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For the last few years, the tablet market has really been the iPad market and just this week we just heard about Apple's new 9.7 inch iPad targeted towards the educational market.
It turns out, there are still some interesting Android tablets and the new Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro may be one of the best for the business who doesn't want to use an iPad. We typically see Android tablets running older versions of Android on hardware that is a bit dated, but that is not the case with this new Huawei tablet.
The MediaPad M5 Pro has all the key Huawei design elements we've seen on its phones, such as the 2.5D curved glass display, aluminum body, massive battery, high-end processor, latest version of Android 8 Oreo, and more. It's a tablet focused on using it in landscape orientation, along with a stylus to add more functionality.
Storage: 64GB/128GB internal with microSD expansion card slot.
Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, LTE (available on the model tested)
Audio: Huawei Histen stereo system with quad speakers tuned by Harman Kardon
Cameras: Rear 13 megapixel and front 8 megapixel
Battery: 7,500 mAh with Huawei QuickCharge technology
Dimensions: 258.7 x 171.8 x 7.3 mm and 498 grams
The Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro will be available in space gray and champagne gold. I tested the space gray model. There is also a M5 model with an 8.4 inch display and a M5 10.8 model without a pen.
There is no argument that Huawei builds gorgeous hardware with brushed aluminum shells, 2.5D front glass, responsive fingerprint scanners, and clear displays. While 2.5D glass displays are popular on phones, this is the first time that such a design element has been used on a tablet device. The MediaPad M5 Pro continues the tradition of design excellence and the fit and finish is stunning.
The Kirin 960 chipset was last year's flagship smartphone processor and continues to be a powerful choice for this tablet. I was able to perform all of my work on this tablet, enjoy video, and play a couple of games without any issues in performance.
The larger Huawei Mate phones have large batteries that power you through a day or two and this same strategy has been used here with the massive 7,500 mAh battery. I've gone a few days between charges, especially since I use a tablet differently than I do a phone. That said, more and more people are using tablets as computing devices away from the desk or around the house. The tablet is rated to deliver up to 12 hours of 1080p video playback and charge back up in 2.9 hours.
The front is dominated by the high resolution display, with minimal bezels, and it looks great. Huawei's proprietary ClariVu 5.0 display technology uses algorithms to enhance images for a great experience. Eye comfort mode is also available so that you can read books and magazines on the tablet without straining your eyes. The bezel around the display is larger than we see on Huawei phones and I was a bit surprised by the 1/2 inch black border all around the viewable display. It helps you hold onto the tablet when not in the keyboard cover, but still a bit different than what we have seen from Huawei in the past.
The Huawei name is found at the bottom, in landscape orientation, and it is clear this is the primary rotation for the tablet.The front fingerprint scanner is located on the right side when the tablet is oriented in the default landscape direction. The front facing camera is embedded in the bezel at the top of the display.
A USB-C port, SIM card/microSD card slot, power button, and volume button are found on the right side. There is nothing on the left side, top, or bottom of the tablet.
Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro: in pictures
The rear camera is positioned on the upper rear right corner and it protrudes out of the back a measurable distance. Four speakers are found along the top and bottom with the openings in the curved part of the back. The Pogo pins are found between the bottom speakers and are used to connect to the optional keyboard cover that I was also sent to evaluate.
The M-Pen is included with the MediaPad M5 Pro and charges up conveniently with USB-C that is hidden under the pen's top clip. The M-Pen is rated to last up to 50 days with two hours of usage a day and only take 100 minutes to charge up.
The M-Pen has 4096 level pressure sensitivity. Two buttons are provided on the pen for taking screenshots, deleting images, and launching apps.
A keyboard arrived with my eval unit and came in an official Huawei white box. It has Amork embedded into a corner of the outside case with Fine Triumph Technology shown on an interior label. There is no information on Huawei sites for this keyboard.
It has a gray soft touch matte finish with an opening for the rear camera. The MediaPad M5 Pro slides down from the top through two side guides and secures into the bottom piece where the three Pogo pins line up with the back of the MediaPad M5.
The hinge mechanism is interesting as a metal full width piano hinge is used to rotate the top half of the back down to your preferred viewing angle. There is an installation tips sticker on this piece that guides you through the keyboard use.
The keys all have good spacing and good tactile feedback with an acceptable trackpad that is ebout 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. There is no backlight on the keyboard. The top row of control keys includes keys for back, home, task switching, Google Assistant, volume down and up, media controls, brightness controls, a single press screen shot button, and the Delete key. These all work well and are different than we have seen on other tablet keyboards in the past.
The MediaPad M5 Pro runs Android 8.0 with Huawei's EMUI 8.0 installed. I find EMUI to be fairly stock with most of the customizations taking place in the way of settings. There are a large number of settings options in EMUI 8.0 and you will find those here as well. These include options such as making the fingerprint scanner the only navigation button and enabling HiVoice voice control on the tablet.
There is a number of bloatware apps loaded by default on the MediaPad M5 Pro, but a few are useful too. The MyScript Calculator app lets you use the M-Pen to write out common equations and have them solved by the tablet. WPS Office is a solid document and spreadsheet application.
When you slide the MediaPad M5 down into the keyboard dock a pop-up appears asking if you want to enable "Desktop View". I hit the affirmative button and then was transported back to 2001 when the Windows XP Bliss wallpaper took over the display. I like the Bliss wallpaper, but thought it was funny to see this appear on a tablet in 2018.
While in desktop mode you have access to a limited number of apps. The only Google app that you have access to is the Chrome browser, but there is no Google Play Movies, Google Music, or even the Google Play Store. It's interesting to see such limitations when in this mode, but it appears this mode is focused on productivity and Huawei apps.
You can use the calendar, email (not Gmail though), WPS Office, Messenger, Notepad, Gallery, and others. Even if you enter the name of an app you know you have installed on the tablet in the search box nothing will appear and the experience looks to functions in a separate partition or something. However, files saved in tablet mode do still appear in desktop mode and for those apps that appear in both the settings, status, and more all still work just fine.
Pricing and competition
The only pricing released so far is for the Europe. This model I tested, with 64GB of internal storage, has a European price of €549 (about $675). The 128GB one is €599. It's not clear if this includes LTE or if it is a WiFi-only model price. No availability information has been released either.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 9.7 inch is priced at $450 and also includes the S Pen. A keyboard option is available for this tablet as well. The Tab S3 uses an older Snapdragon 820 processor, has just 32GB of storage and a 6,000 mAh battery.
The new iPad 9.7 is priced at $329.99 and also includes support for the Apple Pencil, but that is priced at an additional $99.
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
It's very hard to recommend an Android tablet to anyone looking for a tablet computer and my opinion isn't changed by the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro. It's a solid Android tablet with integrated LTE and phone calling capability, but it's the same old story of wonky Android software performance that kills my enthusiasm.
The MediaPad M5 Pro is optimized for landscape use with the Huawei branding in this orientation and the speakers setup for this use. However, the fingerprint scanner is oddly positioned on the right side, launching Google Assistant every time flips the display into portrait orientation, and Google Play Movies is a complete mess on it (on-screen controls disappear, the display dims constantly, and orientation flips between portrait and landscape). Android on a tablet has never been a real focus for Google and it still isn't. Samsung tablets are decent because it puts so much of its own special sauce into the mix, but even then the experience is nothing like what you can get on an Apple iPad.
Huawei makes great hardware and tries to bring a good Android tablet to the enterprise. If you must use an Android tablet for work then the MediaPad M5 Pro is a decent option. However, if you are just looking for the best tablet overall, then look at an Apple iPad.