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Huawei MatePad review: Competent but hamstrung

Huawei MatePad review: Competent but hamstrung

Huawei MatePad

The Huawei MatePad tablet will be a hard sell for those who rely heavily on Google apps and services. For everyone else, the tablet's lack of the Google Play Store is inconvenient, but Huawei's Petal Search workaround alleviates this somewhat. Meanwhile, owners of existing Huawei smartphones will even find plenty of synergy between their phones and the tablet. However, its S$498 price puts it squarely against similar mid-tier models from Apple and Samsung, which are not hamstrung by the lack of Google.

Quick specs

  • 10.4-inch (2,000 x 1,200 pixels) IPS touchscreen
  • Huawei Kirin 820 processor with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage
  • 460g
  • 7,250mAh battery

The MatePad has a contemporary tablet design. Slim and lightweight, it has a crisp and bright 10.4-inch display surrounded by narrow bezels. It is comfortable to hold one-handed in portrait or landscape orientation. The corners are rounded while the matte back is smooth, but not slippery. As is the trend nowadays, the MatePad has no headphone jack, though the quad speakers at the sides do sound plenty loud (but predictably lacks bass). It also has a microSD slot that allows for further storage (up to an additional 512GB). The rear and front cameras are usable, but likely a few notches below the ones in your smartphone. Inside, you'll find a mid-range Kirin 820 chip. The tablet feels responsive, and only gets slightly warm while running games such as Asphalt 9: Legends. Battery life was good at around 9hr 10min. In short, the MatePad performs as expected for a S$500 tablet.

Huawei MatePad
Enhancing the MatePad experience is the Smart Keyboard (S$148) and the M-Pencil (S$168). Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Software, though, is where things get sticky. The MatePad runs Huawei's EMUI 10.1 interface based on Android 10. But the tablet does not support Google apps and services because of a US trade ban. Huawei's workaround is Petal Search, which besides returning the usual search results (images and websites), also finds apps (in the form of APKs) from unofficial third-party app stores like APKPure. Hence, it is straightforward to install Android apps that are missing from Huawei's own AppGallery app store. Huawei is clearly keen to advertise this. A pamphlet included with my review unit listed Netflix and Disney+ as apps available thru Petal Search. The AppGallery store also has a good selection of apps for Singapore users, from essential (Singpass and big banks) to entertainment (meWatch and Viu) to shopping (FairPrice and Carousell).

Huawei MatePad
The Multi-Window feature lets you use two apps side by side. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

The MatePad's Huawei Share feature makes it easy to mirror the screen contents of a compatible Huawei smartphone on the tablet display. It also makes for seamless sharing of files (just drag and drop) between Huawei devices. I liked how easy it is to split the tablet screen and have two apps running side-by-side (or with one in a floating window) thru the Multi-Window feature. Just swipe from the left or right of the screen for the list of supported Multi-Window apps, and add a second app. But I'm not a fan of Today — Huawei's take on Google's Discover feed — because it has too many ads.

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Rounding off the MatePad experience are the Huawei Smart Keyboard (S$148) and the Huawei M-Pencil (S$168). The former also acts as a cover and props up the screen. Keys are small, but there's decent spacing between them. Meanwhile, the stylus (4,096 pressure levels) is handy for note-taking and doodling. But you can't recharge it wirelessly using the MatePad, unlike with the higher-end MatePad Pro. At S$498, the Huawei MatePad goes head to head with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 and the Apple iPad. To be fair, the MatePad edges its rivals with a faster processor or more internal storage. But its Google shortcomings may be too much of a hassle. Existing Huawei fans, though, should have no problem adapting. Get the Huawei MatePad from Shopee and Lazada — freebies worth up to S$180 (e.g. Huawei Smart Keyboard) are included for buyers before Jun 6, 2021.

Note: Review unit provided by Huawei.

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Competent tablet hamstrung by lack of Google.

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