At a glance
Matte displayPremium buildSolid performanceExcellent M-Pencil included
No Google services supportLimited range of appsSmart Keyboard is frustrating
The MatePad PaperMatte is a very nice tablet, with the inclusion of the Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil making it something of a bargain. But, the absence of the Google Play store and Google services is a huge drawback in terms of what you can do with this device.
Chinese tech giant Huawei is back with a new mid-range tablet that boasts a matte-display to make it easier to see in all situations. But, can that overcome the perennial struggle the company has with a lack of Google apps?
At £399 with a keyboard and stylus included in the box, it’s a good purchase if it fits your needs and has the apps you want to use regularly.
Design & Build
Slim and sleek design
Metal unibody chassis
No fingerprint sensor
The MatePad is a refined and smart looking device, with Huawei opting for a metal unibody construction for the chassis, adorned with a subtle Space Grey livery.
You’ll find the single volume rocker button on the top edge (when in landscape mode) with a power button situated on the upper left flank, all of which work well and feel responsive to the touch. The lower edge is home to a POGO pin connector to which you can attach external keyboards, such as the Smart Keyboard included in the PaperMatte bundle, while the right edge houses the USB-C charging port.
Flipping it over reveals a single camera in the top right corner, with a small camera bump allowing for the lens and sensor to nestle comfortably. You won’t find an embedded fingerprint sensor on the PaperMatte, so it’s facial recognition to unlock the device or use a PIN. There’s also no IP rating listed, so it would be best to keep the tablet away from water.
At 499g it’s reasonably light in the hand, and the 261 x 177 x 6.85mm dimensions make it a compact device. To be honest, it’s pretty standard fare in terms of modern tablets, but the device feels well-built and looks expensive nonetheless.
As part of the PaperMatte bundle you also get Huawei M-Pencil included, so you’ll be able to doodle or take written notes straight out of the box.
Huawei has done its job here, as the panel looks good, is easy on the eye, and avoids seeming fuzzy
Screen & Speakers
120Hz refresh rate
As with the standard MatePad, you get an 11.5in LCD IPS display, running at a 2200 x1440 resolution and 229ppi. There’s also a 60- to 120Hz variable refresh rate, which is impressive at this price point, especially when you consider that Apple holds back this feature for its expensive iPad Pro models.
Obviously, the main selling point of this tablet is the Matte display. This is a form of textured panel that has undergone nano-level etching, which can apparently eliminate 97% of all light interference.
This makes the display more suitable for use in brightly-lit conditions, where normally the reflective nature of screens would make them hard to read. Huawei has done its job here, as the panel looks good, is easy on the eye, and avoids seeming fuzzy, which can be the case when you apply a screen protector or matte cover to achieve the same results on other devices.
At just under 400 nits brightness, the PaperMatte is great indoors and can certainly hold its own in bright sunlight. The display does wash out somewhat as light hits it, but it’s still legible and you won’t see your own face staring back at you as you try to work or catch up on the lastest Netflix exclusive.
The texture of the glass is also interesting under the fingers, as it feels slightly different to the ultra smooth ones you might encounter on devices like an iPad. There’s no drag or anything like that, but it has a small resistance that can make it more tactile when operating the device. This is also intended to make the surface feel more like paper when using the M-Pencil, which I’ll cover in more detail below.
Sound is provided by four speakers, with two housed on each of the shorter sides. They kick out a decent amount of volume, so you could watch a movie or show with a couple of friends and not struggle with the audio levels. Tonally, things are a bit thin, with the bass not really having much presence.
If you want the best sound when listening to music or watching an immersive film, then popping on some bluetooth headphones will deliver more satisfying results than the speakers. The PaperMatte features Bluetooth 5.2, so you should get a reliable signal for streaming audio, but there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack for wired speakers or headphones.
Specs & Performance
Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset
Adreno 644 GPU
Huawei has gone with a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 SoC for the PaperMatte, which is a solid choice for a mid-range tablet. It’s bolstered by an Adreno 644 GPU, and the general feel of the device is that it’s quick and pleasant to use.
