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Huawei MediaPad M5 Review: A Productivity & Multimedia Powerhouse

Huawei has created an incredible multimedia experience with the MediaPad M5, that can also be used for productivity. 

Huawei announced its MediaPad M5 line of tablets at Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona. While the rest of the industry has been working on releasing new smartphones, smartwatches and other mobile devices, Huawei is still looking to create a tablet that people want to buy. And Huawei may have done just that with the MediaPad M5. Huawei is offering this tablet in two sizes: 10.8-inches and 8.4-inches with the 10.8-inch model also being available in a “Pro” model. But the real question here is whether it’s worth buying one of these tablets? Let’s find out.

Specs

The Huawei MediaPad M5 is available in either 8.4 of 10.8-inch models, and both sport 2560×1600 resolution IPS displays. They are also both powered by the Kirin 960 processor and 4GB of RAM. The smaller model comes in three storage sizes: 32GB, 64GB and 128GB, while the 10.8-inch model comes in just two storage sizes, either 64GB or 128GB. Both do sport micro SD card slots for expandable storage. There are also 13-megapixel cameras around the back, with 8-megapixel cameras on the front of both tablets.

With the 8.4-inch MediaPad M5, you’ll find a 5100mAh battery inside powering the tablet, and a 7500mAh battery inside the 10.8-inch model. Both do feature WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for wireless connectivity, along with Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS for location, and a fingerprint sensor on the front of the tablet. There is also a USB-C connector on the bottom for charging, and there is also no headphone jack on either tablet, surprisingly.

In the Box

In the box with the tablets, you’ll find a USB-C to USB-A cable, along with a charging brick, and a headphone dongle. There is also a SIM ejection tool in our review units, since these are unlocked LTE tablets, but Huawei does also sell these two as WiFi tablets – and those will likely be sold in more regions. There’s some paperwork as usual, including a quick-start guide and warranty information. And that’s about it. There’s no headphones included here, but Huawei expects you to take full advantage of the quad-speakers on the MediaPad M5.

Hardware

There’s really no surprises on the MediaPad M5 in terms of the hardware and build quality. It’s a metal build, that is still pretty lightweight. On the back you’ll find the 13-megapixel camera (and yes there is a camera bump here), along with a Huawei logo near the top, and Harman Kardon logos just above the regulatory information at the bottom. Harman Kardon’s logo is on here since the speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon. On the bottom of the MediaPad M5, you’ll find the USB-C port for charging and on the 8.4-inch model the volume and power buttons are on the right side while on the 10.8-inch model, it’s also on the bottom (or the right side with the USB-C connector, depending on how you are holding it).

Huawei has a speaker grille on either side of the tablet on the back, so the speakers are actually firing away from you, but it still works pretty well. On the 8.4-inch model, they are on the top and bottom (the shorter sides) and on the 10.8-inch model it’s also on the top and bottom (but on the longer sides). The 10.8-inch model also gets pogo pin connectors on the bottom, since it is the Pro model it has a keyboard that works with it and the Huawei Pen.

Onto the front of the tablet, you’ll find a Huawei logo in the upper-left hand corner of the tablet, and the fingerprint sensor below the display. On the 10.8-inch model, the fingerprint sensor is actually on the side (unless you hold it in portrait mode) and the Huawei logo is on the bottom. Of course, the camera is centered above the display. This puts it in a great position for video chats and Skype calls. And at 8-megapixels, it should be fairly decent.

When you pick up the Huawei MediaPad M5, it definitely screams quality, with the metal build and glass front of the tablet. But it’s still lightweight which is nice to see, especially since more and more people are looking to get rid of their laptop in favor of a tablet, and having a lightweight tablet is definitely a good thing on that front.

Display

Huawei has outfitted the MediaPad M5 tablets with 2560 x 1600 resolution IPS panels. Which give them both some pretty high pixel-density displays, but they are still technically LCD displays, and while many would prefer Huawei to go the OLED route, these panels are actually not too bad. Viewing angles aren’t really an issue here, and that’s something that will matter more on a tablet than on a smartphone, as it’s likely that you’ll be showing someone something on a tablet more than on a smartphone. The brightness here is also pretty good, adaptive brightness seems to work a good bit of the time, which is definitely important, especially if you are using the tablet in different lighting conditions.

