Huawei has launched new MatePad devices powered by HarmonyOS operating system, and the MatePad Pro 12.6 is Huawei’s most advanced tablet, and therefore the most exciting model of the 2021 lineup.
At a high level, this is a competitor for devices such as the iPad Pro or the Galaxy Tab S7+. As a peripheral computing platform (in addition to your computer and phone), it works best if you are already invested in the Huawei ecosystem as it interacts in more advanced ways with Huawei’s other devices.
For example, this tablet can turn into a formidable “sketching pad” for a Huawei laptop or turn into a 12.6” secondary laptop monitor. Of course, data-sharing, file-sharing, or even keyboard sharing (use the laptop’s keyboard to type on the tablet) are incentives to stay within the Huawei ecosystem.
The tablet is built around a beautiful 12.6-inch OLED display (2560×1600) that represents 90% of the entire front surface of the device. It looks nearly borderless and provides an immersive experience that lets you focus on the task, or entertainment, at hand.
The color accuracy has a delta-E of 0.5, which means that color reproduction is perfect to the human eye (below d-E 2.0 most people can’t see the difference). OLED displays also feature true black and insanely high contrast ratios (1M to 1 in this case), so watching dark movies in a dimly lit room yields a fantastic experience.
The display quality also makes it an excellent platform to present Creative work the way it was intended to be seen, and anyone who makes presentations requiring high-quality graphics could benefit from this kind of quality (architecture, fashion, design, and more).
Design & compute platform
The chassis design is exquisite, with a weight of 609g and a thickness of only 6.7 mm. Even with the optional keyboard and pen, the whole package is agreeable to carry in your hand or bag.
The keyboard case uses strong magnets to retain the tablet, and the display can be oriented at two different angles. The keyboard keys are firm, and the key action is even a bit clicky and clearly one of the more pleasant experiences I’ve had with folio keyboards. The 1.3mm travel distance is impressive given how thin the keyboard is." CLEARLY ONE OF THE MORE PLEASANT KEYBOARD EXPERIENCES"
The keyboard keys surface is matte and doesn’t pick up the fingers’ oil at all. It is one detail that differentiates between a cheap material and an expensive one like we have here. I’m particularly sensitive to the keyboard quality because I type a lot. You won’t be disappointed by this keyboard.
Inside, the tablet is powered by a Kirin 9000E processor. It is a derivative of the Kirin 9000 (non-E) processor, and the main difference between the two is the graphics performance of the E version, which is about 27% lower than the non-E model.
This choice of processor makes the MatePad Pro 12.6 slightly underpowered compared to Samsung’s Tab S7+ ($849) and its Snapdragon 865 graphics performance. And both of these are well behind the Apple M1 iPad Pro 12.9 ($1199).
When using the MatePad Pro 12.6, the tablet’s user interface feels extremely fast and responsive. That is a testament to the work that Huawei has put into its HarmonyOS graphics interface. The overall UI speed and fluidity are comparable to an iPad Pro and better than most Android tablets we’ve used."THE USER INTERFACE FEELS EXTREMELY FAST AND RESPONSIVE"
I found the Harmony user interface Service Widgets and bottom Dock to be very usable. They take advantage of the large tablet display format, which was always a weak point of Android, which is still a phone-first user interface.
The control panel is easy to navigate and occupies just the right amount of screen real estate. That’s much better than the ChromeOS control panel, for example.HarmonyOS also allows for up to four apps to appear on the screen simultaneously, but for me, one or two apps across a split-screen are typically enough.
I’m no designer, but I love the Huawei M-Pencil electronic pen industrial design, overall feel, and responsiveness. The pen has a slight indentation that makes it very stable in your fingers and doesn’t “roll” or slide when you’re using it. That is an issue that I bump into frequently with many E-Pen as their surface is perfectly round and slippery.
The responsiveness and speed are extremely good for note-taking, and it’s basically at the point where there’s no noticeable lag (only 9ms according to Huawei) that gets in the way.
