Huawei MatePad 11 Review : Superb Media Tablet With Idiosyncrasies | Tech Reviews
The Huawei MatePad 11 doesn’t spill, it packs a punch: 120Hz display, four speakers, fast Snapdragon 865, good battery life and accessories in the form of a keyboard and stylus. That all sounds fantastic. Can it convince despite the lack of Google services?
For a long time, Huawei smartphones and tablets were considered the best that Android has to offer: fantastic hardware, fast and beautiful software. Since the trade dispute (USA vs. China), Huawei no longer has direct access to Google services. The pandemic has increased demand for Android tablets. So manufacturers like Lenovo, Samsung and Huawei continue to make tablets.
As a result, Huawei simply built its own app store and its own Android variant. The hardware has remained excellent ever since, but the HarmonyOS operating system may put some users off. But some Android hobbyists might like it quite a bit. The Huawei MatePad 11 is the best example of Huawei’s predicament. But more on that later.
The Huawei MatePad 11 is unsurprisingly a fantastic tablet. It’s impeccably finished, boasting a sharp and colorful 11-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, four speakers for stereo sound, and a Snapdragon 865. It may not be that fresh anymore, but it’s strong enough for all imaginable apps and games.
The built-in hardware leaves nothing to be desired and there is also the option of connecting a keyboard and a stylus. Both were also in my test package. The Huawei MatePad 11 is an exciting package.
|Display||27,81 cm (10,95 inch), 2.560 x 1.600px, 16:9, 400 Nits, IPS-Display, 275 PPI, 120 Hz, 86% Screen-to-body Ratio|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865: 1 x Cortex-A77 (2,84 GHz) + 3 x Cortex-A77 (2,4 GHz) + 4 x Cortex-A55 (1,8 GHz)|
|Graphics||Adreno 650 (587 MHz)|
|RAM||6 GB LPDDR4X|
|Hard Disk||64/128/256 GB, microSD card slot up to 1 TB|
|Network||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2 x 2 MIMO)
Bluetooth 5.1 (BLE, SBC, AAC und LDAC HD Audio)
|Connections||1 x USB 3.0 Type-C
Wireless Screen Projection
|Cameras||Rear: 13 MP (f/1.8, AF), photos up to 4160 x 3120, videos up to 3840 x 2160, LED flash
Front: 8 MP (f/2.0, FF), photos up to 3264 x 2448, videos up to to 1,920 x 1,080
|Sensors||Ambient Light, Compass, Gravity, Gyroscope, Hall|
Optional keyboard called Smart Magnetic Keyboard
Optional active stylus called M-Pencil
|Sound||4 x speakers, 4 x microphones|
|Battery||Li-Ion polymer battery with 7,250 mAh capacity, 10 1/2 hours runtime, 22.5 watt power supply|
|Dimensions||25,3 x 0,72 x 16,5 cm (B x T x H)|
Scope of delivery
The scope of delivery is minimalist. The box contains the tablet itself, a charger with a USB-C cable, a “USB-C to 3.5mm” dongle, a quick start guide, a small stick for the microSD card slot and a guarantee. Huawei gives a warranty of up to 2 years on certain parts. In the event of a warranty claim, make sure that the defective part is covered by the warranty .
The test package also included the optional backlit keyboard and the optional active stylus called M-Pencil. With some offers of the higher memory equipment, the keyboard is also gladly added.
Processing and operation
Despite its size, the Huawei MatePad 11 weighs less than 500 grams. This makes it easy to carry around the house or quickly take with you in your backpack. The optional keyboard doesn’t add much weight, staying under a pound.
The reason for the low weight is the use of plastic. Only a certain layer above the built-in LCD is made of glass. Huawei does not specify what type of glass it is. Since Gorilla Glass is not mentioned anywhere, it is probably a slightly cheaper glass. I didn’t experience any scratches during the test phase.
At first I was a bit confused as to whether the tablet is made of plastic or aluminum. Apparently, a high-quality plastic is used, which – at first glance – feels like aluminum. Everything looks clean and robust. You can tell that the designers have put a lot of thought into it. The plastic covers fingerprints and other dirt very well.
The design itself is simple and elegant, although this makes it feel a bit generic. The silver “Huawei” lettering on the back is the most eye-catching part of the design. Due to the simple design and the dark gray color, the display looks even more colorful.
On the rear is a single 13-megapixel sensor, LED flash and microphone in a slim vertical module, and the aforementioned lettering. As with many current smartphones, the module causes the tablet to wobble on the table and does not lie flat. The optional keyboard is also a case, allowing the Huawei MatePad 11 to lie flat on the table.
The display bezels are quite narrow and allow the display to stand out. However, for people with larger hands, it can mean that they always lightly touch the display with their hand. But I didn’t make any major mistakes with my hands.
The design plays into the hands of usability, since the rounded edges and corners feel very comfortable in the palm of the hand and only hurt a little after more than an hour. Basically, the Huawei MatePad 11 is easy to hold, although the horizontal mode feels more natural. At 11 inches, the tablet is just a little too top-heavy to hold like a smartphone.
The microSD card slot is on the left, the volume rocker and the charging points for the active stylus are on the right. This is stored there and charged wirelessly at the same time. The power button is at the top right (with a stylish red stripe) and the USB-C port is at the bottom in the middle. All buttons feel well made and “click” nicely.
There are two speakers at the top and bottom, so the tablet offers a total of four speakers. This enables stereo playback. This makes the tablet particularly suitable for media consumption. Unfortunately, you quickly cover a speaker when you use the tablet horizontally. If you know about it, you can be careful when using it.
Unlike almost all current smartphones, there is no fingerprint sensor. It is unlocked in the classic way with a PIN, a pattern or with Face-Unlock. The selfie camera is used for this and unfortunately no additional infrared sensor. Thus, the tablet can be unlocked quickly, but not too securely. But it should be enough for everyday use.
As already indicated several times, the package included a magnetic keyboard and an active stylus.
The Smart Magnetic Keyboard (99.00 euros*) is a mixture of tablet case and keyboard. It’s cleanly finished, made of some kind of black faux leather, and decorated with gold “Huawei” lettering. The tablet can be easily attached to the keyboard using magnets and is therefore held securely. In front of the keyboard there are grooves into which the tablet can be placed. This turns the tablet into a kind of notebook and can be angled in two stages. The Huawei MatePad 11 can also be quickly removed from the Smart Magnetic Keyboard thanks to the magnets.
The keys on the keyboard are some of the best I’ve experienced on a keyboard cover. The key stroke is of course not on the level of a real keyboard, but pleasantly crisp for the small height. Unfortunately, there is no small touchpad, which would have been useful for some users. There is also no numpad, but it is tolerable. It’s nice to see that the familiar keyboard shortcuts (Alt+Tab and Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V) work, making working with the optional keyboard much easier. There are also function keys for volume and display brightness.
The active stylus is called the M-Pencil (99.00 euros*) and feels good in the hand. Using the tablet is fun and the inputs are precise. Due to the active part of the pen, however, it has to be charged regularly, which was the case for me after two working days. But that’s easy to do via the magnetic tray on the right side, below the volume buttons. The pen can be stored there and charged at the same time via 5 watt wireless charging. Practically.
This chapter is going to be pretty short: there aren’t any ports except for a USB-C port on the bottom. The Huawei MatePad 11 can be streamed to compatible Huawei smartphones via Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6.
Many accessories can also be connected to the Huawei MatePad 11 via a dongle. This allowed me to connect a mouse, keyboard and even a monitor. Only a real 3.5mm jack would have been practical.
Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room that doesn’t make the tablet a complete recommendation for all users: HarmonyOS.
Huawei markets HarmonyOS as if it has nothing to do with Android. It is based on Android 10 and uses the interface with which Huawei devices have become known so far. A Linux kernel continues to work in the deepest core, as with normal Android. But that’s all just splitting hairs: HarmonyOS is Android, with its own interface and app store. From now on, Huawei is increasingly separating itself from Google’s Android and going its own way.
The MatePad 11 is one of the first devices from Huawei with the current HarmonyOS 2.0 version. Some smartphones in China are being updated from Google’s Android to Huawei’s own HarmonyOS 2.0 operating system. But these are only a handful of devices, all in beta and initially only in China. It is still unclear to what extent this will happen with Huawei devices worldwide.
That’s not a bad thing, though, and HarmonyOS feels well designed and programmed. It offers many functions and the app store is full to bursting. You can see that Huawei is working hard and investing money.
HarmonyOS uses the design of previous smartphones and tablets from Huawei: EMUI. It has only been adjusted and improved in a few places. The whole interface looks like a mixture of Android with a lot of iOS and a touch of MIUI from Xiaomi. It’s all modern and works with a white/blue or black/blue color scheme. All small set pieces have been processed into a coherent overall picture and I have to say that I like the surface. So design continues to be a strength of HarmonyOS.
