Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs. Huawei Mate 10 Pro: Which phablet reigns supreme?

mate 10 pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, turned heads last year with the top-end Mate 9. But it has outdone itself with the Mate 10 Pro, the undisputed flagship of the China-based company’s Mate 10 armada. It has an edge-to-edge screen, Huawei’s powerful new Kirin 970 processor, dual cameras, and AI-powered software that blows away much of the competition.

But the Mate 10 Pro isn’t the only flagship on the market. It’s competing with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, a stylus-touting, Bixby-sporting smartphone with a curved screen and support for Qi wireless charging.

So in the end, which high-end handset comes out on top? Here’s how the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8 compare.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Size 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm (6.07 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches) 162.5 × 74.8 × 8.6 mm (6.40 × 2.95 × 0.34 inches)
Weight 178 grams (6.28 ounces) 195 grams (6.88 ounces)
Screen 6-inch OLED 6.3-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 2160 x 1080 (402 ppi) 2960 × 1440 (522 ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Storage 64GB, 128GB 64GB (U.S.) 128, 256GB (International)
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Huawei Kirin 970 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (U.S.), Samsung Exynos 8895 (International)
RAM 4GB/6GB 6GB
Connectivity LTE (Cat 18), GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera Dual 20-megapixel monochrome and 12-megapixel RGB rear, 8-megapixel front Dual 12-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front
Video Up to 4K at 30 fps Up to 4K at 30 fps, 720p at 240 fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, proximity Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, iris, pressure
Water resistant Yes, IP67 rated Yes, IP68 rated
Battery 4,000mAh

Fast charging

3,300mAh

22 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 16 hours of video playback, and up to 74 hours of audio playback

Fast charging, wireless charging (Qi standard)

Charging port USB-C USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Midnight Blue, Titanium Gray, Mocha Brown, Pink Gold Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Maple Gold, Deep Sea Blue
Availability November AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked
Price Around $945 $930
DT review Hands-on 4 out of 5 stars

Specs

The Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8 don’t look much alike on the outside, and it’s pretty much the same story under the hood.

Huawei’s flagship has the Kirin 970, the company’s all-new homegrown system-on-chip, inside. It’s 50 percent more energy-efficient than the Kirin 960 and crunches numbers 25 percent faster, Huawei says, though it remains to be seen how that performance translates to the real world.

The Note 8, on the other hand, packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip, the same chip in flagships like the LG V30 and HTC U11.

So how do the two CPUs measure up? Benchmarks are hard to come by, but they don’t seem all that different on paper. Both the Kirin and Snapdragon have eight cores, four that handle background tasks and four that spin up for processor-intensive apps. In the Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8, both are paired with 6GB of RAM, though the 64GB Mate 10 Pro ships with 4GB.

But the Kirin 970 has a few key advantages over Qualcomm’s silicon. A dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) accelerates AI applications up to 2.6 times faster than Huawei’s last-gen chip, and integrated support for Cat. 18 LTE means the Kirin can download at speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. (The Snapdragon 835 tops out at Cat. 16 and 1Gbps). It’s also the world’s first chip to support dual 4G SIM support and dual VoLTE connections, Huawei says.

While the Mate 10 Pro might have a better processor, it falls short in other areas. Unlike the Galaxy Note 8, which is available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB models (all with MicroSD card readers), the Mate 10 Pro comes in nonexpandable 64GB and 128GB sizes. The Mate 10 Pro doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack — you’re stuck with a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter if your headphones don’t have a digital plug. Unfortunately, the Mate 10 Pro supports an older version of Bluetooth, version 4.2, compared to the Note 8’s faster (2x), longer-range (4x) Bluetooth 5.0.

So which phone wins the specs battle? It’s a close call, but the Note 8 comes out slightly ahead. It might not have the Mate 10 Pro’s AI chip or superior download speeds, but it has more storage options, a headphone jack, and the newer, faster version of Bluetooth.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Design and display

mate 10 pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Aesthetically, the Mate 10 Pro and the Note 8 don’t share much in common.

The Mate 10 Pro’s all-glass front panel is dominated by an edge-to-edge FullView screen with narrow top, bottom, and side bezels. It’s 6 inches in length and 2160 x 1080 pixels in resolution (FHD), and it’s OLED, which means it can produce deeper blacks and brighter colors than most.

