Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite hands-on review

Huawei's latest tablet provides a safe, secure environment for children


  • Good display
  • Nice design
  • Handy fingerprint sensor feature for kids


  • Stylus doesn't attach to tablet
  • No Android Pie

Huawei is back in the U.S., but don’t get your hopes up. No, the excellent Mate 20 Pro smartphone isn’t coming to our shores — instead, it’s the MediaPad M5 Lite, which Huawei unveiled at CES 2019.

It’s a budget tablet, continuing the MediaPad M5 tablet series Huawei launched in 2018. It sits at the bottom, below the MediaPad M5 and the MediaPad M5 Pro. It will be available in the U.S., but at its $299 price tag, is it worth picking up over our reigning champion, the 2018 iPad? We spent some time to find out.

Premium build quality

Hold the MediaPad M5 Lite in your hands, and you wouldn’t think it’s a budget-priced laptops. From the front, you’ll find uniform bezels not unlike the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and the recent iPad Pro, though they’re noticeably thicker. Still, the uniformity elevates the MediaPad M5 Lite’s look.

There’s a fingerprint sensor on the bottom bezel (when held in landscape mode), with a power and volume buttons on the right edge. On the opposite end is a headphone jack and a USB Type-C charging port. The 2.5D curved glass blends into the metal unibody, which is cool to the touch. The edges on the back are curved, which makes the tablet easy to hold — even in portrait orientation.

Over on the back, the MediaPad looks like an average tablet with its space gray color, and Huawei logo in the middle. A single 8-megapixel camera sits on the back as well.

It’s a good size, with a 10.1-inch Full HD (1920 x 1200 resolution) IPS screen. It’s easy enough to hold with one hand without feeling cumbersome.

The screen itself easily got bright enough to read outside on an overcast day. It’s no OLED, but colors are vibrant, and the screen looks sharp. We’ll need to spend more time with the tablet for further thoughts on the screen.

Great features for families

The MediaPad M5 Lite has a trick up its sleeve, and it has to do with the fingerprint sensor. Children can add their fingerprints to access the sensor, and it will launch a closed environment called “Kid’s Corner.” There’s no way to leave this closed session without inputting a passcode, so unless your kids manage to figure it out, they won’t be able to download malicious apps, access sketchy sites, or spend hundreds of dollars on the Google Play Store.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite hands-on review
Julian Chokattu/Digital Trends

Parents can manually add apps to the Kid’s Corner, so you can make sure to fill it with educational apps, games, or books. There’s also a way to add time limits to apps to ensure children aren’t spending too much time on the screen.

Some other neat features include a distance sensor, which encourages the person using the tablet to move a little further away from the screen (more than 9.8-inches away). There’s also a posture detection sensor, which makes sure you’re sitting upright. We haven’t seen these in action, but will be testing them in our full review.

Average specifications

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite is powered by the company’s own Kirin 659 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. A MicroSD card slot is available in case you need more space.

It operated smoothly in our brief tests, with only apps opening a little slower, but that’s to be expected considering this is not a high-end processor. It will manage daily tasks without an issue, but may stutter with a handful of intensive games or multiple intensive apps running in the background. We’ll need to do more testing to verify this, though.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite hands-on review
Julian Chokattu/Digital Trends

It’s running Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8 layered over. The user interface isn’t as clean or easy to use as Huawei’s latest EMUI 9 Android version, but it’s manageable. It’s a solid tablet to use for watching TV shows and movies, but don’t expect to use it as a laptop replacement or any kind of workhorse.

There are four speakers on all corners of the MediaPad M5 Lite, built in collaboration with Harmon Kardon, but we haven’t had a chance to test the audio to see how it stacks up to the speakers on the similarly priced 2018 iPad.

There’s a 7,500mAh battery here, which Huawei said will last for about 13 hours of video playback. We’ll see if this claim holds up in our full review.

M-Pen Lite stylus

The MediaPad M5 Lite comes with a stylus called the M-Pen Lite stylus. It’s slim enough to look like a normal pen, and using it on the tablet is comfortable. There’s a clip on it so you can keep it secure in a pocket, but we’d have liked some way to store the pen on or near the tablet itself.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite hands-on review
Julian Chokattu/Digital Trends

It has 2,048 layers of pressure sensitivity, and scribbling with it feels natural. We didn’t see any problems with palm rejection when drawing on the slate, but we’ll need to use it more to make sure.

Price and availability

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite costs $299 and will be available from Amazon and Newegg later in January.

The biggest fault of the MediaPad M5 Lite is that it costs almost the same price as the excellent $330 iPad. Apple’s tablet is more powerful, and is tablet most people should buy. From what we’ve seen so far, the MediaPad doesn’t look like the tablet that will unseat it, though we’re impressed by its family-friendly capabilities.

We’ll add our final thoughts after using the tablet for a longer period of time.

Product Review

The Xperia 10 Plus feels great in your hand, but you'll still want to put it down

There has never been a better time to buy a smartphone with an unusual design, and one of the cheaper models out there vying for your attention is the Sony Xperia 10 Plus, with its 21:9 aspect ratio screen.

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.

Add style and functionality with the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases

No tablet should be without protection, especially an expensive one. Check out our picks for the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases, so you can add some protection, functionality, and style to your new device.

Multiple phone leaks show May 21 is going to be a big day for Honor

Honor will launch at least one new smartphone on May 21, at an event taking place in London. Leaks have indicated the Honor 20 will take center stage, with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.

Keep your new iPad (2018) sparkling with the best screen protectors

Your iPad sports a stunning 9.7-inch screen and you'll want it to stay that way. The best iPad (2018) screen protectors guard against cracks, scratches, and even smudging from your fingers. Check out our top picks here.

How to save yourself money by buying a refurbished iPhone

There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a new iPhone, and it can be very expensive. Save yourself some heartache and some money with our guide on how to buy a refurbished iPhone.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

BlackBerry Messenger to shut down in May, be replaced by enterprise version

BlackBerry Messenger for consumers will shut down at the end of May, nearly six years after it was launched. The app is going back to its roots, in a way, as it is being replaced by the much simpler BlackBerry Messenger Enterprise.

Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches get big price cuts

The Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 are at some of the lowest prices we've seen since so far this year. With discounts from Amazon and Walmart, now is a great time to find spring savings on wearables.

These are the key settings to change on the LG G8 ThinQ smartphone

The LG G8 ThinQ is finally available. There are a lot of settings turned off by default that may be useful in improving the experience of using the phone. We've rounded up 11 key settings for you to change on the G8.

LG reportedly files patent for triple selfie camera on smartphone

LG has reportedly filed a patent for a smartphone with three front-facing cameras. However, if the patent turns out to be true, it may come down as just another gimmick for the struggling mobile phone manufacturer.

Best iPhone 7 Plus screen protectors to shield your big, beautiful display

Cracked screens are expensive to replace. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up what's available in terms of protection for Apple's large iPhone 7 Plus. Here are the best screen protectors you can buy.

Samsung says the Galaxy Fold needs more improvements before it's released

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.

Amazon cuts prices on Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 smartwatches

In the market for a new smartwatch? The Apple Watch is the best one, and right now it's a little more affordable than it usually is. The Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 3 are both available at discounted prices straight from…