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Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 Review: Google-Free Productivity Machine

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The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is a productivity machine with outstanding audio output.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6
Approximately €800
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Premium guild quality
  • Really good, sharp display
  • Top of the line performance
  • Best audio output in the market
  • Thin profile and bezels
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • No Google apps
  • 60Hz display refresh rate

Huawei supplied us with a review unit of the MatePad Pro 12.6, 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.

The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is the company’s latest tablet. This is a larger variant of the MatePad Pro 10.8 that came out last year, it features a 12.6-inch display. The two devices actually have a lot in common, and I will be mentioning the 10.8 model throughout this review, as I reviewed it last year. In any case, the first thing to note, before we begin, is that the MatePad Pro 12.6 comes without Google services. Due to the US ban, Huawei had to adapt, and exclude Google services from its devices. We’ll talk more about the software later on.

This is one of the first Huawei devices that ship with Harmony OS out of the box. The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is a very sleek device, and it is great for productivity. Good tablets are rare these days. When it comes to Android tablets, Samsung stands out, and it doesn’t have much competition. Well, if you’re wondering whether this one is worth buying as well, and can it stand next to the likes of Samsung… read on.

The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 offers premium design, without a doubt

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When it comes to the design, the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 resembles its smaller sibling quite a bit. A major difference is visible in the rear camera island, but that’s about it. Other than the size difference telling these two devices apart could be difficult. That’s not a bad thing at all, as Huawei hit the home run with the MatePad Pro last year. This device looks very sleek, and premium. Its frame is made out of metal, while we’re not sure about the back. It doesn’t seem like metal. It could be nicely processed plastic or something of the sort, but it feels more premium.

The bezels are really thin, and so is the device itself

The bezels are very thin on the tablet, but not too thin, as you need something to grip this thing. Huawei left just enough thickness for that purpose. All bezels are the same thickness, which makes for a nice-looking uniform design. There are four speakers on this tablet, two on the left side and two on the right (landscape orientation). We’ll talk more about those in the audio section, and about the lack of the audio jack as well. This tablet also doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, just a regular power / lock key.

It’s a large tablet, keep that in mind

Do note that this is quite a large device. Its display is 12.6 inches, and no matter how thin the bezels are, it’s big. On top of that, it’s quite heavy. The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 weighs 609 grams, which makes it considerably heavier than its sibling. That’s a tradeoff of such a large display, though. The tablet is quite thin, though, which is appreciated. Just keep that in mind before you make a purchasing decision, as the 10.8-inch model is much easier to use. Holding this thing with one hand is not something you’ll want to do for prolonged periods of time.

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The Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard (2021) is the best accessory for this tablet

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Huawei did ship the Smart Magnetic Keyboard my way to check it out alongside this tablet. Do note that this product is sold separately, though. If you do have the cash, and you want a keyboard for the MatePad Pro 12.6, this is the keyboard to get. It acts as a case for the tablet at the same time, which is great. The tablet magnetizes to the keyboard, and the magnet is strong enough. This is the number one accessory you should get for this tablet, without a doubt. I enjoyed using it, and even typed up a part of this review on it. The keys are good, though the travel isn’t great. That’s perfectly acceptable considering this accessory is immensely thin, I’m actually surprised I got as much travel as I did. I never felt annoyed while typing on this keyboard. I do like chiclet keys, though, so… yeah. This keyboard is definitely not for those of you who like mechanical keyboards. It is extremely simple to pair up, and it also acts as a stand for the device. It’s a perfect accessory for the MatePad Pro 12.6.

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The Huawei Pencil (2021) is the accessory to get if you want a stylus

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The Huawei Pencil is also sold separately, so keep that in mind. Now, it’s a really useful stylus to have, for this tablet. It does offer some extra functionality, and precision that some of you may need, especially if you’re a designer. There are also some great gestures that you can use with it. This stylus feels great in the hand, and it magnetizes to the side of the tablet. That’s how you can carry it with you, and charge it at the same time. You’ll also get several different tips in the box, if you buy the Huawei Pencil (2021). This stylus offers a 9ms latency, which is excellent. It also supports up to 4,096 pressure-sensitive levels. This tablet ships with an included app that will allow you to take advantage of everything this stylus has to offer.

