Artist Review: Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8 (2021) with M Pencil (2nd Gen)

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Review unit provided by Huawei.

Huawei released the 2021 MatePad Pro 10.8 and 12.6 as upgrades to the 2019 MatePad Pro 10.8.

My review will be from the perspective of digital artist. This review will cover the drawing experience, M-Pencil 2nd gen and the keyboard cover.

Here in Singapore, the Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8 was launched on 14 Aug 2021 at S$998 with a free gift bundle including the M-Pencil 2nd gen and Flip Cover (not the keyboard cover). It’s currently available at all Huawei Experience Stores, Best Denki, Challenger & Hachi.tech, COURTS, Gain City, Harvey Norman, Sprint-Cass Online as well as Huawei official online stores on Lazada and Shopee.

It doesn’t seem like Singapore is getting the MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) with the OLED display for some reason.

Here are links to the official product pages:

Here are some differences between the models:

MatePad Pro 10.8 (2019) MatePad Pro 10.8 (2021) MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021)
Display LCD LCD OLED
Resolution 2560 x 1600, 280PPI 2560 x 1600, 280PPI 2560 x 1600, 240PPI
Colour support 16.7m colours, DCI-P3 16.7m colours, DCI-P3 16.7m colours, DCI-P3
Chip Kirin 990, Octa-core (2×2.86 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2×2.09 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.86 GHz Cortex-A55) Snapdragon 870, Octa-core (1×3.2 GHz Kryo 585 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 585 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 585) Kirin 9000E, Octa-core (1×3.13 GHz Cortex-A77 & 3×2.54 GHz Cortex-A77 & 4×2.05 GHz Cortex-A55)
RAM 6-8GB 8GB 4-8GB
Storage 128-512GB 128-256GB 256GB
External storage NM memory NM memory NM memory
OS EMUI (based on Android 10) HarmonyOS 2 HarmonyOS 2
Connection USB-C 3.1 USB-C 3.1 USB-C 3.1
Battery 7250 mAh 7250 mAh 10050 mAh
Weight 492g 460g 609

For a comparison of MatePad Pro (2021) vs MatePad 11 (2021), visit my MatePad 11 review.

The main differences between the MatePad Pro 10.8 and 12.6 is the smaller tablet uses LCD display and Snapdragon 870 vs the larger tablet which has OLED display and Kirin 9000E.

Unfortunately, the review unit I have is the 10.8-inch model which looks and performance essentially similar to the 2019 model with the main difference being it’s now running HarmonyOS instead of EMUI 10. The MatePad Pro 12.6 is more interesting since it has the OLED display and larger.

And because this 2021 MatePad Pro 10.8 is so similar to the 2019 model, this review is not much different compared to the review I’ve written for that earlier model. So if you have the previous model, there’s absolutely no reason to upgrade.


Design of the tablet still looks good with its thin bezels, rounded corners, bevel edges. Build quality is solid and this feels like a premium tablet.

Even though this is not an OLED display, the colours look great. Brightness is marketed as up to 540 nits.


The back has this matte textured surface which is prone to fingerprint smudges. The 10.8-inch just has one 13MP wide camera. 12.6-inch has 13MP wide and 8MP ultra-wide camera.


This is a really portable tablet that’s just 7.2mm thick and weighs 460g. Even with the keyboard cover on, it’s still very compact and portable.


The Huawei M-Pencil 2nd gen looks similar to the first gen with the only difference being the tip is now transparent and coated with platinum.


The M-Pencil is hexagon but with beveled edges that almost make it look cylindrical. The one side that’s concave is the side used to attach to the tablet.


This stylus supports tilt and 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. There’s a sensor within to detect finger taps for changing shortcuts which will depend on the apps you use.

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Huawei M-Pencil connects to the side of the tablet magnetically for charging. Battery life is said to last for 10 hours. A quick 30s charge can provide 10 minutes of use. As long as you store the M-Pencil by the side of the tablet, battery life is not going to be a problem.

The stylus connects via Bluetooth and will show you the connection settings the first time you attach it to the side of the tablet.


I’m not sure why Huawei coated the tip with Platinum though. The nib is quite smooth on the glass which is great for writing but not as good for drawing where you may prefer a tactile experience.


Two replacement nibs are included in the box. There’s no difference in the writing or drawing experience between the gray and transparent nibs.


Here’s how the inside of the pen tip looks.