What is important for HarmonyOS as a system, however, is that it can still handle APKs. This means that almost all Android apps can run on HarmonyOS. Only apps that rely heavily on Google Services or Google Firebase might not work.
Since we’re already on the subject of apps and that’s probably the biggest difference to other tablets on the market (e.g. Samsung): You get your apps from the Huawei “AppGallery”. Huawei has grown significantly there over the past few years and accommodated almost all important apps and large companies. Only the short advertisements at the start are annoying, with which Huawei wants to advertise some of its developers. Smaller or more niche things unfortunately fall by the wayside in the AppGallery.
But there is still the “Petal Search Engine.” This Huawei app searches the well-known websites APKPure, Aptoide, APKMirror and a few more for the apps you are looking for. There you can download and install the APK (works like an .exe on Windows or .dmg on macOS). With apps that were installed via an APK, you usually have to take care of the updates yourself. However, some apps also offer an update routine within the app, without a store. For every well-known Google app, there is an HMD counterpart from Huawei in the AppGallery. So instead of Google Maps there is simply Petal Maps, Petal Search instead of Google Search and so on. With the help of two app stores, you already have almost all known Android apps together. I also recommend the well-known app store F-Droid to HarmonyOS users.
I could write about many small details of HarmonyOS, but that would make the article too long. If you would like to have a large overview of Huawei’s own operating system, please write it in the comments.
In summary, however, it can be said that HarmonyOS is the continuation of Google’s Android with an EMUI interface. Most users would not recognize the difference between the two systems. This is actually good and makes it easier to get started. The only point of criticism – and Huawei can’t do anything about that – is the situation with the Google apps. Some users depend on it or on a very special app from the Google Playstore, such as a banking app. The tablet is nothing for them.
The MatePad 11 is a good recommendation for users who know about it and are “ok” with it. Most commercially available apps can be obtained from the various app stores, and you may also find a few new, previously unknown alternatives. The tablet is fantastic, especially for the group of users who would like to have Android without Google services. This is where FOSS and OpenSource software can shine and offer good alternatives to the Google apps. At least I enjoyed building a working system without Google in the AppGallery and F-Droid.
By the way, anyone who owns other Huawei devices will be happy. HarmonyOS implements the idea of its own ecosystem well and enables many interfaces and cool functions between multiple Huawei devices.
Probably the most distinctive piece of a tablet is the display. The Huawei MatePad 11 has a screen-to-body ratio of 86 percent. The display covers almost the entire front, except for 14 percent of the frame. That’s nice for media consumption, but a little tricky to hold the tablet at times.
The 11-inch IPS panel offers a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, which is also known as “WQXGA”. It offers a pixel density of 276 ppi and is on par with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (288 ppi) and iPad Air 4 (265 ppi). It’s incredibly sharp and I couldn’t see individual pixels on the display.
In addition, like the iPad Pro, it uses a 120Hz display, which ensures particularly smooth work on the tablet. In the settings, the refresh rate can be set to 120Hz, 60Hz or “Variable”. With the variable options, the operating system decides when it runs at full 120Hz and can thus save some battery power. There is also an option for a variable resolution.
The IPS display can get incredibly bright, making it easy to read even outdoors. The official rating is 400 nits, which it easily achieves. Unfortunately, a reflective display was used here, which is why it is difficult to use it in direct sunlight. Otherwise it does a really good job.
The contrast is very good. This makes it fun to consume media on the tablet. Films and series look fantastic and pictures shine. Thanks to the IPS technology, it also offers good viewing angles in all directions and is suitable for movie nights with friends. A word on media consumption: Despite the US trade dispute, Huawei has received Widevine Level 1 certification. This allows Netflix to play content in Full HD. In that case, the display could do more, the trade restrictions prevent it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to measure the color accuracy of the individual color spaces because I don’t have a suitable measuring device for Android. However, the colors appear lively and a bit too saturated, and there is also a minimal bluish tint. However, the color reproduction can be adjusted in the settings. There are presets “Vivid” and “Natural” for this, as well as a fine adjustment of the color temperature. This counteracts the bluish cast. There are also countless modes to increase readability or to protect the eyes. This kind of fine-tuning is commendable.
Although the Snapdragon 865 is not the very latest, it is a flagship processor. It offers a total of 8 cores and an Adreno 650 graphics unit. 6GB of RAM were installed. Performance-hungry games and applications shouldn’t be a problem.