The digitizer beneath the display does also work fairly well. It was able to recognize when the display was being touched, and execute it properly. While this sounds like a pretty small thing, it’s actually pretty important. As a bad digitizer can lead someone to thinking that the display or tablet is lagging and lead to a pretty poor experience. We have noticed, however, on the larger 10.8-inch model that we sometimes need to press the soft-keys (typically the back button) a couple of times before it actually works and goes back or home. That doesn’t happen all the time, and it’s fairly infrequently, so we are going to round that up to early software and unfinished software – remember the MediaPad M5 is not yet available to purchase.

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Performance

The Kirin 960 is powering both of these tablets, which isn’t the latest processor from Huawei, but it is going to get the job done and then some. The Kirin 960 is an octa-core chipset from Huawei, which means it’s pretty optimized for Huawei’s software, since it is all built in-house for the company. There’s also 4GB of RAM inside, which means these tablets are going to be great for gaming, and that is definitely true. We played Asphalt Nitro on the MediaPad M5, and it worked really nicely. The graphics were stunning on this tablet, and while it likely would have looked better on an OLED display or perform slightly better on a 120Hz display like what the Razer Phone has, it still looked great and performed very well. So there’s no issues here for those that want to do some gaming on the MediaPad M5.

When it comes to multi-tasking, the MediaPad M5 is still a treat to use. It does support Android Oreo’s picture-in-picture as well as multi-window. And with the larger 10.8-inch model, you can really take advantage of both features. With 4GB of RAM, we really never found ourselves needing to clear the recent memory and free up RAM to get the tablet to run faster, as it was already pretty top-notch, which is a good thing for sure.

Multimedia Experience

Tablets these days, are marketed on their multimedia experience. Seeing as tablets are more for media consumption than really getting work done. That’s something that Huawei knows and has put into this MediaPad M5 tablet. That’s evident by the high-resolution display and its quad-speakers tuned by Harman Kardon. So how does it fair in real life? Well watching videos on either tablet is a treat, especially on the larger 10.8-inch tablet. And with it having quad-speakers, you don’t need to worry about your hand covering the speakers on the back of the tablet.

The display is rich and colorful, making it great for consuming content, though it would be better as an OLED display, instead of an IPS LCD display, but you can’t have everything. If you’re looking for a great tablet that has a great multimedia experience, and can also be used for work, then the MediaPad M5 is definitely worth getting. There’s a lot going for this tablet.

Fingerprint Sensor

Huawei has always been at the forefront with fingerprint sensors. It was one of the first to really start using these sensors on its products, and of course it’s here on the MediaPad M5. It’s a front-facing fingerprint sensor, and it is lightning quick. There was only one time where it did not recognize the finger that was enrolled, which is pretty impressive, when you think about the number of times that you unlock a tablet these days. The sensor is placed at the bottom of the display on the MediaPad M5 8.4, however on the larger 10.8-inch model, it’s only on the bottom in portrait mode. Which is a bit odd since Huawei prefers you to use the 10.8-inch model in landscape mode. It does still work pretty well, but it would be better at the bottom in landscape mode, instead of on the right side in landscape.

Benchmarks

With the Huawei MediaPad M5, we ran the usual benchmarks. Which includes AnTuTu, 3D Mark and GeekBench 4. On AnTuTu, the MediaPad M5 picked up a score of 182,441. Over on 3D Mark, it picked up a 2,116 overall score in the Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES3.1 test. On the Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan test it got a 1,874 score. On Geekbench 4, the MediaPad M5 got a 1907 single-core score and a 6301 multi-core score. Now these scores aren’t the same as other flagship devices right now, like the Snapdragon 845 or even the Kirin 970, since this is running on the Kirin 960, but the speeds are pretty decent. Also remember that benchmark scores don’t necessarily equate real-world usage. But you can see the full results from all three benchmarks in the gallery below.

Battery Life

During the review period, we have mostly been using the larger 10.8-inch version of the MediaPad M5 which has a 7500mAh battery inside. And the battery life has been pretty phenomenal. Now, you won’t be using a tablet as much as your smartphone, so battery life is measured a bit differently, and on the MediaPad M5 10.8, we can get around two to three days of battery life out of this one. That includes plenty of gameplay and plenty of video being played. So that’s pretty good, and you will get around the same numbers on the smaller 8.4-inch model.

