Huawei keeps bringing in substantial revenues, thanks to the diversification of its consumer business and introducing more smart devices into its portfolio to make up for the missing smartphone sales. During MWC 2022, we saw its first e-ink tablet Huawei MatePad Paper, and after spending some quality time with it, we are ready with our review.
This device tries to position itself in the golden mean between well-known e-readers and fully-fledged tablets. It has powerful internals, a lovely body, a big screen and features that put it in a unique spot where it has no competition. Let’s take a closer look.
The Huawei MatePad Paper is a super-light device, even with its big 10.3” screen. It weighs 360 grams, which are evenly distributed through the whole 225.2 mm x 182.7 mm body, meaning it doesn’t feel heavy in any scenario.
The front panel is mostly taken by the e-ink panel, while the backside, as well as a bit of the left-hand bezel, are finished in plastic with a leather-like texture. While we do enjoy the big speakers on top and bottom, we should mention there is no IP rating, so you should be careful at the beach or in the bath.
There is a power key on the top that acts as a fingerprint scanner, and there is also a volume rocker on the upper right side, which may be used to flip pages while reading books. The MatePad Paper is charged through a USB-C port placed on the bottom. There are also three tiny magnets on the right side to keep the M Pencil in place for proper charging.
Speaking of the M Pencil, it comes in the retail box. Huawei is also bundling a Folio Cover with the same faux leather finish and tiny magnets to align with the MatePad Paper. It also serves as protection for the display.
The retail package also includes a 22.5W charger with the appropriate USB-A cable and a second tip for the M Pencil if something happens with the installed one. The stylus connects via Bluetooth, so technically, any Huawei M Pencil works, but only one can be connected at a time.
The 10.3” diagonal makes this one of the largest E-readers around. Huawei believes this is the optimal size for such a unique device. The resolution is 1872 x 1404 pixels, which is 227 ppi. A quick comparison shows us the points-per-inch number is greater than on a regular Huawei Matepad tablet, specifically the 10.4” Matepad from 2020.
Text is well defined and can be adapted through various controls in the Settings. We would have loved to see sharper letters, but even without clear-cut edges, the words are readable. It makes it feel a bit more papery with how the physical ink sometimes soaks and tints the paper.
The biggest issue with e-ink displays is the refresh rate. The screen records all the touches, it’s just the e-ink needs a lot of time to refresh. This might be frustrating for some who want a snappy response and prevents the MatePad Paper from serving as a proper tablet.
Huawei does offer three Refresh modes – “Refresh now,” which is a single change of the screen, Normal, which is the default one, and Smart AI. The latter should adjust to the business reports or GIFs played on screen, but we found no discernible difference in reality.
The device can play YouTube videos and even some games, given the hardware can run them. However, this is an experience Huawei does not recommend, and neither do we – the screen is simply not made for videos and even less so for mobile games.
The response rate of the screen when interacting with the M Pencil is also a problem. It does the job – words and figures can be written, but the experience is frustrating.
Software and e-book performance
The Huawei MatePad Paper comes with HarmonyOS 2.0. The interface is custom-made for this e-ink tablet, and while it retains some of the gestures like the left-top swipe for notifications and right-top swipe for the Control Panel, there is a different Home Screen. It highlights all the latest Notes, Inbox, Books, and Calendar appointments.
There is a Settings bar on the left which has quick access to the user profile, Settings, the books, and all apps such as the AppGallery, browsers, games, and the system ones like Calculator, Calendar, Files, Cloud, Optimizer.
Huawei has a dedicated shortcut to the Huawei Bookstore. The company proudly claims it has over 2 million titles in its store, but in reality, not all regions will have access to all of those. However, you are free to add titles manually via Bluetooth or USB-C with epub and pdf fully supported.
Speaking of PDF, it is important to have an internet connection when preparing to read a book because the MatePad Paper will need to download a dedicated reader app for these files. Other book stores such as Kobo and Aldiko can be found via AppGallery or sideloaded, but understandably Apple and Google services won’t run.
Huawei told us this device could be used as a secondary tool in business presentations, but we had issues using it as a second screen with the Huawei Matestation X. It also doesn’t feel like a natural extension because of the lack of color and slow refresh rate.
Battery life and other hardware
The capacity of the battery is listed as 3,625 mAh. This is far from most other tablets, but it’s a very different screen we are talking about here, and Huawei says it can last 28 days with power-saving. There is some battery drain on standby if Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are on, but the MatePad Paper can easily live up to two weeks on a single charge, even with the backlight turned on.
We have had the device for over a month, and it has needed a recharge twice so far, even with our active users. In other specs, the device runs on a Kirin 820E chipset which is the very same platform in the Huawei nova 8 smartphone. Storage is 64GB, while RAM is 4GB, which is probably way more than this device will ever need.
The 22.5W fast charging offers five-minute charges for two hours of reading, while from 0 to 100%, it takes about 100 minutes.
Price and verdict
We won’t hide it, we are having a hard time comparing the MatePad Paper to other competitors. It does a lot more than an Amazon Kindle and nearly not enough as any other Huawei MatePad.
There are some indie devices like the reMarkable, but they do not have a dedicated app store or access to a huge ecosystem that extends features across devices.
Huawei decided to put a €500 price on this unique device. It sounds a lot, and it is a lot for an e-ink reader. However, it’s also a unique e-ink reader that the likes of Amazon can’t match.
We should give praise to Huawei where it is due. The company launched a unique product that offers features from both worlds for a specific set of consumers – those who are interested in reading e-books and taking notes on a big screen while also having access to all Huawei features in its ecosystem.