It’s a bare bones design besides. Above the screen is an earpiece and a front camera, and there’s nothing on the Mate 10 Pro’s curved silver sides save a power button, a volume rocker, a dual SIM card slot, and a USB-C port.

The Mate 10 Pro’s minimalism stands in contrast to the Note 8’s curves. Samsung’s flagship has a 6.3-inch 2960 x 1440-pixel AMOLED screen that’s similarly edge-to-edge, but sloped on either side. It, like the Mate 10 Pro’s screen, is HDR-compatible (high dynamic range), meaning it can output a truer-to-life color gamut and higher contrast in supported apps like YouTube and Netflix,

The Note 8’s top and bottom bezels are just as narrow as the Mate 10 Pro’s, and like the Mate 10 Pro, the Note 8 keeps inputs simple with a power button, volume rocker, and USB-C connector. One notable difference is the Bixby button, which launches Samsung’s digital assistant.

Around back, the Note 8 squeezes two camera sensors, a camera flash, and a fingerprint reader into a horizontal module near the phone’s top. We’re not fans of the Note 8’s sensor placement, which makes it both difficult to reach and easy to smudge. The rear cover’s reflective glass also tends to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

The Mate 10 Pro’s rear, in contrast, has a gorgeous two-color finish. A reflective band near the top — a stylistic carryover from the Mate 9 Porsche Design — highlights the dual camera module, which is arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. There’s a flash on the right, a laser autofocus module, and a fingerprint sensor in the middle.

The two phones are pretty evenly matched when it comes to durability. The Note 8 is IP68 rated to withstand 5 feet of water for 30 minutes, and the Mate 10 Pro is IP67, which means it can survive 3.5 feet of water for the same length of time.

There’s no question about it: Both the Mate 10 Pro and Note 8 have durable designs that stand out in a crowded field. That said, the Note 8 has more to recommend it (despite its plainer rear). A higher-resolution screen, superior waterproofing, and a curved front panel that’s as functional as it is visually stunning are enough to win the Note 8 the design round.

Overall: Galaxy Note 8

Camera

mate 10 pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Mate 10 Pro and Note 8’s rear cameras both have dual sensors, but that’s about all they share in common.

Huawei partnered with Leica to co-engineer the Mate 10 Pro’s rear snapper. It consists of an optically stabilized 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, both of which have SUMMILUX-H lenses and a f/1.6 aperture — the world’s largest, according to Huawei. There’s a dual ISP and laser autofocus on-board, plus software that takes full advantage of the Mate 10 Pro’s hardware. An iPhone 7 Plus-like Portrait Mode filter generates a bokeh effect by combining the two sensors’ imaging data, and a monochrome mode snaps a black-and-white picture using the Mate 10 Pro’s 20-megapixel sensor.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the Mate 10 Pro’s Kirin 970 chip, the camera’s imbued with AI smarts. New Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition help it understand what’s in front of it and adjust camera settings accordingly. AI Motion Detection enhances the sharpness of images, and photo-taking apps that tap into the NPU benefit from accelerated image processing. (Huawei says it can process 2,000 images per second.)

The Galaxy Note 8’s rear camera, which comprises an f/1.7-aperture wide-angle lens and an f/2.4-aperture telephoto lens (both 12-megapixels and optically stabilized), works a little differently. There’s a monochrome mode, but it’s software-based — the Note 8’s sensors are both RGB. The Note 8’s bokeh filter, Live Focus, lets you adjust the focus before or after you snap a pic. And Samsung’s Dual Shot taps the phone’s wide-angle lens to capture a close-up and a wide-angle shot simultaneously.

Despite the differences in picture-taking capabilities, it’s an even playing field between the Mate 10 Pro and Note 8 when it comes to selfies and videos. Both can shoot in 4K at 30 frames per second, and both have 8-megapixel front cameras.

If we had to choose an overall winner between them, though, it’d be the Mate 10 Pro. Its rear camera’s incredibly low aperture should translate to great low-light performance, and its true monochrome camera has no equal on the Note 8. To be fair, the Note 8’s dual optical image stabilization might result in smoother shots, but it’s a minor price to pay for the Mate 10 Pro’s AI photography smarts.

Winner: Mate 10 Pro

Battery life and charging

mate 10 pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Note 8 and Mate 10 Pro have big batteries, but the Mate 10 Pro’s is bigger.

