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Huawei MatePad 11 (2021) Review: Ideal Tablet Size & Design

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Huawei nailed both the MatePad 11 (2021) size and design. This is what a tablet should look and feel like.

Huawei MatePad 11 (2021)
Approximately €480
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Great design, comfortable to use
  • Just the right size
  • Really good display
  • Excellent speakers
  • Fluid performance
  • HarmonyOS is not bad at all
Cons
  • No Google apps / services
  • Poor cameras
  • No OLED display

Huawei supplied us with a review unit of the MatePad 11 (2021), but didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did they see this review before you. We’ve been using the device for a couple of weeks before forming an opinion.

Huawei is making some really compelling tablets for Android. It’s shame they don’t come with Google services, though Huawei is doing its best to make you not notice that. It does that mainly by providing its own software suite, and app store you can rely on. Huawei’s AppGallery grew immensely since it was launched, and it’s constantly growing. The Petal Search integration only helps you find apps you’re looking for, and so on.

That being said, the Huawei MatePad 11 (2021) is an ideal hardware offering to use such apps. This is a very compelling tablet from the company, and an alternative to the MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) that I reviewed recently. The MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) is a great tablet, but it’s gigantic. A 12.6-inch tablet may be too much for some people, but this 11-inch one seems to hit the sweet spot, at least for me, and most people I allowed to handle both devices. If you’d like to know more about this tablet, read on.

The Huawei MatePad 11 feels great in the hand, it’s just the right size

The Huawei MatePad 11 does resemble its larger sibling, though you will see some difference. This tablet does have slightly thicker bezels, but they’re still immensely thin, especially for a tablet. It also has a different-looking rear camera island. Other than that, they are quite similar. The in-hand feel is similar as well, though the MatePad 11 is much lighter at 485 grams, compared to 609 grams of its larger sibling. The tablet did not feel too heavy in my hands at any point, it actually felt quite nice to handle. Do note that it’s quite slippery, though, due to the build materials Huawei used. Yes, this tablet comes with a frame made out of metal. We’re not sure about the backplate, though.

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It’s very thin, and feels premium

The Huawei MatePad 11 is also quite thin. It is only 7.3mm thick, which makes it slightly thicker than its sibling, but it doesn’t feel like it. At the top of the device (while you hold it in portrait mode) sits a power / lock key. The volume up and down buttons are located on the right side. The MatePad 11 does feel premium in the hand, which is a good thing. Due to its slippery in-hand feel, you should be careful while using it, it may slip out of your hands. All in all, the design is ideal for a tablet, in my opinion, so Huawei did a great job here. The bezels are also ideally thick, you can handle the device easily, without pressing the display by accident.

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The display is bright, and sharp, even though it’s not an OLED

The Huawei MatePad 11 comes with a 10.95-inch display, which you’ll likely see rounded up to 11 inches by Huawei, in promo materials. This is a high-res display, it offers a resolution of 2560 x 1600, just like its larger sibling. The thing is, though, this is not an OLED panel. We’re looking at an IPS LCD display here, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, the display is not bad by any means, but I was hoping for an OLED panel, as the MatePad Pro 12.6 has one. This display is quite vibrant, and blacks are as deep as they can be on an LCD panel. This display also gets quite bright in direct sunlight, which is something I always appreciate. Yes, the viewing angles are also excellent.

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Truth be said, there’s nothing, in particular, to complain about when it comes to this panel. On top of everything I’ve mentioned, it also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, which is something you’ll greatly appreciate while scrolling. A high refresh rate is even more noticeable on tablet displays. The colors are great, and quite frankly the only thing I can complain about is the fact this is not an OLED display, Though, on the flip side, it’s a truly great IPS LCD panel, so… that can’t really be considered a minus either. One thing is for sure, you’ll love using this panel.

