Hands on: Huawei MediaPad M5 review

Three new premium Android tablets

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Huawei's new MediaPad M5 devices look to be a new range of premium Android tablets that offer top-end specs, but whether they will be worth picking up depends on pricing.

For

  • Premium design
  • Beautifully bold displays

Against

  • No 3.5mm headphone jacks
  • Android still not optimized for tablets

Huawei has launched a selection of new tablets at its MWC 2018 press conference, and we’ve had time to try all three of them, so we have put together this hands on review for you to get a taster.

It has been a while since we've seen new top-end Android tablets, so it's good to see Huawei introduce three new slates in its MediaPad range. Two of these devices are called the MediaPad M5, and they come in both 10.8-inch and 8.4-inch variants. 

Then on top of that there's also a 10.8-inch MediaPad M5 Pro, which is the same as the larger MediaPad M5 device but comes with a stylus included in the box.

Huawei MediaPad M5 price and release date

The cheapest price for the 8.4-inch edition is set at €349 (about $430, £300, AU$550) but we don't currently know pricing for the US, UK or Australia.

If you want the larger 10.8-inch edition, you'll find the lowest price is €399 (about $490, £350, AU$625) but the prices increase if you want more storage or the LTE version of the slate.

Design and display

All three tablets have similar designs, apart from - obviously - the size. The MediaPad M5 range all have a robust aluminium chassis that feels premium to the touch, but not slippery in your palms.

The larger 10.8-inch version is a little difficult to hold in one hand due to its size, but the 8.4-inch one is perfect for one-handed use if you want to take notes on it.

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Huawei MediaPad 5 8.4-inch

Huawei MediaPad 5 8.4-inch
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Huawei MediaPad 5 10.8-inch

Huawei MediaPad 5 10.8-inch

Each has a 2560 x 1600 IPS display that upon first impressions looked bold. If you go for the smaller version you’ll get a far higher pixels-per-inch result as it comes in it 359ppi compared to 280ppi on the bigger device.

It’s noticeable how good everything looks on the smaller tablet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look attractive on the larger one as well.

Huawei has included some new technology it calls ClairVu Enhanced display as well, which should give a 20% improvement in picture quality compared to previous Huawei tablet devices.

There are antenna bands around each device too, but these don't spoil the look, as the MediaPad M5 range are still attractive tablets.

You have color choices of champagne gold and space grey, and both look as premium and attractive as the slates they're attached to.

Other specs

Inside each tablet there's an older chipset than in Huawei’s most recent phones, but it should still prove fast and reliable. It’s the Kirin 960 chipset that we have found worked well on other devices such as the Huawei P10, but we’ll be sure to really put it through its paces for the full review.

The speakers are a big area for improvement from Huawei though. If you go for the smaller version of the slate you’ll get a dual speaker and if you go for the larger one you’ll get a quad speaker instead.

We’ve yet to try the speakers out properly, but we’ll be sure to do that for our upcoming full review. Note also that there's no 3.5mm headphone port.

This tablet is running Android 8 Oreo software, but there's a heavy overlay included here too from Huawei called Emotion UI 8. That means it'll look different to any other tablet running Oreo software.

It's worth noting that Android still isn't amazingly optimized for tablet devices, so we'll be sure to interrogate how well the software works on the tablet during our full review.

All three versions of the tablet come with Wi-Fi and LTE capabilities, so you’ll be able to insert a SIM card to browse the internet on the move.

It’s unlikely you’ll be worried about the camera quality on the MediaPad M5, but it comes with an 8MP front-facing camera that seems to be good enough for video calling and the odd selfie, while on the rear there's a basic 13MP camera.

These aren’t as good as you’d expect on a high-end phone, but from our limited testing they seemed to work well enough for what you’d want on a tablet.

Battery life according to Huawei should be 11 hours of video playback on the 8.4-inch model and up to 10 hours on the larger 10.8-inch one, but again that’s something we’ll have to test for ourselves at a later date.

The stylus-packing Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro

The stylus-packing Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro

The Pro version of the MediaPad M5 is almost exactly the same as the normal 10.8-inch edition of the tablet, but it comes with a stylus in the box. We've yet to properly try out the stylus, but it'll likely be a great addition if you like to draw and take notes on your tablet.

Early verdict

There’s a real lack of high-quality yet affordable Android tablets on the market right now and Huawei bringing these slight - but steady - improvements to its MediaPad line is appreciated.

All of the specs look good here, plus it packs a decent design. It will largely come down to the pricing as to whether we think the MediaPad M5 range is worth it though. Look out for our full review to find out our conclusions.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone. 

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.