Huawei has made a new Android tablet for movie watchers and mobile game players. It’s the 10.8-inch MediaPad M5, and it’s one of the most sensibly-designed tablets we’ve encountered. The M5 is the middle-of-the-line model in Huawei’s new M5 tablet range, succeeding the MediaPad M3, and it’s joined by the 10.8-inch M5 Pro, and a more hand-friendly 8.4-inch MediaPad M5. We spent the most time with the Pro version, but the differences between all three are few, so our experience with the Pro mostly applies the others as well.
First, let’s address the difference between the M5 Pro and the regular M5. It’s the addition of stylus support, and the inclusion of the new M-Pen stylus in the box. The stylus won’t operate with either of the other M5 tablets.
Both 10.8-inch MediaPad M5 tablets have pogo-pins connectors for a keyboard case, which when connected activates a Windows-style desktop environment for greater productivity and speed. Otherwise, the key specs are identical between the two. The 8.4-inch M5 has one key difference. It has dual speakers built-in, rather than the quad-speaker set-up on the larger M5 devices.
That makes a difference, and ties into the clever design and media-friendliness of the 10.8-inch MediaPad M5 tablets. The IPS screen has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, and a strong pixel-per-inch density of 280ppi. It looks sharp, bright, and brilliantly high resolution. It’s also apparently enhanced by something called ClariVu. This improves picture quality by 20 percent, Huawei said, but how it does this and what the exact changes are were not immediately obvious.
In Huawei’s demo it looked a little like alterations we expect from High Dynamic Range (HDR). We’ll need to investigate this further, watching different videos, before we can understand how it works, and its effectiveness.
The Huawei MediaPad M5 is one of the most sensibly-designed tablets we’ve encountered.
Over the screen is a 2.5D piece of glass, matted to the aluminum unibody. This is the first time Huawei has used the same kind of 2.5D glass design we see on its phones for a tablet, and a rarity in the industry. It makes a massive difference in comfort. There are no sharp edges where the screen meets the body, making it comfortable to hold — a big deal if you’re watching a full length movie, or multiple TV episodes. Almost everyone would be doing this with the tablet in landscape orientation, and Huawei has put some thought into this.
The speakers run along the top and bottom edges of the tablet when held in landscape orientation, but they thankfully don’t get covered by your hands. Huawei has also placed the volume rocker and the sleep-wake key on the tablet’s right hand side corner. They fall instantly to finger, and aren’t intrusive when you’re handling the tablet. The Huawei brand name is even placed along the bottom edge in landscape orientation, prompting you to hold it this way.
Sound is also a major part of the MediaPad M5’s expertise here. We only saw a few brief video demos on the MediaPad M5, but it was good enough to make us want to watch more. The quad-speakers are tuned by Harmon Kardon, and they use Huawei’s Histen surround sound technology too. If video on a tablet is your thing, you’re going to adore the MediaPad M5.
How about the stylus? After all, it’s the reason you’ll want to pay more — inevitably — for the M5 Pro. In the short time we spent with it, we weren’t so impressed, unlike first tries with the S Pen stylus that comes with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 tablet, or the Apple Pencil. It’s quite thick, but the quick access shortcut buttons are placed in a position near the tip that makes them all-to-easy to press when holding the stylus normally.
The stylus also didn’t work especially well outside of Huawei’s own supplied note app, giving the impression it needs some software optimization to perform better. We’ll need more time to properly assess it, but at the moment it’s not a reason to buy the M5 Pro over the regular 10.8-inch M5.
In the short time we spent with the M5 Pro’s stylus we weren’t very impressed.
All three MediaPad M5 tablets have the Kirin 960 processor inside, a 13-megapixel camera on the back, an 8-megapixel camera on the front, and both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connections built-in. They’re available in two colors, champagne gold and space grey, and run Android 8.0 Oreo with Huawei’s own EMUI 8 user interface over the top. A game mode further proves the MediaPad M5’s entertainment credentials, pushing power and system resources to the game for the best experience possible.
The battery inside the 8.4-inch MediaPad M5 will allow 11 hours of continuous video, and it can recharge in two hours, while the 10.8-inch model shows 10 hours of continuous video, and charges up in three hours. The stylus provides 50 days of use on a charge. Rather annoyingly, the MediaPad M5 does away with the 3.5mm headphone socket, but it does include a dongle adapter in the box.
It’s early days, but the 10.8-inch MediaPad M5 is our pick of the three new tablets; but while it’s clearly capable, we do question how many people still want a tablet today, or feel the need to upgrade from an older one. Huawei didn’t announce prices or availability when we first saw the M5 range, so we cannot compare them against Apple’s iPad range, which remains the most popular choice for tablet buyers.