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Huawei MatePad Pro Review: Pro Hardware Without Pro Apps

While Huawei’s popular MediaPad was a distinctly mid-range product, the MatePad Pro is a premium tablet in just about every respect. Inspired by the Mate series of phones and laptops, the MatePad Pro is designed to tempt users away from the likes of the iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, but with the lack of the Google Play Store, has Huawei done enough to tempt consumers?

I’ve spent a lot of time using the Google-less Huawei MatePad Pro, and here’s what I think. 

Flawless design with a detailed display

The first thing you’ll likely notice about the MatePad Pro is how good it looks; Huawei’s Pro-level tablet is lightweight and sleek, sporting a matte-finish Magnesium Alloy frame that Huawei claims is durable while still being lightweight, and the micro-curved edges of the tablet fit nicely into the palm of the hand when held.

Certain models of MatePad Pro feature cellular connectivity, but you wouldn’t be able to tell at a glance, featuring a distinct lack of breaks and lines found on most other cellular tablets. Those are traditionally needed to allow for cellular connectivity, as it’s hard to penetrate a metal shell, but those rules seemingly don’t apply to the MatePad Pro. There are 22 antennae built-in, but they’re all housed within the frame itself, offering a much cleaner look than what you’ll get from the iPad Pro or any other cellular-connected tablet right now.  

The tablet sports a 10.8in display with next-to-no bezels, boasting a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio – among the best of any tablet on the market right now. That’s not to say there aren’t any bezels at all, as it’s a far cry from what you’ll get from flagship smartphones, but the bezels measure in at 4.9mm thick, compared to 8.3mm of the current iPad Pro range – although Apple’s Pro tablet bezels house the super-secure Face ID unlocking while the MatePad Pro relies on the less secure selfie camera-powered facial recognition. 

It’s slightly odd that Huawei has gone for rather basic facial recognition tech on the MatePad Pro when it features much better facial recognition tech on both the Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro. There’s no under-display fingerprint scanner either, nor one built in anywhere on the tablet, meaning you’ve only got a choice between a less-than-secure facial recognition or standard PIN security. Does that seem very Pro to you? 

The aforementioned selfie camera is embedded within the display itself, in the form of a holepunch cutout. It’s a feature we’ve seen on plenty of Android smartphones at this point in 2020, but it’s the first time a holepunch camera has been used on a tablet. Taking up a much smaller portion of the display when compared to a smartphone, the holepunch is much less noticeable here, and doesn’t really interrupt the viewing experience at any point. It’s also in the exact same position as the rear-facing camera, offering a nice symmetry between the front and rear of the tablet. 

Holepunch camera aside, the 10.8in display sports a WQHD resolution (2560 x 1600) along with support for DCI-P3 cinematic colour to offer “cinema-grade colour on your tablet” according to Huawei. 

It should come as no surprise that the display is bright, crisp and vivid, and I had no real complaints when watching videos, scrolling through Twitter or trying (and failing) to doodle using the M-Pencil. The only downside is the aspect ratio – at 16:10, it’s a very narrow experience when used with the keyboard case in landscape orientation, and I was left wanting a little more headroom when trying to write on the tablet.   

You’ll also get a quad-speaker setup for your money, tuned by H&K, further enhancing the experience both when watching videos and playing games on the tablet. Oh, and for those that want to splash out on something a little more upmarket, the MatePad Pro is available in Forest Green and Afterglow Orange vegan leather editions alongside the standard Pearl White and Midnight Grey finishes. 

Pro accessories for a Pro tablet

Much like the Surface Pro 7 and iPad Pro range, Huawei’s MatePad Pro range comes with a handful of productivity-focused accessories to help get the most out of the hardware.

For graphic designers and artists, Huawei offers the M-Pencil which, in many aspects, is an Apple Pencil competitor. You’ve got full tilt and pressure support, allowing your virtual brush strokes to flow naturally, with perfect palm rejection and a nice grip, although the hexagonal shape of the M-Pencil does take some getting used to.

There’s also a noticeable dent in one side that allows the M-Pencil to snap into place on the side of the tablet when not in use, and it’ll charge wirelessly when attached too. 30 seconds of charge will get you around 10 minutes of use and it takes just over an hour to charge it fully, at which point you’ll get about 10 hours of use. Much like Apple’s option, you’ll get a nice on-screen pop-up displaying current battery life whenever you remove the Pencil from its magnetised position on the tablet.  

You’ve also got the Smart Magnetic Keyboard for the productivity-focused among us, allowing you to quickly write notes, reply to emails and in my case, write parts of this review. The keyboard case doubles up as a protective case when not in use, using magnets to attach to the rear of the MatePad Pro, and it features two viewing angles – 60 and 70 degrees. The viewing angles can be a bit limited depending on how you’re using the tablet, but that’s a complaint of many keyboard cases. 

