The Huawei MatePad 11 is an impressive and fairly inexpensive tablet that has a lot going for it. It’s held back by one thing: global politics. Back in 2019 Huawei found itself caught up in Donald Trump's grandstanding with China, meaning the tech company has been banned by Google from using its apps and services. Kind of a problem when you're launching tablets and phones.
In recent years there has been some cooling and many companies are back working with Huawei, if only on a short term and limited basis, and Google has yet to reopen its services. That's the background bit, so what about the tablet?
The Huawei Matepad 11 is actually a top piece of tech, with a bright 120Hz Huawei FullView display – making it ideal for art and gaming. Audio comes from quad speakers and a 7,250mAh battery that lasts a good 12 hours. The Snapdragon 865 CPU may not be the most powerful around but it does the trick for most apps, and Huawei has a neat workaround – you can use Huawei Share to pair with your laptop or desktop to use a second screen or pen display.
Much of the joy of the Huawei Matepad 11 comes from the high-end tech and Huawei's neat workarounds to ensure this tablet is fully usable. If you want to see what the rivals are up to, take a look at our guide to the best Apple iPad for drawing, and our list of the best tablets for drawing.
For this review I spent two weeks with the Huawei MatePad 11, testing its basic uses, app connectivity, and how it measures up as a tablet for drawing. I used Autodesk Sketchbook and Infinite Painter to test the tablet and stylus performance.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: the setup
The Huawei Matepad 11 comes bundled with the M-Pencil stylus and keyboard. My review model only came with the M-Pencil. The setup is easy and approachable, as you would expect from a device of this kind. You're onboarded easily through a list of sign-up forms and training screens – I particularly like how the Huawei Matepad 11 takes me through its various gesture controls, hidden panels and option menus both when using your fingers or the M-Pencil.
The tablet will continue to gently nudge you to do things the right way too, such as how to store the M-Pencil for better charging. Everything is seamless and easy to understand, it's the kind of UX approach lower-priced devices overlook.
Searching for, and downloading, apps to the Huawei Matepad 11 requires a little more understanding – but not too much. Huawei's own AppGallery has some big name games, such as Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG Mobile, but many of the apps you'll want are missing, or there are Huawei-fied versions. I did find and download Autodesk Sketchbook and Infinite Painter – both excellent – but you'll miss Procreate, Photoshop and broader apps.
The workaround is to search for apps in Huawei's Petal Search browser instead of the app store, once found you can download the APK file and open; this is great for free apps but paid software can't be installed in this way.
Despite the Google ban, you can still run and login to your Google Chrome account as a browser but not from an installed Chrome app. It's a weird halfway house that means some Google features are accessible but not the Google Play Store or your app library.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: build and design
The Huawei Matepad 11 is slim and neat, with narrow bezels and a slender general look and feel. It's light in the hand too, likely due to its plastic case, but it ensures you can hold it and sketch without feeling too cumbersome. The Huawei Matepad 11 is closer in feel and design to an iPad or iPad Pro, especially compared to other low-cost Android tablets.
The Apple comparisons are slightly off, however, as the 253.8 x 165.3 x 7.3mm dimension offers a thin tablet that is slightly higher than it is wide; it's not as 'square' as an iPad. Again, this makes it nice to hold and draw, and perfect for landscapes. It's also a perfect size ratio for media streaming; handily Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime video apps are all on Huawei AppGallery. Oddly BBC Sounds is but iPlayer isn't.
There are some design choices that are made, such as the front facing camera that's on the longer horizontal bezel, so when it's attached to the keyboard-stand it sits in the correct place. While there is a USB-C port there's no headphone jack.
This is not the end of the world, and actually if you're using a tablet in one hand and drawing or using the touchscreen the last thing you need is a cable cluttering the screen – bluetooth wireless headphones work perfectly with the Huawei Matepad 11.
Overall the Huawei Matepad 11 feels premium and even after two weeks of regular use never scratched. The plastic case may be a little low-budget compared to Apple devices, but it's a hit I'd take for the light-weight feel and ability to soak up a bump or two.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: performance
Technically Huawei Matepad 11 doesn't run on Android, but rather on Huawei's own HarmonyOS. This has been born out of necessity as Huawei aims to get its hardware back into US hands – UK tech-lovers have always been able to buy Huawei products. HarmonyOS is a neat solution, it looks like Android, behaves like Android, and is compatible with most Android apps – those as mentioned earlier not all are available on the AppGallery but downloads from the browser (it's hidden inside AppGallery so you don't notice).
