The world of Android tablets is a weird one. It started with quite a lot of brands making Android tablets – and there were even Google-branded tablets. Then all of them fell off the radar, leaving only two major brands – Huawei is one of them. The new MatePad Pro is the company’s latest flagship tablet, too.
With such big shoes to fill, how does the new Huawei MatePad Pro perform in day-to-day tasks? Well, as the title suggests, you’ll want the full set to get the best experience.
The Huawei MatePad Pro itself
First, I think it’s best to get the specs out of the way. This is a flagship tablet, so expect flagship level of hardware. We won’t dive into the benchmarks because its scores are more or less similar to the Huawei P40 Pro, which we have reviewed here.
I do like the 10.8-inch display that Huawei has opted for the MatePad Pro – and especially thankful for that 16:10 aspect ratio too. That extra vertical height makes viewing documents a lot better. The punch hole notch is at the corner of the display – which I think is okay.
The colors look good and overall, no complaints about the display. It’s a good IPS LCD screen.
This display also has thin bezels all around – which leads us to our next point, ergonomics. The thin bezels are a blessing and a curse. It’s beautiful to look at and occupies a smaller footprint, but doesn’t offer any space for the user to hold the tablet. Which is why we need a case for the Huawei MatePad Pro.
The speaker system on the MatePad Pro is excellent. There are a total of 4 speakers – two on each side – and they sound better than many laptops in the market.
By the way, remember to update to EMUI 10.1 when you get the tablet. The Widevine DRM is built-in to the EMUI 10.1 firmware update package, so we can watch Netflix on this Google-less tablet.
The Smart Magnetic Keyboard Case
This entire review is typed using the Huawei MatePad Pro using the Smart Magnetic Keyboard Case. This whole keyboard case is quite nicely made. The case snaps onto the tablet via magnets – which can also be taken out rather easily. I do wish there’s a retention bracket to hold the tablet onto the case, though.
Now, the keyboard case can be propped up in two angles. Once again, the tablet snaps into place via magnets. Huawei didn’t use pogo pins for the keyboard to communicate with the tablet. Instead, Huawei opted for Bluetooth. But how does the keyboard get power? Through the power of wireless charging!
Those two little channels that the tablet snaps into are the wireless power receiver. When the keyboard is powered on, the caps lock LED lights up.
As for the keyboard, I think it’s reminiscent of a 14-inch laptop’s keyboard layout. The keys are surprisingly responsive and tactile to type on, yet it bounces up fast. It’s fun to type on despite having smaller key sizes. It’s not difficult to adapt to its size.
To complement the entire “professional tablet” set is the M-Pencil. This is an active stylus that works with and charged by the MatePad Pro. The M-Pencil snaps itself into place onto the MatePad Pro, which it will then be automatically charged by the tablet via wireless charging.
The M-Pencil is a rather simple active stylus. It has 4096 levels of pressure and it also has a rather hard tip. This means the feel of writing on the MatePad Pro’s hard glass surface is not paper-like. Theoretically, in the long term, this is better. That means the tip of the M-Pencil will not get worn out so quickly.
Still, Huawei included an extra tip for the M-Pencil which you can screw it on.
Using the Huawei MatePad Pro with its accessories
Once I got the keyboard case and the M-Pencil snapped into place, they both are paired to the MatePad Pro instantly and seamlessly. The keyboard feels good to type on though it does take some time to get used to. I was able to type at my usual speed after a short while.
The M-Pencil is a weird one. It doesn’t have any buttons so that means no gesture shortcuts or floating menu with the press of a button. I had my brother to sketch on the MatePad Pro – since we all have a lot of free time during MCO anyway – and it came out great.
For me, the M-Pencil is very handy especially when I want to draw something. Looking back at my days as an engineering student, the MatePad Pro with the M-Pencil will help me a lot.
With the MatePad Pro and the M-Pencil, I can immediately start drawing diagrams and explain how lasers work. I can whip out some simple equations, graphs, circuit designs, diagrams, or just anything in particular.
The software experience?
If I’m not wrong, this is the company’s first high-end tablet to be using Huawei Mobile Services. We’ve talked about using Huawei Mobile Services on smartphones before, but for tablets, I don’t really mind if it’s using Huawei’s or Google’s mobile services because most things can be done with the browser.
Huawei developed its own suite of apps – browser included. It works as we’d expect – but there is no support for keyboard shortcuts. I really do hope Huawei adds keyboard shortcut support into its browser app as that will smoothen out workflows.
Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, you hit the magnifying glass + backspace to go back, or magnifying glass + D key to go “home”.
Huawei also heavily advertised “desktop mode” which can be toggled via the quick settings menu. Enabling desktop mode will change the entire interface to look and feel more like Windows and macOS.
To hammer down what I said earlier – Google or Huawei Google Services doesn’t matter because many of the apps themselves are not developed for tablets. This is Android’s fault, not Huawei’s.
The Huawei AppGallery, like what we’ve said previously in the P40 Pro review, is slowly growing. But there are a few essential apps that are unavailable on the AppGallery but can be obtained via other means.
Honestly speaking, the Kirin 990 isn’t particularly battery-efficient. That massive 7,250mAh is the MatePad Pro’s saving grace.
While I was doing work on the MatePad Pro – mostly with Spotify and Browser running – I can use it for about 2 days. Moreover, Huawei included a 20W charger so we can quick-charge the MatePad Pro.
From our test, the 20W charger takes about 2 hours to charge from 15% to 100%. That’s actually very good!
Should you buy the Huawei MatePad Pro?
In most cases, I’ll say yes. The MatePad Pro is indeed a very good alternative to a basic laptop – but that truly depends on what you use on a laptop. For me, I use the MatePad Pro like how I use my MacBook Air (2013). That’s an old laptop and it lags a lot. The Huawei MatePad Pro can do what I want it to do – so why not migrate everything to this tablet instead?
And the price. The Huawei MatePad Pro is priced at RM2,399 with no accessories included. That’s okay since this tablet is sporting flagship hardware inside. I highly recommend getting the keyboard since it is an integral part of the tablet’s user experience.
For students, I recommend getting the M-Pencil too. I can’t describe exactly how I feel, but I wish I had the Huawei MatePad Pro and its accessories when I was in university.
By the way, from 29th April to 7th June 2020, you can get the Huawei MatePad Pro, the Smart Magnetic Keyboard case, and also the M-Pencil for the price of RM2,898 as a part of a bundle deal that they’re doing.