Here it is, the first HarmonyOS tablet marketed in France! The Huawei MatePad 11, which therefore does not work on Android, but under a “home OS” arrives and we were able to test it for a good ten days. Here is our full review and conclusions on the tablet, but also on Huawei’s new operating system.
Huawei releasing a new tablet, it’s not surprising. The Chinese manufacturer has been well established in this market since 2013, when it launched its Ascend Mate, a model followed by different iterations like the Mate S, Mate 20 or Mate X.
But in 2019, Huawei had to review its copy because of the American embargo, which prohibits the manufacturer from doing any trade with American companies. Android Private (but not the open source version of the OS), so Huawei designed a whole new operating system: HarmonyOS. If the operating system took its first steps in China more than a year ago, now it has landed internationally on tablets and connected watches … While waiting for smartphones with the P50 series which should be announced on July 29, 2021.
One of the very first devices to be marketed in France under HarmonyOS is therefore a tablet: the MatePad 11. As the name suggests, the device has an 11 ″ screen, take advantage ofan ultra-powerful SoC, 4 very well-made speakers, a large 7250 mAh battery… In short, she has it under her elbow, this tablet. But it is especially the software part that interested us, since a tablet without an OS and an application store that hold up, it does not have much interest. And this is where HarmonyOS must manage to pull out of the game in the face of competition from Android and iPadOS. HarmonyOS and its store (the AppGallery) will they manage to make us forget Android? What are the advantages and disadvantages of turning to an alternative system? We have tested the MatePad 11 from every angle and therefore bring you all our conclusions.
Our test of the Huawei MatePad 11 under HarmonyOS 2 in video
Huawei MatePad 11 technical sheet
|Huawei MatePad 11|
|Screen||11 inch LCD
Definition 2560 x 1600 pixels
|Back photo||13 MP sensor|
|Photo (front)||8 MP sensor|
|Storage space||64 or 128 GB|
|RAM||4 or 6 GB|
Pricing and availability
The MatePad 11 availability date is set to July 21, 2021 in France. The MatePad 11 is available in two versions:
- 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage at 399 €
- 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage at 499 €
The device is delivered by default with a stylus. On the other hand, the MatePad 11 can also accommodate a magnetic keyboard, which is optional. The price of the accessory is not yet known. Finally, note that Huawei also plans to market a MatePad Pro under HarmonyOS, which has among other things a 12.6 ″ OLED screen and 8 speakers instead of 4 on the MatePad 11. We will have the opportunity to detail all its specificities in our big test to come.
A nice design, but very classic
Let’s start this test properly with a quick tour of what’s in the tablet box. In the copy we received, the MatePad 11 comes with a 18 W charger, of a USB-A / USB-C cord and a USB-C / Jack adapter. There is no stylus on the horizon, which should be included with the device. The version we received from Huawei does not contain one, but since it is a press copy, there is no cause for concern either. Bad luck for us, but we hope to get our hands on it very quickly and to complement this test as it should.
From the top of his 11 inches and its screen all in length, the tablet is large … Too large perhaps, some will judge. Unless you have large hands, you will probably have a hard time holding it with one while holding the stylus with the other while not comfortably seated on the sofa (much like in our video above : do not laugh, but it was torture the entire duration of the shoot to keep her in the air like this).
However, the tablet remains very handy and its weight of just under 500 grams (493 grams exactly on the scale) ultimately makes it quite pleasant to use. Especially since you can easily slip it into a small handbag or backpack without fear of overload.
Always in terms of design and handling, we note that the ignition button is placed on the top edge of the device, while the volume control buttons are located on the right side of the tablet. Their placement on the top of the device is quite disconcerting at first glance, but the fact that they are located within two centimeters of the power button turns out to be quite practical. It’s just a hit to take.
The four speakers at the top and bottom of the device are also quite discreet, as is the rear photo sensor and its flash. The back of the device is covered with a dark gray matte surface. Huawei has bet on a sober aesthetic, while giving the MatePad 11 a rather classy side. And even if the back of the device is the expense of a few fingerprints on the back, the tablet has something to seduce by its simplicity and its apparent robustness.
