Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro review

Huawei’s latest tablet is great, but we question if you really need one

A supreme tablet for the video junkie, but it’s not the productivity tool Huawei wants it to be.
A supreme tablet for the video junkie, but it’s not the productivity tool Huawei wants it to be.
A supreme tablet for the video junkie, but it’s not the productivity tool Huawei wants it to be.

Highs

  • Great screen
  • Excellent sound
  • Keyboard case adds extra functionality
  • Ideally suited to video

Lows

  • Awkward in portrait orientation
  • Questionable need to own one

DT Editors' Rating

Tablets aren’t the in-demand product they once were, and most people who want one will gravitate toward the Apple iPad, which outsells every other manufacturer two or three times over. The MediaPad M5 Pro is Huawei’s challenger to the iPad. To help tempt buyers, Huawei seeks to capitalize on the interest in tablets with a detachable keyboard that makes the M5 Pro a productivity tool, as well as ideal for watching movies or playing games.

But Android isn’t known for being a productivity-friendly operating system on the big screen. Huawei has impressed with its phones recently, in particular the P20 Pro, but after a good deal of time with the MediaPad M5 Pro, it will take a lot more effort to convince us to buy a tablet that’s not an iPad.

Landscape-focused design

This is where Huawei instantly wins points. The MediaPad M5 Pro is not only thin, light, and attractive, but it’s also superbly designed from a usability point of view, with one qualm (we’ll get to that soon).

Over the screen is a 2.5D piece of glass, matted to the aluminum unibody. This is the first time Huawei has used the same kind of 2.5D glass design we see on its phones for a tablet, and a rarity in the industry. It makes a massive difference in comfort. There are no sharp edges where the screen meets the body, making it extremely comfortable to hold — a big deal if you’re watching a full-length movie, or multiple TV episodes. Almost everyone would be doing this with the tablet in landscape orientation, and Huawei has put some thought into it.

There are no sharp edges where the screen meets the body, making it comfortable to hold.

Not only do the speakers run along the top and bottom of the tablet when held in this orientation, but they also aren’t covered by your hands. The volume rocker and the sleep-wake key on the right side corner fall instantly to finger, and aren’t intrusive when you’re handling the tablet. The Huawei brand name is even placed along the bottom edge in landscape orientation, further suggesting you to hold it this way.

It’s not all perfect though. The MediaPad M5 Pro is for landscape use — it has a 16:10 aspect ratio, not 4:3 like the iPad, for example — and everything feels awkward when in portrait orientation. The buttons are on the bottom of the tablet, and you end up feeling along the right-hand side edge where you expect the buttons to be. After a while you get used to it, but it still feels alien, and many apps work best in portrait, making the design a bit of a compromise.

The fingerprint sensor is on the bottom edge and on the right in landscape, where use is comfortable and natural. It’s not design perfection though, as we dislike the camera bump for the lens which ruins the lines on the back, and the grey color is very dull. Oh, and there’s no 3.5mm headphone socket, which is incredibly annoying when you want to quickly and quietly watch a video (dongles are never to hand when you want them) in public.

Screen, sound, and video

Around the front is a large 10.8-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, and a solid pixel-per-inch density of 280. It looks sharp, bright, and really high resolution. It’s also enhanced by something called ClariVu, which Huawei said improves picture quality by 20 percent using algorithms to dynamically adjust contrast. There’s no way to turn this on or off, so it’s hard to say how much of a difference it makes. It’s certainly not adversely affecting the M5 Pro’s display.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro Full Review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Sound is also a major part of the MediaPad M5’s expertise here. The quad-speakers are tuned by Harmon Kardon and use Huawei’s Histen surround sound technology too. They’re clear, crisp, and immersive, with effective stereo separation. They’re not very bassy, but it’s hardly surprising given their size.

