Hands on: Huawei MediaPad M3

You can now order Huawei's MediaPad M3 for $300

Huawei’s MediaPad M3 is so good, it may make you put down your phablet and pick up a tablet again

Tablets may have taken a backseat to big-screen smartphones in the last couple years, but Huawei has made one that you’ll definitely want to take notice of. Since it has been in our hands, we’ve found it hard to put down. It’s the MediaPad M3, and it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and hold, with all the internal tech power found in the best smartphones, matched with a super display. Should you put down your phablet for it?

Forget worries about Huawei’s second-rate design or build quality. Those days are long gone. The metal unibody MediaPad M3 looks and feels high end. From the flowing curves around the top corners, to the diamond-cut chamfered edges, the tablet has a wonderfully cohesive style. It borrows plenty from the Huawei P9 and the Mate 8 too, including the subtly textured power button to make it easier to identify by touch.

The screen measures 8.4 inches, larger than the M3’s most obvious competitor, the Apple iPad Mini 4. However, the body is incredibly compact, and despite having relatively small hands, I can cradle the Huawei slate in one hand and still reach the volume and power buttons without adjusting my grip. It’s all thanks to the super slim bezels around the IPS-LCD display, which has a stunning 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution.

Lower-end options, availability and price

The MediaPad M3 launched internationally first, but it’s now available in the U.S. exclusively via Amazon. The international variant had multiple prices and models, but you can only order the 32GB Wi-Fi model in the U.S.

Huawei is also releasing two lower-tier tablets, but there’s a catch — they run software from 2013.

That’s right — they run Android 4.4 KitKat and are unlikely to ever get updated to a more modern version of the Android operating system. As the name suggests, the T1 comes in a 7-inch and a 9.6-inch size, and unsurprisingly they’re dirt cheap at $100 and 160, respectively. Both devices, like the M3, are available on Amazon right now, though they will begin shipping later in the week.

Monster sound system

Going back to the M3, Huawei has added a blue light filter that it calls Eye Protection — useful when you’re getting ready to go to sleep. It’s also capable of falling to just 4 nits of brightness — ideal for reading or watching video in a darkened room. Videos looks gorgeous, although the 16:10 aspect ratio of the screen leaves black bars above and below movies.

Huawei has teamed up with Harmon Kardon to co-engineer the audio on the MediaPad M3, creating a monstrously loud 1-watt stereo speaker system that vibrates through the tablet’s body, powered by a dedicated digital sound processor (DSP) that handles 192kHz/24-bit high definition music files. Huawei says the speakers “smartly adapt,” and adjust according to the tablet’s orientation, always providing optimum staging. The effect is very subtle; it retains a spacious sound regardless of the way you hold the tablet.

The screen, coupled with the sound system, makes the MediaPad M3 live up to its name — it’s a superb device for watching video — but it’s also a strong gaming machine. The Kirin 950 processor inside is the same one powering the Huawei P9 smartphone, along with 4GB of RAM. It’s properly fast, and handled the insane Extreme mode in bullet-hell shooter Danmaku Unlimited with ease, barely even getting warm to the touch.

Android 6.0 with Huawei’s own user interface is installed, and like Apple’s iOS operating system, all the apps are displayed on scrolling home screens. The UI is a vast improvement over any Huawei device you may have used in the past, but anyone used to standard Android on a Motorola or Nexus phone will need a period of adjustment. The pull-down notification shade is different for example, and needlessly so, as it adds a second swipe to find useful shortcuts.

Fingerprint sensor

In the four days we spent using the MediaPad M3, the 5,100mAh battery drained by 52 percent through a mixture of games, video, and general usage. There’s also an interesting mode to decrease the screen resolution to 1,920 x 1,200, which gives you a few hours extra use if you need it. The M3 has a fingerprint sensor below the screen, that’s almost flush with the body itself, making it very comfortable. It’s a fourth-gen sensor with the highest level of security, and a cool gesture where swiping left or right on it shows the running apps. If there’s a downside to the M3, it’s the 8-megapixel camera, which took only average pictures without much detail.

IFA 2016: Pebble 4.0 smartwatch update revamps Health app and quick launcher

The MediaPad M3 tablet has the right size, the right amount of power, and the screen and speaker system to make it a fabulous all-rounder. It even has a SIM card slot to add data for use on the move. However, it’s not a phone, and big-screen devices like the iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei’s own Mate 8 lessen our need for tablets.

The device launched first in China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, France, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Portugal, and the U.K.

Highs

  • Beautiful screen
  • Compact body
  • High-class design and build
  • Tremendous speaker system
  • Plenty of gaming power

Lows

  • Poor camera
  • Huawei’s Android UI may frustrate

Article originally published in September. Updated on 11-17-16 by Julian Chokkattu: Added news about the M3’s availability and price in the U.S.

Home Theater

Dolby’s secret recording studio app may soon exit stealth mode

In secret testing since June, Dolby's stealth recording and social network app may soon be ready to make an appearance. Dolby 234 blends unique noise-canceling tech with Instagram-like audio filters.
Home Theater

Want to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV? Here's how

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow sending anything on your mobile device to your TV. Our in-depth guide shows you how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to the big screen from virtually any device available.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Computing

Changing a PDF into an EPUB file is easier than you might think

If you like to read on a tablet or ebook reader, you'll find that ePUB files offer a number of advantages over PDFs. With this guide, we'll show you how to convert a PDF to EPUB in a few quick steps.
Computing

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Mobile

5G phones make a lot of promises. Here’s what to really expect

There has been a lot of marketing copy expounding the potential benefits of 5G networks, but a lot less on the practical implications of 5G smartphones. There's a reason for that.
Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.
Mobile

Here’s how to take a screenshot on an iPad, step by step

The ability to capture screenshots may not be the iPad's most glamorous feature, but it's one of its most useful. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to take a screenshot on an iPad, whether it's an iPad Pro from 2018 or an older iPad model.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Social Media

Here’s how to save someone’s Instagram Story to your phone

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Wearables

Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.
Mobile

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.