HUAWEI MATEPAD 11 (2022)
Fantastic hardware, with a bundled keyboard and stylus, but it’s not quite there on the software front.
$949 | from consumer.huawei.com
Huawei remains a stalwart of the tablet scene, despite the fact that Google was forced to cut it off from using its full suite of Android services back in the pre-Covid era. This means that using the latest version of the Huawei MatePad 11 still involves making a series of accommodations: to Huawei’s Harmony OS 2.0 operating system, to its AppGallery app store, and to doing without Google Play, the Chrome browser, Google’s native apps and other Google services. This may or may not be an instant deal breaker.
If it is, that’s a shame: the MatePad 11 is a well-designed tablet with a high specification at a very reasonable price. It’s sold bundled with a stylus and keyboard case, and you’re getting an 11in screen, high-end Qualcomm processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
There’s much to like about the MatePad’s design. The black metallic case is slim at just 7.3mm, and easy to hold single-handed at 485g. The minimal bezels and fuss-free styling give it a nice, understated look. You don’t get a fingerprint reader, but Huawei has implemented a facial recognition system that’s speedy and accurate, if not as secure as the more advanced 3D systems. The keyboard cover clamps on to the rear of the tablet magnetically, and connects through Bluetooth, transforming the MatePad 11 into an effective mini-laptop.
There’s no physical connection for the keyboard, but the moment you slip it onto the case it pairs and starts charging. We have no complaints about Wi-Fi 6 (Wi-Fi 6E would be even better, but that’s too much to expect at this price), and it seems similarly churlish to complain about a USB-C connection that supports USB 3.2 Gen 1 at 5Gbits/sec rather than the 10Gbits/sec or higher we see elsewhere.
But the best aspect of the MatePad 11 is its screen. Not only do you get a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution but a 120Hz refresh rate, while the display itself is bright with punchy colours and respectable levels of contrast. The frame rate makes for a silky-smooth experience while navigating the UI and browsing, to the extent that it’s hard to go back to other tablets with the basic 60Hz refresh.
To see this display at its best, we’d recommend switching to the Vivid setting. We saw brightness bump up from 468cd/m2 to 472cd/m2 and the sRGB gamut coverage jump from 82% to 97%, although colour accuracy suffered with the average Delta E rising from 1.45 to 3. Still, that’s a compromise we’d be willing to make for a better experience streaming movies and the latest TV shows.
Despite the slim frame, the sound is impressively clear, with excellent steering of dialogue and effects in a pseudo-surround soundstage. There’s even a bit of depth and dynamic range to bring action-heavy movies and shows to life.
If you’d rather play games, the MatePad’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor will happily do the job. It’s not as fast as the Snapdragon 870 in the Lenovo P12 Pro, let alone the A15 and M1 processors in the iPads, but you can still play most games at high settings without watching the frame rate crater. It’s good in creative and productivity apps as well, with Geekbench scores that put it neck and neck with the P12 Pro; the Huawei was a fraction slower in the single-core tests, but faster in the multicore test.
As for battery life, the MatePad 11 nearly matches the P12 Pro by holding up for 13hrs 25mins in our 1080p video-rundown test. It supports up to 22.5W charging, reaching 27 percent in 30 minutes from a cold start.
The make or break with this one is leaving Android behind for Harmony OS. There’s nothing much wrong with the OS or its UI – it’s not a million miles away from Android and is colourful and easy to navigate, while it supports a good range of Android apps and native apps. However, to install many you’ll need to use AppGallery to find and effectively sideload them. It’s easy enough, but still far from seamless, and you might not trust all the sources found. There’s also no way to pay for apps or add-on content.
For some users this won’t be a concern; Harmony OS and AppGallery is an improvement on Huawei’s previous Google-hobbled Android implementation, and it’s hard to fault the MatePad 11 on the hardware side. Yet Huawei still has a lot of work to do if it wants to build an ecosystem to rival iPadOS or even Android.