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The display is excellent, but it lacks high refresh rate support

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The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 has a gorgeous display. This is an improvement compared to its smaller sibling, as the 10.8 variant did not offer an OLED display. The MatePad Pro 12.6 features a WQXGA (2560 x 1600) OLED panel, which counts to 240 PPI. This tablet does support HDR10+ output, though do note that many apps won’t offer it due to the US ban. Having said that, the device has a screen-to-body ratio of 90-percent. It managed to achieve that thanks to such thin bezels all around.

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The display on the MatePad Pro 12.6 is flat, of course, and it truly is gorgeous. It does offer punchy colors, and those deep blacks that you’re used to on OLED displays. The display is plenty sharp. It’s not as sharp as on Samsung’s most premium offering, but that’s not something you’ll notice. This display is more than sharp enough, and there’s not a chance you’ll notice pixelation or anything of the sort.

You are limited to 60Hz refresh rate

One major downside of this display, in my opinion, is the lack of a 120Hz refresh rate. This display does not offer any sort of high refresh rate, actually, it’s stuck on 60Hz. Don’t get me wrong, it works great, and that’s not something many people will notice or complain about, but once you’ve used 120Hz displays, it’s difficult going back, especially with such large panels. You’ll definitely notice the difference when scrolling, gaming, and doing many other things. But only if you’re used to high refresh rate displays. Huawei actually did a great job with animations here, and the tablet runs extremely smooth even on a 60Hz display. The lack of a high refresh rate is pretty much the only downside to this display, as it also gets really bright, even when you’re outdoors.

The performance is great, in every way

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The performance of the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is excellent, to say the least. That is not surprising considering its powerful internals. This thing is fueled by the Kirin 9000 5G SoC, while it has 8GB of RAM on the inside, along with 256GB of internal storage. Huawei’s all-new OS, HarmonyOS, is really well-optimized as well, so it works well with these components. During our usage, we haven’t noticed any lag or anything of the sort. We didn’t manage to get this device to slow down in any way. Even when you utilize some of its multitasking features, like running floating windows on top of whatever you’re doing, didn’t anything to hinder its performance. The same goes for split screen mode.

Gaming is a breeze, as it should be on a premium tablet

We’ve, of course, tried gaming on this thing, and it handled that aspect like a champ. The fact it has a 60Hz display only helps things, of course, as it’s not that demanding on the hardware components. We ran Angry Birds 2, Lords Mobile, Asphalt 9, and several other games. All ran perfectly fine on this tablet. Regular, everyday tasks, also worked really well. This tablet is a multimedia machine, with outstanding sound, which is something we’ll talk about later on. Browsing, multitasking… it all runs perfectly fine, and it looks great on that big, beautiful display. Now, Google services and apps are not here, though, and that may be a huge minus for some of you, so let’s talk about that.

Google services & apps are not here, but this tablet may surprise you in the software department

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The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 comes with HarmonyOS 2.0 pre-installed. That is Huawei’s brand new OS, which is based on AOSP (Android Open Source Project). Huawei reached out to us, and confirmed that Harmony OS 2.0 “inherits differentiating capabilities and proprietary technologies from EMUI”, which explains why it resembles EMUI. Essentially, the company has abided by the relevan open source licensing rules to create a new OS based on Google-less Android.

Google services are not here, that goes for all Google apps, including the Play Store. Huawei has its own app store here, and it’s called AppGallery. That app wasn’t exactly too useful at first, but it managed to grow a lot in the last year or so. Thanks to Petal Search, it can now even find apps that are not available in the AppGallery itself. It can scan through other stores and repositories to help you find what you’re looking for.

As long as you don’t need Google apps, finding the apps you need shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The aforementioned repositories usually have what you need. Still, you may not be able to use every app you want, of course. The situation is much better than you may think, and than you may have heard. The best course of action would be to try out a device with HarmonyOS before you buy it, and see if you can handle it or not. Those of you who are dependent on Google apps and services probably won’t like it, those of you who don’t, who knows.

