The Huawei MatePad 11 2023: A Worthy Budget Laptop … – MUO – MakeUseOf

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It’s a great iPad alternative with superb stylus, but don’t bother upgrading if you already have the 2021 model, or rely heavily on Google apps.
My partner and I have been looking for something to work with while I’m away from my PC. We wanted something more compact than a laptop, but could still do what we needed it to do. After a few weeks of looking around and checking my options for laptop alternatives, we eventually chose the Huawei MatePad 11 because of its keyboard and pen.
We weren't exactly thrilled about HarmonyOS as we knew we’d have to use a workaround to get certain apps. However, we believed we could come up with a workflow that would make it worth the $1000 we paid for two units and justify any complexity added by the OS.
The Huawei M-Pencil may not come free with your purchase depending on the branch you buy your tablet from. Ask your closest Huawei outlet if your purchase will include the second generation M-Pencil.
The Huawei MatePad 11 2023 is the successor to the original MatePad 11 released in 2021. The base model has the same specs as the 2021 version, but comes in a higher spec with more color options and has a slightly more powerful CPU. This $450 tablet comes with the Huawei Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil that gives Apple's iPads and Pencil a run for its money; boasting a competitive drawing and writing experience with a beautiful display to match.
The Huawei MatePad 11 2023 comes with the same basic inclusions, just like the previous model. The whole thing comes in a sleeve that holds two boxes, one for the tablet and the other for the keyboard and case.
The bigger box holds the tablet covered by a plastic sheet. Below the tablet are two smaller boxes, one for the power brick, while the other houses the cable and some literature. You’ll find the case and smart keyboard inside the second big box.
The pen came in a smaller box and had an spare opaque white tip in a resealable bag. The pen comes with a clear tip, but I immediately changed it to the opaque tip as it looks more aesthetically pleasing and is less slippery. I’ll talk a little bit more about the pen later, though.
The tablet is pretty light at 1.07 lbs (500g), but it doesn’t feel cheap in your hands. The back has a speckled matte finish that doesn’t show fingerprints but shows plenty of smudges. However, I figured I wouldn’t be using it without the case, as it’s quite slippery, and without the case, it’ll definitely find its way to the floor.
The case without the keyboard weighs 0.55 lbs (250g), plus another 0.48 lbs (220g) for the keyboard, and another 0.03 lbs (13.6g) for the M-Pencil. Together, everything totals around 2.13 lbs (just under 1kg), which is a little hefty for a tablet but still manageable.
The Huawei MatePad 11 2023 is almost a rehash of the 2021 version; however, unlike the 2021 version, the 2023 version also comes in a higher spec. It’s a tiny upgrade, but you can choose between the Snapdragon 865 or the 870. They only had the lowest spec available, unfortunately. However, the 870 is probably only worth it if you’re getting it for the 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage space.
The Snapdragon 870 has higher clock speeds on its eight cores: one 3.2GHz Kryo 585, three 2.42GHz Kryo 585, and four 1.80GHz Kryo 585, while the Snapdragon 865 has one 2.84GHz Cortex-A77, three 2.42GHz Cortex-A77, and four 1.80GHz Cortex-A55. Both CPUs are paired with the Adreno 650, just like the 2021 version.
Everything else is the same: the 13 MP main camera, the 8 MP front-facing camera, the 2560×1600 pixel 120Hz IPS display, and the 7250mAh battery. The only real differences are the shape of the camera island, and that the lowest specced model doesn't feature an SD card slot. The lack of battery upgrade isn’t a concern as it’s already quite large, and it comes with 22.5W fast charging with the included power brick. It also supports 5W of reverse charging through a wired connection.
You'll get stereo sound coming from four speakers, two on each side of the tablet, but doesn’t support wired audio output. You’ll have to use Bluetooth headphones for this tablet, but such is the case for many devices nowadays.
Without Google Mobile Services (GMS), it’s a little hard to get the usual Android experience we’re used to. However, this tablet isn’t going to be replacing my phone, and since I didn’t need my tablet to synchronize with my phone too much, I thought I’d give HarmonyOS a chance.
Setting it up was a little bit of a pain. It’s lengthy and requires you to go through a lot of sketchy data collection permissions. I denied most of those things since I didn’t plan on using the built-in tools if I could avoid them; they’re usually filled with ads.
Using Google apps is also inconvenient. Downloading any app from the Huawei AppGallery that needs GMS will prompt you to download GBox, a GMS emulator, to run it. Many apps are missing from GBox, like Lightroom and Google Keep. However, you can run Google Docs, Photos, Sheets, and Gmail, which are most of the stuff I need. You can make suggestions on GBox, but there’s no guarantee that your requested app will be added in a timely manner.
Lightroom can be downloaded on APK websites, but you can’t get the premium version even if you log in with your premium account. There are workarounds and modded Lightroom APKs, but that’s illegal, and you’ll most likely end up with a virus. If Lightroom is a big deal for you, either do some research for alternatives or steer clear of this tablet.
