HUAWEI MatePad Pro Review: Even Without GMS, Is it Still Worth Buying?
A few weeks ago, HUAWEI debuted their latest range of products, including the highly-anticipated MatePad Pro. We were excited to try it out for a good number of reasons - it is the first tablet to have 5G inside, comes with reverse charging, and more importantly, we wanted to test out its functionality without Google Mobile Services.
Without further ado, let's dive into our hands-on experience of the HUAWEI MatePad Pro 5G tablet!
The first impression upon lifting the MatePad Pro out of the box was that it was lightweight, yet sturdy. Weighing in at 460g and measuring only 7.2mm thick, it effortlessly fits into most bags.
It comes with 4.9mm ultra-slim bezels, which give it a sleek and modern appearance - this relegates the front camera to a punch-hole design on the top right, which works well in both portrait and landscape orientation.
We received the Midnight Grey version of the device, which isn't the most exciting colour, but still looks pleasantly professional. If you're more adventurous, there are also Forest Green and Orange ones which come in vegan leather to match your Mate 30 Pro - though unfortunately, these 2 colours don't seem to be available in Malaysia at the moment. There's also a Pearl White glass fibre edition if you're into that.
While holding it in portrait orientation, you'll find speakers on the top and bottom, which is a great improvement, since it means that the sound will not be muffled when you are using the tablet while attached to the keyboard. 4 microphones are spread out on the right side to boost pickup range.
Something interesting we noticed was that there are no visible antennas on the exterior - they are integrated into the chassis itself. The lock button and volume rocker are placed on the top and right respectively.
Specs and Performance
The unit we received is powered by a Kirin 990 CPU which enables its 5G capabilities, along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Playing games and multitasking was a breeze, with no noticeable lag or slowdown. Watching videos was extremely enjoyable on its 10.8" 2560 X 1600 QHD display, which packs up to 540 nits of brightness to ensure vibrant pictures even in bright daylight.
Audio was outstanding, especially on such a slim and compact device. The MatePad Pro's 4 speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon, and have an impressive maximum volume. You can feel the bass resonate through the tablet, and music was clear and undistorted even at high volumes - even outperforming some laptops, in my opinion. Sadly, it has no 3.5mm jack, but does come with a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for those who haven't transitioned to the true wireless lifestyle yet.
Battery life is also decent with its 7,250mAh battery. which will last you all day. And if you you're the type who only uses tablets occasionally for leisure purposes, the MatePad Pro lasts more than 10 days on idle, so you don't have to worry about coming back to a flat battery on the weekend, just when you decided to curl up and watch videos in bed on a whim.
It comes with a 20W adapter and supports 40W HUAWEI Super Charge. Another sweet feature is its ability to support 27W wireless charging AND 7.5W reverse charging. So, if your phone battery is running low while you're out on a work meeting, just plonk it on top of your MatePad Pro and voila! Instant life transfusion.
Also worth mentioning is the back camera - while it's definitely not going to be replacing our phone camera any time soon, the 13MP camera does a decent job of taking pictures and is a nice-to-have bonus.
Software and Features
True to its promise of being a device for both work and play, the MatePad Pro has a couple of handy features to increase your productivity. Firstly, it has a 'Desktop Mode', which turns the tablet layout into something much more familiar with a click of a button. If you're more comfortable working with the standard Windows-style layout, this feature will make you feel right at home. Do note that you'll have to close all apps before switching between modes though.
For avid multi-taskers, you enjoy the MatePad Pro's 3-app multitasking ability. You can pull up 2 windows side by side, and have a 3rd one floating above. Even better, you can open 2 working instances of the same app simultaneously with the APP Multiplier.
There's also a multi-window function which duplicates your HUAWEI phone screen to the MatePad Pro, allowing you to transfer files and reply messages easily with the keyboard. You can also hold conferences calls with colleagues or catch up with family via MeeTime, which we've written about in more detail here.
What about Google Mobile Services?
And now, to address the white elephant in the room - the lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS). This is obviously the biggest counterpoint to purchasing the MatePad Pro. While it certainly is an obstacle, it's not insurmountable. Most functionality that has been rendered useless by the lack of GMS has been substituted with HUAWEI's own offerings.
For example, Facebook cannot be found natively on the HUAWEI AppGallery, but searching for it will link you to the official APK from Facebook itself. The same goes for commonly used apps like WhatsApp as well. In addition, Phone Clone allows you to transfer all your previously used apps from your other devices, so that's another way round the issue.
I mean, sure, it isn't as convenient as installing it directly from the Google Play Store, but it still works and would normally be a one-time installation anyway, so it's not really a deal-breaker for me.
As for GPS apps like Waze and Google Maps, they certainly don't work without GMS. But it's unlikely that you'll be using your tablet as your primary GPS driver anyway (like really, are you going to put such a massive device on your dashboard?) so while it's a bummer, it's not really a big deal either. That said, HUAWEI has been and is continually working on ways to improve user experience.
In the end, it all comes down to what you plan to use your MatePad Pro for, and whether the extra steps you'll need to take to replicate your ideal user experience is worth the effort for you.
Ah, no portable workstation is truly complete without the formidable keyboard + pen combo...and it just so happens that the MatePad Pro comes with both of them!
The wireless magnetic keyboard works a treat - it snaps on magnetically with no effort required at all, and pairs automatically upon contact. It has 2 height adjustment levels to cater to both lap and tabletop use. The keys are nice and clicky, with a 1.3mm travel distance that makes typing extremely enjoyable. On the downside, the key spacing is non-standard - it's an ultra-portable device after all - which can be frustrating for banana-fingered people trying to adapt.
The M-Pencil is light, and snaps on to the MatePad Pro magnetically, so you don't have to fidget around to extract the pen from a built-in compartment when you need to take notes quickly. On top of having it easily accessible at all times, this also serves as the M-Pencil's charging dock - 30 seconds of charging time will give you 10 minutes of use, while taking an hour to fully charge it will give you 10 hours of writing time.
While the pen's shape isn't super comfortable - it feels like those 2B pencils you used in primary school, albeit a bit thicker - it is lightweight enough to not put a strain on your wrist. It also performs beautifully, with up to 4,096 levels of pressure that will definitely put a smile on any artist's face.
Pricing and Availability
The 8GB RAM + 256GB storage WiFi edition of the HUAWEI MatePad Pro is currently bundled together with the M-Pencil and Smart Magnetic Keyboard for RM2,898. You can purchase either the Pearl White or Midnight Grey variants from the Malaysian HUAWEI online store now. No word on if the Forest Green and Orange variants will be made available eventually.
The HUAWEI MatePad Pro is a wonderful device to use, if you can look past the glaring omission of Google Mobile Services. Even so, it has made a good effort to make up for it by providing a number of workarounds.
As a portable workstation, it really shines with its ample multitasking features and solid accessories, while powerful components and 5G capabilities future-proof it for long-term use - after all, we don't usually upgrade tablets as quickly as we do with our phones.
At RM2,898 for a whole suite of products, the HUAWEI MatePad Pro is a solid little workhorse that you can lug around to meetings or curl up under a blanket with - but whether it suits your needs and preferences is completely up to you. If you're looking for something more affordable, you can also check out the MatePad and MatePad T variants, which will be available starting 16 May.
You can check out our unboxing video of the MatePad Pro here: