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Lifewire / Bill Loguidice
High-resolution, colorful display
Optimized for widescreen video playback
Powerful stereo sound
Good gaming performance
MicroSD card slot
Older version of Android
Awkward to hold vertically
No facial recognition features
Average battery life
The Huawei MediaPad M5 is an 8.4-inch tablet that’s optimized for media playback. It features a colorful, high-resolution 16:9 screen and the Harman Kardon-optimized stereo speakers pack a surprising punch. Altogether, it provides solid value for the price.
We purchased the Huawei MediaPad M5 so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Huawei MediaPad M5 falls in the middle ground between small and inexpensive low-end tablets and larger and more expensive high-end tablets. While the MediaPad M5 has a smaller screen than its 10-inch competition, it maximizes its available screen real estate with a minimal bezel, fitting a slightly larger screen than its eight-inch counterparts into the same size housing.
With a sharp, colorful display and Harman Kardon-tuned stereo speakers, the MediaPad M5 lives up to its name, packing a solid multimedia experience into its compact frame. Of course, this price point comes with a few compromises, including with battery life.
We tested the Huawei MediaPad M5 tablet to see if its impressive multimedia features overcome its compromises.
The MediaPad M5’s design is classy but unremarkable. The front of the tablet features the Huawei name on the upper left, along with a status indicator light, front camera, and ambient light sensor. The bottom features what looks like a home button, but is actually a dedicated fingerprint scanner.
The 8.4-inch display is set against top and bottom bezels of around half an inch and minimal side bezels of a quarter inch.
On the left side of the tablet is the microSD card tray, which can be accessed with the included eject pin. On the right side of the tablet, about three-quarters of the way up, is a power button and volume button.
The MediaPad M5 lives up to its name, packing a solid multimedia experience into its compact frame.
The rear of the tablet features a slick Space Gray casing and a rear camera in the upper left.
Even with its larger 8.4-inch display, the MediaPad M5 fits in the same body as a typical eight-inch tablet. As with many Android tablets, the MediaPad M5 features a 16:9 aspect ratio, which makes it ideal for watching movies and other widescreen video content when used in landscape mode. This taller aspect ratio makes the MediaPad M5 a bit awkward to hold in portrait mode, but an even distribution of its reasonable 11-ounce weight does help with balance.
There are stereo speakers on both the top and bottom of the unit. The bottom speaker is to the right of the USB-C port, which is used to charge the tablet. To the left of the USB-C port is the microphone.
In the minimalist white box, you’ll find a Quick Charge power adapter, USB-C cable, USB Type-C to 3.5mm headset jack adapter cable, eject pin for the microSD card tray, Quick Start Guide, and warranty card. Everything is which except the silver eject pin.
For security purposes, a six-digit PIN code is required. You can then choose to copy your data from an iPhone, Android device, or the cloud, or choose to set it up as new.
We chose to set it up as new, but we were still given the option to choose to transfer data from a Huawei or Honor device, another Android device, or an iOS device. We just chose “SKIP.”
There is also a fingerprint ID option for unlocking your device. Logging your fingerprint can be a bit tricky because the sensor is thin and oblong rather than circular. But once we got it set up, the accuracy seemed quite high. As far as security measures go, this is a good option that’s worth the effort.
Once setup is complete, you’re presented with a fairly simple Android home screen that puts key apps like Settings, Photo Gallery, and Camera, front and center. Google Assistant is also prominently featured and can be activated by saying “OK Google.”
Stock Google apps, like the Play Store and Chrome web browser, are generally emphasized over any Huawei-branded apps.
The 8.4-inch display features a resolution of 2560 x 1600, which is sometimes referred to as 2K, and what Huawei calls ClariVu. Much like HDR on 4K displays, ClariVu is meant to improve picture quality by boosting contrast and sharpness. Although it’s difficult to quantify such a feature, to the naked eye, the display presents a beautiful, color-rich picture when viewed straight-on.
When viewed at an angle, the screen does darken a bit. With the display set to “automatic brightness” in the settings menu, the display favors lower brightness levels. With automatic brightness off and the display set to maximum brightness, the screen is extremely bright.
It maximizes its available screen real estate with a minimal bezel.
Even in direct sunlight, the display is easily visible (although the glossy screen does pick up more reflections). Ultimately, while not the best display technology available, the MediaPad M5’s screen still impresses at this price point.
Through regular usage, taps and swipes proved extremely responsive on the smooth screen, which did a good job of resisting fingerprints and smudges. Apps started quickly. Switching between running apps was nearly instantaneous and made multitasking a joy.
Although there is roughly a half-second pause when switching between portrait and landscape modes, even videos transitioned smoothly between successive rotations, complete with uninterrupted audio.
Using the popular AnTuTu Benchmark, the MediaPad M5 achieved a total score of 171,795, besting 42% of app users in total CPU, GPU, UX, and MEM performance indicators. Of particular note was its MEM (Memory score), which was 11,459 and bested 54% of users thanks to its 4GB of RAM—this is particularly generous for a tablet in its category. In short, the MediaPad M5 availed itself well in all benchmark indicators, which mirrored its real-world usage.
When testing video content at 1080p and 60 fps, there were no hiccups or stuttering on either YouTube or Netflix. We also tested the graphically-rich racing game Asphalt 9, and the MediaPad M5 was more than up to the task. It only suffered a few drops in framerate during the most intense in-game action.
The MediaPad M5’s smaller screen is likely a turn-off for most productivity purposes. But thanks to its high-performance specifications, it actually works quite well for such activities.