If video on a tablet is your thing, you’re going to adore the MediaPad M5 Pro. It’s fantastic. Whether it’s YouTube or Netflix, the Huawei tablet offers an immersive, enjoyable viewing experience. The screen’s a beauty, and the sound works very well — an often forgotten aspect of watching movies on a mobile device. However, we did run into some resolution issues on Netflix, where old content at a lower resolution than 1080p looked quite poor.

The M5 Pro has become a media center for us, from watching video on the 10.8-inch screen, or for streaming to Chromecast on the TV. It effortlessly swaps between apps and functions during this time, and emphasizes the tablet’s natural ability to integrate into a home’s entertainment system. At the same time, it doesn’t do much more than a modern, big-screen phone doesn’t do, and we question whether it’s worth owning if it’s only job is one that emulates your phone.

Productivity

The MediaPad M5 Pro has a pogo-pin connector along the bottom edge which links the tablet with a keyboard case. The tablet slips in easily, and is securely held by two clips on both sides of the tablet. The keyboard isn’t full-sized, and is smaller than the one on our 11-inch MacBook Air, but it does have a touchpad in front of it. Move your finger across it and a pointer appears on the screen.

Superbly designed from a usability point of view.

Huawei encourages use of the MediaPad M5 Pro as a laptop replacement with a custom Desktop Mode, much like the one on the Mate 10 Pro smartphone. It’s visually reminiscent of Windows 10, with access to many of the apps installed on the tablet, but not all will work as expected. If they’re designed for a phone, then expect the experience to be substandard. But it is meant for typing in apps like Google Docs and, “getting basic stuff done.”

Is it a laptop replacement? No. Not if you want to work quickly. The keyboard is quite good, with decent travel and feel, and the touchpad is surprisingly tactile and precise. We found it quick to adjust from a Mac keyboard to the MediaPad M5 Pro. However, using it instead of a laptop was awkward. Issues ranged from frustratingly scrolling through long-typed documents (it would get confused and return to the top, and flipping between the three input methods only made things worse), to often pressing the key that lets you change keyboard layouts by accident.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro Full Review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei’s desktop mode is more user friendly than Android in Desktop Mode, and provided you use Google Docs and other Google tools regularly, it’s acceptable for occasional use. The MediaPad M5 Pro with its keyboard is lighter than a laptop, and more portable too, just don’t expect it to do everything a Windows or Mac laptop will. Finding compatible apps to replicate our usual desktop experience was long-winded and frustrating, eventually forcing us back to the comfortable familiarity of our usual machine after solely using the M5 Pro for a few days.

M-Pen stylus

The MediaPad M5 Pro comes with a stylus that Huawei calls an M-Pen, which has 4,096 layers of pressure sensitivity, and supports tilt and shade operation. It’s weighted very well, made from aluminum, and cleverly hides the USB Type-C charging port behind the clip for a shirt pocket. However, the two buttons at the opposite end are too easy to press accidentally, usually ending up with a screenshot we didn’t want.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro Full Review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Did we use it? A stylus is great if you’re an artist. If you’re not, it’s not something you’ll find many uses for. We used it to take some notes, and Huawei’s app is great at translating scribbles into documents; but we were quicker typing. Playing around with drawing apps was fun, and if you have actual artistic ability, we believe the stylus is sensitive and versatile enough to create artwork you can be proud of.

Battery and charging

A massive 7,500mAh battery lives inside the MediaPad M5 Pro, which lasted for around a week with occasional use each day for video, social media, and web browsing. The tablet supports Huawei’s Super Charge technology, but still took more than three hours to recharge from flat. The M-Pen stylus also needs charging, but it lasts for several weeks even on standby. We’d have liked a link between it and the tablet to check the battery percentage.

Camera

You’re probably not buying a tablet for its camera. The MediaPad M5 Pro has an f/2.2 aperture, 13-megapixel camera on the back, and an f/2.2 aperture, 8-megapixel camera on the front. The app is the same as we’ve seen in older Huawei phones, like the Mate 9, and has many features including a Pro mode, night shot, and panorama.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro Full Review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The few pictures we took look fine, even on some gloomy days in the U.K.; but we were frankly too embarrassed to go out and test the camera extensively, because who wants to be a tablet photographer?