The stylus is an active stylus in the sense that there’s a cursor that will show when you hover near the screen.

The weird pattern that you see on the wallpaper is dues to the evaluation OS that’s installed on this review unit.


The stylus has minimal initial activation force. It’s easy to draw thin lines even with a thick brush selected. Lines taper smoothly, transition from thin to thick is smooth. It’s also easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width.


The display is laminated so there’s no gap between the pen tip and the line beneath. There’s no parallax.

The only downside to the pen is when drawing, there’s some input lag. When drawing fast, you can see the line trying to catch up to the pen tip. When drawing at normal speed, the gap is smaller. The input lag is not a big deal and not something I think about when I’m drawing.

The overall writing and drawing performance of the pen is good. It’s a rather accurate pen.


The keyboard should be useful for those who want a slightly better typing experience compared to using the virtual keyboard.


This is not a full-size keyboard though so the layout feels cramped. There’s also more space between the keys than necessary which makes it more difficult for fast typing.


At least there’s good key travel and feedback. But the overall typing experience is just not good on such a small keyboard.

This is not a wireless keyboard and needs to be connected to the connector at the bottom of the tablet.


The tablet can only be deployed at these two angles on the keyboard. Strong magnets are used to keep the tablet in place.

I would have prefer a kickstand on the back where you can get more angles for deployment. Being able to have the screen adjusted lower will make it so much easier and comfortable to see.

Another issue is there’s no auto-wake when you open the keyboard cover.

The function buttons to control brightness are for the tablet’s brightness. There’s no backlight for the keys. The light with the Caps Lock works though.

HarmonyOS and the Huawei ApGallery

HarmonyOS is still a relatively new OS and hence don’t have as many features compared to iPadOS or Samsung UI.

There’s no desktop mode so you can’t connect to an external display to get the familiar desktop interface. The tablet can output video signal but it’s just a mirror mode. Hopefully there will be updates in the future to include desktop mode which is actually quite useful.

Huawei’s version of iPad’s SideCar or Samsung’s Second Screen is called Extend Mode. I wasn’t able to get it to work though, unfortunately.


The big thing here is there’s no Google Play Store so you’ll have to rely on the Huawei AppGallery for your apps. There may be a way for you to install Google Play Store or Google Play Services but I can’t confirm. Anyway, almost all sellers on AliExpress mention specifically and prominently the lack of Google Play Store on their sales pages so it’s a pretty big thing/issue/problem. With 2019 model, those sellers actually would pre-install Google Play Store but they don’t do so with the 2021 model.

HarmonyOS is actually still based on Android which means you can install Android apps found on APK libraries. For example, Facebook and Google Chrome are not available from Huawei AppGallery, but you can still install them via downloading their APK files from APK libraries.

I’ve tried installed Google Play Services APK but it doesn’t work properly. This means even if you install Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, all those apps that require Google Play Services in the background will not work properly. The alternative is to use the browser versions of the Google apps.


Switching over from Google Play Store to Huawei AppGallery is difficult because it means you have to find alternatives for apps you’ve been using on Android. It’s great if the Android app you use is also available on Huawei AppGallery but most of the time it’s not so.

Ultimately, the Huawei AppGallery is designed for the Chinese market and the large number of Chinese apps show that.

The variety of drawing and graphic design app is limited from Google Play Store, and is even limited on the Huawei AppGallery.


I was pleasantly surprised that Concepts, one of my favourite drawing apps on Android, is also available on the Huawei AppGallery. However, the Concepts version is 1.4.something which is from 2020 and the current version of Concepts is from 2021. It looks like even if some developers were to port their apps over, they may not update their apps. I tried installing the latest Concepts from APK libraries but that did not work because Concepts require Google Play Services (to backup the drawings online).

At least there are still Medibang Paint Pro, Tayasui Sketches and Huion Sketch which are all nice drawing apps to have.

Another issue is when it comes to purchasing in-app items/plans/tools/whatever. Some developers did not program the payment system to work with Huawei AppGallery so sometimes it’s impossible to buy things even if you want to. I wanted to unlock the tools with Wacom Bamboo Paper which I swear I’ve bought before but the purchase needed AliPay and took way more steps than I have the patience to go through.

I also don’t like the fact each time you launch Huawei AppGallery after a long period of inactivity, you’ll be greeted with a timed ad that you can’t close.

