Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) Review
If you’re planning to buy a powerful high-end tablet this year, we are pretty sure that Apple’s iPad Pro is on top of your mind. At the same time, you’re probably here reading this because you’re curious about Huawei’s top-tier Pro tablets like this MatePad Pro 12.6.
Huawei says that the MatePad Pro 12.6 is their most powerful tablet yet, and even after just a few days of use, we do not doubt that. The MatePad Pro 12.6 is outstanding and looks very interesting with HarmonyOS 2.0 running. However, as most of us are aware, there are still limitations with the lack of Google Mobile Services, which is a big area of consideration for its price of PHP 55,999. So in this article, let’s dive deeper into HarmonyOS’ features, and at the same time, see if its beastly specs are convincing enough to justify its price and lack of GMS.
Design and Construction
The new MatePad Pro is available in two sizes, 10.8-inch that features an LCD, and this 12.6-inch with a nice OLED panel without any punch hole notch visible. You can find the front camera on the horizontal top bezel together with the LED indicator. And since the selfie camera is placed on the longer bezel, this tablet is best used in landscape mode. The bezels all around aren’t really edge-to-edge, but it is in uniform average size–much like the 2021 iPad Pro.
Form factor-wise, as you would expect from a tablet this size, there’s definitely a heft to it at 609g, but it sure is better than bringing a laptop all the time. Our unit is in the Matte Grey colorway and it features a curved magnesium-aluminum alloy frame that gives off a polished touch, together with its metallic matte-coated rear.
Here at the back, you can find its triple camera module with LED flash, together with some Huawei and Harman Kardon branding. The design is simply elegant and straightforward. Nothing over-the-top here, as the display alone makes an impression already.
For buttons and ports, up top are the volume rocker and three microphones with noise reduction features.
Then at the bottom, we get a single card tray that’s dedicated to an NM card. So yes, locally, we don’t get a SIM card slot here.
Located on the left is a red-accented power button beside a pair of speaker grilles. Unfortunately, there’s no headphone jack here, but it does come with an adapter in the box.
Meanwhile, on the right, we have a USB Type-C port and another pair of speaker grilles.
If you want to make the most of the MatePad Pro, then you might want to consider getting its optional accessories: the 2nd generation M-Pencil and the Smart Magnetic Keyboard. Using the upgraded M-Pen is a breeze. It’s smooth to use, accurate the majority of the time, seamlessly connects & charges by just magnetically connecting it to the side of the tablet, and we didn’t encounter any latency issues.
On the other hand, the magnetic keyboard connects seamlessly too and acts as a protective case for your tablet with a pretty strong magnet. It also allows the MatePad Pro to be tilted at a variety of angles.
It works very well with WPS, Nebo, and other compatible apps that you can download on the device. However, for some reason, I often encounter problems with the keyboard when using it with the browser for Google Docs. Sometimes it still auto-corrects even when I already tweaked the keyboard settings. In this case, I just used WPS and copy-pasted afterward to Google Docs.
Display and Multimedia
The MatePad Pro features a vast 12.6-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600px and a pixel density of 240PPI. With an OLED panel, it’s not much of a power-consuming display, yet the quality isn’t sacrificed.
Visibly we get an exceptional display experience with dynamic and vibrant colors, deep blacks, and sharp details. There’s no 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate option available, but it does have an adaptive resolution toggle to save more battery life.
It’s got HDR10 support, but sadly, it doesn’t work for Netflix yet, which is a real bummer because you would want an all-out viewing experience with a display like this. Nonetheless, despite not being able to download the YouTube app, the browser allows you to set the video resolution for up to 4k.
You can tweak the color mode and temperature in the display settings, customize or schedule the eye comfort shield, and even turn on Natural Tone that will automatically adjust the color temperature based on the ambient lighting. There’s also an eBook mode to prevent eye fatigue if you do a lot of reading.
For audio, we physically see four speakers in total, but really, this MatePad Pro is equipped with eight speakers that are all tuned by Harman Kardon. The array of speakers consists of four tweeters and four woofers, resulting in an amazing well-rounded sound experience. It has one of the best sound systems that you can get on a tablet.
OS, UI, and Apps
The MatePad Pro 12.6 is Huawei’s first tablet that’s running on HarmonyOS 2.0, and on a surface-level look, it still has a few similarities to EMUI12, but at the same time, it’s like the Android version of iOS. We like its functional and organized style.
You can opt for a home screen drawer if you prefer or choose between various themes available in the settings.
We get a nice app dock below, and swiping from the left or right edges of the screen will show apps that you can easily drag for a multi-window or split-screen view—which we found convenient for multitasking. You can even minimize multiple apps on a multi-window view so that you can access them like a Messenger chat head.
Swiping down from the upper left will show the notifications, while from the upper right will show the control center that is highly familiar to iOS.
And to finally answer your questions about Google, well, it’s still not easy to download specific Google apps on this one. But you can always use the browser for that and add a shortcut to the home screen for easy access. Then again, that is quite a hassle, especially if you highly rely on Google apps.
However, take note that HarmonyOS now makes it easier to download non-Google third-party apps with the AppGallery and Petal Search widget. So such apps like Microsoft Word, Spotify, Netflix, Zoom, Instagram, and many more aren’t a problem to download at all.
If the app is not available in the AppGallery, it will immediately suggest an APK that you can download or a quick direct to the website—which is the case for Google.
Some of the limitations that we experienced without having Google services on EMUI were the convenience of using Google maps and other services such as Google Assistant. However, this is no longer a problem as well, as you can now rely on Huawei’s Petal Maps, Petal Search, and Huawei assistant.
