Review

Huawei MediaPad M5 8 review: One of the few premium mini tablets left

These days, it seems like the mini tablet is going out of style. With the rise of larger smartphones, fewer companies are investing in the smaller tablet form factor. A good example of this is Apple's iPad Mini, which hasn't been refreshed since 2015.

But that doesn't mean that no one wants a mini tablet, or that they're not useful. Huawei is one company that's still investing in the form factor, and that's where the new MediaPad M5 comes in. This device is an excellent consumption tablet, whether it's for playing mobile games, reading books, watching movies, or something else.

Here's our review.

Specs

CPU HiSilicon Kirin 960, quad-core 2.36GHz ARM Cortex-A73, quad-core 1.84GHz ARM Cortex-A53
GPU 1037MHz Mali-G71 MP8, 282GFlops
Display 8.4 inches, 2560x1600, 359ppi, IPS LCD
Body 212.6 x 124.8 x 7.3mm (8.37 x 4.91 x 0.29in), 316g (11.15oz)
Camera 13 megapixels, 8-megapixel front
Battery 5,100mAh
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
Audio Huawei Histen sound effect, Harman Kardon audio certified
Material Aluminum
Color Space Gray
Price $319.99


Design

Everything about the Huawei MediaPad M5 feels premium, from the aluminum body to the oleophobic ClariVu display. It's Space Gray in color, with antenna lines running across the top and bottom of the device. Unfortunately, those antennae don't mean that there's cellular connectivity, as the U.S. model is Wi-Fi-only.

Everything else is about where you'd expect it. On the right side, there's a volume rocker and a power button underneath it. On the left side, there's a micro-SD card tray, which is presumably where you'd find the SIM card slot on the cellular model.

On the bottom, there's a USB Type-C port for charging, and what's cool is that both the top and bottom of the device have speaker grills that span the width of between the antenna lines. That means that you can hold it pretty much any way that you want to and you'll get pretty solid audio quality.

One thing that's notably missing from the design is a 3.5mm audio jack, something that you'd probably expect from a consumption device. The MediaPad M5 does come with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter, but it's a shame that the tablet needs one. I understand the removal of the port in phones, but it would be nice if we could keep it in tablets.

On the front of the device, you'll find the fingerprint sensor below the display. That means that you'll be able to use Huawei's one-button navigation.

Display

The 8.4-inch display is probably the most important part of a tablet like this, and it's beautiful. The 2560x1600 resolution provides a 359ppi pixel density, which is more than enough to avoid seeing any pixelation.

It also uses what Huawei is calling ClariVu technology. There seems to be little information on how ClariVu actually works, but it's something like an HDR mode. Ultimately, this display looks great, with vibrant colors, and deeper blacks than you'd expect from an LCD.

It also has very narrow side bezels, with room at the top and bottom of the screen for a webcam and fingerprint sensor, respectively. Personally, I think this is a perfect design, as you have a little bit more room to hold the tablet in the places that you need to. For example, if you're watching a movie in landscape orientation, you won't accidentally hit the screen. If you're in portrait orientation, that's probably not as much of an issue anyway.

While the screen is very glossy (a premium sort of glossy), it works pretty well in direct sunlight. Indeed, it gets pretty bright if you jack up the brightness. On the opposite side, there's an eye comfort mode that filters blue light at nighttime.

There are additional settings that will lower screen resolution to save battery life, or you can adjust the view mode so that things are bigger and they scale like a phone, or smaller for a more tablet-optimized experience.

Ultimately, I think that the screen on the MediaPad M5 is perfect for what it's trying to achieve. Everything that you look at on the display looks beautiful, and that's what you want on a device like this.

Audio quality

The Huawei MediaPad M5 features dual speakers that are tuned by Harman Kardon, and they sound great. The audio is clear, and it's loud.

