If we’re being completely candid, 2019 and 2020 have been difficult years for Huawei to navigate. There have been two major blows to their credibility, with the biggest issue coming in the shape of the revocation of their Google Play Services due to the US trade ban. In a nutshell, Google Play Services, the core part of the Android Ecosystem will cease to function on future Huawei Products (as things stand now). So what can the Huawei MatePad 10.4 do to entice consumers all the same?
- Amazing Display
- Monstrous Battery Life
- Exceptional Hardware
- Okay Performance
- Beats Audio Like Speakers
- Software Can be an Issue
Huawei being the warrior of a company they are, this roadblock isn’t phasing them in the slightest. Still releasing devices in the same quality and attention they had been doing before. The P40 Pro, for example, is quite possibly one of the best smartphones of the year, but nobody will buy it. In the tablet space, Huawei has most recently added a new MatePad to their portfolio to come in slightly cheaper than its Pro model, which is aptly named the ‘10.4’. With thanks to Huawei, I have received the latest MatePad in for review with no Google Services in sight. Will my experience be that of bewilderment or utter torment? Well, let’s find out.
Hardware: Huawei at its Best
For as long as Huawei have existed as a company making smart devices, there’s always been one constant: making brilliant hardware.
The Huawei MatePad 10.4 is no exception to this, either. As it’s meant to be a more budget-friendly version of the Pro model, obviously sacrifices had to be made in certain departments with the hardware, which as obvious as it may seem is the materials used when it comes to making it.
As soon as you unbox the MatePad, you’re instantly greeted and overwhelmed by the boisterous 10.4-inch display, with the screen blending into the very slim bezels like a work of extraordinary art. The curvaceous edges of the device itself feel ergonomically wonderful to behold and you can tell a level of care and detail went into making this device for almost half the cost of the Pro model.
Feeling the device itself, you would be under the impression that this device was made out of some faux-metal material with how cold it is to the touch when first placing your hands on the device. But after researching into this further, the 10.4 is indeed made out of plastic, but yet again Huawei has blurred the lines between a premium feeling device, and a budget device. This device honestly feels like its Pro brother in most scenarios when it comes to the look of it, and that’s an amazing feat for Huawei to pull off for a fraction of the cost of its bigger brother.
The MatePad 10.4 comes in 2 varieties of colours, Grey and Blue. Huawei was kind enough to send me the Grey version of this device, and as to be expected…it’s Grey. Not overpoweringly Grey like the Samsung S20’s Grey which could blind you if you looked at it too long, but Huawei went down the Midnight Grey look, and it adds further to the premium aspect of this device.
Running through the rest of the hardware, I have the 3GB RAM, with the 32GB Storage option. There is a higher storage option of 64GB with 4GB RAM, which retails on Huawei’s store at £269.99. The variant I have retails at £199.99. If you fancy increasing the storage, you are very much in luck as Huawei provides a MicroSD card slot within the device so you can expand it up to 512GB.
In terms of dimensions, this device is relatively thin compared to other tablets on the market, with a width of 245.2mm this device is best performed under widescreen experiences for the full cinematic experience when watching your favourite shows. A portrait is manageable, although can be quite cumbersome at times. The height of this device is 154.96mm, and depth is 7.35mm. It weighs approximately 450g including the battery. So overall, this device is surprisingly lightweight for a device that carries a 7250mAh battery.
In summary, the hardware of this Huawei MatePad is utterly exceptional for the price tag Huawei have given it. It feels beautiful to hold, has a massive edge to edge display and doesn’t feel like a tablet that’s less than £300. It feels eerily similar to the Pro Model, without the Pro costs.
Display: Exceptional for the Price
In terms of reference points for displays in tablets, my knowledge of them isn’t as vast as it is when it comes to smartphone displays. But, as far as I’m aware, a tablet display is very much like a smartphone display but blown up by a couple of times with an increase resolution to not replicate Minecraft.
Weighing in at a respectable resolution of 1200×2000 pixels, and an aspect ratio of 5:3, you can easily tell from the first time you touch this device, or even see it, that this is meant for landscape viewing and is primarily aimed at the media watcher and gamer alike.
This being an LCD, it ranks pretty high up in my estimations as soon as the vibrancy of the stock EMUI wallpaper pops up after initial setup. You can tell Huawei put a lot of effort into replicating the feel of an OLED display, without increasing the overall cost of the device that OLED usually brings. Colours pop out at you with volition and it’s something I noticed when I reviewed the Nova 5T a few months back, just on a much smaller scale.
Whites appear to be on the warmer side, with Huawei providing an aptitude of options to create your white balance for your personal preferences.
Blacks, as to be expected for an LCD panel are a little lacking if you’re viewing it at any other angle than head-on. It’s understandable from the perspective of Huawei, as when you create a device as massive as a tablet and combine it with a display of this calibre, there’s a lot more of a surface area to see its cracks pull through. Much like the iPad I have, it has the same problem.
Overall, though, the Huawei MatePad’s display is wonderful for the majority of things you throw at it. Media viewing gives you a purely cinematic experience when you factor in the bolstering stereo speakers and combining that aspect with the vibrantly, exceptionally executed display calibration on Huawei’s part, it’s hard not to recommend this to anybody who likes viewing media for the majority of their downtime.
