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Hands on: Huawei MatePad Pro Review

First Impressions

There’s a lot to like about the MatePad Pro, from its classy (if slightly unimaginative) design to its seriously powerful hardware and well-designed add-ons. The issue comes with the apps that can take advantage of all this and while that can be a big issue with regular Android tablets, it’s even more of a problem without access to the Play Store. 

Key Specifications

  • Attractive, clean design
  • Kirin 990 chipset in either 4G or 5G
  • No Google Media Services, including Play Store
  • Bright, colourful and sharp 10.8-inch 2560 x 1600 LCD screen

Android tablets are mostly cheaper options aimed at media consumption, and it’s very rare to get a true high-end slate. Samsung had that market cornered with the Galaxy Tab S6 but now Huawei has a new challenger with the MatePad Pro – and boy does it look familiar.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away – the MatePad Pro looks, from press imagery especially, like the iPad Pro. From the rounded corners on the screen, to the way the M Pencil magnetically attaches on the top and the style of the ‘Smart’ keyboard folio. Things feel slightly more unique when you’re actually holding and using the tablet but the overall look is uncanny.

I really hope this tablet doesn’t get forgotten about due to those similarities as this is one of the most complete Android slates I have used in years. It’s packing true high-end components, 5G support and has a lovely screen – it looks pretty good.

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Huawei MatePad Pro – Design and screen

When you have the MatePad Pro in your hands it feels nothing like Apple’s high-end tablet. It’s more rectangular thanks to the 16:10 display and is a little smaller, with more rounded corners and less harsh straight lines.

The frame is constructed from magnesium alloy and you can get a version with a vegan leather back in a bunch of bright colours. Huawei has also completely hidden the 5G antenna lines on the back to keep the design looking clean.

The M Pencil, which is sold separately, attaches to the top via magnets and charges while it’s placed there – again, this is a little more contoured than the Apple Pencil. It feels good to hold and grip and is very responsive when doodling or jotting notes.

Huawei said the Pencil will get 10 minutes of use from a 30 second charge and a longer hour charge will keep it going for 10 hours. Clearly this whole idea has been stripped from the iPad Pro and it works tremendously well, giving you somewhere to store the stylus and ensure it’s always charged.

Covering 90% of the front is a 10.8-inch 2560 x 1600 LCD which is bright, colourful and sharp. Oddly, Huawei has decided to add a hole-punch camera here, a move that strikes me as completely odd on a tablet like this. I understand it wants the highest screen-to-body ratio as possible but it makes absolutely no sense when there’s still a bezel and it ruins the look of the otherwise lovely display.

Huawei MatePad Pro – Specs and software

Inside the MatePad Pro you’ll find the Kirin 990 chipset in either 4G or 5G flavours. This is Huawei’s latest chipset and is supremely capable at handling anything you can throw at it. You’ve also got a good sounding quad speaker system that has been tuned by Harman Kardon along with some graphene cooling tech to avoid the tablet running hot.

Like all of Huawei’s new products, the MatePad Pro runs the open-source version of Android (AOSP) without the required services to run Google Play. Instead, you’ll need to get apps from other sources like Amazon’s App Store or Huawei’s App Gallery. This will likely be an issue to most until Huawei has a truly viable alternative and it feels even more of an issue on a tablet so powerful that has so much potential.

I want this to have fully-featured apps, just like the iPad, for photo and video editing. I want great drawing apps to take advantage of the stylus and I want graphically-intensive games that push the hardware. Without any of that, it feels like overkill.

Huawei has tweaked its EMUI software to make use of the larger screen, with better multitasking and certain supported apps can use an App Multiplier feature to take over more of the screen. It’s a nice trick that makes it easier for devs to turn phone apps into tablet apps and could help avoid one of Android tablets biggest issues.

Like its flagship phones, the MatePad Pro can be charged wirelessly at 27w and it can even act as a 7.5w wireless charger for other Qi-enabled devices. You could, for instance, charge your FreeBuds 3 on the back of the MatePad Pro. 

Early verdict

There’s a lot to like about the MatePad Pro, from its classy (if slightly unimaginative) design to its seriously powerful hardware and well-designed add-ons. The issue comes with the apps that can take advantage of all this and while that can be a big issue with regular Android tablets, it’s even more of a problem without access to the Play Store. 

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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