When it comes to charging, Huawei does allow for fast charging, but it’s not quite the speed of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0. In order to take advantage of this fast charging from Huawei, you do need to use the charger that comes in the box. And it is able to fully charge the MediaPad M5 in just a few hours. But for most of us, we’ll be charging our tablets at night, so that the charging time isn’t as big of a deal. You can check out screenshots of our battery life cycles down below.

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Huawei does have a few ways to help make the MediaPad M5’s battery last a bit longer, which includes the usual battery saver features that have been part of EMUI for quite some time. But there is also “Smart Resolution” in the display settings. This will optimize the resolution of the display based on the battery level. So as the battery depletes, it’ll drop from a Quad HD resolution down to Full HD. You’ll likely notice that more on a 10.8-inch screen than a 5.7-inch smartphone, but it is still another way to stay away from the wall charger, for a longer time. Huawei does still have the “Power-intensive Prompt” which used to be pretty annoying and pop up for anything running in the background. It appears to have gotten better with the latest version of EMUI, and only appears when something has been running rogue. So Huawei has done a lot here to make sure the battery does last pretty long.

Software

The Huawei MediaPad M5 is running on Android 8.0 Oreo, along with EMUI 8.0 on top. That’s not the latest version of Android, seeing as the latest version is Android 8.1 Oreo, but it is close enough. There’s not many changes from Android 8.0 to 8.1. It is also running on the January 1st, 2018 security patch, which is a bit old at this point (two months to be exact). However, it’s very possible that Huawei rolls out a newer update before the MediaPad M5 goes on sale – at this point there is no release date available for the MediaPad M5 just yet.

While this is running EMUI 8.0, there actually isn’t a whole lot new here from EMUI 5.0. The biggest change is the jump to 8.0, bringing it in-line with the Android version. Out of the box, there’s no app drawer. But there is an option to add an app drawer in the Display settings, which is a feature that was added in EMUI 5.0 as well. This allows Huawei to cater to its Chinese market (which is still its largest) and Western markets like the US. There are also quite a few games that are pre-installed on the MediaPad M5, which is part of Huawei looking to show off the gaming aspect of the MediaPad M5 tablets. Those games include Asphalt Nitro, Dragon Mania, GolfStar, Kingdoms, Monster Class, Puzzle Pets, and Spider Man: Ultimate.

Like most tablets and smartphones this year, the MediaPad M5 does also have “Eye Comfort” here. This basically takes out all of the blue light in the display, which makes it easier on the eyes in the dark. With many people using their smartphones and tablets at night and in the dark, this is a welcome feature. Huawei does allow you to schedule Eye Comfort, so it can turn on around 10PM and then turn off at around 6AM. So that when it’s dark, you are using the Eye Comfort mode. Using this feature will definitely be better on your eyes.

App Twin is also here on the MediaPad M5. This is a feature that allows you to be logged into multiple accounts on the same app at the same time. For instance, if you have two Facebook accounts, you’ll be able to login to both at the same time, rather than needing to log out of one and into the other. This feature is actually really popular in Asia, as many people have multiple WeChat apps (the popular messaging app in that region), so App Twin does come in handy. It does work currently with Facebook, Snapchat, WeChat and a few other apps.

The larger Huawei MediaPad M5 is available in a “pro” version, which comes with the Huawei M-Pen. And thus, there are some M-Pen compatible apps installed here. Like MyScript Calculator and Nebo for Huawei. The MyScript Calculator is actually an app that is pretty popular on Chromebooks that have touchscreens, as you can do math by hand. So you can physically write “2+2=4” and have it done right there. It’s a good app for kids that are doing homework and looking to figure out the correct answer, as there is space to show their work as well. Now Nebo for Huawei is basically a note-taking app for the MediaPad M5. It reminds me a bit of Evernote, as you are able to create notebooks for different things and then add notes to each notebook, and everything can be written with the M-Pen. The M-Pen is a really nice addition, and it’s great to see that it is indeed included with the MediaPad M5 10.8 Pro. Now the M-Pen does have a battery inside, which should last around a week, depending on use. And it does charge via USB-C, like the tablet.