One thing that’s missing on the MatePad Pro 12.6 is a Desktop mode, which we would’ve highly appreciated. Still, it does have a Multi-Screen Collaboration feature that aims to make the most of your Huawei tablet and laptop accessibility with three different modes.
The first mode is Mirror Mode that will literally reflect on the tablet the exact content that’s shown on your laptop. With this, you can control your laptop with the M-Pen on the MatePad Pro for signatures or even graphic design.
The second one is the Extend Mode. To simply put, this mode allows the tablet to be an extension of your PC so you can maximize having two monitors.
Then the third option is Collaborate Mode that allows you to easily drag and drop files within the tablet and the laptop efficiently. And if you have a Huawei smartphone that’s at least running on EMUI 10, then you can connect the phone to the tablet and effortlessly drag files and more.
These special features are, of course, exclusive to Huawei devices, which shows how the brand is truly making an effort to create its own reliable exclusive ecosystem.
For other features, there’s Dark Mode, Digital Balance, and Kids Corner that features five eye protection modes that are specifically designed for children.
So locally, the MatePad Pro 12.6 comes with 256GB of internal storage that you can expand via a Huawei nano memory card. Out of that 256GB of space, we get a usable 238GB out of the box.
As for security, there’s no fingerprint scanner on board; instead, we get a snappy facial recognition that can register up to 5 faces. Moreover, it’s reliable enough to scan your face either in landscape or portrait orientation.
The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 is equipped with a Kirin 9000E 5G chipset that’s paired with a Mali-G78 MP22 GPU and 8GB of RAM. This configuration is powerful enough to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and use heavy apps or games for long periods. We had fun playing Genshin Impact on it with the graphics settings set to the highest.
With a liquid cooling system, the device doesn’t heat up too much except when you’re playing heavy games under high graphic settings or when you’re using Performance mode.
Speaking of which, you can turn on the Performance mode in the battery settings if you want to experience its maximum power. But technically, you don’t really need to use it unless you’ll be doing heavy tasks like editing and gaming.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to run any benchmark tests on the tablet since benchmark apps are blocked. Nonetheless, you can surely expect flagship performance with it.
Connectivity and Battery Life
The MatePad Pro 12.6 is ready with Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, USB Type-C, OTG, wireless projection, and Huawei share. And again, there’s no SIM slot available for this tablet locally.
Battery-wise, we get a massive 10,050mAh capacity with support for 40W fast charging, 27W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging.
When we ran it through our standard video loop test, the MatePad Pro 12.6 yielded a complete 20 hours and 40 minutes which should last you a day and a few more hours if you’re not a heavy user.
As for charging, with a 40W charger, it takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes from 0 to 100%.
With a large tablet, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t use it much for mobile photography, but if you are, the MatePad Pro 12.6 can deliver. Its rear camera module comprises a 13MP main, an 8MP ultrawide, and a 3D TOF sensor. And as for its front camera, it’s got an 8MP lens.
The shots that were taken with the rear cameras often look sharp and clear but can have some tendencies to look washed at times, so we suggest taking multiple photos. Also, it doesn’t perform very well under low light conditions as we get noisy shots.
The color reproduction with the ultra-wide camera looks similar to the standard mode, but do expect a slight fisheye effect sometimes. In addition, its got some advanced smartphone features such as Pro, Panorama, Documents, AR Lens, Moving Picture, Light Painting, and besides the Portrait Mode, there’s also Aperture mode that works well; thanks to the TOF sensor.
Huawei’s night mode is also available, but it takes 7 seconds to capture a shot, so it is better to place the tablet somewhere steady.
When it comes to videos, the front camera can shoot up to 1080p at 30fps while the rear can shoot up to 4k locked at 30fps. Shooting under 1080p allows you to toggle the frame rate to 60fps.
The front camera performs clear and sharp for video calls with a smooth-looking skin tone even when the beauty mode is turned off. It looks pretty good, but we would’ve appreciated a wide-angle option.
The Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 comes at a hefty price of PHP 55,999. It’s quite eye-popping, but we can say that it’s justified with its awesome premium features and performance, especially with the touch of HarmonyOS.
It’s definitely recommendable for creatives, professionals, and students who have the budget for it. Plus, if you’re already drawn to Huawei’s ecosystem with a laptop, smartphone, or wearables, then this would work great for you.
Downloading apps that aren’t in the App Gallery is now more accessible. On the other hand, Google apps are still accessed through the browser, which you should be ready to handle if you are going to buy this device.
Now you’d most likely consider a Pro tablet like this as an alternative for a laptop, and it can do so even without a Desktop Mode available. Just be ready to consider using other office apps that aren’t Google to be more efficient. So yes, if you highly rely on Google apps, then I don’t really recommend this one unless you’re willing to adapt.
It has a more reasonable price for its specs than Apple’s iPad Pro; however, it still falls down to the lack of Google Mobile Services. This would’ve been the best Android tablet yet. But we’ll never know with Huawei, the development of HarmonyOS was a big step, and who knows what further improvements they can make.
With inputs from AJ Viray
Huawei MatePad 12.6 specs:
12.6-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) OLED screen
Huawei Kirin 9000E
up to 256GB via NM memory card
• 13MP F1.8 (main)
• 8MP F2.4 (wide)
• 3D depth
8MP F2.0 front camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
GPS,A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS
Octa speakers w/ Histen 7.0
184.7 x 286.5 x 6.7mm