Huawei MatePad 11 2021 – excellent tablet (review)

The Huawei MatePad 11 2021 is a tablet but perhaps not as you expect. It does not use Google Android; instead, it runs Harmony OS, Huawei’s operating system. In hindsight, that is not as much of an issue as we expected.

We need to mention the elephant in the room upfront because it is a great 11” tablet. If you can find the courage to leave Google’s world (and any app that relies on Google services), this is for you. In any case, its primary market is China, where Google is not allowed.

And we were curious to see Harmony OS in action. It is pretty good! Huawei was wise to use an open-source Android 10 fork because it allows sideloading of many Play Store apps with relative ease. More on that later.

Huawei MatePad 11, 6/128GB, Model DBY-W09

WebsiteProduct Page
PriceRRP $928 Matte Grey, but you may find it considerably cheaper online
AU Price should include M-Pencil Gen 2, usually $139
Excludes Smart Magnetic Keyboard $178
FromSearch online of the Huawei Experience Store at Chatswood NSW.
Warranty2-years
Country of OriginChina
CompanyHuawei (Est 1987), pronounced WHAH-way is a Chinese multinational technology corporation headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. It designs, develops, and sells telecommunications equipment, consumer electronics and smart devices. Since 2019 it has been on the U.S. Entities list, unable to use any US technology such as Google Android and its services. It also cannot provide 5G infrastructure to many US-allied nations.
MoreCyberShack Huawei news and reviews

First impression – standard 11” glass slab

The Huawei MatePad 11 could pass for any generic tablet if it did not have a discrete silver embossed Huawei on the back panel. Hence our reference to the glass slab syndrome affecting too many smartphones. It does not stand out in the crowd.

It has a 10.5” glass touch panel, a matte grey polycarbonate frame and back, all fitted nicely together with no gaps.

Setup – can be a little confronting

Most people buying Android tablets have a Google Gmail account and accept that Google has access to your personal information and a reasonable expectation of trust that it will not abuse it.

This requires you to set up a Huawei ID account and all that entails privacy-wise. By purchasing, you are willing to trust Huawei.

To Huawei’s credit, it goes to great lengths to ensure you are fully aware of this via the lengthy end-user licence, basic services licence, and a page on Data and Privacy where if you press ‘details’ it reveals separate and often lengthy privacy policies for:

AI lensAI searchAI TouchDiagnostic AnalysisFeature Adviser
HealthLocation ServicesMeeTimeMeeTime Location servicesSoftware update

Interestingly you can skip (not accept) a lot of the privacy terms, and the tablet still boots with no apparent loss of essential functionality.

Screen – colourful, fast 120Hz IPS LCD

It is a 10.5”, 2560 x 1600, 16:10, 120Hz IPS screen.

It has an 8-bit colour (16.7m), and while it claims a wide colour gamut (usually inferring DCI-P3 movie gamut) – it is more like 95% sRGB. Netflix movies are 1080p@24fps SDR – not HDR as its 500nits suggests. Contrast is reasonable at 1200:1 in vivid and adaptive mode. It can decode up to HDR10/+ content and display that as best it can.

Gamers will find the 15ms BtW, 30.4ms GtG lag acceptable, and the 120Hz refresh screen (no touch refresh given) fast, but in our tests, PUGB and other popular games were limited to <60fps.

It is also hard to read in direct sunlight due to the highly reflective screen.

Processor – Qualcomm quality

It uses the Qualcomm SD865, 7nm, eight-core (early 2020 flagship SoC). Interestingly, the SD865G 5G SoC supersedes it, crediting the rumour of Huawei stockpiling Qualcomm SoCs. It is a great CPU, although the later 2021 SD870/888 5nm and now 2022 SD8 Gen 1 4nm are a lot more powerful, use less energy and generate less heat under load.

Test: Geekbench 5 single/multi-core 903/3179. Speed-wise it is similar to Samsung Exynos 2100 found in the 2021 Galaxy S21 series.

