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Huawei MatePad Pro initial review: A mighty fine tablet with one crucial flaw

Price when reviewed 
499
inc VAT

It’s undoubtedly a beast, but the Play Store is still MIA

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Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled the world’s first 5G tablet with an enhanced version of the Galaxy Tab S6. Not to be outdone, Huawei's own 5G-enabled tablet, the MatePad Pro, was revealed not long after. The good news is that it's finally in UK shops, but for some reason, only the 4G-supported model is available. The 5G variant is presumably MIA.

Regardless, the 4G MatePad Pro remains a slick stylish beast of a tablet that's significantly cheaper than all of its main rivals, although it does have a rather alarming flaw. 

Huawei MatePad Pro initial review: Key specs, price and release date

  • 10.8in (2,560 x 1,600) display
  • 90% screen-to-body ratio
  • Magnesium alloy frame
  • Hidden antennas
  • Kirin 990 SoC
  • 27W Huawei super wireless charger
  • 7.5W reverse wireless charging
  • Quad-channel speakers
  • Smart magnetic keyboard and stylus
  • UK Release date: 8 May
  • UK price: £499

Huawei MatePad Pro initial review: Design and key features

Let’s deal with that elephant in the room right away: the ongoing trade war between the US and China means that while there are familiar trappings of Android here there are significant things missing.

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American firms, including Google, are forbidden from dealing with Huawei and, while no one can stop the company using the open-source version of Android, that doesn’t include the full gamut of Google’s essential apps. That means no Gmail, no YouTube, and no Maps. There's not even a Google Play Store, so plugging these gaps – as well as many others – will be very difficult, if not impossible.

That might already have you mentally ruling out the MatePad Pro before I’ve gotten on to the good stuff. That’s understandable, but a shame, because there’s an awful lot of said good stuff to go around.

You’re looking at a 10.8in tablet with a 2,560 x 1,600, 16:10 display. Huawei’s war on bezels continues here with a screen surround that’s a mere 4.9mm thick. For context, the iPad Pro – no slouch in the aesthetics field – has 8.3mm bezels. This display, combined with the quad-speaker setup tuned by Harman Kardon, should make for a great portable cinema on the go.

It packs the latest Kirin 990 processor, too: a 7nm, 16-core chip that’s one of the fastest mobile chips around. The Kirin 990 was last seen powering the Mate 30 Pro, where it achieved impressive results across the board, and the MatePad Pro is no exception. Comparing Huawei's tablet with the Galaxy Tab S6 and iPad Pro, it certainly manages to hold its own performance-wise in our tests.

Battery life is also rather good. Lasting just over 12 hours in our battery rundown test, the MatePad Pro lags behind the Galaxy Tab S6 by about 3 hours, however, although it's only just behind the iPad Pro's 13-hour result.

Unusually for a tablet, the MatePad Pro can not only be charged wirelessly but is also capable of reverse charging. In other words, you can charge other wirelessly charging devices by placing them on its back.

This is a device that’s built for productivity. Not only has Huawei built a smart magnetic keyboard (£129) and stylus (£99) for the MatePad Pro, but it’s created a whole new way of multitasking within single apps called “Huawei App Multiplier”.

This effectively splits compatible apps into two windows. Using the bundled Booking.com app as an example: on one side of the screen, you see a list of hotels, while the other highlights more details of any selected.

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Huawei MatePad Pro initial review: Verdict

It’s a neat trick, but I still can’t get past the disquieting feeling that a couple of well-supported apps doesn’t make up for the loss of thousands of others thanks to the missing Play Store.

The United States’ foreign policy isn’t Huawei’s fault, of course, but the consequence is still the same. No matter how great this tablet is, it’s a bit of a tough sell here in the UK – especially if the 5G model is missing in action.

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