Desktop Mode

For years, companies have been trying to find ways to make the tablet replace the PC. And Huawei has added “Desktop Mode” onto the MediaPad M5 10.8 Pro to attempt to replace your PC. The Desktop Mode actually works really well. There is a toggle in the quick settings that allows you to jump into the Desktop Mode. It takes about 30 seconds to jump into Desktop Mode and you’re ready to go. It essentially takes Android and puts it into a Windows-like desktop space. You have some shortcut icons on the desktop – which by default are Files, Chrome, Email and WPS Office. The taskbar has a button for all apps on the left-hand side, and then different status icons on the right side with back, home and recents on the far right side.

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Apps that are opened in Desktop Mode do not open in full screen, by default. So you can really take advantage of multi-window here, which is nice to see. The only real issue that we have here with windows in Desktop Mode is that you can’t drag the corners or sides to adjust the size of the window. For example, it would be nice to make the window a bit larger, without making it full-screen. But this is also a great way to use apps on this tablet that are not tablet-optimized, and there are plenty of them. While Twitter is actually optimized for tablets (supposedly, though it doesn’t look like it), it does look better in Desktop Mode, since it’s in a smaller window.

If you combine this, the M-Pen and the keyboard dock (that is sold separately, but included with our review unit), this can really replace a laptop for most people. With the keyboard dock, it acts a bit more like the Microsoft Surface tablet/laptop hybrid. The keys on this keyboard are pretty good, they have a bit of travel, but not too much. Making it comfortable to type on. The trackpad also works really well, even on Android. Now, there is some work that needs to be done here with Android to get a physical keyboard to work. For example, when typing in Google Docs, the MediaPad M5 will continue to bring up the software keyboard, even when you don’t want to use it. Hopefully this is something that Huawei can adjust in a future software update to the MediaPad M5. But it’s also likely that many won’t be picking up the Pro version of the MediaPad M5, and the keyboard, given their prices.

Camera

Cameras on tablets are not typically the best. Many smartphone makers don’t think that a lot of people are going to go out and shoot a lot of pictures with their tablets – though there are a good number that do. But companies like to spend more time and money on developing other aspects of the tablet, like sound quality and the entertainment experience. And that is exactly what Huawei has done on the MediaPad M5. It is a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with a 8-megapixel front-facing camera on the MediaPad M5’s, so they aren’t necessarily bad cameras, but they aren’t going to be as good as the camera on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro or the upcoming Huawei P20 smartphones, largely because it’s not a dual-camera Leica setup here. But it does get the job done.

During the review period, we did take some images with the camera on the Huawei MediaPad M5, and while the images weren’t terrible, they weren’t necessarily stunning. Color accuracy appeared to be pretty good, and the background was not blown out. Typically, on devices where the camera is not the focus point, the background will either be blown out or over-exposed. And that did not happen here on the MediaPad M5 tablets, which is a good thing. Now the front-facing camera is decent as well, it’ll get the job done for video calls and conferences, and the occasional selfie, but it’s not going to replace your smartphone, not by a long run. You can see some of the images we took with the MediaPad M5 in the Flickr gallery linked below.

The Good

Display

Battery Life

Fast Charging

Performance

Build Quality

Desktop Mode

Great gaming performance

The Bad

Camera

Unnecessary Camera Bump

Slightly Outdated Software

Occasional lag when pressing the “back” button

Wrap Up

In a market where tablets are a dying breed (how many tablets have been announced in the past year? You can likely count them on one hand), the Huawei MediaPad M5 is one of the best options out there. Available in, technically, three options with a 8.4-inch model, a 10.8-inch and then a “Pro” version in the 10.8-inch size, there’s definitely one out there for everyone. The 8.4-inch size is great for those that want a smaller tablet, while the 10.8-inch model is great for those that want to be a bit more productive (hint: if you’re going to get the 10.8-inch model, splurge for the “Pro” version, it’s worth the extra cash). Despite it not running on Huawei’s latest silicon – the Kirin 970 – the MediaPad M5 does still have top-notch performance. However, Huawei has not yet announced pricing and availability for the MediaPad M5 yet, in any region. Though it is expected to be released in Q2 of this year, in both WiFi and 4G LTE versions.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Review: A Productivity & Multimedia Powerhouse

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