I particularly like the design of the speakers. Since the grills span across the top and bottom of the device between the antenna lines, you can hold it in any way and it won't seriously affect audio quality. Obviously, if you're holding it in portrait orientation, you're not covering the speakers, but in landscape orientation, you'd actually have a hard time covering the whole speakers on either side.

Great audio quality is the other key to this device, aside from the display. After all, you're going to need those speakers for consumption of content. It's unfortunate that there's no 3.5mm audio jack though.

It's a mini tablet

There's really not a whole lot of different aspects of a tablet that we can talk about, but I do want to call attention to the mini tablet form factor. With smartphones getting bigger, I think that a lot of people aren't going the mini tablet route.

Still, I love mini tablets, and the MediaPad M5 is a great one. Also, it runs Android, so it has all of the apps that you need. For example, there's a solid Kindle app for reading books, and an Audible app for when you want to listen to those books. If Amazon services aren't your thing, you have Google Play or a number of other options.

But a mini tablet is great for reading, as it has that book-sized form factor. It's also great for watching movies and TV shows. With a 16:10 aspect ratio, movies definitely look better than the letter-boxed movies on a 4:3 iPad, or even a 3:2 Surface.

This is a consumption device, with a great display and audio quality to match it. You'll want to use it for reading books, watching movies and TV shows, playing games, checking email and social networks, and similar things. This is not a productivity device. If you're looking for a tablet to work on, you'll want something bigger and something that you can attach a keyboard to, like the 10.8-inch MediaPad M5 Pro, which also has pen support.

Fingerprint sensor and one-button navigation

Huawei actually makes fantastic fingerprint sensors, and I think that they're the best in the market. They're so fast and accurate that I end up trying different fingers just to make sure that it's actually scanning something. The MediaPad M5 is no different, and I like to call attention to that whenever I review a Huawei product.

The company also offers one-button navigation on its products, in case you're not a fan of the three Android navigation buttons that show up by default. Once you turn it on, you can tap it to go back, hold the button to go home, and swipe right to left to go to the multitasking screen.

I do enjoy Huawei's one-button navigation, but I also find that it's tough for muscle memory unless you're using all Huawei products. This will especially be the case if you've got a Motorola phone and a Huawei tablet, as Motorola offers its own one-button navigation option. Still, even if you're not using conflicting products like that, you'll end up trying to swipe across your Galaxy S9 or something.

Performance

Huawei's MediaPad M5 lineup uses the company's in-house HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset, which is last year's flagship. In other words, it doesn't have the Neural Processing Unit that you'll find in handsets like the Mate 10 Pro and the P20, so it doesn't have the AI camera. That's okay though, as you shouldn't be taking pictures with a tablet anyway.

Ultimately, the performance on this tablet is great for everything that you'll need it to do. I didn't have any problems when playing games or anything, and that's typically where a GPU might start to struggle.

For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 4, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench, which tests the CPU.

As you can see, the CPU scores slightly above the Snapdragon 835-powered Google Pixel 2. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests a bit of everything.

As you can see, the Kirin 960 does quite well on AnTuTu, although the CPU is clearly where it shines. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU performance.

If you're not too familiar with benchmark scores, all you really need to know is that you're in pretty good shape with this device and its HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset.

Conclusion

The Huawei MediaPad M5 is an excellent mini tablet for consumption. I think that if you're even reading this review, then you know you want a mini tablet, and I can confidently say that you'll be happy with this one.

I think that people, in general, are more reluctant to spend money on a tablet of this size when they have a large phone. However, that just means that you should buy it for that person as a holiday gift. After all, mini tablets are awesome devices to have, whether you want to spend your own money on them or not.

These things just come in handy, whether it's just for browsing the internet, checking email, watching movies, reading books, playing games, or something else. And the Huawei MediaPad M5 is particularly good at it. It has great performance, a stunning display, and solid audio quality from Harman Kardon.

If you want to check out the tablet on Amazon for $319.99, you can find it here.

 

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