Huawei introduced the Kirin 970 chip at IFA a few weeks ago, but this is the first time we see it integrated in a smartphone. Just as previously announced, the Kirin 970 is manufactured using a high-end 10nm process and promises faster performance, and great battery-efficiency.
The highlight of the new Kirin 970 isn't the 25% faster CPU or 4x more powerful GPU, but the brand-new Neural-network processor unit (NPU), which provides hardware acceleration to machine learning tasks. These tasks include image recognition, voice recognition, and natural language processing. Huawei has already trained the chip by showing it millions of images, voice samples, and text, so now it's able to recognize new images, voice and data when you subject it to them much faster.
Huawei likes to call the whole process artificial intelligence, but it's not the AI from the sci-fi movies we've all seen, so don't get too excited. And it's not even close to thinking, seeing or learning like a human, despite what the ads might tell you. But it does a lot more than Apple's face-recognition so highly advertised for the A11 Bionic chip, and that's not a bad place to start.
The new Kirin 970 chipset offers an octa-core processor that should provide a 25% performance boost over the Kirin 960, while being up to 50% more power efficient. The CPU still packs the same 4x2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 cores, but the two clusters can now work simultaneously to deliver faster multi-threaded performance.
The new GPU in charge of graphics is a 12-core Mali-G72MP12. It should provide 4x performance increase over the 8-core Mali-G71MP8 inside the Kirin 960, while its power efficiency is 8x better than the GPU inside old chip. We are interested to see how this will stack against the 20-core Mali-G71 inside the latest Samsung Galaxies, though.
Huawei will be giving the developers access to the Huawei's proprietary SDK for the NPU, so they will be able to take full advantage of it. In the future, the company plans to support the Android NPU API as well, so it would be even easier to run standardized machine learning features on the Mate 10 phones.
Microsoft's translation app is one of the first to make use of the NPU. Huawei claims that thanks to this, the real-time augmented reality-style camera translation of foreign text and signs has become up to 3x faster on the Mate 10.
Kirin 970 also comes with a built-in Dual ISP, which is 25% faster and supports motion detection. AI capabilities allow it to recognize objects, people's faces and bodies, and the environment so it can adjust the camera settings accordingly. It should also provide less washout of the dark tones and less clipping of the highlights in low-light photos.
The Mate 10 Pro and Porsche will benefit from 4x4 MIMO and 256QM, which has resulted in Cat 18/13 LTE support. This means it can provide a download speed of up to 1.2Gbps. The Huawei Mate 10 will only have Cat 16 support.
Signal should also be better as Huawei has made sure to optimize the antenna performance in various specific scenarios, among which is a high-speed train, and it's already been tested in several countries and on different networks.
Using machine learning, the phone should be better at noise suppression as it will be able to detect your voice more accurately, even if you are whispering.
The chipset has a Dual LTE modem with Dual VoLTE support, so if you get the Dual SIM model, it will support 4G on both SIM cards. It will also offer dual Wi-Fi Calling, including LTE handover.
Not all markets are getting the Dual SIM model - the UK, for instance, will only get the Single SIM one. You should check your local Huawei websites for more information on the exact models' availability.
EMUI is now going up from 5.1 straight to version 8.0 to match the version of Android it comes with - Android Oreo. And we don't mind that, a little cohesiveness never hurts.
Many of the EMUI's new features are powered by the dedicated NPU inside the Kirin 970 chipset.
EMUI 8 will be building on-device user behavior model to allow for faster app startup and for more intelligent power allocation. Huawei promises 12% performance improvement compared to the previous version.
EMUI 8.0 will also (intelligently) suggest features based on the environment and the user interaction. For instance, it should offer you to turn on the blue light filter towards the end of the day. Or when a new notification comes, while you are watching a video, it will offer you to go straight into split-screen mode. Of course, this will work only for apps which support it.
The landscape mode of the interface will now feature a two-column interface in a few of the default apps - not unlike the way it's implemented on Samsung devices.
EMUI is also targeted at making the best out of the large screen and you can replace the navigation keys by using the flexible on-screen floating navigation dock. Swipe left or right and you get the Task switcher. A longer press gets you to the Homescreen. A longer press and swipe goes back to the previous screen you were on.
Another new feature in EMUI 8 is the desktop mode. Once you connect the phone to an external screen via a HDMI-to-USB-C cable (it needs to support Display port), you will get a dedicated desktop user interface. To control it, you can either use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard or use the phone's screen as a trackpad and invoke the on-screen keyboard when needed. This desktop experience is called Projection and it doesn't require a special dock - just a compatible cable and monitor. Even though the phone doesn't come with Bluetooth 5.0, you can connect a Bluetooth mouse and a keyboard at the same time.
Of course, you can't charge the phone while using it in this mode. But you can still make calls and send messages without interrupting the desktop view. Your privacy is protected too as they won't show on the big screen, only on your phone's.
Most of the EMUI updates happened under the hood and there are no groundbreaking changes to the user interface. A few refinements here and there, but far from a massive overhaul. If you feel like giving it a fresh coat of paint you can opt for some of the themes in the Themes app.
Some good news to current Huawei users - the Mate 9 and the Mate9 Pro will be updated to EMUI 8.0 three to four weeks after the release of the Mate 10 series. Updates to the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus are also coming in the near future. Huawei will integrate the intelligent features available in the Mate 10 on the Mate 9 and P10, too, but those will be relying on the processor alone in there. Here is hoping the overall performance won't take a big hit.
Security is also really important to Huawei and they plan on providing Google's Android security updates regularly. The company is committed to providing high-end premium phones with these updates every month. Mid-tier phones will be getting them every two months, while entry-level phones will be updates with the latest security patches every three months.