightness can be too extreme when it bottoms out in the dark) and colour is user-adjustable as you see fit, including a low-light late-night comfort reading option.
The one notable problem is the same as we found in the P10: there's no oil-resistant coating meaning the natural oil of fingertips will not only smear onto the screen, but can disrupt the viewing experience slightly with rainbow-coloured marks that you'll end up pushing around the panel in a bid to clean them off. They're most notable against white backgrounds when the brightness is high and surroundings dark. The fact it's an issue is a shortcoming for a flagship device such as this. Best keep the pre-fit screen protector in place, eh?
Huawei P10 Plus review: Power
- Kirin 960 chipset, octa-core (4x 2.4GHz, 4x1.8GHz)
- Mali G71 MP8 GPU, Vulkan API
- 6GB RAM, 128GB on-board storage (plus microSD)
Beneath the P10 Plus's metal skin is the current top-spec Huawei processor: a Kirin 960 octa-core, paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB on-board storage (not 64GB as some report). That's an interesting choice regarding storage capacity as an equivalent 128GB iPhone 7 Plus costs £819 - a full £139 more than the P10 Plus's £680 asking price. A savvy position, despite the general expense.
Usage wise we've found the P10 Plus to function much like its smaller P10 brother. The full-on power opens apps quickly, scrolling is fluid and everything feels fast from the user interface.
However, sometimes it does feel like it can take a while to get into gear though, for gaming in particular. In apps such as Candy Crush Saga, for example, it can initially be as though there's a short delay in animations, before they then run smoothly. Once it finds that gear, however, it's silky smooth - but we'd like that from the very beginning, each and every time, please.