Top performance and good battery life
Now let’s get to the “heart” of the tablet. The MatePad 11 pulsates with a Snapdragon 865. For the record, it is the same SoC that equipped high-end smartphones in 2020, among which we find the OnePlus 8T, the Galaxy S20 FE (5G version), the Oppo Find X2 Pro, the Asus Rog Phone 3, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, etc. It is not an entry-level processor, but indeed an SoC intended for flagships, even if it has since been replaced in this category by the Snapdragon 865+, 870 and 888.
As mentioned previously, the device is sometimes equipped 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, sometimes from 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space. For our tests, it was this last model that we had available.
It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s one of the bright spots we need to emphasize: the MatePad 11 is a real powerhouse. Its SoC in fact one of the most efficient tablets among mid-range models, if not “the” most powerful tablet at present at less than 400 euros. The benchmarks you will find in this article demonstrate this. The MatePad 11 “kills the scores”, but it’s not all that matters. In use, we have never encountered the slightest slowdown in the games we have launched (Genshin Impact, Fortnite, etc.). At no time was the tablet faulty. And being able to play at 120Hz in some titles makes for an even better experience, but we’ll get to that.
Autonomy side, Huawei announces a longevity of 12 hours of local video playback (the video files are stored on the tablet) thanks to the 7250 mAh battery. We checked this data: even if we could not reach 12 hours of autonomy, we came close during the 2 tests that we launched in local reading. In the first test, the tablet held 11:51 am, while in the second, using another looped video and with a volume set a little louder, it was able to endure 11:43 am of video playback. On the other hand, in streaming reading, the autonomy is reduced: in this case we lose a little less than 2 hours. So allow about ten hours of autonomy so in Wi-Fi video playback.
Despite everything, you will have to be a little patient when it comes to recharging. According to our tests, the device charges up to 33% in 30 minutes. To recover 66% of the battery, it will take 70 minutes, whilea full charge requires 2h06. It is long, but the capacity of the battery explains this duration.
A 120 Hz screen, what better?
The device has a 10.95 ″ screen and enjoys an 86% screen size to total size ratio. The size of the image is 2560 x 1600 pixels, the tablet offering a DCI-P3 display. However, and unlike tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, no OLED screen on the horizon. Nothing unusual about that, the MatePad 11 falls into the midrange tablet category. To benefit from an OLED display, you should look to the big sister, the MatePad Pro, which is worth twice as much.
One of the great strengths of the MatePad 11 is that it offers a refresh rate that can reach the 120 Hz. We’ve talked about it many times before, but this high frequency allows smoother scrolling in games, but also in navigation or scrolling in certain applications. And the MatePad 11 is no exception to the rule: it’s clean, it’s fluid, it’s a joy to use. Of course, it is possible to return to 60 Hz on the tablet, in order to gain a little autonomy, but not much in reality, because the refresh rate is adaptive. Huawei also offers 3 possible settings:
- Dynamic (what most other manufacturers call “Adaptive”)
- High (set to 120 Hz no matter what)
- Standard (set to 60 Hz)
So, what conclusion to make regarding this screen in the end? The colors are vivid and beautiful, the blacks are quite deep, and this despite the absence of OLED technology. Quite frankly, there is nothing to complain about, except maybe one aspect a little too bright. As you can see from the photos in this article, the screen loves reflections, which can cause some trouble when reading in direct sunlight. For the rest, the screen is the perfect companion for video playback, gaming or web browsing.
We subjected the tablet to our usual probe and it turns out that the IPS panel is doing well on several points. His Delta E 3.0 gives it a very correct respect for colors. The tablet also offers really good maximum brightness, just like its average contrast of 1324 allows it to stand out against the competition, without obviously being able to compete with an OLED screen. On the other hand, the measured temperature of 7533 in default mode is little high. It will therefore be necessary to adjust the shot via the display options of the device.
Audio quality at the rendezvous
It may be forgotten a little too often, but the audio part is probably one of the most important parts of a tablet. Whether it is to watch movies or series, to play games, to video chat via a chat application, the quality of the audio reproduction delivered by this type of device must be of very good quality. Otherwise, you should always take a Bluetooth headset or speaker with you, which is not necessarily practical.
Huawei has looked into the issue and built no fewer than four speakers into its tablet. In addition, and according to the manufacturer, the Histen 7.0 system helps boost the bass and provides an improved sound field. Everything has been designed with Harman / Kardon, which we no longer present. Micro side, the tablet benefits from four devices. Three of them are arranged around the tablet, while the fourth is placed on the back of the device.
