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If
Apple is asking what it means to be a computer, and whether that role can be played by an iPad, then Huawei is arguably asking what
it means to be an iPad, and whether it can be replaced by an Android tablet. The MatePad Pro 5G, starting at €549 (approximately $600), looks like an iPad, but it runs on Android (although not the commercially available Android, due to the Trump administration’s trade war with China). While the MatePad Pro might actually come closer than the iPad to bridging the gap
between tablet and computer in some regards, its lack of supported
software means it ultimately falls short of the mark. We took a look at the tablet in London and have some first impressions.

Design
and Accessories

The MatePad Pro measures 9.7 by 6.3 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.1 pounds. With its 10.8-inch screen, it’s slightly smaller and a little heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro. The 2,560-by-1,600-pixel screen has a small notch in the top right corner for an 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera that
works well for face unlock.

The bottom edge has a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, unfortunately the only port on the device. If a “pro” device is set to compete with laptops, more than one USB port would be nice, like on the Microsoft Surface Book Pro 7, not to mention a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Turn
the tablet around and you’ll find the 13MP f/1.8 lens, which works
well enough for snapping casual shots, but is unlikely to replace
your smartphone.

The
MatePad Pro also works with two optional accessories: a magnetic
clip-on keyboard case and Huawei’s M-Pen stylus. While the keyboard
works well enough, and has built-in shortcuts such as app
switching to make it easier to work with it attached, it looks
a little dated next to Apple’s most recent keyboard that comes with
a built-in trackpad
.
Moreover, it can’t be rotated around like other tablet cases,
meaning that the USB-C port is always facing right, which isn’t always ideal.

Huawei MatePad Pro 5G

The
M-Pen, meanwhile, can also do with a little refinement. It works for making quick notes or doodling, but its rigid tip and relative lack of sensitivity make it difficult to use for an extended length of time without feeling some strain.

Software
and Services

As
with many other Huawei products, we must address the elephant in the
room: The MatePad Pro, like the Mate 30 Pro and the P40
Pro
smartphones,
doesn’t come with access to Google Mobile Services, the Google Play
Store, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, or many other ubiquitous apps you get on other Android-powered devices.

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Usually this would be a deal breaker, but the loss doesn’t feel quite the same for a tablet compared with a smartphone. Although Huawei is working on a Maps
application
,
the majority of people use their phones for navigation rather than
tablets. Sideloading apps from the Amazon AppStore or APKPure (or
using Huawei’s own AppSearch
software
)
also feels less strange on a device made to compete with laptops, because manually loading applications is how most PC users usually install software anyway.

Yet
while that’s fine for an academic discussion about what is or is
not a computer, practically, Huawei’s existing app ecosystem makes it nearly impossible to recommend to potential users, as it simply lacks the vast majority of what you’ll find on other Android tablets or iPads. 

Huawei MatePad Pro 5G

At
the time of writing, a clone of Facebook’s Messenger application
(called Messenger Pro), a YouTube downloader, and a one-star
app only named VPN that’s been downloaded 14,000 times are among
Huawei’s top-rated apps. Many popular apps, such as Twitter,
Spotify, Netflix, and Instagram (owned by Facebook) remain absent, and
if you do manage to install them by other means, many (like Brave, Citymapper, and Netflix) will either refuse to work or be
disrupted by the lack of Google services. If an app store is trustworthy based on its reputation and the variety of its
software, Huawei’s app ecosystem fails on both counts.

Huawei’s
MatePad Pro also comes with a desktop mode, which makes the tablet
look similar to a Chromebook and is compatible with Bluetooth
mice
. At the time of writing, however, a number of applications,
such as Twitter, do not work perfectly in this mode and the digital
keyboard that should only appear when the physical keyboard is not
being used pops up over other apps (like the built-in Huawei
browser on a Google Docs tab), obscuring the screen and making the tablet unusable for writing.

Huawei
says that an update to its EMUI 10.1 Android layer will come in the next few weeks and address these problems.

Hardware
and Performance

Inside
the MatePad Pro is Huawei’s Kirin 990 SoC, which supports 5G
connectivity and two possible variants of the RAM/ROM configuration: 8GB RAM and 256GB of ROM (the model we tested), or 8GB of RAM
and 512GB of storage. The tablet’s network capabilities will vary based on your region, but it features 5G bands N1/3/28/38/41/77/78/79 and 4G bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/34/38/39/40/41/42/66. We didn’t test the tablet’s 4G or 5G network connectivity features.

Huawei MatePad Pro 5G

While
we haven’t yet had the chance yet to test it against the iPad Pro,
there’s enough storage for downloading movies and video, and apps
load quickly. It isn’t always smooth sailing, however: The Adobe Photoshop Express app downloaded from APKPure wouldn’t
load a high-resolution image for editing, and the Hearthstone
application downloaded from the Amazon AppStore occasionally has
trouble connecting to our Wi-Fi. 

It’s unclear whether these flaws are on the side of
the MatePad Pro or, more likely, an issue with the compatibility
between the tablet and the sideloaded software. Nevertheless, these issues remain concerning, and highlights Huawei’s need for tested,
streamlined connections between its hardware and software. Huawei
once again says that an update should
fix these bugs, but for the moment, the MatePad Pro struggles. 

Huawei claims the MatePad Pro is the first tablet to feature
back-to-back wireless charging, allowing you to charge
other devices by placing them on the back of the tablet. This works
easily, accessible through the settings menu, and with the MatePad
Pro’s impressive 7,250mAh battery, you should be able to send
power to other devices without making a massive sacrifice the tablet’s life. For comparison, the 2020 iPad Pro reportedly
has a larger 7,540mAh battery, but doesn’t offer this
functionality.

Conclusions

While we’ve yet to fully put it through its paces, the Huawei MatePad Pro 5G is a theoretically potent competitor to the iPad Pro from a hardware perspective. But,
like Huawei’s smartphones, it’s hampered by a lack of apps and
services. In our eyes, such things matter less for a
product that is fairly stationary, but it still creates a barrier to entry that customers
should not have to contend with. That, alongside software bugs, makes
this tablet difficult to recommend in its current form.

Huawei MatePad Pro 5G Specs

Operating System Android 10
Dimensions 6.26 by 9.69 by 0.31 inches
Weight 17.35 oz
Screen Size 10.8 inches
Screen Resolution 2,560 by 1,600 pixels
CPU HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G
Processor Speed 2.86 GHz
Storage Capacity 256 GB

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