The first HarmonyOS device brings value and synergy. Huawei MatePad 11 Review:
Huawei has been releasing tablets for several years now, but the 2021 upgrade of the Chinese tech giant to the line is remarkable because it is the company’s first mobile devices to operate HarmonyOS—a software that Huawei has developed to address the Google ban by the US government.
Here, I’m only going to get it out: HarmonyOS works well and has some welcome synergy with the entire Ecosystem of Huawei, but it doesn’t differ drastically from the EMUI (Android skinned Huawei version) on Huawei’s mobile devices during the last ten years. In other words, you would be disappointed if you thought HarmonyOS brought a completely new software experience. Get over it—and it’s good hardware and good value for money.
Design and hardware
Two models are included in the 2021 MatePad series, one large Pro with a 12.6-inch display and one smaller with an 11-inch display. I’ve tested it both and, while the Pro model has a more powerful processor, a better speaker and an OLED screen, I prefer a smaller model and believe it is better value for many people than a better option. The focus of the review is on the lesser MatePad 11 model. I’ve reviewed this video format on YouTube if you want to hear my thoughts about the larger model.
The main reason that I prefer the MatePad 11 over the larger model is because it has a more meaningful screen size and aspect ratio for me. Both the tablets use a wide section ratio of 16:10, which is ideal for use with videos and games, but not for word processing or reading large pieces of text such as squares, the section ratio of 3:2 used in iPads and an excellent MateView monitor for Huawei.
Due to the diagonal dimensions of the screens, the wide aspect ratio at the 12,6-inch Pro is even more extensive than the 11-inch Pro. A wide, but short (vertically), screen is not ideal as someone who reads and writes a lot.
I believe that the screen of MatePad 11 has a better balance. And although it’s an LCD panel, it supports 120Hz high refresh rate instead of the superior OLED in the Pro model (the Pro model does not). In addition, the smaller size lightens the MatePad 11.
The display has precise colors, excellent viewing viewpoints and is eye safety certified by Rhineland. This means that the display is low-blue, eye-destroying after proceedings.
Bezels are thin on the screen and Huawei had sufficient meaning to place the 8 megapixel selfie camera/webcam in the middle of the top lens, so the user seems to be much more natural in video calls as he looks straight forward. (The selfie camera/webcam of the iPad is placed on the left bezel when used in the view of the screen, meaning the user appears as if they look away from the screen in video calls to others).
Turn around the tablet and this is quite a bland design. A single 13-megapixel pill-formed module housing it. The webcam is solid and the main picture is not spectacular at all. You’re all well for basic snap shots or videos. There are four speakers on the side which pump good stereo sound (the Pro model has eight speakers for exceptional sound for those wondering).
Under the cap is a Qualcomm 865 Snapdragon, the MatePad 11, which became a flagship processor for qualitycomm in early 2020, and since the time has been exceeded by the 865+ Snapdragon, 870, Snapdragon 888 and 888+ Snapdragon. While the chip is still more capable today, if you pick it up in the summer of 2021, technically it’s no top-end flagship processor. It is the fifth in the pecking order of Qualcomm itself.
RAM has 6GB of storage, either 64GB or 128 GB, but it can be expanded using the MicroSD card. A fast rechargeable battery with 7,250 mAh sits inside, and, although it is not as large, Huawei’s best-in-class battery improvement makes the tablet battery life excellent.
Surprisingly, no fingerprint scanner exists at all in the MatePad 11. And because the webcam is not a 3D depth sensing, face recognition is not so secure, so you should use a password or PIN code, which clearly requires more time to register, if you want real security.
All in all, MatePad 11 has good hardware, if not a bit bland. The tablet itself is priced at $380 in China and approximately $530 in Europe (pricing varies by country). However, Huawei bundles its official case and stylus (the so-called M-Pencil) on the keyboard, while it purchases separately in China. Even after these extra purchases, it is still cheaper in China, but the gap is not as bad as usual.
