Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: a beauty with one big problem

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: a beauty with one big problem

To sum up this Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: if you already own Huawei devices and you need a new tablet with a big screen, this will be one of the best tablets for you. But anyone who relies on Google apps like Gmail should most definitely steer clear because you won’t have access to them on Harmony OS 2.

With a 12.6inch screen and the magnetic keyboard attached, the Huawei Matepad Pro (2021) looks and feels like a 2-in-1 laptop. Really, you’ll only want to splash out on one if you need a large-screen tablet for work as well as play.

In this Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review, I’ll take you through everything you need to know - starting with its availability, then looking at its design, display, performance and battery life, before running you through which other tablets you could consider. Let’s get down to it.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: price and availability

As things stand, we don’t know when the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) will be hitting the UK and Australia, I’ll update this article as and when we find out more.

If you’re in the US then tough luck, as it’s won’t be available to buy there.

The tablet I tested also came with the Huawei M-Pencil (2nd generation) and the Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: design and display

Premium is the best way to describe the design of the Huawei Matepad Pro 12.6 (2021). The display stretches across the front with a screen-to-body ratio of 90%. The super slim bezels and rounded corners paired with the Matte Grey colour makes it look sleek, even though it is largely plastic. It’s only 6.7mm thick as well, so feels comfortable to hold over longer periods of time. On the back, there’s a small camera module and a discreet Huawei logo.

The 12.6inch OLED display has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. The display can produce 16.7 million colours with DCI-P3 wide colour gamut. Honestly, it’s a beautiful screen with impressively accurate colour reproduction. Bright, vibrant, glossy - it really is ideal for creative tasks like photo editing or sketching. You’ll find that streaming video content on it is a pleasure as well, there’s plenty of depth and definition. The large screen is big enough to work on, but small enough to fit into your bag, and weighing 609g, it’s very light considering.

When it comes to actually using the touchscreen display, it’s ultra-responsive, accurately picking up my touch when I made quick sketches or typed out documents. That doesn’t mean it picks up any accidental taps though because it doesn’t. I’ve really not got a bad word to say about the quality of the display, although the refresh rate could be better. It’s only 60Hz which is nowhere near the 120Hz of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: performance and battery

Packing Huawei’s own 5nm Kirin 9000E chipset, the Huawei Matepad Pro 12.6 (2021) is certainly speedy. Not once did I have any problems with lag or stuttering. It coped with everything from photo editing to sketching with complete ease. I couldn’t download any benchmarking apps but after having used it for a couple of weeks, it seemed there was nothing it couldn’t do, switching between apps and loading games within seconds. Using WiFi 6, you’re sure to get the fastest internet speeds possible too.

Running on Harmony OS 2, the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) does feel intuitive to use. It’s very Android-esque. The app bar along the bottom gives quick access to your favourites, the apps and widgets are organised neatly into folders and you swipe down from the top right corner to access the control centre where you can switch on the Eye Comfort mode, adjust the brightness or take a screenshot, amongst other things.

The big problem with their operating system is that it doesn’t have Google services integrated. That means you can’t get Google apps like Gmail or YouTube, nor can you use the Google Play Store. That limits you to using Huawei’s own AppGallery which is nowhere near as comprehensive. You can download some of the apps it doesn’t have through the browser, although you’ll have to be wary not to download anything malicious. That’s sure to immediately put some people off.

One great thing about Harmony OS is that you can really easily transfer files across devices, but of course, you’ll need other Huawei devices for that to work. It also gives you more productive ways to work, like being able to have multiple windows open at once or run two tasks simultaneously from the same app. If you own a Huawei MateBook laptop then you can use the tablet to extend or mirror your display as well. Combined, these features make this a tablet well suited for work, you’ll be able to get loads done, more efficiently.

Huawei has packed in a large 10,050 mAh battery, I tested it out by running a local video on full brightness over two hours. In that time the battery level dropped by 10% suggesting that it would have lasted 20 hours in total. That’s incredible really, you’ll be able to use it for more than a day’s work without needing to charge it back up again. It also comes with 40W Huawei SuperCharge. What’s really great though, is that you can use the tablet to wirelessly recharge your other gadgets on the go using the 10W reverse wireless charging.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: cameras and speakers

Tucked inside one of the bezels is the 8MP selfie camera, it’ll definitely give you better quality video calls than a lot of other tablets will. And the rear 13MP + 8MP cameras were surprisingly alright too, you won’t be taking professional-looking shots for social media but it’ll pick up enough detail for more casual photos.

Built into the tablet are eight separate speakers, you didn’t read that wrong, eight! It was great for watching movies and even listening to music and meant you could happily take video calls without headphones in. It also has four microphones so you come across crystal clear in calls. Plus the AI noise cancellation technology improves the quality of your calls by intelligently filtering out ambient sounds and boosting the volume of your voice.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: Huawei M-Pencil (2nd Gen) and Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard

Connecting the stylus and keyboard couldn’t have been easier. You literally just put them near the tablet, it then automatically recognises them and does the rest for you.

Attaching or removing the keyboard is simply a case of snapping it on or off magnetically. The keys on the keyboard felt a little flat to the touch which meant I did sometimes mistype. Eventually, I got used to that though, and it does mean that it’s all pretty compact. You can easily slide it into your bag on your commute. With the keyboard connected and the new OS, it feels like a laptop and acts like one too. For me, that’s ideal as you’re getting the best of both worlds.

The Huawei M-Pencil (2nd generation) magnetically pairs to the tablet, and wirelessly charges in doing so. Its hexagonal shape makes it really comfortable to hold for long periods. The pen didn’t miss a stroke, although the pressure sensitivity wasn’t that apparent in the drawing app I was using. It was the most effective for quick notes or sketches.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: verdict

Almost everything about the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) is fantastic. Featuring a genuinely stunning screen, smart borderless design and fast performance, it really is an excellent quality tablet.

But, and there is a very big but, without access to the Google Play Store and to Google’s apps, the tablet isn’t going to convince many people. The massive limitations on app choice make it difficult to recommend buying despite how impressive it looks and feels. After all, beauty isn’t everything.

Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) review: also consider

iOS users should first consider the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021) - it’s the best premium tablet you can buy. Extremely fast and powerful, with a stunning display and very capable cameras, the iPad Pro is sure to wow you.

If you want a tablet with a big screen, and Google apps are a deal-breaker, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus will be the one for you. Running on Android, it works seamlessly with all things Google and its 12.4inch display is gorgeous. You’ll also get the S Pen included.

Both of the above will be great for working on, especially if you buy the optional keyboards to go with them. But perhaps you are looking for something more like one of the best 2-in-1 laptops, in which case the Microsoft Surface Book 3 will be a stellar choice. You can detach the 13.5inch touchscreen to use as a tablet, or keep it attached to the keyboard. It runs Windows 10 so is perfect for productivity.