Performance is top notch

The Huawei MatePad 11 is technically inferior to the MatePad Pro 12.6. It is fueled by the Snapdragon 865 SoC, while it comes with 6GB of RAM. The MatePad Pro 12.6, on the flip side, includes more RAM and the Kirin 9000 or 9000E (depending on the model). This difference is definitely not something you’ll notice while using the device, though. The performance was pretty much the same between these two devices, at least in our experience. The Snapdragon 865 may not be the most powerful SoC from Qualcomm at the moment, but it’s not far from it. It’s a truly powerful processor still.

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It’s a multitasking machine

Huawei also optimized HarmonyOS 2.0 really well, and it works great with this tablet, I’d even argue that it works better than EMUI did on previous iterations of the company’s tablet. The performance is really smooth, and the device can handle anything you throw at it. It excelled in multitasking, and you can game on it as well if you want, without a problem. It can run pretty much any game you can dig up on AppGallery and Petal Search. I did not encounter a single lag occurrence. It may skip a frame here and there, but that’s not something you’ll notice, and that’s something that every device that at one point or another. Overall, though, the performance was silky smooth.

The Huawei MatePad 11 (2021) offers great battery life

Huawei’s tablets usually offer really good battery life, to say the least. The same thing can be said for the MatePad 11 (2021). If you’re planning to do some work on this thing, you can easily do that. Its 7,250mAh battery is more than enough for this device. That battery, in combination with the Snapdragon 865, and Huawei’s HarmonyOS provides some really good results. We cannot really tell you how long will it last for you, but we were able to get three days of use out of it. I’ve watched some YouTube, and streamed a couple of TV shows. Wrote a lot, browsed a lot, and also streamed some music over Bluetooth. I ran a game or two just for review purposes, I’m not much of a gamer. If you do game a lot, you should be able to get two days out of it, that’s just a guess, though. As per usual, battery life will depend on your usage… each of us use our devices in different ways, of course.

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22.5W charger is included in the box

When it comes to charging, the charger is included in the box. You’re getting 10V/2,25A charging here, in other words, 22.5W charging is included. This charging can get this battery from 0 to 20-percent in 30 minutes. It will take it to get from 0 to 100-percent around 160 minutes. Those are Huawei’s official numbers, and we’ve realized they’re quite accurate. That’s not particularly fast, but do keep in mind that’s quite a large battery included on the inside. Considering how good its battery life is, chances are such charging speeds won’t annoy you one bit. You’ll likely just plug it in overnight and not even think about it. No, wireless charging is not supported, and the same goes for reverse (wireless) charging.

Camera performance is far from great

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Tablet cameras are not great, in general. That’s true for pretty much every tablet that ever got released. Some are better than others, that’s true, like the ones on some Samsung and Apple devices. What about the ones on the MediaPad 11 (2021)? Well, let’s first say that this thing has two cameras, one on the front, and one on the back. The results when you take pictures are, well, not good. These are not the worst cameras on a tablet we’ve seen, not even close, but they’re far from the best.

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You can get away with using the rear camera in great lighting, sometimes

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You can use these cameras in great lighting, if you want, but don’t expect as great results as on mid-range or high-end phones. The details are lacking, while the colors do seem to be unnatural in some cases. The HDR performance is not great, neither is the dynamic range. The shadows are also not well-lit. Don’t count on using this camera setup in low light and getting good results. The results are not that great indoors either, as focusing on specific objects can be an issue. All of those issues are kind of expected from a tablet camera, though, it’s there if you really have to use it, but you probably shouldn’t.

The selfie camera is good enough

The front-facing camera is good enough, though. It’s good enough for both selfies and video calls, though it’s not great either. You should avoid using it in poor lighting, that’s for sure.

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Audio is one of this tablet’s strong points, it’s truly great

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The audio on this tablet is excellent, to say the least. The Huawei MatePad 11 comes with four speakers, and even though the audio is not on the same level as what the MatePad Pro 12.6 offers, it’s not far from it. These two devices are amongst the best-performing tablet when it comes to audio, easily. The speakers on the MatePad 11 have been tuned by Harman Kardon, and they’re quite punchy. You will get some bass as part of the offering, while the soundstage is wide. There’s a lot of detail provided, across the spectrum, and the sound is well-balanced. The vocals are clear as well. You’ll thoroughly enjoy the audio here. All in all, the audio is top notch.