The M-Pencil Keyboard
The keyboard attachment is almost necessary for you to do any productivity work with the MatePad 11 while the M-Pencil style has a great bonus. Once the keyboard connected the keyboard is operating without set- up, the case snaps on the MatePad 11 are magnetically connected. The case has two prop angles on the tablet and is excellent with even keys and good key travel. This keyboard itself has a good size. However, you don’t need to tap the screen to interact with the UI. There is no trackpad.
In the meantime, the M-pencil is like the Apple Pencil and behavioral. It has a clean seamless design with no buttons, magnetised on top of the pill and a rubber tip that supports tilt and pressure sensitivity (wireless charging as well).
Besides drawing and drawing, for example, there are clever software tricks for M-Pencil, “Huawei FreeScript,” which converts written words into text with great precision (which works fine with a low latency and good software for palm rejection). This feature is available on the tablet line iPadOS and Samsung, too; however, it is surprising that Huawei does better to collect Chinese handwriting, even the traditional method not used in mainland China.
The new HarmonyOS software of Huawei looks very similar from an esthetic point of view to its previous EMUI software. The biggest visual modification is that the home screen now supports a free Grid that allows widgets of different sizes. This is useful to make the MatePad a real productivity machine because I can pin a larger calendar on the home screen or a computer that I can access immediately on the home screen without first diving into the app. Tablets from Samsung do not allow it and iPads will only begin to allow it later this autumn when iPadOS 15 is released to the public.
As previously noted, HarmonyOS provides better connectivity across all products of Huawei. For instance, the Huawei smartphone can connect the MatePad 11 (either a couple of on-screen taps or the device on the bottom-right of the keyboard on the NFC pad if the user has the keyboard). Once connected, a virtual phone screen version will be displayed on the desktop so that files can easily be transferred drag and drop or access apps on the phone without taking hands off the tablet.
Audio is seamlessly transferred from Huawei’s ohrpads to other Huawei equipment such as laptops or smartphones if you have Huawei. And the MatePad 11 can transmit the MateView monitor wirelessly.
In other words, the MatePad 11, as a good intermediate device between a Huawei phone and a Huawei laptop, is a real benefit if you are using multiple Huawei products.
HarmonyOS app situation
All of the fact is that the U.S. government has banned Huawei from working with Google, so that Google apps don’t work on HarmonyOS, as expected. But virtually every other major US app, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, widely used worldwide, works. Also working with other popular applications like NetFlix and Spotify.
The applications do not exist in the Huawei app store, but Huawei is provided with a built-in search system (petal search). Petal Search makes every possible effort to get you to the official source (where the application can be downloaded directly from the Company’s website if you search for Facebook). However, some applications with no official download source will suggest a third-party site such as APK Mirror. While I have experienced and used APK Mirror for years as a phone reviser, the average consumer may be afraid if suddenly they are taken to a non-described site with a bunch of ads.
In short, Huawei’s global smartphone appeal still applies the same obstacles placed by the U.S. government that have derailed it. I don’t think accessing Google apps is just as limited in Matepad 11 as in smart phones, because we tend to use it like a laptop on a tablet with a keyboard case where, instead of using a dedicated Google app, we usually use the web browser to access Google services.
This means I log on the MatePad 11, just like on a MacBook or a Windows laptopp, if I want to watch YouTube or access Google Maps. No one-tap YouTube app or Google Maps app is as uncomfortable.
Most of the time, this workaround works well. You can use the web browser inside MatePad 11 to access Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps or Google Docs. However, some services do not have advanced features.
In the final analysis, a Huawei device is not going to be as ideal as an Android or even an Apple device if your personal or working lives focus on Google services. And that’s unfortunate because Huawei’s consumer tech department is far beyond its control.
A dignified Huawei fans workplaying machine
The MatePad 11 is very valuable if you are a fan of Huawei products or if you do not necessarily have easy access to Google’s various services. You should get a tablet with a stylus and keyboard case at around 530 dollars or less. No such option at that price point is available from Apple or Samsung.
The 11″ size and light weight facilitate the transportation and maintenance of the device for longer durations. And although HarmonyOS isn’t bringing too much new now, for Huawei it is a move in the right direction. It’s best if Huawei does not yet offer Android, a Google synonym, and so the concept of HarmonyOS unveiling, I suspect, comes to terms with the fact that he never regains Google access.