What about the facts? The sound is pretty good, even very good. As usual, it is impossible for this kind of device to compete with small dedicated speakers, that’s obvious. But the quality is good and watching movies and series on the Huawei tablet is much more advantageous than on most competing models or any smartphone (regardless of the screen size, of course, only on the audio plan). Even at full volume, it does not saturate, and the bass is sufficiently present to ensure a good immersion in any type of program (TV series or film).
Photo: not bad, but not its main interest
Even though an 11 ″ tablet is not exactly the ideal device for taking photos, we still wanted to test the capabilities of the device’s two sensors. If only for extra photos (“Damn, I forgot my smartphone today!”), But also to judge the capture.
The 13 MP rear sensor and the 8 MP front sensor do their job well, but don’t expect extraordinary performance either. The colors are good, sometimes a little very slightly saturated, but the tablet ultimately offers fully usable shots. The lack of optical zoom necessarily leads to a loss of details as soon as we exceed x2.
Without having operated any colorimetric balance, the image below shows the rear photo sensor sometimes tends to alter the colors. The clouds are perfectly white, which was not really the case the day this shot was taken.
Finally, note that no portrait mode is possible, either at the front or at the back. But as said in the preamble, using a tablet for shooting is today a complicated practice because of the size of the devices, and which has totally fallen into oblivion, or almost.
HarmonyOS: the angry subject, really?
The main characteristic of this tablet lies above all in its operating system: rather than finding Android there, we benefit from a brand new system, HarmonyOS. Finally, not so “new” since China has benefited from it since 2019, but “new” for the rest of the world. For the record, Huawei is no longer allowed to do business with most of the American tech giants (except Microsoft?). As a result, all of its products have been deprived of Google services for two years now. In addition, if Huawei can still run Android on its phones and tablets, it has to settle for the open source version.
Long before the embargo imposed by the United States, Huawei was already on its own operating system, or so the Chinese company claims. This is how the HarmonyOS project was born, also known as Hóngméng OS. But rather than reinventing the wheel, Huawei drew a lot of inspiration from Android, especially Google’s version 10 of the OS. Huawei’s detractors blame it for having openly copied Android, without really seeking to innovate. But it’s a bit more complex than that, actually.
In short, you will understand, the MatePad 11 finally allows us to discover what HarmonyOS is worth facing the two big names of the genre, Android and iOS (or iPadOS in the case of tablets). So, does Huawei’s operating system stand a chance of becoming a relevant alternative to Google’s and Apple’s operating systems? At the first launch, it’s hard not to compare it with Android. Huawei does not hide it: its new OS is based on Android’s open source code, but also borrows some code from Linux (Android also belongs to the large family of Linux OS). On the other hand, the Chinese giant has also sought to break away from it by borrowing certain elements from … iOS / iPadOS!
At the first launch, we note the presence of an application dock on the lower part of the home screen. This includes both recently installed applications, but also the applications you use most often. We could see HarmonyOS as a mix between two existing operating systems, Android and iOS. And that’s pretty smart on the part of Huawei, which is trying to rally the two user communities to its cause. But it is above all Android which remains the main basis of the new OS. The title of the menus, their arrangements, the parameters… Everything is reminiscent of Android.
If, on the left of the home screen we find Assistant TODAY, this is revealed in its design and use very similar to Google Assistant. Google’s operating system and its applications are so ubiquitous that they can even be found in shortcuts. To take a screenshot, for example, just press the volume down button and the power button at the same time. Exactly like in Android. Note that the touchscreen shortcuts as they were known on other Huawei smartphones and tablets are still present. Taping with one finger on the screen takes a screenshot, while the same two-finger operation takes a video capture.
In use, the new OS shows excellent fluidity, coupled with astonishing stability. We think (wrongly) that the operating system, because of its relative youth, is at risk of bugging and rowing in abundance. This is not the case, at least not during the two weeks that our test lasted.
Among the new little things that can be found on HarmonyOS 2 and that cannot be found elsewhere, there is also the multiscreen. This function allows two windows of the same application to be displayed on the screen. Very handy for consulting information, while staying on the home screen of the application, for example. The tablet must be placed in landscape mode. However, very few applications support this feature (Health, Petal Search, etc.). The tablet has a mode called “application duplicator”: thanks to it, an application like Health or Petal Search can use two windows, each displaying different content.
