Test: Huawei Matepad Pro – Ambitious and slightly cumbersome tablet

The name Matepad Pro suggests that it wants to compete with Samsung’s Tab S6 / S7 and Apple Ipad Pro, but the price tag is closer to regular Ipad and Ipad Air. Regardless, the plate feels unexpectedly cheap in design, with an anonymous frame and plastic back. Outside Sweden, however, it is sold with the back in chic clothing in other colors. Huawei’s previous tablet in the corresponding class, the Mediapad M5, felt more luxurious, and was thinner, but the Matepad Pro is lighter.

The front stands out in any case for unusually narrow frames around the screen of a tablet. There is just enough room here for the plate not to be hard to hold. The sound, with four speakers placed around the plate, also feels luxurious and is excellent for film viewing.

As an accessory there is a shell with a built-in keyboard, and a stylus. That way the plate feels complete, and the only thing that is a bit disappointing is the battery life, which does not come up in six hours of video streaming with full brightness on the screen.

No Google app store

Huawei has been banned by US authorities, which means they are not allowed to cooperate with Google. They can still make Android mobiles via the open source version of Android, but then Google services are missing. Most understandably the Play Store app store, but also for example Gmail and Google Maps. Huawei is going high to develop its own options and solutions to the app problem, and the possibilities change from month to month, but the constant thing is that you have to work around the lack of Google services.

But a tablet is used differently than a mobile, and the apps you miss most in the Huawei P40 may not necessarily be as lacking in the Matepad Pro tablet?

I simply decided to form a proper opinion by going through all the about 120 apps I use to see the different options available.

I started in Huawei’s own app store Appgallery. Here I found almost none of the apps I use. For some there are similar alternatives, for others I get a link to download them from the web in the app store, and still others open a mobile website for the service.

However, Huawei has more tools to offer. First, there is the Petal Search app, which helps you find so-called apk files, that is, the installation files needed for the app outside the Play Store. A large part of all apps can be found in this way.

Even more effective given that you have the prerequisites is the Phone Clone app, which lets you copy the content from another Android mobile, including installed apps. If this other mobile is not a Huawei mobile of newer model, it is only to install the app there first and then transfer it then the thing is steak. Phone Clone is actually made to move content when you get a new mobile, so it’s a little tricky to just install a few new apps that way, but it works. On the other hand, to move the rubbers and stubs from another unit is really smooth. However, if you are an iPhone user, Phone Clone does not offer a solution to the problem, but Petal Search can to a large extent cover it up.

Above all, with the help of Phone Clone, I get over almost all the apps I use, including for example banking apps, Netflix and Spotify. Some apps, on the other hand, do not work properly, and you can see a clear pattern in what works and does not work.

First of all, of course, Google’s apps. You do not get them regardless of any of the above methods. There have been loopholes to get Google services in Huawei devices, but they usually close as soon as they are discovered.

Secondly, it is mainly two Google features that many apps call, and that is the maps and the Play Games feature. Thus, apps that depend on navigation or that games are saved between devices often work only partially or not at all.

As an example, you can take travel apps for public transport. Sometimes the app is the main way to buy a one-off ticket. Typical of the public transport apps is that the ticket purchase functions actually work, but if you try to find a route you will usually get an error message.

Bus tickets, of course, are a typical example of a function that you would like to have in your mobile phone, but that does not feel as important in the tablet. With games it is quite the opposite, it is precisely in the plate you want them, for the gaming experience to be better with a big screen. The games that use Google Play Games are usually up and running despite an error message, but you should not expect your ongoing games to be saved properly. All in all, the absence of popular games in Huawei’s App Gallery feels like they can’t be transferred with Phone Clone as one of the biggest handicaps on the album.

The other thing you use tablets most often is to look at the moving image, and the lack of Youtube feels natural. For Google services, the option to open them in the web browser remains. It works really well with Youtube, and I can even helpfully use the note keeping service and the music service Youtube Music, but not as smoothly as with the associated app. Other video services like the aforementioned Netflix usually work with other ways to install the app.

Inventive

The system is, as I said, Android 10, and apart from Huawei struggling to fill the gap after Google’s services, there are no major changes to how the system works. So you recognize yourself with the same navigation buttons or sweepstakes, the same status bar at the top, the same settings and so on.

This does not mean that Huawei has no ambitions for the system. On the contrary, this is the most ambitious attempt to find added value for tablet in addition to things only appearing larger on a larger screen. There are no less than four different ways to get screen content in multiple windows, and a couple of them are better than any previous attempt I’ve seen. Unfortunately, for various reasons, you do not quite reach the end of the user experience, and that there are four completely different ways is of course a problem in itself.