The PaperMatte copes happily with opening, running and closing apps, while the split screen feature doesn’t seem to impact the speed of things at all with two apps running simultaneously.
Gaming is also fun on the PaperMatte, with various titles I found in the Huawei App Gallery playing smoothly
Gaming is also fun on the PaperMatte, with various titles I found in the Huawei App Gallery playing smoothly, even when the action got a bit frantic. We’ve seen from Huawei phones that the company knows how to put together good hardware, and this tablet proves that the Chinese engineers have lost none of their prowess.
The device comes with 8GB of memory, which is plenty for this kind of device, plus there’s 256GB of storage available, so you’ll be able to download plenty of movies, music and games if you’re going to be away from a Wi-Fi connection for an extended time. When you get back to a network, the Wi-Fi 6 capabilities of the PaperMatte will help get the fastest connection (so long as you have a Wi-Fi 6 router, otherwise it will be standard Wi-Fi 5 speeds).
I put the PaperMatte through our normal barrage of bench test apps, and here’s how it fared against some of its closest rivals:
Smart Keyboard & M-Pencil
Smart Keyboard doubles as case
Google Docs support is ropey
M-Pencil work well with textured display
Alongside the PaperMatte tablet itself, Huawei also includes the Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil accessories as part of the deal making it a good value-for-money package.
The keyboard is pretty standard stuff, with a protective rubber casing for the tablet attached to make it a compact clamshell-like mini-laptop. There’s a groove above the keyboard area that also features the power connectors so that the case can draw its charge from the PaperMatte.
You only have one angle available, and it’s a little steep, so it doesn’t really feel like a setup that you’d want to use for long writing sessions. You can detach the tablet from the keyboard though, as they have a magnetic bar, which makes the distance between them a little further apart, which may suit you better.
The keyboard itself is frustrating, as it’s a bit spongy and doesn’t always register keystrokes, particularly on the space bar. For quick edits or working while on a short train-ride it’s fine, but any longer than that and things could get quite annoying.
The M-Pencil is a much nicer device to work with, especially with the textured display surface on the PaperMatte. Writing notes feels more controlled than with a lot of styli I’ve used over the years, and the dedicated Huawei apps do a great job of registering and tracking the M-Pencil while delivering very good palm rejection.
It also has a replaceable tip, which should make it last for a good while. It comes with a magnetic charger that plugs into the PaperMatte and the M-Pencil can also be attached to the magnetic bar on the case if you need to store it when not in use.
13 MP f/1.8 rear camera
8 MP f/2.2 front camera
Various camera modes available
Cameras on tablets aren’t usually as important to people as they are on phones, but they’re still worth having as long as you don’t expect too much. The main shooter on the PaperMatte is a 13Mp f/1.8 module that can capture some respectable images and video when the light is good.
There’s also a few modes, such as panorama, time lapse and the beautifying setting that just makes you look like you’re in soft focus.
The camera you’ll probably use the most is the front facing 8Mp f/2.2, as it can be used in video calls. It’s again a passable camera that should be fine for Zoom and the like. It tops out at 1080p at 30fps, so you should look clear to the other participants on a call. The dual microphones also cope well with this kind of endeavour.
Here’s an example of the front camera quality:
Battery Life & Charging
USB-C Charging port
Up to 22.5W charging
Decent battery life is a must with tablets, as you don’t want to put it down for a couple of days then find it’s dead when you next need it. The PaperMatte is solid in this regard, with the device lasting for days of intermittent use.
The 7700mAh cell delivered plenty of juice, scoring a healthy 8 hours and 23 minutes in our benchmark test.
Replenishing the power is reasonable too, with the supplied charger which supports 10-, 18- and 22.5W speeds, and USB-C cable taking a flat battery up to 25% in 30 minutes, and a full 100% in just over 2 hours.
