Apple has dominated the tablet market with their iPad products; they are the undisputed leader. But, if you’re looking for Android-based tablets specifically, it is a much more open space. And one of the newly available options is the Huawei MatePad 11.
Strictly speaking, the Huawei MatePad 11 is an Android tablet with an asterisk. It can run Android apps but, of course, lacks the Google Play store. Still, the tablet has a lot to offer in its repertoire despite lacking that aspect.
Build Quality, Design and Accessories
The Huawei MatePad 11 is made out of a plastic build, but that is by no means a detriment. The plastic chassis feels solid, and the material feels satisfyingly smooth on the touch, which gives the impression of something premium.
Despite using plastic, the tablet is actually quite hefty. It weighs in at around 485g, and it can be uncomfortable to hold after some time, especially if you are using it one-handed. It is less so when using it in portrait, but still, the device seems to predominantly be one that you’ll be using with two hands.
Design-wise however, the Huawei MatePad 11 looks like any other tablet. Tablets never really have the capacity to be aesthetically unique from one another, and that is reflected here as well. Most disappointing is probably the colour variation available; they only hold the Matte Grey version in Singapore.
Huawei does have a Smart Magnetic Keyboard that can act as a cover, but likewise, it is only limited to the dark grey colour. You’ll likely need to get a cover made by a third-party company if you want your tablet to stand out a little more.
Since we are on the subject of the Smart Magnetic Keyboard, I’m a little lukewarm about how it functions. The tablet connects magnetically to the keyboard à la Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad. Still, the magnet strength is a little too weak for my liking — it is pretty easy for it to become detached if you pick up the device in a certain manner. Ironically, docking the Huawei MatePad 11 in a sort-of laptop mode uses much stronger magnets; it really should be the other way around.
Otherwise, the Smart Magnetic Keyboard is perfectly serviceable. It isn’t as elegant as the Magic Keyboard’s implementation, but it works just fine. The tablet connects via Bluetooth quite seamlessly, and the keys also have a decent enough travel distance to bring some satisfaction to the typing experience. That’s pretty good considering the accessory is ‘free’ (at least with Huawei’s promotion at the time of writing).
Another thing that can be added on is the M-Pencil, which is Huawei’s pencil accessory for the tablet. The accessory comes with a classy silver finish and has some good weight to instill a sense of sturdiness. It comes with two replaceable tips, though the tips are quite a pain to remove, considering how slippery they are.
The M-Pencil can be magnetically attached to the side of the Huawei MatePad 11, where it also charges. The magnet strength is appropriately strong, and there was never any issue with the pencil getting dislodged accidentally. Strangely, the placement for it was off-centre, which proved to be a little confusing the first time trying to attach the pencil.
It boasts 4096 levels of pressure and tilt sensitivity which allows for greater control during use. Additionally, a neat double-tap feature lets you switch between brush and eraser through a specific sensing area.
In terms of ports, the tablet uses a USB-C connection which is great if you already have an existing charger or hub. Unfortunately, there isn’t a port for the audio jack for those who still use wired earpieces. Lastly, there is a slot for a microSD should you want to expand your storage capacity.
Huawei MatePad 11’s display measures at 10.95-inches, and thin bezels surround the screen to bring a modern and sleek look to the tablet. Though they are thin, the bezels can still fit a front camera, and luckily Huawei was sensible enough to have it right in the middle when using it in landscape so that your face isn’t awkwardly positioned in video calls.
The device also uses LCD technology for its screen. LCD isn’t as good as OLED (which the larger Huawei Pro tablet uses), but the one on the Huawei MatePad 11 still provides a good experience overall.
The resolution comes in at 2560 x 1600, which makes everything onscreen look sharp, and the 16:10 aspect ratio that it utilises is excellent for getting more things onscreen. In terms of brightness, the Huawei MatePad 11’s display is plenty bright, and it is more than usable outside, even if it is sunny. This ties in with helping content look visually appealing, showcasing a good amount of vibrancy in the image.
With that being said, it still is behind LED or OLED panels in terms of fidelity. There is a lack of a particular ‘oomph’ with LCD that the latter two-panel types can bring visually. Suppose you are looking for the best visual experience on a tablet or aiding in professional colour work. In that case, the Huawei MatePad 11’s display will not provide that for you, but otherwise, it is more than sufficient for casual use, like for watching videos.
Making up for that deficiency is perhaps its biggest feature, the 120Hz refresh rate for the display. Huawei was surprisingly able to include it into the MatePad 11, something that even their Pro series of tablets lack. As expected, using the tablet’s screen feels satisfyingly responsive and smooth and is particularly great for games.
The 120Hz refresh rate also helps with regard to the M-Pencil as well. The company claims that there’s only a 2 ms latency when using the M-Pencil, which holds true for our own testing. Writing or drawing on the MatePad 11 feels almost as responsive as a real pencil would, and that refresh rate certainly plays a part.
