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First Impressions

The latest Huawei tablet comes with a paper-like display and is compatible with one of the lowest-latency styluses on the market. This means it’s great for drawing, but a lack of Google services is sure to be a burden to casual users.

Key Features

  • Paper-like matte displayThe display has a special coating that looks and feels like paper. It’s easy on the eyes, completely smudge-resistant, and great for drawing.
  • Best-in-class stylus performanceUsing Huawei’s NearLink technology, the stylus has the lowest latency that I’ve ever experienced with an Android tablet. It makes drawing feel very natural.
  • Huawei-exclusive GoPaint appHuawei’s new GoPaint app aims to take on Procreate as one of the top applications for digital artists – and you can only use it on Huawei devices.

Introduction

When I reviewed the Huawei MatePad Pro 13.2 in January, I was super impressed with the ultra-low-latency stylus. At the time, I said it was probably the best Android tablet for drawing. With the introduction of the MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte, though, it looks like it’s about to lose that title.

Huawei’s latest tablet has a matte-textured paper-like display. Not only does it look great and reduce reflections, but it provides some friction to the stylus, making sketching feel more natural than ever. Combine this with a new Huawei-exclusive drawing app, designed to compete with the Apple-exclusive Procreate, and you have a serious digital art tool on your hands. 

The tablet will retail for a reasonable £349 / €399 when it hits the shelves on June 18, but being a Huawei product, it comes with some baggage. US sanctions mean that it’s not packing the latest and greatest chipset, and accessing Google apps will require some tinkering, too. I’m excited to find out if it’s worth the effort.

Design and screen

  • Aluminium unibody, 6,2mm thick, 510g
  • 11.5-inch 3:2 2.8K OLED display
  • 144Hz adaptive refresh rate, 500 nits peak brightness

The MatePad 11.5S has an 11.5-inch screen, as the name suggests. This means it’s slightly larger than an iPad, but smaller than an iPad Pro. Its weight also falls between these two devices, at 510 grams. It’s a nice size, and I found it much easier to wield than the super-sized MatePad Pro 13.2.

Huawei MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte and accessories on a table
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The tablet has an aluminium unibody construction, and it’s available in three colourways: Silver Frost, Violet and Space Grey. Aesthetically, it’s very similar to last year’s MatePad 11.5 and the 13MP rear camera unit seems to be identical, too. The optional keyboard cover is available in black or light grey, and the M Pencil is only available in white.

The OLED display has a 3:2 ratio, a 2.8K resolution and an adaptive refresh rate of up to 144Hz. The real star of the show is the PaperMatte coating, though. Huawei says this coating reduces reflections and glare by up to 98%, and it’s effectively immune to fingerprint smudges.

Rear of the Huawei MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte Edition
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The screen can output up to 500 nits, which doesn’t sound like that much, but it looked plenty bright in use. I’ve only seen it indoors so far, but it was a well-lit room with lots of windows. Maybe that PaperMatte coating is making all the difference.

As it stands, I’ve only swiped around the OS and done some doodling in Huawei’s new GoPaint application, so I can’t fully assess the screen quality. The MatePad Pro 13.2 was excellent in that department, though, so I’ve got high hopes here. For now, all I can say is that I really like the matte display, it doesn’t appear to impede image quality at all and it feels velvety smooth on your fingertips.

Features and software

  • GoPaint app and 3rd Gen M Pencil support
  • No Google service support
  • 8800mAh battery

Huawei has not mentioned the chipset of the MatePad 11.5S, so it’s safe to assume it’s packing some kind of Kirin processor. US sanctions mean that the brand is severely limited with the chips it can use, and you won’t be getting any Google apps by default either.

Huawei MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte Edition on a table
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

This means that casual users are better off looking elsewhere, but if you’re determined enough, you can get everything running using workarounds like GBox and the MicroG Project. The question, as always, is whether it’s worth the hassle. If you’re a digital artist, looking for an Android slate to sketch on, it seems like it might be.

I’ve already praised Huawei’s 3rd Gen M-Pencil and low-latency NearLink connection, it’s the most natural-feeling stylus experience I’ve ever had on Android. With the PaperMatte display, it feels even better. The textured glass coating adds some friction to the nib, and it almost feels like using a pen on paper. It’s great.

Huawei MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte Edition's M-Pencil
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The other big hurdle that creatives face when trying to use Android tablets is the software. There are more options than ever for digital painting and illustration apps, but none quite rival Procreate, which is exclusive to Apple platforms and has become a bit of an industry standard.

Huawei is looking to address this with its own solution, called GoPaint. It’s plain to see that the app is heavily inspired by Procreate, but that’s not a bad thing. Procreate users will be able to adapt in no time, and it’s pretty intuitive for beginners like me, too.

Huawei GoPaint app on the Huawei MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte Edition
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The MatePad 11.5S packs an 8800mAh battery, which is a significant increase over the previous model’s 7700mAh capacity. I’ll need to test its longevity when I get to spend more time with it, but it’s a promising first sign.

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Early Thoughts

I haven’t spent long enough with the MatePad 11.5S PaperMatte edition to come to any real conclusions, but it seems like it could be an excellent option for digital artists seeking an affordable Android tablet. 

As it stands, I’ve spent about half an hour doodling with it, so many aspects of the performance and display quality remain a mystery. As a tool for illustration, though, it might prove to be one of the best in its class. I’m looking forward to putting it to the test.

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A 'hands on review' is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it's like to use. We call these 'hands on reviews' to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don't give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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