I’m pretty sure the Huawei AppGallery will remain like this for many years. For the Chinese market, the Huawei AppGallery is probably considered well stocked with apps but for people who are coming over from Google Play Store, you just don’t see the familiar apps you used to use.

Oh, the Huawei MatePad Pro is loaded with bloatware, more specifically shortcut links to download the bloatware. There are several folders with bloatware apps waiting for you to install. The good thing is they are all shortcuts, don’t take up storage, and can be deleted.

Drawing performance


Here are some line quality tests done in Medibang Paint Pro.

1. Initial activation force of the pen is low and thin lines can be drawn easily.

2. There’s jitter/wobble when drawing diagonal lines slowly. MatePad 11 does not have this problem.

3. Strokes are able to taper quite smoothly.

4. Line transition from thin to thick looks smooth but there’s visible wobble or variation to the line width as if the pen has problem maintaining consistent pressure.

5. Dots can be drawn easily by tapping the pen tip.

6. It’s easier to get straighter horizontal and vertical lines. When drawing lines like these it’s easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width. However if there are diagonal lines, there will be wobble.


When drawing slowly, there’s wobble with the lines. This is going to affect drawing precision.


This was drawn with Medibang Paint Pro. While drawing, the only thing I was thinking about was the input lag because you can clearly see the line trying to catch up with the pen tip. But it’s not a big issue that affects my work. I was still able to get the lines to come out exactly the way I want them to.

The cloud saves work with Medibang Paint Pro so I was able to retrieve all the Medibang files I’ve created on various tablets, computers over the years.


This was drawn with Tayasui Sketches which I’m surprised to find in the Huawei AppGallery. It’s a nice drawing app that’s also available on iPad and MacOS.

Krita and Autodesk Sketchbook are not available from Huawei AppGallery but you can install them from APKs and they work just fine. Autodesk Sketchbook performs quite well.

I did not try installing Clip Studio Paint from APK though because I don’t have the license.

Artworks by other artists


Here’s an artwork drawn on the Huawei MatePad 11 by my friend Stephanie Ho (@muffinsaurs) using Ibis Paint X app.


And this was by Eugene Lim, also drawn on the MatePad 11 using Clip Studio Paint (installed after some tweaks because it’s not officially available through Huawei AppGallery).

So yeah, both the MatePad Pro and MatePad 11 can be used for drawing.

Find out what these two artists have to say about the MatePad 11 on Huawei’s website.

Conclusion

The Huawei MatePro Pro 10.8 (2021) is a nice looking tablet with excellent build quality. Performance is fast and operation is smooth.

The Huawei M-Pencil is an accurate pen with the only downside being the input lag that’s visible.

The keyboard cover is convenient but too small for typing comfortably.

Ultimately, this tablet has good hardware but HarmonyOS and the lack of Google Play Store may present an issue for users especially those switching over from Android.

By the way, Huawei also released the MatePad 11 this year and that comes with a 120Hz LCD display that also supports the M-Pencil 2nd gen. That tablet only has 6GB RAM but some with a microSD card slot. That may actually be a better purchase compared to the MatePad Pro 10.8.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Compact and lightweight (460g)
+ Solid build quality
+ Smooth and fast performance
+ Bright and colourful display
+ Laminated display
+ 4-way speakers have good audio quality
+ M-Pencil drawing and write performance quite good
+ M-Pencil supports tilt and 4096 levels pressure sensitivity
+ Palm rejection works well
+ Excellent battery life
+ Base model with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage
+ Fast unlock is fast but not secure
– Huawei AppGallery may not be suitable for all users
– No Google Play Store, but most apps can be installed from APK
– Keyboard cover keys too small
– Not a significant upgrade over 2019 model
– Nano Memory instead of microSD card slot
– No headphone jack

Availability

You can find the Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8 (2021) at all Huawei Experience Stores, Best Denki, Challenger & Hachi.tech, COURTS, Gain City, Harvey Norman, Sprint-Cass Online as well as Huawei official online stores on Lazada and Shopee.

The MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) is not available in Singapore.

PRICES:
Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8 (8GB RAM, 256GB storage) – S$998
Includes M-Pencil 2nd gen ($148) and Flip Cover ($58)

Huawei MatePad 11 (6GB RAM, 128GB storage) – S$698
Includes M-Pencil 2nd gen ($148) and Smart Wireless Keyboard ($198)

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Source: parkablogs.com

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