The GPU Adreno 650 at 275/670Mhz. Likely because of the US Entities issue, it only decodes MP4 and 3GP, although the chip is capable of much broader decoding.

Test: OpenCL 3078, Vulcan 3174

RAM and fast Storage

6GB LPDDRX4 is suitable for this device, especially as Harmony OS is a lightweight Linux Kernel Android 10. We did not experience any lag.

Storage is 128GB (110GB free) of fast UFS 3.1 (most use slower 2.1)

Test: Read/Write in MBps

  • Internal UFS 3.1: 1320/381 – this reaches Tier 1 SSD speeds
  • MicroSD 64GB Samsung Pro: 43/24 – above average
  • OWC Envoy Pro Elektron 1TB USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 Review 9.5/10: 122/278 – reflects the half-duplex USB-C 3.0  5Gbps (Max 300MBps)

As we could run the data transfer test on the external SSD, it usually means that it can be mounted via Developer Options to act as internal storage allowing direct access to the drive.

Throttling – minimal

GIPS: Maximum 239,583 Average 233,833 and Minimum 222,812 with 5% throttling and maximum CPU temperature 76°. It is a hotter SoC, but temperatures are well below maximum.

Comms

Wi-Fi 5 AC achieves -34dBm signal strength (excellent) and 1200Mbps (half-duplex) at 2 metres from our reference Netgear AX11000 router. It holds the signal pretty well to about 10 metres. It is a shame that this does not have Wi-Fi AX, as the SD865 supports that.

Bluetooth 5.1 supports SBC, AAC and LDAC HD Audio. It does not have Qualcomm aptX codecs enabled due to US Entities issues.

The GPS is single band and is slow to acquire satellites but accurate to <10m

It does not have NFC or 4/5G.

Port – yes, one

It has a single USB-C 3.0, 5Gbps half-duplex with no ALT DP audio/video stream support. It can use OTG devices for backup, mice and keyboards etc.

Note the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable is USB-2.0 and only supports 480Mbps, so you need to buy a higher rated cable (see battery later). Read more about USB and charging standards.

Speakers – four

There are two speakers each (total four) on the short side (landscape mode). The only issue here is that your hands likely will block the speakers if you are holding it, so you need a stand. The maximum volume is 80dB and above average. The sound stage is slightly wider than the tablet and there is reasonable left/right directionality.

It is a 2.0 stereo (x 2 speakers each channel) setup tuned by Harman Kardon tuned. It sounds great with just enough mid-to-high bass and mid-treble for satisfying sound. Otherwise, there is no speaker equaliser (EQ).

The HUAWEI Histen 7.0 sound effects are only for headphones. You can use a USB-C to 3.5mm DAC or BT 5.1 with SBC, AAC, or LDAC to headphones. There is plenty of volume and excellent stereo definition – it’s a shame about the lack of aptX codecs.

It has four mics around the rear camera sensor, presumably for better video sound recording.

It has no low bass; a smattering mid-bass gives it just enough to satisfy and upper-bass is growing nicely. From 200Hz to 6kHz it is fairly flat with slightly stronger high-mid, low and mid-treble. High-treble is missing. It is a Neutral sound signature that neither adds nor subtracts from the original music! The only issue here is garbage-in, garbage out – the better the music quality, the better it sounds. You can read more How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key)

M-Pencil with replacement tips

It attaches magnetically to the top of the tablet, where charges wirelessly.

It has 4096 pressure levels, 2ms lag, concealed touch button area, and is tilt sensitive for drawing and handwriting (text recognition).

We are not artists or designers but can tell you that the specifications are as good as any brand name active stylus.

Battery

It has a 7250mAh battery and a 10V/2.25A/22.5W, China-style, 2-pin charger that has no RCM C-Tick for Australian use. It is illegal to sell any non-RCM C-tick charger (not the tablet) connected to 240V power, so we can only assume the retail packaging includes a certified one. If not, please demand a certified AU Plug as using non-certified chargers can void household fire insurance.

It also supports 5V/1A/5W reverse cable charge.