Audio: Beats Level of Greatness
Remember back when the HTC One M7 came out, and the main thing people were shouting about with this device was its amazing calibration of its dual speakers? That device paved the way for Smart device audio, with bass-rich, treble effective greatness and could go as loud as you could imagine without the annoying distortion you get on most modern devices nowadays.
With the Huawei MatePad, this is the closest I have felt to the Beats Audio experience HTC once pioneered back when they weren’t just a company that just made VR headsets. The MatePad has 4 speakers covering all 4 corners of the device, so no matter which way you’re holding it, there’s a surround sound experience waiting for you.
The sound it produces is just exceptional on so many levels. It replicates the bass-rich experience HTC managed to pull off so many years ago, and the amount of treble that exhumes from this device is just astronomical. Not only that, but the loudness is deafening at some points. Of course, that’s when you go up to the maximum volume, but for the most part, I never used this device over halfway.
It does baffle me that a tablet that costs a fraction of an iPad Pro can reproduce some of the best audio quality I have ever experienced from a tablet and it isn’t even close in my estimations.
Hats off to Huawei on this one, because they did an outstanding job in this department.
Performance: Hard to Beat
If there’s always one constant when it comes to a Huawei device in general, it’s usually the performance that becomes the most consistent of them all due to their hard work on the Kirin chips. With a relatively new Kirin 810 chip coupled with the Mali-G52 GPU, the MatePad 10.4 packs an unusually large punch for something so cheap in comparison to other devices out there.
Not only that but with up to 6GB RAM on the highest variant, apps rarely leave the atmosphere when you open a multitude of others. Memory management is a nice thing to see from a manufacturer, as most of them rarely get it right or tweak it too aggressively.
In terms of gaming performance with the usual games I play on a day to day basis (Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty Mobile), both games perform exceptionally well even on the highest graphics quality setting. Not entirely surprising from a Huawei device, but welcomed.
For standard usage, this device performs more than adequately. From opening the simplest of web pages to an intensive application like Facebook, there’s no real difference in the speeds it takes to open both which is a testament to Huawei’s work on the memory management, coupled with the insane speed of the Kirin chip.
As I mentioned previously, memory management on MatePad 10.4 is quite frankly wonderful. As a test, I opened Facebook first thing in the morning and didn’t open it for the rest of the day to see how long it kept in memory for before opening from scratch. After 7 or so hours, I opened Facebook again and just like magic, it returned to its original form where I left it off previously.
Overall, the performance of this device is quite exceptional for the price point Huawei is selling this at. It performs better than most Laptops for double the price, and that’s an amazing feat for something so much smaller and thinner.
Software: The Infuriating Part
This is the section I have been dreading to write for the best part of a week now, because I wanted to like this device and, for the most part, I did fall in love with it. Problem is, there’s a massive elephant in the room; no Google Play Services. This version of EMUI is sans-Google due to the sanctions against them in the US, and Google ignoring the fact they ever existed in this space.
The first problem with the software, in a long line of many annoying things, is the sheer that the Huawei AppGallery is an absolute cesspit of poorly optimised, uninteresting, and unpopular apps unless you like TikTok or Asphalt 9. Most, if not all of the apps and games that are featured in the AppGallery are just carbon copies of already popular games to fill the void of not having any concrete things on there.
As of writing this, the AppGallery only features apps such as Amazon Shopping, Snapchat, and Marvel Forces. Upon searching for the apps you need, there’s no Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Netflix or anything of real importance unless you love a copied game.
Luckily, though, you can sideload a lot of the APKs you need without putting your device at risk with thanks to the in-built virus scanning Android provides. The best method I found was to download the APKPure application, but Huawei does provide their option and alternative to this called ‘Petal Search‘. What Petal Search does is search the internet for APKs with the most up-to-date software number and installs it for you automatically and it comes with a built-in widget for your home screen so you can search for whatever you’d like.
With those two methods, you can get most of the apps you need without much of an issue, but I found the following apps to be quite cumbersome:
- YouTube: Obviously without Google Play Services you’re going to have a hard time for a Google-owned application to work fully, or if at all. As to be expected, YouTube doesn’t work if you just sideload the APK and the only real alternative you have is to use the YouTube web app and add the bookmark to your home screen. One saving grace about the web app is that it’s not entirely disappointing and provides all the features the app does.
- Forza Street: Probably a very niche game but one I play on quite a lot of occasions when I’m bored. The game refuses to open whatsoever when attempting to open it. I’m assuming it’s because of the Google Play Games integration that stops it at the first hurdle but I’d need to look into this further.
- Twitch: Now, Twitch does work when you sideload the APK from APKPure, but upon opening the app is does give an error saying ‘Google Play services aren’t installed and you’d need to install them to continue’. As soon as you click ‘OK’ to that error, the app works normal and you can even sign in.
- Netflix: Again, Netflix works perfectly fine but it only lets you view things in the standard definition of 480p so it’s effectively pointless. There probably is a way to change the settings files of the app through a root explorer but I didn’t have the time or energy to research that further as I wanted to use the device as a standard consumer would.