It all looks very familiar, acting as a kind of hybrid between Android and iPadOS
Software & Apps
No Google Services support
Huawei App Gallery is still quite barren
Due to Huawei’s on-going battle with the US government, the latter of which still bans devices by the Chinese company, there’s no Android operating system on the PaperMatte.
Instead, Huawei has developed its own HarmonyOS, of which this is the 3.1 variant. It all looks very familiar, acting as a kind of hybrid between Android and iPadOS. Icons are laid out in the standard grids, but can be moved around, plus there’s widgets available to make the layout more customisable and useful.
The lack of Google support – as we’ve seen on the Huawei Mate X3 and P60 Pro means there is no Play Store available, which is a big problem. There is the Huawei App Gallery, but that lacks many of the main apps you’d expect to see on a tablet, including most popular music and video streaming services, all of the Google apps (including YouTube), plus plenty of others.
Yes, you can often access a web version, as you would with a Chromebook, but they don’t behave as well on a tablet as they do on those laptops.
YouTube, for example, will let you watch your favourite creators, but the interface is a clunky affair that doesn’t fit with the simplicity we’ve all grown used to on iPads and other popular devices of this type. Google Docs was also accessible, but I experienced regular doubling of words I’d typed, as well as delays of words appearing on screen. It wasn’t an optimum experience.
There are ways to download the APK (Android Application Package) file for certain popular apps, which can then be installed on the PaperMatte, but this can be a risky way to do things. You’ve no way of knowing whether the software has been tampered with and could potentially be installing spyware or other compromised software directly onto your device.
This is then a security weakness when you log into your accounts through these versions of the programs. HarmonyOS does run a security check before allowing apps to be installed, but we’ve no way of testing if this is effective or not so be warned.
All that being said, it really depends what you want to do with the PaperMatte that will decide its usability. Huawei includes several productivity apps on the device, which can make it a handy working tool if you’re not bothered by the omission of Google’s app ecosystem.
The Notes app has some cool features and works well with the included M-Pencil, there’s also a calendar, browser, email client, plus the other standard apps for getting work done. You’ll need to work through the Huawei platform for the best performance, which means embracing all it has to offer.
As I say, if you want a simple, lightweight device for writing or working on the go, then the PaperMatte has some nice built-in features, but the missing apps are hard to ignore.
Price & Availability
The 11.5in MatePad PaperMatte is available for £399/€499 from Huawei and comes with the Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil as part of the package. This is a reasonable price for a nice mid-range tablet, although it does put the PaperMatte up against some strong opposition.
The OnePlus Pad is around the same price, at $499/£449 and has access to the Google Play store, but it doesn’t include a keyboard case or stylus and only offers half the storage of the PaperMatte. There’s also the 10th generation 10.9in iPad, which boasts the excellent range of dedicated iPadOS apps and a price of $449/£499. The measly 64GB of storage is the only real drawback.
To see what other options are available, check out our best tablets chart.
Should you buy the Huawei MatePad PaperMatte?
Huawei continues to make great hardware, with the MatePad PaperMatte being a compact and comfortable device to use. The display reacts well to strong light sources, while generally making things easy on the eye. It’s also good that you get the Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil as part of the deal, even if the former wasn’t that impressive.
The achilles heel remains the absence of the Google Play store and Google services. It’s been a problem for a while, and who knows if the US will rescind its ban in the future. Until then, even with Huawei developing some good apps and allowing APKs to be downloaded and installed, the app gap makes the PaperMatte less appealing than something like the iPad, OnePlus Pad or any other quality Android tablet.
If the ban ends tomorrow, then the PaperMatte could instantly become and excellent option, until then it’s something of a niche product.
11.5in IPS LCD panel with matte coating, 2200 x 1440 resolution, 229ppi
Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset
Adreno 644 GPU
13Mp f/1.8 rear camera
8Mp f/2.2 front camera
Ambient light sensor, Gravity sensor, Hall sensor
USB-C (USB 2.0)
7700 mAh battery
260.88 x 176.82 x 6.85mm