It now comes down to how good the pen-driven apps are, and the default Nebo app is okay for that purpose, but its built-in gestures collided with my doodling. Anytime I drew a box or a cross shape, they were interpreted as gestures.
I’m no designer, so I’m not sure how good the tablet would be for Creative usage but the specs look very good: 4096 pressure levels and tilt support should provide the technological foundation for a great sketching or writing experience.
Huawei devices often have a great sound system, and the 8-speakers audio system is out of this world. The sound quality is excellent, with the sound having a great body and an excellent spatial component."THE 8-SPEAKERS AUDIO IS OUT OF THIS WORLD"
It’s astonishing to have this kind of quality and power in such a small chassis. It’s tough to tell “where” the sound is coming from. That’s because it’s coming from “everywhere” as speakers are present at all corners of the device.
This tablet sounds better and has more powerful sound than laptops that are many times its volume. That’s incredible!
The MatePad Pro 12.6 camera system inherits many traits from Huawei’s smartphone experience, and as such, it is much superior to any traditional laptop’s camera. The rear camera system also has dedicated zoom and ultrawide modules, just like modern phones. I bet that it would fare quite well in our CAMERA HW benchmark.
Whether it is the rear or front camera systems, Windows or Mac computers can’t match this level of quality. It is not even close. You would look much better during video calls, and this reminds us how far behind the PC industry has fallen.
The 10,050 mAh battery capacity of the MatePad Pro 12.6 is consistent with major competitors. It can be charged at 40W via the USB-C port or at 27W via a sufficiently powerful wireless pad. Reverse wireless charging is also available in case you want to charge small devices.
The MatePad Pro 12.6 has an excellent battery life and can reach 15 hours of video playback, depending on the screen’s brightness. Independent reviews show that it has higher battery endurance than the Samsung Tab S7+ in these tests.
I suspect that’s because Samsung’s tablet has a higher display resolution (2800×1752) and a higher display refresh rate (120Hz vs. 60Hz). That said, most of these tablet platforms have sufficient battery life to reduce users’ battery anxiety, so I don’t expect this to be a sway factor.
Software is probably THE most crucial sway factor for this device. The MatePad Pro 12.6 runs on HarmonyOS and does not have access to the Google App store, or Google services like GMail, etc.
Only some of the Android apps people are familiar with are available on the Huawei AppGallery. Huawei spared no effort working with developers to have their apps available on its platform, but app coverage still needs growth.
For example, popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Finance, Authy, Kakao, Nine email and more are not available in the Huawei AppGallery.
Huawei facilitates the “sideloading” of these apps by providing direct links to sites like APKPure, but this can put off many users as they don’t know or trust these app sources. Sideloading refers to installing apps outside of the Appstore, and people do it on Android too.
I installed the Facebook and Youtube app from there, but I would rather see many of these apps coming from Huawei’s store directly.
If you’re already invested in Huawei’s ecosystem or don’t care that much about Google services because you don’t use them, your situation would be completely different from someone coming from another platform.
The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is a tablet that features an excellent hardware design, and the overall look and feel of the tablet are impeccable.This is a platform decision. If you are comfortable with the app selection, you will not be disappointed by the MatePad Pro experience.
There is an extra productivity incentive for people who already own other Huawei devices such as laptops and phones, as these devices would become more than the sum of their parts.
Still, the MatePad Pro 12.6 faces stiff competition from Samsung and Apple. The Galaxy S7+ 12.4” costs $849.99 and offers at least the same type of performance. On the other hand, the iPad M1 has higher performance at a similar price level. I expect the iPad to lead in high-performance computing applications such as video editing.
It’s great to see such ferocious competition in the tablet space, and the MatePad Pro 12.6 remains one of the top contenders if you’re okay with switching to HarmonyOS. It might be an uphill battle to make that OS a more mainstream platform, but such a device makes that OS that much tempting.
- Great quality and design
- Excellent sound system
- Super-fast and comfortable e-pen
- Need more apps in the store
- Competitors have a performance edge
Rating + Price
- Rating: 8.6/10
- Price: ~$1100