If we start with the “most common” of the shared screen features, it works much like other Android devices. That is, you get the screen split between two apps, with a borderline between them that you can move, and it’s pretty booky to get to which two apps to share the screen. If you also need to enter text, the onscreen keyboard covers so much that it won’t be useful with two windows. However, if you have the keyboard cover, it obviously works better.

The more interesting is the possibility to open apps in floating windows. This is done from the multi-choice menu where an icon clearly shows which apps support the function, yes it generally feels easier and more logical to use this function than the usual screen sharing function.

The fact that the window also has the approximate size of a regular mobile screen is really smart. After all, there are no apps that have trouble displaying in that format. Unfortunately, not all apps seem to think about it. Many apps, therefore, do not scale properly in the window, and the text becomes either too big or too small.

App Multiplier is called a third way to split the screen and it’s actually really smart. You need that feature in the settings to turn on, per app. Why not have it in the same place as the floating windows?

The app support for this feature is currently slim, and most surprising is that Huawei’s own apps do not support it. At least I find a couple of apps that use it so I can get a taste of how it might work in the future if more apps are supported.

With App Multiplier, the app appears as usual when you have the tablet in portrait mode, but when you switch to landscape, the window is split into two portrait versions of the same app. For example, if you click on a link to the left, it opens in the window to the right and you remain on the main page to the left. It is understood that it requires some of the app developer to use both windows in a logical way, and on one occasion, the app I test depends on that one of the windows contains a cookie request from a website that does not fit into the image.

Common to these three methods is that they all work quite poorly with Android’s function of going backwards in the system, whether you use swipe gestures from the screen side or menu bar at the bottom. For which window is the one to step back in? On a computer it solves that one of the windows is considered active at a time, but no such distinction is found here. With an app in a window you can sometimes step backwards by swiping upwards in the window, but of course it is completely different to how the rest of the system works.

Mobile on the plate

There is a kind of fourth function for having more windows on the plate, and there you have actually solved that with menu buttons. It’s about what is called multi screen collaboration, which assumes that you have your mobile screen in a window on the tablet. This currently only works with a few Huawei mobiles, such as the P40 series. You should be able to connect with Bluetooth, NFC or QR code, but I only make NFC work. The plate does not have NFC built-in, but the keyboard accessory has an NFC circuit. My connection troll is resolved securely with updated software.

Once paired, you really get the screen of the mobile as a window on the plate, in addition with its own menu buttons at the bottom. You can control the screen from both the phone and the tablet, with a certain layer.

What I should have this feature for is another question. All the apps I have on my mobile I can have on the plate. The clearest area of ​​use is to respond to SMS with the help of the keyboard accessory, but there may be other clean applications I have not thought of.

But what is striking is how similar but at the same time different windows become when you have a shared screen and the aforementioned app window. Both become roughly the same size windows, but the mobile screen is more easily navigated and apps scale better when viewed as they appear on the mobile screen. You could say that multi screen collaboration looks and works like I think app windows should really work.

So there is a lot of potential and several brilliant ideas in how to make better use of the big screen here, but the result would be better if the teams that developed the different functions merged and took the best of each and made them more alike.

To sum up, Huawei Matepad is a really great tablet if you want to watch movies or surf the web. Then, the lack of Google’s app store is just a minor inconvenience. If games are to be played on it, it is more problematic, and you definitely cannot expect that everything you want is there and works. Huawei’s in-house developed features are interesting and promising, but at least not today enough to make purchasing decisions just on that basis.

On the other hand

Erik Mörner: Depending on what you are looking for in a tablet, you should prioritize different things. Huawei’s tablet is cheaper than Apple’s Ipad Pro, which I recently tested, but it’s also a big difference in quality. So big that I respond to Pro in the name of Mediapad Pro. The keyboard shell for Ipad Pro with backlight, touchpad and excellent control of the system in that way makes it superior.

Questions and answers:

How’s the keyboard? It is adjustable in two positions and has decent feel of the buttons, but the backlight is missing.

Does it have a headset jack? No, but adapter is included.

Are there fingerprint readers? No. It is face unlock or code that applies to unlock the plate.

An alternative

Apple’s iPad is in the same price range and has wider app support, but worse speakers for movie viewing.

Test pattern

It does not need much movement to blur the image even in good light, and the camera does its best to shoot documents and the like.