I had reservations about the keyboard initially, primarily due to the small keys, but I adjusted with barely any learning curve and could type surprisingly quickly. Most importantly, the keyboard provides a nice typing experience with a decent 1.3mm key travel and a satisfying click feedback with every press. 

Oh, and you don’t have to worry about battery life either – the keyboard is wirelessly charged by the MatePad Pro whenever it’s in use, so it’ll last as long as the tablet itself. 

Powerful performance

Under the hood of the MatePad Pro, you’ll find Huawei’s Kirin 990 SoC alongside a third-gen DaVinci NPU to power the AI capabilities of the tablet and the latest Mali G76 GPU to power the high-end graphical capabilities on offer. The amount of RAM varies – you’ll get 6GB if you opt for the 128GB model, but 8GB if you go for 256- or 512GB of storage – but in reality, there’s not likely to be much of a difference in performance amongst the three options. 

The Kirin 990 is also found in Huawei’s P40 Pro and Mate 30 Pro, so expect a similar level of performance here, and the inclusion of 3D graphene cooling helps keep the tablet cool and running smoothly during power-intensive tasks like 3D gaming. Unsurprisingly, the MatePad Pro could handle just about anything I threw at it without even a hint of stutter. It’s admittedly not as smooth as what you’ll experience from other Pro tablets, featuring a standard 60Hz refresh rate while the competition offers up to 120Hz, but that’s not due to a lack of power. 

I’d usually include benchmark results to give you a better idea of how the performance directly compares to the competition, but the pre-release software currently running on my MatePad Pro won’t let me install the various benchmarking apps we use at Tech Advisor. I’m hoping Huawei rolls out the official software sooner rather than later so I can properly benchmark the kit, but there’s no word on when that might happen.

In terms of connectivity, the MatePad Pro features support for Wi-Fi 802.11 ac alongside Bluetooth 5.1 and a USB-C 3.1 port with reverse-charging capabilities. It’s also worth noting that the MatePad Pro offers optional 4G cellular connectivity, and a 5G version is also available for those that want to pay a little more to take advantage of the improved speeds – as long as 5G is available in your local area, of course. 

Where the Huawei MatePad Pro differs from the competition is in the charging department: as well as supporting fast 27W wireless charging, the tablet also offers 7.5W reverse charging, allowing you to wirelessly top up the battery of any wireless charging-enabled accessories you might have nearby. The 7250mAh battery is more than enough to provide a bit of charge for your smartphone or wireless earbuds without a significant drop to battery life, and the reverse wireless charging tech is automatically disabled if the tablet doesn’t detect a nearby accessory, further saving battery life.  

Generally speaking, I found I’d get around 8 or 9 hours of use over the course of a few days before the MatePad Pro would need a top-up. That’s pretty standard for a tablet of this size, but with 40W wired fast charging built-in, there’s potential to seriously reduce the amount of time tethered to a wall using the tablet.

The issue is the tablet ships with a 20W charger – half the maximum output – so charging is slower, hitting the 31 percent mark in half an hour in my tests. If you want the rapid charging speeds, you’ll have to invest in a 40W charger separately. 

A single-lens camera setup in 2020?

Unlike Huawei’s smartphone range, you won’t find a huge array of cameras on the MatePad Pro, but that’s acceptable – you don’t want to be that guy at a concert that uses a tablet to try and film the performance, right? 

With that being said, you’ll find a single no-thrills 13Mp rear-facing camera with an f/1.8 aperture and PDAF autofocus which is more than enough for the occasional snap. The photos taken are generally detailed and bright, but it certainly doesn’t offer the same impressive dynamic range as flagship smartphone cameras, struggling to capture detail in shadows in well-lit areas.

There’s also support for other basic shooting modes, including Panorama, Portrait Mode and Night Mode, and you’ll also be able to record [email protected] video too. That’s all pretty basic in 2020, but as I say, it’s something you’ll probably never use, so it doesn’t have to be top-end. 

You’ll also find a front-facing 8Mp camera with an f/2.0 aperture that’s ideal for video calling and the occasional selfie, but with only an over-aggressive beauty mode and 1080p video recording on offer, it’s not as fully-featured as what you’ll get from a smartphone. 

But what about the Pro apps?

The highlight of the tablet-focused EMUI 10 (based on Android 10 Open Source) is what Huawei calls App Multiplier, and it looks to fix one of the biggest problems with Android tablets in general. The problem is that there’s a surprising number of Android apps that don’t take advantage of landscape orientation favoured by tablet users, as the majority of users are generally smartphone-based. 

Huawei’s App Multiplier allows traditionally vertical-only apps to run side-by-side in landscape orientation, displaying two windows from the same app. It’s a neat fix, but the issue is that developers need to add support for the feature, and only around 1000 apps take advantage of the tech at the time of writing.

