Huawei's MatePad Pro is a good tablet trapped in an OS war
Huawei is proposing the Huawei MatePad Pro (هواوي ميت باد برو) as an outlet for creativity -- and in order to be creative on a tablet, you need apps. That's where things get dicey. Like everything else on this tablet, Huawei's AppGallery has a user-friendly, navigable interface. But although you can get a few mainstream apps, there is a whole lot you can't get. In some regards, AppGallery is a bit like the wild west. The first option under "top-rated apps" is something called "OfficeSuite - Office, PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint." Sounds pretty legit -- until you click on it and realize there's one rating, and it's one star. (But you can also download the real Microsoft Office.) Other options include the Chinese online retailer Alibaba and Spotify competitor Deezer. The severed partnership with Google is pretty noticeable: no Google Play Store, no Google Maps, no Google Drive, no Google Photos. Huawei seems to have developed an alternative called Petal, with Petal Search, Petal Maps, etc. Petal Search is organized quite nicely, with a feed, news, weather, music and easy access to Petal Translate and currency converter. Petal can also help find and install APK files for Android apps, not in the official app store, but as always, exercise caution when sideloading apps.
Look around the next time you're at a coffee shop or airport. Although it's possible I haven't been looking hard enough, I don't think I've ever spotted an Android tablet out in the wild, much less a tablet that runs HarmonyOS, the operating system Huawei built to run on its devices in place of Google's Android.
The end result is that, for now, this device runs HarmonyOS, which looks and acts a good deal like Android, but is not. In practical terms, it can run many Android apps, but you lose the Google Play Store and key Google-made apps like Maps, Gmail and YouTube. Instead, the main app store is Huawei's own App Gallery (more on that later).
Big screen, but not quite a laptop
Like Apple, Huawei has outfitted the 12.6-inch MatePad Pro with a processor built in-house. The Kirin 9000E chip does its job, and it does it quite well. I scrolled on TikTok, played Angry Birds 2, typed in Huawei's Notepad app, doodled in a drawing app -- and not once did the tablet lag or keep me waiting. Adding to the tablet's functionality is the helpful Optimizer app, which enables you to quickly close apps and clean up storage.
Coupled with the tablet's processing power is a user experience smooth as butter, courtesy of HarmonyOS 2. All the swipes and scrolls are remarkably intuitive to the point that I, a physical home-button devotee, didn't find the absence of a home button too bothersome. (In fact, its absence is what enables the screen to take up virtually the entire tablet with a gorgeous OLED display.) The productivity setups are also worth noting: App Multiplier lets you open up two side-by-side windows in the same app when in landscape mode, and you can sync up your tablet with a PC.