The US ban is actually forcing a 'third way' for tablets. Huawei holds second place of market share, behind Apple and ahead of Samsung, and Huawei Matepad 11 is proving there's room for this new branch. HarmonyOS is actually developed from open source code, meaning it's technically an Android fork and not a brand new OS. What does this all mean for users? It means Huawei Matepad 11 runs fast, smoothly and will run most of the apps you'll have on a tablet.
Huawei has its own set of pre-installed apps to aid you in most tasks, for example the core WPS app contains word and PDF editors, and tools for creating and editing spreadsheets and presentations. Other apps include those for fitness, video and music. A free 5GB of cloud storage with the device. Let me just say Huawei has learned a lot from Google.
Using the Huawei Matepad 11 is tactile and speedy. You can whizz through previous screens with swipes, access control panels similarly. Page icons are easily visible but it takes some time to get used to the specifics of HarmonyOS and it's naming conventions. Everything reads like a made-up app you'd find in a movie from 2002, for example FaceTime becomes MeeTime.
For this review I tested Autodesk Sketchbook and Infinity Painter on the Huawei Matepad 11 and both run exceptionally well; there's no crashing, freezing or lag. Of course, these are fairly lightweight apps but it works smoothly none-the-less.
When sketching and painting on the Huawei Matepad 11 the experience is excellent. The M-Pencil glides across the screen wonderfully and while some may miss the 'tooth' of a proper pen display it feels good.
The M-Pencil itself is very good; its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity are comparable to the best stylus on the market, including Apple Pencil 2, and it apes the pen's double-tap for tool swapping. I love using the M-Pencil and find it very accurate and couldn't see any discernible lag.
The only grip I have is the super-smooth finish, while looks great, can slip and slide the hand. While the M-Pencil has a hexagonal design the edges are smoothed, resulting it a slightly slippery feel.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: display
A special mention goes to the Huawei Matepad 11's display – it's wonderful. At 11 inches diagonally and featuring a 2560 x 1600 resolution this screen also has a refresh rate of 120Hz – this is exceptional. It outclasses other tablets in its price range, and even gives some of its higher-priced rivals, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, a run for their money.
To be clear, you won't get another 120Hz display for this price anywhere else. Gamers and artists should pay attention, particularly as Huawei can run the Xbox app for streaming and connect to a laptop via Huawei Share.
It's worth noting the Huawei Matepad 11 has an LCD panel and not an OLED screen, which is great for everyday use as it's easier to see in daylight conditions and direct sunlight, but will miss the deeper colour definition and solid darks of an OLED screen.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: price
At £449 the Huawei Matepad 11 is a nicely priced tablet, particularly considering the quality of the screen, speakers and general speed you get for most apps. Connectivity to a laptop gives it an extra dimension for anyone wishing to use this as a pen display. The price also includes the M-Pencil and Huawei Smart keyboard, and the stylus on its own will cost £99.99.
Huawei currently has some good deals on the Huawei Matepad 11, for example buyers can get the Huawei FreeBuds for
£169.99 £59.99 and Huawei Bluetooth Mouse £49.99 £9.99.
Currently you still can't buy Huawei in the US, though Amazon does offer some Huawei phones for US customers so perhaps eventually it may happen and the Huawei Matepad 11 will be available. It should be, as consumers demand choice and the quality of Huawei Matepad 11, at this price, offers a distinct 'third way' for tablets.
Huawei Matepad 11 review: should I buy one?
At this price, outside of the US, the Huawei Matepad 11 is recommended. If you're a student or at school and need a good tablet for less than an Apple or Samsung equivalent the this is for you. If you're a pro artist, the option to connect the Huawei Matepad 11 to a PC or laptop and use it as a pen display is encouraging (though I couldn't connect to Mac for this review).
The downside to the current situation Huawei is in, is the lack of Google and proper Android compatibility means this tablet can feel constrained at times. The HarmonyOS workaround of downloading APKs is good, but again not every app can be used this way – you will miss Adobe and Corel, for example, ensuring some premium apps for artwork and video editing are missing. In which case you may want to pay extra $200 / £200 and opt for an Apple iPad Air (5th Gen).
If you're unsure then take a look into our guide for the best tablets with a pen and stylus, but you'll be hard pressed to find a better tablet at this price. The only question is, can you live without Google?