Huawei has opted not to use their proprietary Kirin chip on the Huawei MatePad 11. Instead, they have gone back to Qualcomm, with the tablet having the Snapdragon 865 along with 6GB of RAM to power the device.
Performance does not seem to elicit any problems, at least in the short term. Navigating through the tablet and apps is fast and responsive, and I’ve not experienced any hiccups when gaming on it. However, the Snapdragon 865 has already been usurped by newer, more powerful chips from Qualcomm, leaving some question marks over its long-term viability. For now though, if your primary intended tablet routine doesn’t consist too much of intensive workloads, the device should last a good couple of years.
The speakers on the device are surprisingly good. There are four stereo speakers located on either side, and not only are they able to produce a very loud sound, but there’s also depth to the audio as well. The bass is very punchy, and the mids stay clear even at higher volumes. It is good to see that Huawei’s proclaimed Harman Kardon partnership has had a very noticeable positive effect on the speakers.
Huawei MatePad 11 is also among the first few Huawei devices to come with the company’s latest HarmonyOS 2.0. The look of the OS itself is very Apple-like, from the UI down to the icons. Even app placement is restricted like with Apple’s iOS; you can’t personalise your screen as other Android tablets can do.
In general, HarmonyOS 2.0 works well, providing some features to accompany the tablet experience. Multi-Window mode can get up to four apps to run simultaneously on a single screen, though the latter two apps appear as floating windows rather than having their own dedicated split view.
Still, it’s a good tool for multitasking, working seamlessly in tandem; I could have a video playing on one side while I browse or take notes on another app. There’s some customisability, with the split screens and windows allowing users to resize or move them around to fit their personal use. My only gripe is that the initial instructions could have been a little better in explaining how to set it up the first time.
Another similar feature called App Multiplier also allows for multitasking but for the same app. For example, you could browse and compare prices between products easily while on a shopping app —it adds an extra level of convenience overall.
But perhaps the most significant feature is how it collaborates with other Huawei devices. For instance, if you have a Huawei smartphone, you can project its screen onto the Huawei MatePad 11 and easily drag and drop items like photos into the tablet.
In addition to that, you can also use the Huawei MatePad 11 as an external monitor. Through the Huawei PC manager software, there are options to have the tablet mirror or extend your laptop screen onto the tablet and allow for easy drag and drop functionality between the two devices.
Both of these functions work very well when trying them out, and that’s minimal lag throughout the whole experience, which is all the more surprising considering that everything is being done wirelessly. Huawei’s monitor system likewise has a similar collaboration feature with the Huawei MatePad 11 that we couldn’t try out, but I have no doubt that it should work just as well.
Of course, these features are mostly only beneficial to those who have bought into the Huawei ecosystem. So if you already own a Huawei device, the MatePad 11 is all the more enticing to get.
Speaking of being in the ecosystem, those who have been used to using the Google Play Store to get their favourite apps should note that it isn’t available for any Huawei devices, including this. However, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get to enjoy them anymore. Huawei’s AppGallery has slowly built up its catalogue of apps, and it now has a decent amount of the more popular and essential apps that people use. The caveat here is that AppGallery is a slog to go through. You have to navigate through ads while in the store, which is frustrating; no app store should do this.
If you still can’t find your desired app, the tablet’s Petal Search function helps direct you to other sources to get it. It is also baked right into AppGallery for easy accessibility and uses trusted sources from the likes of Aptoide or APKPure, among others. You can also download app apks directly from the app’s official site if offered, and the Huawei MatePad 11 will likewise be able to install and use it.
It isn’t completely perfect though. If apps require GMS (Google Mobile Services), they simply won’t work on the device. You should double-check that your favourite app can function without it before you make the jump.
Just a small note on the cameras as well; they are good. Images and video appear clear for both cameras, particularly the rear camera, as it has 4K video recording capabilities. They should more than suffice for casual photo-taking or video calls, but they aren’t any better than what your smartphone probably can do.
The 7,250 mAh battery on the Huawei MatePad 11 provided around 12 and a half hours of use with a combination of browsing, video-watching and some games at half brightness — that is very decent on the whole.
Charging the device also seems relatively fast, with it taking less than 2 hours to get it back up to speed using the bundled charging brick.
The Huawei MatePad 11 is an intriguing tablet to consider if you are looking for one. The performance is outstanding considering the price tag — you’re getting a responsive and powerful multi-tasking device that can last quite the distance in use. In fact, the specs on paper look better than the 10.8 Huawei MatePad Pro that launched alongside it and is more expensive!
But if you aren’t already into the Huawei ecosystem, you stand to lose out on many great features. In addition to that, the lack of GMS could be a deal-breaker for some who need it for their most-used apps.
Nevertheless, the Huawei MatePad 11 has many good qualities to have it be one of the top choices for a non-Apple tablet.
Photos by Kenneth Tan.