During my test phase I tried various games: Asphalt 9, Raid: Shadow Legends and PUBG. All titles ran completely smoothly on the highest settings. Everyday surfing, chatting and video streaming also ran flawlessly. Even chatting and watching a stream at the same time always ran smoothly thanks to the MultiView function.
The Huawei MatePad 11 is powered by a fast Snapdragon 865 and has a large 120Hz IPS display. That sounds very power hungry at first.
Inside is a 7,250 mAh battery that, according to Huawei, should last for almost 10 hours and 30 minutes. In normal everyday life, with surfing and chatting, I got around 11 hours with it before it had to be put back on the charger. On a work day I used the tablet and ran the Sopranos series. With pure video playback, the Huawei MatePad 11 even lasted 12 hours. The brightness was set to 80 percent in both tests.
Both are excellent values, especially when you consider the hardware. A little more battery life could have been achieved with an OLED display.
The tablet is charged via a 22.5 watt power supply. It is fully charged again in about 2 hours. Wireless charging is only available for the stylus on the tablet, the device itself does not support Qi charging.
Sound & Webcam
When it comes to notebooks, I like to write that cameras and speakers are not that important, since external devices can be connected. With tablets, however, the built-in cameras and speakers are much more important. They are almost always used and are an integral part of the whole experience. External cameras or speakers are rarely connected.
The MatePad 11 has four speakers. Two on each side when held horizontally. This is the best orientation for longer video enjoyment. Because that way you get loud stereo sound. At the highest level (maximum 93 dB), the speakers even got a little too loud for me, but are therefore perfect for listening to music in an apartment. Music on and you can still hear everything well in other rooms.
According to Huawei, the speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon and should therefore offer a good sound. I can actually agree: the bass is powerful – for such a small device – voices come across clearly and the sound only distorts slightly at the highest volume. The speakers are really remarkably good and make Netflix nights a lot of fun.
Huawei installs a 13-megapixel camera with LED flash on the back and an 8-megapixel camera on the front. The tablet is therefore not on par with current smartphones, but it is definitely sufficient for snapshots and, above all, for scanning documents.
With enough light, the photos deliver decent details and comparatively little image noise. The 13 MP camera allows recording in 4K at 30 FPS. However, there is no image stabilizer, so a steady hand or a holder are appropriate.
The front camera is suitable for selfies and video chats with its solid image quality. But it is a little less detailed than the rear camera. The tablet can also be unlocked via the front camera. However, since there is no infrared sensor, it does not work quite as securely as some smartphones. However, thanks to a little trick with the display, unlocking works quite well even in complete darkness.
The built-in cameras are sufficient for everyday use and snapshots are also possible. But don’t expect a high-end level like the current Huawei smartphones.
Conclusion Huawei MatePad 11
There is little to complain about on the Huawei MatePad 11: all the important aspects of a good tablet are fulfilled here. But the display is the highlight of the tablet: bright, sharp and very smooth thanks to 120Hz. The Snapdragon 865 works flawlessly and all imaginable games and applications run smoothly on the highest settings. The battery lasts almost 11 hours in normal operation and even 12 hours when watching Netflix. The workmanship is impeccable and the accessories are also sensibly integrated into all areas of the tablet. Oh yes: the four speakers are really loud and enable stereo playback, which is particularly interesting for films and games.
Unfortunately – as with almost all current Huawei devices – the operating system is the decisive factor. Huawei has lost its direct connection to Google as a result of the US-China trade dispute. That means: No Google Playstore and no real Android updates. However, Huawei has cushioned both losses somewhat with its AppGallery and its own version of Android.
Nevertheless, interested buyers should be aware that one or the other (important) app cannot run on it. Therefore, I recommend the Huawei MatePad 11 more for experienced Android users. Many apps can be installed via sideload and app stores. But this requires a little experience and curiosity to find alternative apps if necessary. For grandmothers or fathers who are not so tech-savvy, the tablet might be a bit too much. For users who are familiar with Android and the technology behind it, the MatePad 11 is an excellent choice.
The Huawei MatePad 11 is available in the colors blue, gray and green from 399 euros*. It’s not the cheapest Android tablet, but it’s not the most expensive either. It offers well-made hardware at a good price/performance ratio. As mentioned above, you should inform yourself about the peculiarities of the operating system. If that is not a problem for you, there is a clear purchase recommendation.