Huawei is joining the giant E Ink notepad club — whose notable members include the reMarkable 2 and Kobo Elipsa — with the MatePad Paper, a new 10.3-inch device the company is introducing at MWC 2022.
Big screen — The MatePad Paper’s E Ink display has an 1,872 x 1,404 resolution, 32 levels of backlighting, and a very nice 86.3 percent screen-to-body ratio. Design-wise, the MatePad Paper looks the most similar to the reMarkable 2, just without that tablet's unfortunate “chin” along the bottom of the display. There’s a thicker border along one side of the tablet to hold on to, but thanks to the thin bezels, the rest of the MatePad Paper is primarily whatever you’re reading or writing.
If you use Huawei’s second-generation M-Pencil, the company claims it’s gotten latency down to 26ms on the MatePad Paper, which should offer a smooth scribbling and drawing experience. And Huawei also included a smart refresh feature that’s supposed to dynamically adjust how often the E Ink display does a full refresh to better preserve the 3,625 mAh battery.
Unique OS — The big difference between the MatePad Paper and other E Ink devices is its operating system. Plenty of e-readers use custom software developed exclusively for that device, or some version of Android, but the MatePad uses HarmonyOS.
Huawei’s OS usually looks kind of like a knockoff iPadOS on its normal color tablets, but in grayscale on the MatePad Paper, the company seems to be taking a more stripped-down approach. Features that actually make a ton of sense on a productivity device like widgets for your email and calendar (and access to those accompanying apps) are front and center, along with dedicated tabs for your notes and reading material. The rest is a few more taps away.
HarmonyOS also lets you get away with rudimentary multitasking in a way a normal e-reader operating system just wouldn’t. You can have your reading and notes side-by-side, which is obviously possible on an E Ink device running Android but is still so helpful here. The MatePad Paper also plays nice with Huawei’s other devices, so you can easily transfer files from your laptop to your tablet.
Downsides — Because of the MatePad Paper’s unique software situation, there are some major tradeoffs, mainly, you don’t get access to the millions of apps in Google’s Play Store. That could cut you off from your favorite reading apps and ebook stores, along with apps you already own that might work great on Huawei’s device.
That’s the reality of using Huawei’s devices in 2022. The company was placed on a U.S. trade blacklist in 2019 and chose to develop its own Android competitor in HarmonyOS. That’s why — as exciting as the MatePad Paper seems — we likely won’t be getting one in the U.S.
The Huawei MatePad Paper will be available in a bundle with a folio cover and M-Pencil for €499 (around $560) in Europe.