One gripe I have with using the case is that it only offers two angles. You can either use it completely flat, or angled high. I did find that if you turned it around with the keyboard attached, you’d be able to have a low angle, but the keyboard would be up in the air and it doesn’t look very elegant. I guess it serves as sort of a… privacy shield? Oh, and you’ll have to disconnect your keyboard if you want to use the on-screen keyboard instead in this “mode.”
If you like Android and have gotten used to many Google apps, this might be hard for you to get used to. Other than my complaints, this device isn’t really going to be synchronized with my other devices anyway, so HarmonyOS’ limitations are only a slight inconvenience rather than a deal breaker. I can still use Google Docs, edit photos through Krita or Lightroom, and type with a standard-sized keyboard, allowing me to finish my work normally.
The accessories play a big part in the experience of the tablet. Huawei markets this as sort of a laptop replacement/workhorse, so we’ll take a look at how well the Huawei Smart Keyboard and M-Pencil fulfill that claim.
The keyboard is decently satisfying to type on. As a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, I thought I’d be snobby about the experience, but it’s not that bad. I’d probably go as far as preferring the feel of this keyboard to the Apple MacBook keyboards. I’ve probably only had about 50 hours of experience on Apple’s chiclet keyboards, but I always found it easy to miss a keystroke due to their short stroke, making it hard to tell if you pressed it.
The Huawei Smart Keyboard has a longer stroke but still has a pronounced bump that doesn’t require a lot of force to overcome. It feels a lot more responsive, and it’s easy to tell if I didn’t press hard enough because the tactile bump is easy to feel.
It’s definitely not as good as my main desktop keyboard, but it’s passable. I tried doing a typing test on Monkeytype, and I usually get 85-90 words per minute on my main keyboard, while on the Huawei Smart Keyboard, I get around 75-80 words per minute. As well as the small decrease in typing speed, it’s not comfortable to type on for long periods because the short travel feels like slapping a table with your fingers.
The Huawei M-Pencil is impressive, even compared to the Apple Pencil. I haven’t tried out the first generation M-Pencil, but this second generation definitely feels great. It’s responsive and can sense very light touches quite well.
The M-Pencil has tilt detection, which is important for artists and makes it a good competitor against the Apple Pencil. Considering that there are very few Apple Pencil competitors on the Android side of things, this tablet might actually be a good alternative to iPads if you’re planning to draw.
However, it’s best to check if your drawing app of choice is available on the Huawei Store, or at least find a downloadable APK.
I want to address the audio first as I’m picky when it comes to audio. The stereo speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon, so they sound pretty natural. They won’t blow you away but can get decently loud and have a noticeable bass, unlike the tinny sound you usually get on mobile devices.
It’s not that detailed, as they are just built-in speakers. However, if you’re watching movies or shows while facing the screen dead on, the stereo sound can deliver a decently immersive experience.
Speaking of facing the screen, the IPS display has great color reproduction. I usually like to view my photos on the tablet after editing it on my computer, as the tablet has a higher pixel density. This tablet is quite capable of doing photo editing work, if only Lightroom Premium could run on it.
The 120Hz display is not only smooth but also very responsive. As you can see in this UFO test by Blur Busters, the details aren’t blurred at all even at 120 fps. There’s a little bit of ghosting, but that’s acceptable, as even my 165Hz gaming monitor has two ghost trails behind it. Overall, an impressive display with nothing to complain about at all.
I don’t usually play games on the tablet, but I did try playing Mobile Legends and a few PS2 and PSP games through emulation. Playing Ratchet & Clank was sluggish, but emulation can be quite finicky, so maybe I just needed to tweak some settings. Mobile Legends was responsive, handling the highest graphical settings at high fps, so this would be a great gaming tablet.
If you’re looking to upgrade from your MatePad 11 2021, this is definitely not worth it. There just isn’t that much of a difference to justify it. However, if you’re looking for an iPad alternative, this is a great candidate, especially for those who really want the Apple Pencil experience. The MatePad 11 2023 is great for media consumption and media creation, so long as you’re flexible with what apps you use. The only thing holding it back is HarmonyOS, but it might not even be a problem if you're already used to HarmonyOS.
However, if this is your first Huawei device and/or you don't plan on buying other Huawei devices to enter the ecosystem, you might want to think about whether having GMS missing is a deal breaker for you.
Jhet has been building and gaming on PCs since 2015. He previously took on clients as a Facebook media buyer in 2020 but started his writing career in 2022 and never looked back.

Besides PCs, he loves building, tinkering with, and fixing all sorts of gadgets like audio equipment, phones, keyboards, and cameras. Anything that his tools can open, he will open.

His specialties are improving the PC gaming experience as well as fixes and optimizations he’s found for various gadgets.

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