The Huawei’s flagship has a 4,000mAh battery as opposed to the Note 8’s 3,300mAh battery, and while 700mAh might not sound like a lot, the Note 8’s higher-resolution screen puts it at a disadvantage. The Note 8 lasts about a day on a charge compared to the Mate 10 Pro, which Huawei claims can last two full days.

Both phones charge quickly. The Mate 10 Pro supports Huawei’s SuperCharge 4.5V/5A spec, which juices the battery up to 58 percent after just 30 minutes of charging. It’s a bit quicker than the Note 8’s Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which takes about an hour to fully recharge the battery.

Another notch in the Mate 10 Pro’s plus column is TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certification for the phone’s battery and power adapter, a “world’s first” according to Huawei. That bodes well for its longetivity.

But the Note 8 has a leg up in wireless charging, which the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t support. Samsung’s phone is compatible with any Qi-certified charging docks on the market, including the company’s own Fast Charge Wireless Pad.

Despite the Mate 10 Pro’s lack of wireless charging, its massive battery and speedy charging tech beat out the Note 8’s own. It easily wins the power round.

Winner: Mate 10 Pro

Software

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review app switch
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Given the Mate 10 Pro and Note 10’s hardware differences, it’s not terribly surprising that the software isn’t alike, either.

The Mate 10 Pro runs the latest version of Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI), version 8.0, and it’s a substantial improvement over the previous generation. It’s based on Android 8.0 Oreo, and it taps the phone’s NPU to optimize performance and serve up contextually relevant suggestions on the fly. (At night, for example, it might recommend you enable the Mate 10 Pro’s low-light mode.)

That’s not all there is to EMUI. In landscape mode, it divides the phone home screen’s shortcuts into easy-to-access columns. When the Mate 10 Pro is plugged into a monitor, it launches a “desktop-like experience” that’s optimized for the larger screen.

The Note 8, on the other hand, ships with TouchWiz, Samsung’s own brand of Android. It’s based on the older Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and ships with support for the Galaxy Note 8’s face-scanning sensors, Samsung’s Bixby assistant, and a dock (the Dex Station) that transforms the phone into a functional desktop replacement.

But the Note 8 has something the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t: Stylus support.  Screen off memo lets you sketch and write notes on the Galaxy Note 8’s screen without having to switch it on, for instance, and Smart Select generates real-time GIFs. Air Command pulls up a list of app shortcuts when the S Pen is removed from its slot, and Magnify turns the S Pen into a digital magnifying glass, enlarging text and images around its tip.

The Note 8 and Mate 10 Pro’s features are tough to compare and it won’t get any easier once Samsung updates TouchWiz to Android 8.0 Oreo later this year. But it’s largely a matter of personal preference: If a stylus is more your style, you’ll prefer the Note 8. If AI-powered recommendations sound more appealing, then you’ll favor the Mate 10 Pro.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

mate 10 pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Huawei has yet to announce U.S. pricing or release details for the Mate 10 Pro, but we’re expecting it to be expensive. The European price is 800 euros (about $945), but it may end up being cheaper when it does go on sale Stateside. It will likely be offered unlocked at various retailers and direct from Huawei, but, like the Mate 9, it may not be picked up by carriers.

The Note 8 starts at $930 for 64GB and is likely to be available from more places. It’s on sale at Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., plus a host of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

Huawei says the 64GB and 128GB Mate 10 Pro will be available in more than two dozen countries when it launches in mid-November, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Thailand, and the U.K. But the U.S. won’t be one of them.

It’s difficult to call the availability and pricing category until we know what the Mate 10 Pro will cost in the United States, but going on the European pricing, the Note 8 wins this round.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Overall winner: Note 8

There’s no two ways about it: The Mate 10 Pro is a fantastic smartphone. Its monochrome-and-RGB rear camera, AI-accelerated software, and gigantic battery put it in a league of its own. But the Note 8 is no slouch. It has dual cameras, too, plus a better screen, wireless charging, a stylus, and wider availability.

So which is worth your money? It’s a close one, but we’re tempted to say the Note 8. A little under $1,000 nets you an eight-core processor, expandable storage, a headphone jack, and wireless charging. Sure, the Mate 10 Pro has better cameras, battery life, and AI-powered apps, but it can’t match the Note 8’s curved screen, iris scanners, and S Pen stylus features. Samsung’s flagship is the better overall buy.

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