HarmonyOS 2.0 is very compelling, if you’re not a Google user

The Huawei MatePad 11 comes with HarmonyOS 2.0 pre-installed. That is Huawei’s very own fork of Android, and it’s surprisingly really good… as long as you don’t need Google services. HarmonyOS 2.0 feels like a polished version of EMUI, a skin that Huawei used before. The animations are really smooth, as is the overall performance, and that 120Hz display only helps things. I did not experience a single lag point while I was using the device, in fact, not a single notable stutter or anything of the sort. The performance was excellent through-and-through.

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Huawei really did a good job designing this UI. There are quite a few options included on the inside, and some exclusive ones for MatePad. If you do end up getting the Huawei M-Pencil with this tablet, you’ll be able to take advantage of a couple of apps for it. One of them is a compelling note-taking app, using which you can take regular notes, or get the tablet to turn your writing into words. The other is for calculations. You can write down a mathematical problem, and the app will solve it for you, after digitizing it. These two apps are capable of so much more, though. Gesture navigation is also well-implemented, you can choose whether you want to have all the apps on your displays or have a separate app drawer, and so on. All in all, it feels like a solid implementation of Android, and if you’ve used any Android device before, it will seem familiar.

AppGallery grew a lot, and Petal Search is a huge help

Don’t expect to use Google apps on this thing, though. The company’s AppGallery has a lot of apps to offer, but not all of them. Apps that are not available directly via AppGallery can be downloaded by a third-party app repository. Huawei did a good job by implementing everything into AppGallery, as the app will immediately find the app in a third-party repository if it’s not available natively. The process of installing it and updating it is also not that cumbersome, it works surprisingly well, as it’s powered by Petal Search. It’s not as seamless as having the Play Store on the device, though, of course, so keep that in mind.

Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboards & M-Pencil are excellent accessories

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The Huawei MatePad 11 (2021) doesn’t come bundled with the Smart Magnetic Keyboard or M-Pencil, but you can get them separately. If you really want to take advantage of what this tablet has to offer, to the full, you should get both of those accessories. We talked about them before, the last time in the MatePad Pro 12.6 review. What was said there still stands, these are excellent accessories.

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The Smart Magnetic Keyboard is a case and a keyboard in one. It also serves as a stand for the tablet when you’re typing, and the keyboard is really great. It’s clicky, even though it’s a low-profile, chicklet-style keyboard. I enjoyed typing on it, and the vast majority of this review got typed up on that keyboard. The tablet magnetizes to the Smart Magnetic Keyboard, and it connects seamlessly, it was truly a great experience. That accessory can also magnetize to a table made out of metal, or something of the sort, just so it doesn’t slip around.

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The M-Pencil stylus is also quite nice to have. It magnetizes to the tablet, and it charges that way. Connecting it is simple, all you have to do is dock it, and accept the connection on the tablet. This stylus is not on the level of Samsung’s S Pen just yet, but it’s still above and beyond your regular stylus pens. There are a couple of apps included here that you can take advantage of with that stylus (as mentioned earlier), and you can use it in general while using the tablet, with some benefits. The build quality of it is also quite good.

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The Huawei MatePad 11 (2021) is an excellent tablet with the right price tag

The bottom line is… the Huawei MatePad 11 is an excellent tablet. It’s just the right size, unlike the MatePad Pro 12.6, which is a bit too large in my opinion. This tablet is really comfortable to use, and you’re getting plenty of screen real estate. The build is top notch, while the speakers are excellent. The performance is also great. Don’t count on using those cameras and getting good results, though, while the software is good, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re dependent on Google, this is definitely not a tablet for you. If you can live without its apps / services, the MatePad 11 (2021) is a tablet you should consider getting.