Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro Synopsis – Solid competition in the tablet space

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro

This Synopsis

Tablets aren’t on the radar for many of us, but there must still be a viable market. Samsung, for instance, continues to pump out refreshes for their Galaxy Tab S flagship tablet (like the beastly Tab S4 that has just launched). Huawei is also on the bandwagon for a spec’d out Android tablet, or rather, two of them.

The MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro are brothers of different sizes, and they’re also top-notch attempts to give Samsung a run for their money. This Synopsis breaks down the crucial details and experiences you can expect.

The Rundown

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro

These new MediaPad tablets are prime examples of how far Huawei has come. They’re built as refinely as anything we’ve seen from Apple, with silky smooth, rounded metal casings and 2.5D curved front glass. The M5 and M5 Pro are built the same for the most part, with the biggest difference being the display sizes.

Advantages

  • First-rate build quality
  • Thin and lightweight
  • Loud speakers
  • Pen support, with Pen included in box (Pro model)
  • Noteworthy battery life
  • Great software optimization

Disadvantages

  • Not the best buttons
  • More bezel on larger model
  • No headphone jack
  • Rear-firing speakers on larger model
  • Micro-stutters in the software

What it’s like to use

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
The one-hand-able 8.4″ MediaPad M5, in Space Gray color.

Design

  • All aspect between these two tablets are virtually identical, save for what needed to be scaled for the size difference: 10.8″ vs 8.4″ display, 7,500mAh vs 5,100mah battery capacity, and quad vs stereo speakers.
  • The thinness of these tablets is impressive (at 7.3mm). Coupled with the light weight, it almost feels like you’re holding a piece of cardboard (more-so on the smaller model).
  • The presentation of the build is elegant. We’ve seen metal backs before, but Huawei takes it up a notch. The finish is silky to the touch, and the curved sides feel effortless and organic. There’s no uncomfortable sharp edges, but the smooth taper does not make for the best grip.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Rear-facing speaker grill along the top of the M5 Pro (symmetrical with the bottom).

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Top-facing speaker grill on the M5 (symmetrical with the bottom).

  • You’ll see a series of drilled holes about the top and bottom of both tablets. The larger model sports four speakers while the smaller has two. However, for some reason, the holes are placed at the edges only on the smaller model. Top/Bottom-firing is more desirable than rear-firing.
  • There’s no capacitive navigation buttons like on yesteryear tablets. The only features you’ll find on the front are the fingerprint scanner and front camera. The fingerprint scanner does double as a Home button. On the subject, the speed of the scanner (and the screen’s wake-up response) is very quick.
Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
The Champagne Gold M5 Pro has a white front bezel, while the Space Gray M5 has a black one.
  • The rear camera module on both models sticks out disjointedly. The lens cover is barely recessed, so you’ll have to be extra mindful when you set the device down on a surface.
  • The physical buttons leave to be desired. The curved edges give the buttons an undesirable angle. They’re also a bit mushy to the press. The right-side, upper placement of the power and volume buttons is more friendly at a horizontal orientation, because when the table is vertical, they’re weirdly on the bottom. In contrast, Huawei orientated the smaller M5 model vertically, where you’ll have right-placed buttons and thinner side bezels.

Usability

  • The smaller M5 can be a one-hander thanks to those thin side bezels. Based on the placement of the fingerprint scanner, Huawei aimed it more at vertical usage. The M5 Pro on the other hand is oriented in landscape, and with average-sized bezels uniformly around the screen.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro

  • The IPS LCD screens get amply bright. Quality-wise, they’re detectably LCD (remember that both panels are the same tech and the same 2,560×1600 pixel resolution, only size is the difference). If you’ve been using an AMOLED panel for a while, you’ll immediately notice a washed-out hue to them. There’s also the expect brightness shift at angles (fairly average). It’s not “bad” quality, just LCD.
  • The quality of the speakers is pretty bombastic, especially with the four drivers of the M5 Pro. They don’t just get loud, but it’s a full sound (not tinny like with many others). The low-end is notably deep and other ranges are crisp. It’d be amazing if the speakers were facing the right direction. The M5’s dual speakers are decent and also have nice range, but pale in comparison. The lows aren’t as strong (resulting in thinner sound), and the higher frequencies aren’t as well defined.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Camera interface is like that on Huawei’s phones.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Sample from the rear 13MP camera.

  • We were pretty satisfied with the quality 13MP rear camera module. Tablet cameras usually leave to be desired, and pale in comparison to their smartphone counterparts. Not entirely the case here. Colors and contrast are notable in particular. However, the module does heel when it comes to HDR highlights. Sharpness could also be better.
  • The 5,100mAh (M5) and 7,500mAh (M5 Pro) scale evenly for the tablets’ respective size. We observed similar drainage on both models. And endurance is noteworthy. Unless you’re frequently doing heavy tasks (our usage was more moderate, like browsing the web, Youtube’ing, note-taking/drawing), you should get a couple days of use or more.

Software

  • In Chinese fashion, the software of the MediaPad tablets are heavily interfaced. There’s a lot of Huawei customization, from cartoon-y app icons to bouncy transitions. There’s some bloat pre-installed but not a ton. These include Huawei’s own set of unnecessary essential apps (calculator, calendar, clock, etc.), a couple games, and some software tools (theming, system manager, file manager, etc.).

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Drop-down notification shade and quick settings.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
App drawer and pre-installed apps.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Huawei’s Settings menu is no frills for the most part.

  • Despite being heavy, the software is super refined. It shows that Huawei has been doing this a while. Navigation and executions are buttery smooth and satisfyingly responsive for the most part. It’s not free of micro-stutters like with more optimized offering from Google, or even Samsung, but it’s a good experience.
  • The M5 Pro comes with a stylus in the box (and some units come with a keyboard attachment, for a laptop-like experience). Its built just like a pen and feels like one too. However, the two buttons towards the bottom are prone to accidental pressing (maybe making them smaller would’ve helped). The stylus has to be charged, but it lasts a long time on one charge. The charging mechanism is cleverly a USB-C port accessed by rotating the stylus’ top clip.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
The stylus’ USB-C charging port.

Huawei MediaPad M5 and M5 Pro
Huawei’s Nebo app supports note-taking or doodling with the stylus. The two physical buttons enable app-specific shortcuts or can be used to make selections in the UI.

  • The writing implementation is not a half-baked experience. It’s not far off from Samsung’s super refined S Pen experience, though, Samsung has a clear upper hand when it comes to functionality. Aside from being able to mark up screenshots or images and use the tip for touch input, Huawei includes a couple relevant apps: Nebo (for note taking and management) and MyScript Calculator (for writing out math formulas and calculations).

The Gallery

Final Thoughts

Current price of MediaPad M5 on Amazon.

The M5 and M5 Pro are easy to recommend. Huawei is at a good and competitive place right now. These tablets have a great level of refinement, in both hardware and software. Not the same can be said about many others, especially at this price-point. Not that the tablets are cheap, but they’re totally reasonable, at about $300 (M5) and $430 (M5 Pro).

The only contentions we can see that may detract are the fairly average quality LCD screens, cartoon-y UI aesthetic, and slight micro-stutters here and there in the software. But nothing that we would consider deal-breaking.

Also Read: Huawei Band 2 Pro Synopsis

Josh is so enthused about tech that he writes about it. After time at several tech publications, he launched The Synops - concise and quality gadget synopses with information that readers want to know and details they want to see. You can also follow him at on Twitter (@joshnor713) and Google+ (+JoshNoriega). Email any inquiries to josh@thesynops.com.

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