Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 Review: is HarmonyOS any good?1
This tablet has nice build quality and an amazing display. It’s battery life is among the best too. But it’s software is full of shortcomings, which makes it hard to recommend to anyone outside China. Its display is nice but it only has a 60Hz refresh rate, and the tablet’s camera system disappoints.
With a price of €799,99 the MatePad Pro 12.6 competes directly with the Apple iPad Pro 11 (2021) and the Galaxy Tab S7+. But is its price tag justified? Well, this device definitely feels premium enough for its price, but some of its hardware doesn’t deliver.
At first glance, the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 looks like the typical high-end tablet from 2021. It has tiny bezels and is pretty lightweight for its size (609g). The tablet’s metal frame feels sturdy, but the matte back of the device is a bit flimsy, especially in the middle where the Huawei logo is, with it sinking a bit when applying pressure. This sinking effect could be attributed to the MatePad Pro’s wireless and reverse wireless charging capabilities, with the charging location being located there. A nice touch is the inclusion of an LED notification light right next to the front camera. The materials used on the MatePad Pro 12.6 are nice to the touch.
I was most impressed with the quality of the speakers. The MatePad Pro 12.6 has 8 stereo speakers on its sides, which are designed in collaboration with Harman Kardon. The audio output from these is crystal clear, punchy, loud, and offers plenty of depth. Actually, I’ve had bluetooth speakers that sounded worse, and for sure the MatePad Pro’s speakers are a lot better than the ones you can find in the average laptop.
The MatePad Pro 12.6 unit was sent to us with Huawei’s M-Pencil and Smart Magnetic Keyboard. I found the pencil to be well made and accurate when drawing or taking notes. Just like the competition, when drawing or writing the weight of the stroke responds to the pressure and tilt of the stylus. The M-Pencil sticks via magnets and recharges wirelessly at the side of the MatePad Pro 12.6. While normally the pencil sticks well to the tablet, if you try to stick it with the keyboard attached, the keyboard gets in the way, which in turn makes the stylus fall off easily.
Speaking of the Smart Magnetic Keyboard, this one is a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect anything fancy from it, but I found the materials it was made of disappointing. This accessory feels cheap, both the cover and the keyboard buttons aren’t nice to the touch. Also, the buttons don’t offer any depth or quality feedback when typing, and for some reason, I wasn’t able to perform some of the smart commands. At least it doubles as a stand, and it does so pretty well, as its magnets are really strong.
You should keep in mind that while the MatePad Pro 12.6’s accessories aren’t the greatest, they are cheaper than what Samsung and Apple offer for their tablets. Also, you may be able to find Huawei’s tablet on sale bundled together with both accessories.
The Huawei MatePad Pro is equipped with a 12.6-inch OLED display with a 2560 x 1600 resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio. This screen is really great. It offers punchy colors, its lowest brightness setting is good, and its peak brightness gets high enough for the tablet to be easily readable outside on a sunny day.
This display’s only drawback is its 60Hz refresh rate. While the tablet still feels snappy enough, this could’ve been improved with a 90 or 120Hz refresh rate screen. Don’t get me wrong, maybe most people don’t need such a high refresh rate on a tablet, but considering the MatePad Pro costs almost the same as the 11-inch iPad Pro (2021), which has a 120Hz variable refresh rate, these aren’t the best specs.
The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 has a dual-camera system on its back and a single camera on its front. Don’t expect much from this camera setup, as all of the cameras are average at best.
The main camera has a 13MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. It produces good results for a tablet, but still not good enough for its pricing. The second camera is an 8MP ultrawide shooter with an f/2.4 aperture, and it also produces disappointing pictures. Photos I took with both of these cameras lack detail. These cameras also aren’t the best at picking the right temperature, with the end results often being on the warm side. Photos from the ultrawide camera look a bit washed out.
Low-light performance is even worse, even for a tablet. The MatePad Pro 12.6 also struggles with autofocusing, with it often being too slow to respond or simply inaccurate.
Video-wise, the cameras are also average at best. Video footage is shaky, especially in its maximum 4K 30fps resolution, and detail is still lacking. The autofocus isn’t the best either. In low-light scenarios, the MatePad Pro 12.6 struggles to focus and capture enough light. Forget about detail too. The microphones don't do a very good job at recording voices and eliminating outside noise. Sound is overall on the quiet side.
As for the front camera, it is an 8MP sensor, which suffers from the same problems as the back cameras - lack of detail, noisy pictures, poor low-light performance, etc.
Overall, the Huawei MatePad Pro’s cameras aren’t bad for a tablet, but they are bad for a premium tablet. I am disappointed with Huawei, as this is a company that produces one of the best camera-setups in smartphones, and for it to put such average cameras in its 2021 premium tablet feels unreasonable. Simply put, I expected much more.
Software and Performance
This might be the moment you’ve been waiting for. Is HarmonyOS any good or not? First of all, HarmonyOS does not support any Google services. This means no Google Play store, no Google Search, no Google Maps, no Google apps at all. Of course, you can use the web versions of Google’s apps from the browser, but this is still a compromise. The OS itself is based on Android, with Huawei’s well-known user interface from its other devices. A friend of mine that has an iPhone tried out the MatePad Pro 12.6 and her first impressions were that the software looked to be heavily inspired by Apple’s in terms of looks, with which I can agree. That’s not such a problem though, as good things are there to be copied.
Some of the apps like Petal Search (the tablet’s only native search engine) and Huawei Health still only support vertical mode. This is a big problem, as I wasn’t able to find a suitable search alternative in Huawei's AppGallery store. Actually, I wasn’t able to find any good alternatives to Google’s apps at all, but at least you can use them in your browser. The Huawei AppGallery is full of apps intended only for the Chinese market. Popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are nowhere to be found. And while there were plenty of popular games available to download, I myself am not a gamer, so this didn’t change my experience in a positive aspect.
Performance on the MatePad Pro 12.6 was excellent though. Its Huawei Kirin 9000E processor offers plenty of power, especially considering the software isn’t the hardest to run. Of course, this processor is nowhere near as powerful as the Apple M1 chip that is used in the current iPad Pro, but there’s no noticeable difference in performance when using the tablet.
The 12.6-inch Huawei MatePad feels very snappy, quick to respond, and loading times and RAM management were great. This processor also offers 5G connectivity for the Cellular version of the MatePad Pro. I had no problems with both 4G and 5G reception.
Overall, the MatePad Pro 12.6 is really good in terms of performance, but its HarmonyOS needs better app support and Google alternatives, which makes this tablet hard to recommend to a person that doesn’t live in China.
This tablet has a massive 10,050mAh battery. The MatePad Pro 12.6 can easily last through more than 10 hours of use, especially if its screen is not at peak brightness. HarmonyOS is good at battery management, as the battery draining rate when the device is not in use is slow.
You also don’t have to worry about slow charging speeds, as the MatePad Pro 12.6 supports 40W fast charging and 27W fast wireless charging. I was able to recharge this tablet’s battery from 0 to 100 in around 2 hours. Very convenient features are the tablet’s 10W reverse wireless charging and 5W reverse wired charging via its USB-C port.