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HarmonyOS 2.0 is better than you think

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HarmonyOS itself does remind me a lot of EMUI. Huawei did change some things around, but it still, very much, resembles EMUI. That was to be expected, though, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. HarmonyOS 2.0 works surprisingly well. I say surprisingly because I expected more bugs to be present considering it’s a brand new OS. Still, that’s not the case. Using it was actually quite enjoyable. Features like the multitasking menu that you can pull up from either side are very useful. The fact that you have a floating menu on the bottom across all your homescreens is also quite nice, and the same goes for the fact notification and quick action centers are separated, depending on where you swipe. It’s a really competent OS, that’s for sure.

The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 has excellent battery life, to say the least

When it comes to battery life, there’s really nothing to worry about. The MatePad Pro 12.6 comes with a 10,090mAh battery, and it turns out that’s more than enough for this device. I was pushing this tablet really hard, trying to kill that battery any way I can, and have failed completely. Even if you do a lot of gaming, multimedia consumption, and so on, this thing will keep on running. I pushed it to around 8 hours of screen-on-time in a day, with mixed usage, and wasn’t even close to killing its battery. The MatePad Pro 12.6 will serve you for several days, with ease, to be quite honest.

40W wired, and 27W wireless charging is supported

The device does support fast charging, which is great. It offers 40W fast wired charging, and 27W fast wireless charging. Each of those charging methods will recharge this thing quite fast despite the fact it has a huge battery. To be quite honest, I didn’t measure how long it took to charge the device, but with the 40W charging I used, it didn’t take long at all. Chances are you won’t even need such fast charging if you’re charging it overnight, as you’ll never need to think whether you’ll be left without juice during the day. You can always top it up at some point in the day, quickly, just to avoid charging it during the night.

The camera experience is good enough… considering this is a tablet

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The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 has two cameras on the back, in addition to a TOF 3D sensor. A single camera is included on the front. Huawei placed a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera (f/1.8 aperture) on the back, along with an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera (f/2.4 aperture). An 8-megapixel camera (f/2.0 aperture) sits on the front. The camera UI will be quite familiar, as it resembles the one we’ve seen on EMUI.

Not many of you will be taking pictures with this tablet, but for those of you who plan on doing so… you’ll be glad to hear that the pictures are good enough during the day. The colors are a bit muted, but the contrast is accurate. What surprised me most, is the fact that the dynamic range was spot on, I was concerned the camera will fall apart in that regard. Now, the foliage wasn’t well represented, and some finer details weren’t as sharp as I would have liked, plus the colors are just… muted, same as with other objects. On the flip side, the front-facing camera was good enough, though not great. It’ll serve you well for phone calls and what not. It’s not that great for selfies, though.

It’s not great for taking pictures in the dark

Low light pictures weren’t all that great, to be quite honest. They were good when it comes to exposure, which was surprising, while the colors were also okay. The problem was, the details were lacking. Those photos turned out very soft, which is not surprising considering this is a tablet camera. Still, considering how bad cameras are on tablets, this one is actually good in comparison.

The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 has four speakers, and they’re outstanding

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The audio was excellent, to say the least. The MatePad Pro 12.6 has four speakers, two on the left (landscape mode) and two on the right. Each of those speakers has two speakers on the inside, so, technically, there are eight of them, but not really. See, each of those four speakers has one small speaker and one large speaker to represent lows, mids, and highs. The speakers themselves have been tuned by Harman/Kardon, and when it comes to the results… they’re astounding for mobile device speakers. These are possibly the best speakers we’ve ever heard on a smartphone or a tablet, or at least very close to the top. The sound is crisp, deep, and the speakers do get quite loud. The sound separation is excellent, and there’s plenty of bass if you want there to be. All in all, if you’re looking for a tablet with excellent speakers, this is it.

If you’re in the market for a premium tablet and don’t care about Google, consider this tablet

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The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is an excellent tablet, to say the last. It offers a premium build, and feels great in the hand(s). It’s extremely thin, and a joy to use. The performance is great, and it offered one of the best audio experiences we’ve ever come across on smartphones / tablets. The display is also excellent, and the fact it doesn’t offer a high refresh rate shouldn’t deter you from getting this tablet. The only true downside is the lack of Google services and apps, though AppGallery became really good. If you can live without Google services and apps, you may want to give this tablet a chance, it’s a great piece of tech.