We tested the MediaPad M5 by pairing it with a Qwerkywriter Bluetooth keyboard and running Microsoft Word, which was pre-installed. No matter how fast we typed, the MediaPad M5 kept up. And thanks to its ability to quickly switch between apps, multitasking between noting references in Chrome and doing sums in Excel was no problem.
Although we would never specifically recommend this tablet as anything more than a multimedia device due to its size, it’s good to know that it can also perform as a productivity machine should the need arise.
The MediaPad M5 packs two speakers, one each on the top and bottom of the device—both are certified by well-regarded audio brand Harman Kardon.
Paired with Huawei’s own Histen sound effect technology, which enhances surround sound, these speakers pack a surprising punch. They understandably lack a bit of depth when it comes to the impact of bass-heavy sounds, but even at maximum volume the audio comes through loud and clear, with convincing stereo separation and surround sound simulation for games, movies, and music. It would be hard to expect any better from such a small tablet and is likely to delight even the most finicky audio enthusiasts.
As is par for the course these days, there’s no 3.5mm audio jack, but Huawei does include a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. Using a pair of Razer headphones plugged into the adapter and then into the tablet, the audio was quickly re-routed from the internal speakers and sounded fantastic.
Although there’s no cellular data (LTE) support on this model, there is full Wi-Fi coverage. Power and range proved consistent, even when we moved far away from our Netgear Orbi router and satellites.
Using the Speedtest by Ookla app, we compared the Wi-Fi performance of the MediaPad M5 against an Apple iPhone Xs Max and an iPad Pro in a series of three tests—all were conducted from the same location and running solely from battery power.
The best download speeds came from the iPhone Xs Max at 426 Mbps compared to 317 Mbps on the iPad Pro 9.7 and 189 Mbps on the MediPad M5. The best upload speeds were 24.2 Mbps for the iPhone Xs Max, 23.8 Mbps for the iPad Pro 9.7, and 21.1 for the MediaPad M5.
While these results show that the MediaPad M5 was the slowest of the bunch, its performance is consistent with other good Android tablets and should prove to be up to the demands of most users.
It’s good to know that it can also perform as a productivity machine should the need arise.
Most people don’t buy tablets for their cameras, usually leaving that important task for their phones. But it’s still important to know how good your tablet can do in a pinch.
The rear autofocus 13MP camera was able to capture good color and detail both outdoors and indoors with an assist from some natural light. The front fixed-focus 8MP camera proved similarly effective both outdoors and in, but it did tend to wash out details. This was particularly noticeable on faces and almost looked like a filter was applied (depending on how you like your selfies, this may not be a bad thing).
Video quality was similarly solid, with good audio capture and reproduction and an ability to keep up with fast-moving objects. Video captures from the front facing camera are limited to 720p at a 16:9 aspect ratio, while the rear facing camera can use a variety of resolutions and aspect ratios from 6MP at 3264 x 1840 resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio all the way to 13MP at 41260 x 3120 and a 4:3 aspect ratio.
The MediaPad M5 can fully charge in just under two hours. It has a green indicator light to signal when it’s done. Unlike some other Android tablets, the MediaPad M5 does not flash the percentage charged when removing the power cable.
With mixed usage, which included apps, photos, videos, and games, we were able to get close to 10 hours from its 5100mAh battery. This is about average for a tablet of this size.
Like most Android tablets, it doesn't do great with power management in standby mode. After leaving it alone off its charger for four days or so, the battery was dead.
But the MediaPad M5 does do a good job of automatically identifying apps that frequently refresh in the background and drain battery life. The tablet has a useful notification system to help you manage those apps’ settings or find a less-power-draining alternative.
The MediaPad M5 runs Android 8.0 Oreo, which made its debut on August 21, 2017.
Although this is one version behind Android 9.0 Pie, which was released on August 8, 2018, as of this writing it’s still the most widely-used version of the Android operating system. While it’s unlikely that Huawei will update to Android 9.0 Pie or later, Android 8.0 Oreo is still new enough where you shouldn’t be missing out on any important features or security updates for some time to come.
Usually selling for around $300, the MediaPad M5 costs about twice as much as the eight-inch tablets on the very budget end of the spectrum. It’s also close in price to many 10-inch Android tablets.
Where the MediaPad M5 shines, however, is in its feature-set, with components that far outclass its budget counterparts and performance that nearly matches or exceeds pricier 10-inch tablets. If you’re specifically looking for a smaller tablet and have the budget for the MediaPad M5, this is an extremely competitive option.
Lenovo Tab 4: At just $129.99 MSRP, the Lenovo Tab 4 is an eight-inch tablet that’s less than half the price of the MediaPad M5. But with the Tab 4, you’re saddled with an older version of Android, no advanced security features, and lower overall performance.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e: At close to $400, the Galaxy Tab S5e costs just a little more and provides a larger 10.5-inch screen, a newer version of Android, and similar performance. Wi-Fi issues and a Samsung-heavy ecosystem may make it less appealing to some users, but it’s competition that’s definitely worth considering.
Apple iPad Mini: At $399 MSRP, the iPad Mini costs more, has a smaller 7.9-inch screen, and is not as optimized for widescreen media playback and audio. If you’re not sold on the strong Apple ecosystem, then the MediaPad M5 makes a compelling alternative.
Check out our other picks for the best 8-inch tablets on the market today.
A great multimedia tablet in a small form factor.
Although its price is a bit on the high side, Huawei invested wisely in the MediaPad M5’s components. This tablet delivers a great picture and impactful audio, and it also has enough horsepower to run even the most demanding games. If you want a small, versatile Android tablet, the MediaPad M5 is a strong option.