Apple's iPad Pro has not really had a proper challenger up until now. The Samsung Tab S6 came and went, but with the MatePad Pro (5G), Huawei has launched something quite interesting. Richard Yu presented the new pro tablet at a Huawei event in Barcelona (among other cities via a live stream) today. We went hands-on with the device to see what it is all about.
Undercutting Apple and Samsung on price
The Huawei MatePad Pro comes in several variants, but all are relatively competitively priced. For reference, the Apple iPad Pro starts at $1,049 in the United States, which is about €966. A Galaxy Tab S6 will cost you about $649 (€599) for the basic version.
The Huawei MatePad Pro comes in the following variants:
- 6GB/128GB, Wi-Fi only - €549
- 8GB/256GB, Wi-Fi only - €649
- 8GB/256GB, Wi-Fi only, Vegan Leather Edition with M-Pencil included - €749
- 6GB/128GB, LTE - €599
- 8GB/256GB, LTE - €699
Then LTE and Wi-Fi versions of the MatePad Pro will be available from April 2020. Then there are the 5G versions, which cost as follows:
- 8GB/256GB, 5G - €799
- 8GB/512GB, 5G - €949
There are four color variants available across the models. The regular glass models come in grey and white, whilst the vegan leather variants come in (dark) green and orange. The faux-leather versions, in particular, are very lovely to the touch.
World's highest screen-to-body ratio
The new MatePad Pro (5G) looks and feels like a premium tablet. It's slim at just 7.2mm thick and fairly light at 460 grams. The vegan leather edition has a bit more weight to it and comes in at 492 grams. These stats combine to create a powerful yet portable device, and during my short hands-on with the MatePad Pro, I found it very comfortable to handle.
Huawei has used what it is calling a micro-curved design on the MatePad Pro (5G) to ensures a comfortable hold while its magnesium alloy frame keeps the tablet light and durable. It's a unibody design where antennas are embedded into the middle frame and the back.
The screen-to-ratio is also impressive, coming in at 90 percent. For comparison, an iPad Pro, which already looks attractive with its tiny bezels, is at 84.6 percent. A Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has a screen to body ratio of 83 percent. So if it's slim bezels you are after, then Huawei is a winner. They measure just 4.9mm on the new MatePad Pro.
The display is the compromise here
The display is everything on a tablet, and Huawei is calling this its FullView Display, in light in light of that high screen-to-body ratio. It's a 10.8-inch 2K QHD with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 (280ppi). The DCI-P3 cinematic color gamut is also supported, and the screen is in 16:10.
The display itself is bright and beautiful to look at. I was only able to use the tablet for a short time in a brightly lit hands-on area at the Huawei event in Barcelona, but I was impressed by the sharpness of the display. It is not, however, quite up there with the competition. Apple's Liquid Retina displays are renowned for a reason and Samsung nails display quality on everything it makes, from smartphones to tablets and TVs. Huawei can claim to have the thinnest bezels and the best screen-to-body ratio, but the display quality is an area where it will struggle to beat the other two main players in this Pro-tablet game.
New keyboard, new M-Pencil, new multitasking
Huawei has done some interesting things with multitasking for the new MatePad Pro (5G). With the App Multiplier, you can have two or three windows of the same app and adjust the size with a slider, a bit like on the Samsung Galaxy Fold. You can also mirror your Huawei smartphone in a separate window and drag and drop files, text, and photos between the devices easily.
With Floating Window, you can respond to text messages while gaming or watching a film without minimizing the app and breaking out of immersion. Huawei says that by the end of March 2020, about 3,000 of the top global apps will support this feature.
The MatePad Pro (5G) supports the new M-Pencil 9, making it an absolute joy to write on glass surfaces. With 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support 10 and a tip made of a unique composite material, I was impressed by the accuracy, responsiveness, and sensitivity of the M-Pencil. Placing the M-Pencil on the top of the MatePad Pro automatically initiates Bluetooth pairing and magnetic charging. Those with more artistic ability than me can do wonders with this.
The MatePad Pro (5G) is also designed to be used with the Smart Magnetic Keyboard 11 that can be connected via Bluetooth. The vegan leather keyboard folio features a 1.3mm key travel distance for comfortable typing while the Shift key doubles as a toggle for Huawei Share, providing quick access to the Multiscreen Collaboration feature.
Finally, and all-new Desktop Mode also supports up to eight concurrently open apps or processes. In this mode, users can quickly look up the files they need using the powerful search functionality. The improved WPS app adds support for voice note input and smart pencil-brush mode.
I was only able to type a few simple sentences and do some freehand writing the M-Pencil during my hands-on, but it felt good. We'll have to put these accessories to the test properly when we can get our hands on a review device.
Powered by the Kirin 990
Huawei is claiming this to be the most powerful 5G tablet in the world. It's powered by the latest Kirin 990 flagship chipset with a base clock of up to 2.86GHz. The CPU inside adopts a triple-tiered architecture comprising two big cores, two mid cores, and four tiny cores. The 16-core Mali-G76 GPU is meant to improve performance and battery life for a smooth gaming and entertainment experience too. Then there's the 5G support, of course.
It will be interesting to see how this hardware performs when we put the MatePad Pro (5G) through some serious productivity tasks and gaming. Huawei says that the new Desktop Mode does not impact performance even at maximum capacity, though. We'll see about that.
Huawei MatePad Pro audio
In terms of the audio experience, Huawei has given the MatePad Pro (5G) Histen 6.0 support to drive 3D stereo sound effects. The high-amplitude quad-channel quad-speaker is tuned by Harman Kardon and is meant to reproduce even the most intricate sounds with impeccable clarity. There are also five far-field microphones on this to aid with noise-cancellation.
Of course, it was impossible to test the audio quality properly in a busy and noisy hands-on area at the Huawei event. We will have to get back to on this one and see if those promises are delivered.
Reverse wireless charging on a tablet
The Huawei MatePad Pro (5G) features a 7250mAh battery. It comes with a 20W power adapter but it also supports the 40W Huawei SuperCharge. You'll have to buy that separately. What's cool here is that the MatePad Pro is the world’s first tablet to support wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. Think if like a huge wireless charging pad, which when placed face down can charge you smartphone or wireless headphones.
Huawei didn't really go into detail on the battery life during the presentation, and naturally, I couldn't test it during my short hands-on with the tablet, but all will be revealed once these start shipping out to reviewers and journalists.
Huawei MatePad Pro technical specifications
I was pretty impressed during my short time with the Huawei MatePad Pro (5G). In terms of raw power, features, and connectivity, it looks like a real alternative to the Apple iPad Pro and the Samsung Tab S6, especially when you factor in the price.
There is much more to check out here - yes, there are cameras but who cares about cameras on a tablet bar a decent selfie cam for video calls? - and I'm excited to go deeper down the rabbit hole. The question of whether or not 5G on a tablet is needed or worthwhile in 2020 will likely crop up. Huawei was talking about 5G cloud gaming, amongst other uses, at the presentation and this still feels quite far away from where we will be when this launches in April.
For now, I'll reserve judgment on the MatePad Pro (5G) and just say this: it looks cool and I want to see more. What do you think of the MatePad Pro (5G)? Could this be an iPad Pro killer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.