Huawei’s MatePad Pro 5G uses the best phone tech to fight Apple’s iPad

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Huawei’s new MatePad Pro 5G brings much of what’s cool about modern phones to the tablet, blurring the line between the two. Huawei underscores the alignment of its top tablet with its best phones and laptops by adopting the Mate name, associated with flagship powerhouse phones like the Mate 20 Pro.

It’s goodbye MediaPad, hello MatePad, and hello to features normally found in smartphones, several of which are world-firsts for a tablet. But while the MatePad Pro 5G is a fabulous device, many familiar Android tablet issues remains.

Design, screen, and sound: Great display

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Huawei went with lightweight magnesium alloy for the MatePad Pro 5G’s body. It’s a sleek, light, and strong material, used by Microsoft for many of its Surface Pro machines, and by Google for the Pixelbook Go.

The tablet is available in grey and white, along with a pair of models in green and orange vegan leather, too. I didn’t have the chance to see the leather models in person, unfortunately. Between the grey and white, though, I’d recommend the latter.

The eagle-eyed may spot something unexpected about the MatePad Pro 5G’s body. It lacks any antenna lines running along the back of the chassis, or across its thin sides. Instead, the antennas are integrated into the magnesium itself. This, along with the tablet’s symmetrical shape and punch-hole selfie camera, gives the MatePad Pro 5G a clean, modern appearance.

The screen is massive. It’s 10.8-inches with 2560 x 1600 resolution, 280 pixels-per-inch, 540 nits of brightness, and DCI-P3 color support for a cinema-like image. In short, it’s a real beauty. Images and videos show excellent color, contrast, and brightness. The 16:10 aspect ratio better supports video than the 4:3 ratio familiar to iPad users. I was impressed with the screen’s wide viewing angles. Two people can watch the screen comfortably.

Holding the slim tablet is comfortable due to the curved sides, and while the bezels are slim at just 4.9mm, Huawei has worked hard to avoid accidental screen activation. No matter how I shifted and palmed the screen when watching a video, it refused to show the controls on screen.

Hold the tablet in landscape orientation, and there are two speakers running down either side. I had to make a conscious effort not to block them with my hand. Though I expect it’d become muscle memory over time, covering them does degrade the sound. When playing, they were loud and clear, with bass I could feel through the tablet’s body.

Hardware and connectivity: It has 5G

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This is the first tablet to have 5G inside. It’s an impressive technical achievement in a device so slim, without any noticeable antenna bands, or any massive bezels around the screen. It’s made possible by the Kirin 990 processor and integrated 5G modem, with no need for a separate modem and antenna array. It will connect to Sub-6 5G networks, but not mmWave networks.

Whether anyone needs 5G in a tablet is up for debate. However, 5G connectivity future proofs the MatePad Pro 5G — tablets are kept longer than a phone, after all — and the optional keyboard makes it a decent alternative to a laptop when traveling, where mobile connectivity would be more helpful.

The MatePad Pro 5G has wireless charging, and at 27 watts, it’s powerful. There’s a reverse charging option, so you can top up other wireless charging gadgets by placing them on the tablet’s body.

Wireless charging isn’t just helpful for the internal 7250mAh battery. It works for the M-Pencil stylus, too. This magnetically attaches to the chassis and is wirelessly charged while it’s connected. Thirty seconds gives 10 minutes of use, or an hour gives 10 hours use.

I used the stylus and was impressed with its sensitivity, as well as how it can be used at an angle for different brush effects. However, the angular shape of the stylus didn’t feel natural to hold.

You have to purchase the M-Pencil separately, just like the wireless keyboard. The keyboard is great. It offers 1.3mm of travel for comfortable, accurate typing. It’s noisy, but I don’t mind a noisy keyboard. I could type at full speed straight away. Magnets hold the keyboard case firmly to the tablet.

Software

The MatePad Pro 5G does not have Google Services onboard, so no Google Play or associated apps. Instead it has the Huawei App Gallery. You can use alternative app stores like Amazon’s, or find a workaround and install Google’s apps yourself using Phone Clone. It’s not ideal, but Huawei is working to increase access to the most important apps through its own store.

The tablet has Android 10 and EMUI 10 onboard, which comes with Huawei’s new App Multiplier multi-tasking feature, where two apps can be run alongside each other on the screen. Additionally, a third can be placed over the top as a floating window. It works well, but not all apps work with the feature. Huawei says 1,000 apps support it, but wouldn’t go into details about which ones.

Overcoming the tablet problem

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Remember how I said the familiar Android tablet problems remain? Let me explain.

The MatePad Pro 5G is a smart looking, capable, fast tablet. Yet tablets are a hard sell, and the Apple iPad rules the roost. There’s little to differentiate the MatePad Pro 5G and the iPad hardware-wise, and the price of Huawei’s tablet hasn’t been revealed. If it matches the $500 iPad Air, that’s solid value. But if it’s closer to the $800 11-inch iPad Pro, it’ll be hard to recommend.

Add in spotty app support and, sadly for Huawei, the iPad will look much more tempting. Also, you also have to purchase the keyboard and stylus separately.

That said, if you own a Huawei phone, it’s simple to port most of Google’s apps across to the tablet, and it supports the helpful OneHop direct connection to your phone, which simplifies sharing files and features between the two devices.

When it’s released, the Huawei MatePad Pro 5G has to do battle not just with the iPad, but also with Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Tab S5e. The phone-like tech, such as the wireless charging, punch-hole camera, and fast mobile connectivity, set it apart from the competition, and even if you’re not sure a tablet is for you, the MatePad Pro 5G’s is a high-end, future-proofed tablet that needs to be on your list.

Price and availability

The Huawei MatePad Pro 5G tablet will be available from April. The tablet will be available in most places, but don’t expect the U.S. to be one of them. The 6GB/128GB 5G tablet will cost 600 euros, or about $650, or 700 euros/$750 for the 8GB/256GB version.

Updated on February 28, 2020: Added in prices and availability.

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