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The live streamed event has just ended and I’m stood in the lobby of a lavish Dubai hotel mingling with and sipping a green mint and lemon drink everyone is obsessed with. Huawei’s swish Dubai tech showcase is the only place tonight were you can find royalty and art royalty; painter Sacha Jafri shakes my hand and tells me I “really need to try” the new MatePad Pro 13.2, “you won’t be disappointed”. The message is crystal clear, Huawei is serious about its new tablet, and wants artists to take notice.
This Huawei Dubai event launches the company’s new tech lineup for 2024 and is clearly aimed at creatives, with a particular pitch to digital artists, which feels like a first. Huawei has always courted artists, with its Procreate-like Mojing Paint and cost-effective MatePad series, but it’s not felt like a serious option, until now. Honestly, the new tech I try in Dubai impressed.
The lineup includes the MatePad Pro 13.2″ (read our review), the MatePad Air PaperMatte Edition, M-Pencil 3rd Gen, the MateBook D 16 and the FreeClip open-ear earbuds, pitched to the generation that is “chasing tech and fashion” – I smile and wonder who came up with that one. But the real star of the show, for me, is the MatePad Pro 13.2″…
Huawei really (really) wants digital artists
Huawei has always been an outsider for digital artists; it’s tablets have been well-received (read my MatePad 11 review) but just lack the excitement of iPad, that is until now. The tagline ‘Where art meets tech’ is beamed across the venue along with artists views on using the new tablet. The message is clear: Huawei wants digital artists. After five minutes of holding the swish new MatePad Pro 13.2″, I can see why it’s not such a bad idea.
The tablet is slim and large, with a unique 3:2 aspect ratio and a super-bright 1,000 nits flexible OLED screen; weighing just 580g and measuring 5.5mm thick it’s larger and lighter than the equivalent Apple tablet, the iPad Pro 12.9″. The 3.4mm bezels ensure more screen space (Huawei brags of a 94% screen-to-body-ratio), which means for digital artists that’s more room to draw.
All this tech detail washes past me once I get my hands on the tablet. I can easily hold it in the palm of my hand and draw using the new M-Pencil 3rd Gen; there’s a nice balance to the tablet and it’s feather-light weight makes it easy to hold. The 2880 x 1920 resolution display is excellent too, with impressive colours and brings the displayed art to life – there are examples on the tablet made using Huawei’s Mojing Paint.
As I pick up the tablet I recall my fleeting conversation with Sacha Jafri, who earlier told me he “loves the tablet”, the pen in particular. Jafri isn’t your typical digital artist, he works by laying down paint over months to build up is award-winning artwork. His digital art made on MatePad Pro 13.2″ is created in the same way, layer upon layer of coloured lines.
I’m no Jafri, but I do love the sense of connection drawing on the MatePad Pro 13.2″ offers using the new M-Pencil 3rd Gen. This new stylus looks like Apple Pencil 2, feels like Apple Pencil 2 but the M-Pencil 3rd Gen boasts 10,000 levels of pressure sensitivity. Most stylus, including Wacom, come in at 8,192 levels of sensitivity, so 10K on a tablet stylus pushes the MatePad Pro 13.2″ up a notch. The tablet also makes use of NearLink wireless tech to boost the signal, limiting latency and interference.
The only downside I found with my brief hands-on time is the MatePad Pro 13.2″ stand and keyboard – the Smart Magnetic Keyboard – is a slightly odd design. The stand and keyboard are separate, meaning when I go to remove the tablet from the keyboard the stand drops away too. It’s a little messy compared to Apple’s all-in-one Magic Keyboard.
Huawei also still doesn’t support Google on its tablets, which for many could be an issue. However, you can now install apps like Adobe Illustrator Draw and it appears Huawei is again investing in its own painting app, Mojing Paint, a good Procreate alternative, which includes a new Go Paint campaign with thousands of dollars in prizes up for grabs.
The real trump card is always the price of Huawei’s products. The MatePad Pro 13.2″ comes in two builds, a 12GB RAM, 256GB model for €999 and a 12GB RAM, 512GB edition bundled with the Smart keyboard for €1,199.
I’m a die hard iPad Pro / Procreate person, but I was impressed with the MatePad Pro 13.2″ on my brief time with it; an extended use will show whether this large and lightweight tablet can be a true contender.
Hands-on with Huawei’s other new tech
The MatePad Pro 13.2″ is the clear star of the Dubai show for digital artists, but there are more newly revealed devices that impress. Below I offer some brief first impressions of Huawei’s new laptop, the MateBook D 16, and more eye-catching tech coming in January and February.
Huawei MateBook D 16 This Windows 11 laptop took me a little by surprise. coming in a mix of CPU builds, all with the new 13th Gen Intel Core processors (i5, i7, i9) and a choice of 8GB RAM and 16GB RAM.
This is a powerful laptop with a wonderful 15.6″ screen and Dual Shark Fin Fan tech for cooling; the impressive thing is it weighs just 1.68kg and measures 17mm, with that screen size, making it as light as an Apple MacBook Pro 14″ with the size of a MacBook Pro 16″. I hold it in one hand and, well… it’s super light.
It does feel a little ‘plastic-y’ to hold. But that’s the price for that lightweight approach, large screen and high performance build. The Space Grey and Mystic Silver finishes are nice, however, and this laptop has impressively thin bezels – a 90% screen-to-body ratio.
The MateBook D 16 starts at €799 for the Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB model and tops out at €1,399 for the Intel Core i9, 16GB RAM, 1TB build. Pre-orders start from 8th Jan and the MateBook D 16 goes on sale from 22nd Jan 2024 in UK and Europe.
Huawei FreeClip Okay, so my childish inner-voice giggled at the look of these open-ear buds but once I tried them the joke was on me. These ear buds clip over your lobes and fit securely, you can listen to music but the design also means you can hear your surroundings – ideal for safety when out jogging or cycling. The audio quality is rich and deep, and being able to talk with people around me was a unique experience.
The design is made up of three parts, the Comfort Bean (stop it!), the Acoustic Ball, and the C-bridge Design; combined together the design of the FreeClip offers excellent sound quality and comfort. Eight hours of continuous use (36 hours with the charging case) isn’t to be knocked, neither is either-ear design (no right or left use).
FreeClip releases in the UK and Europe in late December, priced £179.99 / €199, with pre-orders available from the UK Huawei Store; order now and get a free Huawei Band 8 smart watch.
Huawei MatePad Air PaperMatte Edition is the smaller less powerful new tablet aimed at note-taking and general workflows. With an 11.5″, 2800 x 1840 resolution display I find this a neat little tablet. It comes in a crisp white colour with matching keyboard and stand combo.
The MatePad Air feels nice to hold; light and solid. It uses the older M-Pencil (2rd Gen), which has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, so while it will be good for notes, graphics and browsing, the MatePad Pro 13.2″ is the tablet for digital art. It’s reflected in the price, the MatePad Air PaperMatte Edition (with an inbox keyboard) will sell for €649. See more at the Huawei website.