The front camera is above the screen in landscape orientation, and therefore off to the side in portrait, forcing you to hold the tablet in landscape during video calls. If you don’t, the image reproduced looks very odd. Performance using the front camera was fine, and what we’d expect from a tablet.

Performance and software

Android 8.0 Oreo with Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 is installed on our review model, with the January 2018 Android security patch. It’s an oversized version of what we’re used to on slightly older Huawei phones, including the Mate 9, and with it comes the issues associated with Android on tablets everywhere — app compatibility.

A Huawei Kirin 960 with 4GB of RAM powers the M5 Pro, along with 64GB of internal storage space. This is also the same setup as the Mate 9, a phone that would be considered out of date today. We ran some benchmarks to see how it compared, and it outperformed the Mate 9.

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 179,303
  • Geekbench 4: 1,196 single-core; 3,933 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 869 (Vulkan)

We experienced no issues with the MediaPad M5 Pro’s ability to handle video, games, or basic productivity tasks. It’s fast and powerful enough for most situations.

Price, warranty, and availability

There are several different MediaPad M5 models. The version tested here is the 10.8-inch M5 in Pro form, which means it comes with the stylus. A non-Pro version is available without the stylus, and you have to pay extra for the keyboard case and 4G LTE connectivity too. A smaller 8.4-inch MediaPad M5 is also available.

Huawei has announced that the device is now available in the U.S. The MediaPad M5 comes in three models in the U.S. — a Space Gray 8.4-inch model, which comes at $319; a 10.8-inch Space Gray model, with a price tag of $359; and a M5 Pro 10.8-inch Champagne Gold model, which costs $449. The devices are available from both Amazon and Newegg.

Elsewhere, the MediaPad M5 Pro is 500 euros or 450 British pounds for the 64GB Wi-Fi-only tablet, or 550 euros/500 pounds for the 4G LTE model. You save 50 pounds by choosing the version without the stylus. A Wi-Fi-only 128GB MediaPad M5 is 550 euros, or 600 euros for the 4G LTE version.

In the U.K. the warranty from Huawei covers the tablet for two years against manufacturing faults, but the charger and battery are only covered for six months. If you break the tablet, drop it in water, or mistreat it, you’ll be on your own.

Our Take

Capable, classy, and cool, the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro is a great media companion for the home, but we’re not convinced anyone really needs a tablet now since smartphones are so versatile.

Are there any alternatives?

If you want a tablet, the Apple iPad is likely to be at the top of your list. The 9.7-inch version is our pick, and starts at $330. The MediaPad M5 Pro, with its stylus and massive screen, is more targeted at people considering the $650, 10.5-inch Apple iPad Pro, which it competes with on a hardware level competently. However, Android struggles against iOS on a tablet. Our Android tablet recommendation is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 at $450, but it’s getting a little old now. The MediaPad M5 Pro is a strong alternative to Samsung’s most recent model.

How long will it last?

Most tablets don’t leave the house, so the MediaPad M5’s lack of rugged protection or waterproofing shouldn’t be a huge problem, provided it’s well treated. There’s enough power for media-related tasks and games, and the screen technology surpasses what streaming video services are capable of displaying at the moment. All this means you’ll enjoy your MediaPad M5 Pro for many years before you’d consider replacing it. This isn’t a phone, so expect twice the average usable life, reaching four years and beyond in our opinion.

Should you buy it?

Maybe. If you are set on an Android tablet, the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro is an excellent choice. However, do carefully consider what you want the tablet to be, and how you intend to use it. While it found use as a portable media center in our home, it was hard to imagine the M5 Pro being missed if we suddenly had to use a modern phone instead. Our smartphones are supremely capable, and are always nearby. Ask yourself if you’d reach for your phone, or a tablet, when you want to check social media or watch a video in bed, then make your purchase decision based on the answer.

Updated on June 11, 2018: The Huawei MediaPad M5 is now available in the U.S.