There’s also Huawei Multi-Window, an iPad-esque feature that allows you to run two apps side-by-side and adjust the split dynamically. You can also grab a third app via the optional floating window, although the narrow aspect ratio of the tablet means things may start to get cramped at this point. 

Huawei Share is another highlight in terms of software, offering Apple-level connectivity amongst Huawei-branded devices. I’ve been able to quickly transfer files to my Huawei MateBook D14 by tapping the MatePad Pro on the laptop’s Huawei Share icon, and although I’ve not found it to be a faultless experience, I’m putting the handful of failed transfers down to the pre-release software of the tablet.

Arguably even more impressive is the fact that I’ve been able to mirror my Huawei Mate 30 Pro display using Huawei Share, allowing for quick access to my messages, apps and calls when I’m working on the MatePad. It’s a very handy feature, and one that I’d love to see implemented on other tablets in future. 

It’s safe to say these are Pro-level features ready for some serious multitasking. The issue is that there’s a lack of Pro-level apps on the MatePad Pro, not helped by the absence of Google Mobile Services (GMS) and, thus, the Google Play Store. Huawei has responded well to the ban, and its own AppGallery is getting bigger every day – now featuring popular western apps including Snapchat and Amazon Shopping – but these are all free, mobile-focused apps, and you’ll probably never find Google’s own branded apps available on the platform.

There are exceptions to this rule, with some popular productivity-focused apps including Microsoft Office available to download via AppGallery – ideal for use with the keyboard case – but these are far and few between at the time of writing. 

You’ve also got the option of installing third-party options like APKPure to access popular Android apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, but you won’t be able to use Pro-level apps from the likes of Adobe to truly take advantage of the MatePad’s hardware and accessories as most of these rely on GMS to function properly. 

The only exceptions to this rule at the time of writing are Autodesk SketchBook, Concepts and MediBang Paint, drawing-focused apps available on Huawei AppGallery that take advantage of the optional M-Pencil. 

Value

The Huawei MatePad Pro is available to pre-order via the Huawei Store in the UK right now, with delivery from 20 May. The tablet has an attractive £549 RRP, but for a limited time, Huawei is offering the tablet for £499 with a free gift thrown in too. While there are multiple versions of the tablet available worldwide, some with 4G and 5G connectivity, it seems the offering is limited to the slightly less powerful 6GB+128GB Wi-Fi variant in Midnight Grey. 

Compared to the likes of the iPad Pro, which starts at £769, it seems the MatePad Pro offers decent value for money – you’ve just got to consider whether the lack of Google Mobile Services and the Google Play Store is worth the saving.  

For other solid options, take a look at our selection of the best tablets. 

Verdict

The MatePad Pro is a hard bit of kit to judge. On the one hand, the hardware is impressive: the 10.8in display is detailed, bright and crisp, there’s enough power under the hood to power even the most demanding apps and games and the optional M-Pencil/Keyboard Cover combo means you can get creative with how you use the tablet.

It’s also a great-looking tablet, sporting the thinnest bezels of any tablet on the market and a clean holepunch camera embedded in the display. The 7.5W reverse wireless charging is another handy feature, allowing you to top up any Qi-enabled device wherever you are, and 40W wired charging should decrease the overall time spent tethered to the wall.

The catch, like all Huawei products at the moment, is the lack of Google Mobile Services and the Google Play Store. Huawei has worked hard to populate its own AppGallery with popular apps, and it is improving, now featuring the likes of Snapchat and Amazon Shopping, but it’s still a long way from offering the breadth of apps available on the Play Store.

You’ve got the option of sideloading popular apps like Facebook and Instagram from the likes of APKPure, which does help to bridge the gap, but key pro-level Adobe apps (along with any Google apps) won’t work without access to GMS, regardless of how you install them. So, while the MatePad is Pro in just about every respect, you might struggle to find Pro-level apps that truly take advantage of the hardware on offer.

Specs
Huawei MatePad Pro: Specs

246 x 159 x 7.2mm

460g

Nano-SIM (4G & 5G optional)

10.8in IPS LCD display (2560 x 1600)

Kirin 990 5G CPU

MAli-G76 MP16 GPU

6/8GB RAM

128/256GB/512GB UFS 3.0 storage

NM Card slot

13Mp f/1.8 rear-facing camera with flash and PDAF autofocus

8Mp f/2.0 front-facing camera

Up to [email protected] video

USB-C 3.1 port

Wi-Fi 802.11 ac

Bluetooth 5.1

7250mAh battery

40W wired charging

27W wireless charging

7.5W reverse charging

EMUI 10 (Android 10 Open Source)

About the author: SubSellKaro

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