Apart from the absolute farce of installing the applications you need, after that, the experience is relatively smooth sailing. Sure, it takes longer than most experiences to get set up for the first time but after that, I had no issues with the device.
In terms of the look of the software, it’s EMUI 10.1 and looks gorgeous and the accentuation of the translucency throughout the whole design goes well with the edge to edge experience of the 10.4-inch display. One thing to be concerned about, though, which is completely unacceptable for any device running Android is the fact that this MatePad has not received a security update since February. Now, I can let off the fact that apps do take twice the time to find, but as soon as you’ve found them you’re golden, but to leave a device for months on end opening up to vulnerabilities across the board is completely unacceptable in my eyes.
In summary, the software experience of the Huawei MatePad 10.4 is infuriating. As soon as you’re done finding the apps you need, and become used to the experiences Huawei provide, it becomes a lot less so. Luckily, Huawei did not stray too far away from the beautiful design of EMUI 10, and it ranks quite high up there for me in terms of implementation generally.
Camera: Falling Flat
Now when it comes to tablets, the last thing you think about in terms of its performance and capabilities is the camera. And if you’re one of those people that uses a tablet camera in public for whatever reason, then what the hell are you doing? To quote Blizzard when Diablo: Immortals was announced: “Do you guys not have phones?”.
Anyway, I digress. For professionalism’s sake, I’ll go ahead and give my comprehensive opinion on the camera performance of this tablet because there are people out there that do look for a decent camera in their tablet. Cameras on this form factor might form more of the average consumers’ purchasing decision now more video conferencing is occurring due to the COBID-19 pandemic and the various stages of lockdown.
For the rear-facing camera, it’s a standard 8MP shooter with nothing other than a flash to combine with it. In terms of picture quality, it’s not going to win any awards for the best tablet camera, or camera, in general, any time soon. Pictures come out over sharpened to compensate for the lack of quality it has and oversaturates every shot you could throw at it to make it look like HDR but without the actual feature of HDR.
In terms of post-processing the images, the Huawei MatePad 10.4 does a decent enough job at it, albeit overblowing all the proportions tenfold to hide the pixelation the massive display would show due to it being as mentioned, massive.
One thing I have been impressed with using on the MatePad is the front-facing camera. I have a MacBook with the FaceTime HD Camera, and it compares to that almost like-for-like. As a test, the usual Zoom meetings I attend through my MacBook I attended through my MatePad instead and it was a wonderful experience from start to finish. Coupled with the insanely clear speakers, the overall feeling I had when finishing my usual meetings was that of complete ease and no issues whatsoever with the experience.
The picture quality is punchy, but not overdoing it as the rear-facing camera does, and the sharpness the camera manages to produce is quite amazing for the price this device currently retails at. Ignoring my ugly mug, you can see at how much of a wide-angle the shots produce also from the sample I have provided. As much as camera experiences in a tablet rarely pique my interest, the front-facing camera overall had me quite excited to attend meetings for the first time in my life.
Battery Life: Will This Thing Die?
As is with most things nowadays, tablets always have one thing in common when it comes to being either an utter success or an overall failure: and that’s battery life. With the Huawei MatePad, it luckily falls into the category of being astonishing in this department.
There were many points during this review where I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to test how long it would take to charge from 0% because it only reached that point exactly once during my 2-week tenure with the device. Yes, that includes using it constantly for my review period and not switching it off once during that period either. I managed to surpass a whopping 10 hours screen on time before it actually dying on me. That includes heavy gaming, watching multiple films and standard social media browsing in this time and for it only to die once during this review has sold me on this device.
In terms of charging, the MatePad comes bundled with an 18W Charging brick in the box. Not the fastest in the world, but certainly not as low as some Apple Tablets charging capabilities and what comes bundled with it. In terms of charging speed, due to the sheer size of this battery (7250mAh), it can take a while to charge from fully depleted to fully charged. It took mine roughly 2 and a half hours to fully charge it up. Sure, I was using it in that time-space as well which probably prolonged it more than it should have, but if you left it to do its own thing it would probably take a fraction of that time.
Having the luxury of not having to charge a device during a review period is both worrying and also quite a wonderful feeling overall. It’s mainly the former of course, but it made my experience with the Huawei MatePad in general quite nice barring the software issues I had initially but after getting used to that, everything came together really nicely.
Verdict: A Perfectly Amazing Tablet
Overall, the experience I have had with the Huawei MatePad 10.4 has been exceptional. I can get past the software issues after the initial setup experience because barring that, there’s nothing much else to dislike about this device.
It has a class-leading display which I fell in love with as soon as I put a YouTube video on, a perfectly adequate Kirin chip that does the job perfectly for any need you may throw at it, and a Laptop-quality front-facing camera for the business end of your activities. Not to forget the beats-like audio experience that brought me back a few years which is unmatched in my opinion.
If you’re in the market for a tablet that provides an equally stressful but easy life after the initial honeymoon period, this device is for you without a shadow of a doubt. Beautiful display, intense audio experience, monstrous battery life, and only a little bit annoying software.