Battery life tests:

  • Web surfing: 10 hours
  • Video 50% screen, aeroplane mode, internal storage: 13 hours
  • PC Mark 2.0 battery test: 17 hours 9 minutes
  • 100% load: Nearly four hours

The PC Mark test is a very accurate indication of battery life, so depending on how you are using it, expect 10-17 hours of use.

Charger tests – could be faster

We used a 25W Samsung that outputs 9V/2.25A/20.43W and a 100W PD GaN PD/PPS charger that outputs the precise 10V/2.25A/22.5W.

  • 25W 3W cable charger 0-28% – 30 minutes
  • 25W 3W cable charger 0-100% – 140 minutes
  • 100W 5W cable GaN charger: 0-100% – 130 minutes

It is not super fast charging, but it is not too slow either.

Build – solid

It is 253.8 x 165.3 x 7.25 x 485g plus power supply. The frame and back are polycarbonate, and it has a glass screen (no mention of protection rating). With a 2-year warranty, it is a safe buy.

Options

There is no kickstand (not expected in tablets), so you need to use the Dual angle smart magnetic keyboard to stand it up and use it in landscape mode.

Security

Face ID – 6/10 and sometimes slow. It can store up to five profiles.

Harmony OS 2.0

Harmony OS 2.0 is a fork of open-source Android 10 using the Linux kernel. The key issue here is Huawei’s OS upgrade and security patch policy.

In China, it seems determined to upgrade about 100 models of smartphones and tablets, but that is relatively easy given Google Play, and Google Mobile services are forbidden there. Internationally there are no upgrades to the Google Android version you bought the phone with (or you would lose your Google apps).

Our review unit has 1 December 2021 security patch after a recent update, so we can only assume (we cannot find an official policy) that you will get at least quarterly security patch updates.

Many Android apps are compatible, but you can’t load them from Google Play, and they won’t work if they rely on Google Mobile services or need a Google login. There is no Chromecast. YouTube plays in a browser, albeit at 720p.

Apps come from Huawei’s AppGallery  (45,000 apps versus Google Play at 3.5m).

Apps also come from Petal Search that finds and installs Android APKs – Netflix, Prime Video and Spotify, games such as PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile. But since mid-2021, Google has swapped from APK to Android Application Bundle, also known as AAB packaging. This means APK apps are often not the latest version.

While there is a malware risk with sideloading, Petal checks and declares it safe (or not).

If you are invested in Google and want local apps like COVID Check-in, banking, taxi Uber etc., don’t do it. If you don’t mind using APK app versions, Petal makes it easy.

Huawei MatePad 11 camera

Tablets are not the easiest to hold still. This takes good shots in day and office light and acceptable shots in low light.

  • 13MP rear f/1.8 1.12 um, 65.4° AF with LED flash4K@30fps Samsung S5K3m5 10x digital
    Time-Lapse/Panorama/Watermark/Document Correction/Audio control/Timer/Burst shooting
  • 8MP front f/2.0, 1.12 66.6° FF 1080p@30fps OmniVision ov8856
    Beauty mode/Time-Lapse/Watermark/Selfie mirroring/Audio control

CyberShack’s view – A lot to like about the Huawei MatePad 11

Great hardware, excellent performance, long battery life and a lovely screen. Harmony OS and the lack of local Google Play apps is the deal-breaker for many.

If we rate it as a premium 11” ‘Android’ tablet, it is a 9/10. If we rate it for Australian circumstances, it loses too many points for lack of local apps.

Huawei MatePad 11

Huawei MatePad 11 2021 Harmony OS 2.0 Tablet

$928 but shop around
8.5

Features

9.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

7.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • Bright and fast (120Hz) IPS LCD panel
  • Excellent battery life
  • Fast processor and storage
  • Terrific sound quality and clarity.
  • HarmonyOS feels familiar – it is Android 10 in Huawei clothing

Cons

  • HarmonyOS App Gallery has a long way to go
  • No fingerprint reader
  • No 3.5mm jack
  • Should have been Wi-Fi 6 AX and BT needs aptX codecs


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