HarmonyOS also supports remote display from another Huawei device. For example, if you are using a branded PC, you can display the computer screen on the tablet. It is possible to do this either in mirror mode or in extended mode.
Finally, the last small innovation: multi-window. You can use the tablet to display four windows at the same time on the tablet. A very useful function for example to copy and paste information from one application to another, to play while watching a video, etc.
On the other hand, and just like for Huawei smartphones since the Mate 30 Pro, the installation of applications goes through the AppGallery. No Google Play Store then, and that’s quite normal. This is perhaps the most tendentious point of the OS: at the moment, the AppGallery does not fulfill all of its promises. Many “western” applications that are commonly used are not present. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest… In the best case, you have to go through the publisher’s site to get an APK. Otherwise, an alternative awning must be used. In addition, each store launch is accompanied by a 3 second ad, it will have to be done with. And the AppGallery isn’t perfect yet. When, for example, you want to install the Facebook application, the store returns different results, but none allows you to officially download the application from the Facebook site.
Clearly, an OS as powerful as it is, is worth nothing without software library power. The good surprise is that Harmony OS is nevertheless compatible with all the Android applications that we have been able to test. Because if the Huawei store is ultimately poorly supplied, its joint use with Petal Search allows you to install any kind of application from APKPure. And nothing prevents you from manually installing your own APKs recovered here and there.
Can we install Google services and the Play Store on the MatePad 11?
At present, there is no method similar to the “hacks” that we have seen flourishing on Huawei’s Mate 30s and other P40s. This type of installation, which usually requires downgrading the device, has not yet taken place on the tablet, and may never see the light of day.
On the other hand, there is indeed a way to install Google services on the tablet, something that users of recent models like the recent Mate 40 are familiar with. All you have to do is install an application like DualSpace (which allows you to launch all Google services) OurPlay (which in turn allows you to bypass Google’s limitations and install the PlayStore) or GSpace. For our part, it is the latter that has proven to be the most effective and practical to use, but you are free to choose another.
So we tried the experiment and it works fully : Once the GSpace application was installed and one of our Google accounts logged in, we were able to access the Play Store, in order to reinstall many of the applications we use every day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Gmail, Google Photos, all work without problem under HarmonyOS 2. Note, however, that an application like Google Maps refuses to install correctly. For the record, the tablet is perceived by the installer as an Honor 8X, a smartphone released in 2018 … A few months before the embargo by the administration of Donald Trump, therefore.
For the purposes of this test, we would have liked very much to get our hands on the stylus, but also on the keyboard. Unfortunately, Huawei has not yet been able to provide them to us. We will not hesitate to update this article as soon as possible and give you all of our impressions, as these two components can be a game-changer as well. Huawei announces for its M-Pencil of 2e generation 4096 pressure levels, as well as a smoother design for improved comfort and grip. Also according to the manufacturer, its new platinum-coated tip, which benefits from a frosted finish, gives it better protection against oxidation. Finally, the M-Pencil is recharged via Bluetooth via the tablet. The simple fact of placing it on the upper edge of the device, which magnetized there only, for the two components to pair, the tablet also taking the opportunity to recharge the stylus. In short, it’s the kind of little accessory that can also make the difference.
But then, we buy it or not this tablet? Just as we had long hesitated for the Mate 30 Pro, P40 and other Mate 40 Pro, which run on Android, but do not have a base of GMS, the answer concerning the MatePad 11 is based on two hypotheses:
- If you already have an Android device, but you are rather new to its use, you may be very disappointed with Huawei’s tablet running HarmonyOS. Even if the content of the AppGallery is enriched a little more every day, the Huawei store is still far from equaling that of Google. In addition, the fact of having to go through alternative stores like APKPure to really find the applications that one uses can seem daunting. Not that it’s really complex, but it’s not really plug n’play.
- On the other hand, if you are a little more familiar with Android and the installation of APK, if the fact of having to launch an alternative store or to rely on an application like GSpace to access the Play Store does not scare you. , then this tablet can be a very good choice. Because it finally has everything or almost everything to seduce, as its material qualities are numerous and its price is canon.