MatePad Pros

The flagship tablet is undoubtedly the MatePad Pro 12.6in, powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 9000E chipset, which I’ve been testing for the last few days. The large OLED panel has a 90% screen-to-body ratio, despite managing to squeeze the front-facing camera into the slim bezel – meaning there’s no notch or punch-hole.

That camera is used for face-unlock, and in one design oddity, there’s actually no fingerprint scanner here, whether under-display or built into the body. Fortunately, the face unlock has been impressively fast so far, but the lack of a more secure biometric option will no doubt put some off.

Huawei MatePad Pro 2021

Huawei is keen to emphasise the display’s colour accuracy and range, with HDR, 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, and a Delta-E value of less than 0.5.

Elsewhere you’ll get Wi-Fi 6, an eight-speaker and quad-mic audio setup, triple rear camera, and a generous 10050mAh battery that delivers up to 14 hours of use. 40W wired charging will top it back up, with wireless and reverse wireless charging also supported.

All of that still comes in a compact package. The 12.6in model weighs a little over 600g, and at 6.7mm thick it feels svelte and slick, nailing that same premium polish that has helped make Apple’s iPad Pro models such a success.

The 10.8in MatePad Pro is for the most part similar, but smaller, at roughly the same size as last year's MatePad Pro. The primary difference is that it is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 rather than Huawei’s own Kirin chip – Huawei is allowed to use Qualcomm chips so long as it sticks to 4G models, rather than 5G, which is why this has been permitted within the ongoing US sanctions.

Huawei MatePad Pro 2021

Both MatePad Pros support a new magnetic keyboard case, along with the updated M-Pencil 2.0 stylus – both sold separately. The M-Pencil has had a few key upgrades, with a new hexagonal design and transparent nib, along with software features like handwriting conversion and shape detection. It attaches magnetically to the side of the tablet, and charges wirelessly from there.

11in MatePad

The regular MatePad is a little less snazzy, but still impressive for an everyday tablet. The 11in display is a touch larger than the smaller Pro model, and also squeezes its camera into the bezel – though this is a touch thicker, with an 86% screen-to-body ratio.

Unexpectedly there’s one display upgrade here – the regular MatePad boasts a 120Hz refresh rate panel, while the Pro models are both limited to 60Hz. In fact, this also supports adaptive refresh rate, so will slow the screen down to conserve battery when appropriate, netting you up to 12 hours of screen time on one charge.

Inside you’ll find a Snapdragon 865 – Qualcomm’s 2019 flagship chip, which powered most of last year’s top phones and tablets. There are only four speakers on this model, but you still get a quad mic setup, and the same support for a magnetic keyboard case and the new M-Pencil.

Operating in Harmony

Of course, as interesting as the hardware might be, all eyes are really on Huawei’s software right now. All three tablets ship with HarmonyOS, which officially launched today alongside the new hardware.

I’ve been testing Harmony for the last few days on the larger MatePad Pro model, and you should read my HarmonyOS preview for a full rundown of how the software works.

Huawei MatePad Pro 2021 HarmonyOS

In brief though, on a tablet at least it feels a lot like Android – or at least Huawei’s EMUI Android skin – crossed with the best parts of iPadOS. It mostly feels familiar, and users of either won’t take long to adapt – it even runs the same Android apps as other recent Huawei devices, either through the official AppGallery or by sideloading .apks from the web or using Huawei’s Petal Search function.

Really, the big push here is on ecosystem improvements. HarmonyOS is capable of almost immediate pairing with other Huawei devices, from the M-Pencil to headphones, other mobile devices, or even Huawei Windows laptops. There are even options to wirelessly mirror the display to a Windows laptop, or use the tablet as a secondary monitor – though it will have to be a Huawei one.

Huawei has confirmed to Tech Advisor that the three new MatePad models will launch in western Europe, though we’re not sure exactly when, or how much they’ll cost. They’ll also be limited to their matt grey finish, though the Chinese market will have other colours. Unsurprisingly, no US launch is on the cards right now.