Hands on: Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 review

The new Huawei tablet set to challenge the iPad Air 2

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Huawei MediaPad M2 does its best impression of an Apple iPad, and while it's not as thin or light, it comes with ambitious splitscreen powers and four speakers for a cheaper price.

For

  • Inexpensive price
  • Easy-to-use splitscreen mode
  • Four speakers for superb sound

Against

  • Runs older Android software
  • Thick bezel all around
  • Odd landscape orientation

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 is a big tablet that happens to be a big part of the Chinese company's strategy to surpass Apple or Samsung in two years – a lofty goal it discussed at CES 2015.

This is a landscape-focused, 10-inch Android tablet that's thin and light with an aluminum build, making it a direct challenger to Apple's iPad Air 2, and it feels more polished than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.

Its slick tablet design manages to pack four speaker grilles into its metal frame, which means it's not quite as sub-pencil thin or as light as the iPad. It also runs an older version of Android.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

However there's still more here for the money compared to the best tablet competition, including easy to manage split screen capabilities. This may just be the iPad and Samsung tablet alternative you've been looking for.

Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 release date

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 tablet is launching in the US, unlike the Huawei phones that too often skip over the United States, the Google-commissioned Nexus 6P not included.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

The official release date is pinned down to a rather vague first quarter of 2016. That means it could ship to stores any time from today to March 31, if Huawei keeps to this schedule.

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 I tested out seemed liked a finished product, so there's a good chance that this tablet is coming sooner rather than later to a store (or, more likely, online retailer) near you.

Huawei MediaPad M2 price

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0's pricing is all over the place, so let's clear up how much it will cost you. It starts at $349, but goes up to $469 with four different configurations.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

That $349 model is the entry-level Wi-Fi version with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage – that's not enough memory speed or internal storage for tech-enthusiasts. The LTE version of this tablet is $399.

I'd rather pay $419 for the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 tablet with 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and Wi-Fi. The LTE version, if you need it, is $469 with the same memory and internal storage setup.

Huawei MediaPad M2 design

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 looks and feels like an aluminum iPad with a few twists. That's because it has an aluminum alloy, full-metal body and precision-crafted curved edges with a sandblasted finish.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

It feels like an expensive Apple tablet in my hands without costing nearly as much. The twist is that it has four speakers, and landscape orientation for its buttons.

The speakers sound clear, cutting through the CES 2016 crowd noise as I demoed one of the prototype Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 tablets. While many of today's tablets come with one speaker grille, this one multiplies that by four and adds Harman Kardon audio technology.

Oddly, the power button and volume rocker are on the 'top' side of the frame when you hold it in portrait mode, which seems to be a way to encourage users to hold the tablet in landscape mode so that it's on the more natural right side. I'll have to see if I get used to this after more testing.

Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 specs

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 has a 7.35mm body that's thin, although nothing record-breaking from a tablet maker – the iPad Air 2 is down to 6.1mm, for example.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

It's slightly bigger than Apple's flagship tablet in screen size, too. It has a 10.1-inch display featuring a full HD IPS screen and 1920 x 1200 resolution.

The official Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0's dimensions are 239.8 x 172.75 x 7.35mm, and it weighs 490g. The iPad Air 2 that this tablet draws so much inspiration from is 437g.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

And it's not just trying to take on the main 9.7-inch iPad, but also challenging the iPad Pro, with a focus on a stylus. Its handwriting feature has 2048-level pressure sensitivity.

Underneath this high identification accuracy display is a Hisilicon Kirin 930 processor with a faster quad 2.0GHz chip and energy-saving quad 1.5GHz chip. The 3GB of RAM is obviously going to be a more sound choice than the lower-ceiling 2GB version.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

It's not the usual Qualcomm or even Intel System-on-A Chip we're used to, so it'll require further review testing. I'm also interested in seeing how the Mali-T628 MP4 (680MHz) graphics chip performs under pressure.

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0's battery life tests are also going to be important – the tablet has a 6660mAh lithium polymer power pack.

Huawei MediaPad M2 reveiw

Although you really don't need to use a camera on a tablet – ever – this one has two: a front-facing 5MP shooter and rear-facing 13MP camera with autofocus, flash and a f/2.0 aperture.

While the tablet runs Android, it's not launching with Android Marshmallow. Instead, it's like a lot of last year's Google-powered tablets, running Android 5.1 Lollipop.

Early verdict

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 tablet is a 10-inch Android slate that doesn't cost nearly as much as an iPad, but which does a reasonable impersonation of Apple's popular tablet. The design looks like it holds up.

The specs are certainly different to those of the Android tablets we usually test out, with a non-Qualcomm CPU, so it'll require further testing to see if everything holds up on the inside too.

Given the price and the build quality, this could be a serious competitor to the best Android tablets on the market – we'll know soon enough.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.