Huawei MatePad 11 Review: Great hardware but beware of its software limitations

Having an Apple fall event launch hangover? Well, here is a review of Huawei MatePad 11 for the Android fans.

Oh wait, this tablet runs on Huawei’s new HarmonyOS. But since HarmonyOS is actually based on Android, it is still technically an Android tablet. Except due to the US-China trade war, it is not.

The Huawei MatePad 11. (Photo: Huawei)

It does not run Google Mobile Services, and consequently it does not have Google Play Store, Google Maps and etc. It does have Huawei’s own AppGallery which we will touch upon later.

PRICE: $698, available in Lazada and Shopee
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
DISPLAY: 10.95-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, 120Hz refresh rate
MEMORY: 128GB (expandable to 1TB via microSD card); 6GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 7,250mAh
WEIGHT: 485g

At only S$698, the MatePad 11 has a 10.95-inch 2K display with a refresh rate of 120Hz for smoother visuals for both work and play. In fact, it is the first Huawei tablet to have such a display.

By comparison, the recently-launched Apple’s iPad mini and 9th-generation iPad are still using screens with a refresh rate of 60Hz. And you can only find 120Hz screens in the likes of Apple iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 that cost at least S$1,000.

In terms of design, the MatePad 11 is as minimalistic as it gets with its 7.3mm-thin grey metallic body. Not to mention, the tablet is also pretty lightweight at only 485g.

The MatePad 11 is thin and lightweight. (Photo: Huawei)

There is a volume rocker on one side and a microSD card tray on the other. On its top, you will find the power button. And there is a USB-C charging port on the bottom. Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm audio jack.

However, the MatePad 11 comes with a quad-speaker system, as evident from the four speaker grilles – two on top and two at the bottom.

The USB-C port is sandwiched between two speakers at the bottom. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

This sound system is said to be designed and tuned by the audio brand Harman Kardon. And the quality audio output shows. You can really hear the solid stereo sound when you play movies on this tablet.

Adding to the entertainment experience is the visual feast of the screen. Despite not being an OLED display, the MatePad 11’s 10.95-inch screen is gorgeous and great to look at. With its 120Hz refresh rate, playing games or merely scrolling through websites become as smooth as silk.

The screen is also quite bright and you can easily view it unless you are out in the open under harsh sunlight. But in your house or when you are winding down to sleep, the tablet’s screen is gentle to your eyes with its TUV Rheinland Labs certification for minimal harmful blue light emission.

+ Good overall performance
+ Gorgeous display with 120Hz refresh rate
+ Compact and lightweight
+ Capable accessories
+ Affordable

– Fledging HarmonyOS eco-system
– Lacks Google Mobile Services
– No biometric sensor

In addition, Huawei claims the MatePad 11’s display offers accurate colour with its DCI-P3 colour gamut. This is great for creative professionals who need colour accuracy to edit photos and videos.

Strangely though, there is no biometric sensor. In other words, there is no fingerprint sensor or 3-D depth sensor for face recognition. Your best bet is to use a PIN code or password. A hassle but it is better than anyone able to easily unlock the tablet.

Before stocks run out, you will get the Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard (S$198) and the 2nd-generation M-Pencil (S$148) stylus for free when you buy the MatePad 11.

The Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard, Huawei M-Pencil (2nd-generation) and Huawei Mouse. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

And I think these two accessories are essential accessories with the MatePad 11. They transform the tablet into a laptop as well as a sketchpad wherever you go.

The keyboard is nice to type and offers two viewing angles for the tablet. Weighing only 105g, it adds little weight and heft to the tablet. For the M-Pencil, it is super responsive. The stylus writes and draws like a real pencil. In other words, the stylus’ output will vary according to the strength of your strokes.

The M-Pencil (2nd-generation) writes like a real pencil on the MatePad 11. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

You can also connect a mouse via Bluetooth to complete the laptop experience. Huawei provided a Huawei Mouse for this review. And I found the pairing to be a breeze.

With the Smart Magnetic Keyboard, M-Pencil (2nd-generation) stylus and a mouse, you get the full package with MatePad 11. (Photo: Huawei)

In no time, I was really using the MatePad 11 like a laptop with the keyboard and mouse. And when needed, I can write down ideas or sketch a plan using the M-Pencil.

The MatePad 11 runs on Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which is last year’s flagship processor. Still, it is more than a capable chip.

In the GeekBench 5 benchmark tests, the MatePad 11 achieved a pretty competent score of 919 (single-core) and 3,341 (multi-core). By comparison, the MatePad 2021 only scored 599 (single-core) and 2,214 (multi-core) points, while the 2020 iPad scored 1,111 (single-core) and 2,422 (multi-core) points.

However, in real-life situations though, I have hardly experienced any noticeable lag when playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang or streaming K-dramas on Viu. Using Microsoft Office to edit Word documents or Powerpoint presentations is a cinch too.

Playing Mobile Legends on the MatePad 11 is superb, thanks to the big 120Hz screen. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

With HarmonyOS 2, there are more synergy and connectivity across Huawei products. For instance, if you happen to have a Huawei laptop like the MateBook 13. You can link up the MatePad 11 as a second screen to the laptop. Plus, you can easily drag and drop files between the two machines.

You can use the MatePad 11 as a second screen for compatible laptops like Huawei MateBook 13. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

And if you have a Huawei smartphone like the Mate 30 Pro, you can easily share a video from the smartphone to the MatePad 11. Just turn on Huawei Share, put the devices near to each other, the MatePad 11 option will show up and you can share away.

Sharing a video from a Huawei Mate 30 Pro (left) to the MatePad 11 is easy peasy. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

On the downside, you will still find many apps missing, such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, in Huawei’s AppGallery. While you can easily easily find these apps with Huawei’s PetalSearch, you need to download their APK files and manually install the apps.

Moreover, if you or your company are into the Google eco-system, you might have to run through more hoops to get things done. For instance, instead of using native apps, you have to use the mobile browser to use your Google Maps, Google Docs and etc.

With a 7,250mAh battery, the MatePad 11 is rated at 12 hours of continuous usage on a single charge.

In our usual video-loop battery test whereby a 720p video is looped with Wi-Fi turned on and the display at full brightness set at 120Hz refresh rate, the MatePad 11 lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes.

This is pretty average compared to the excellent battery life (11 hours 40 minutes) of MatePad (2021) we reviewed. But this might be due to the high refresh rate consuming more energy.

Huawei has some solid hardware in the MatePad 11. But its only limiting factor is the software – HarmonyOS.

The Huawei MatePad 11 has really solid hardware but its software is limited by the US-China trade war. (Photo: Huawei)

There is no doubt the HarmonyOS and AppGallery will continue to grow and gain traction in the coming months and years. But for now, it is not going to challenge the vast array of apps available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Will consumers be prepared to go through this route of inconvenience? The tech savvy, nerds and geeks certainly will be up for the challenge. And if you are very much into the Huawei eco-system like having a Huawei laptop and smartphone, this superb MatePad 11 is definitely for you.

DESIGN: 8/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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