When it was first introduced at Mobile World Congress 2022, the huawei matepad Paper intrigued me a lot. An e-reader with an e-ink display perfectly suitable for outdoor and indoor reading, a pencil to sketch or jot down all the thoughts that come to my mind, and support for third-party Android apps? Sign me up right away.
I’ve spent the last few weeks with a Huawei Matepad Paper in hand and, in real life, the combination of an e-ink reader and a pseudo-tablet is leaving me a little underwhelmed. The idea is great in theory, but the technology isn’t there yet in reality. Part of it is Huawei’s software limitations, the other part is due to the very nature of e-ink displays.
Huawei still knows how to make great hardware. Even though a lot of unexpected variables have affected the company’s software and sales over the last few years, its hardware unit can still build excellent devices.
The Huawei Matepad Paper is thin, light, well balanced, and is easy to hold for several hours, which you’ll want to do if you’re reading a book. The faux leather back is comfortable and it doesn’t feel slippery. I’ve spent several multi-hour (up to seven) reading sessions on it without experiencing any wrist pain or cramps. Compared to my Kindle Paperwhite (2021), the larger size and extra weight didn’t affect my experience at all.
The 10.3-inch e-ink display is excellent too. It’s large enough for tablet use and easy to read both indoors and outdoors — even during the sunniest and warmest weekend I have ever experienced in Paris. You can control how often the e-ink display redraws or force it to refresh manually in case you see lots of ghosting on the screen. (This happens with third-party apps — I’ll get to it later.)
A fingerprint reader tucked in the power button on top allows you to unlock the tablet quickly. One top- and one bottom-firing speaker can play music while you read, or you can choose to connect a Bluetooth headset if you prefer to stay in your own bubble.
The tablet seems better suited for right-handed users at first. The larger grippy bezel is located on the left, while the pencil attaches magnetically on the right side. Automatic rotation is supported, though, so a simple turn and the entire interface becomes adapted for the 10% of lefties among us. Only the volume buttons keep the same function in both orientations. If you’ve rotated the tablet, you have to press down to raise the volume, and up to lower it. Quirky, but at least the rest works well enough.