It’s always great to see a new entry in the high-end Android tablet market, as it gets a lot less attention than premium smartphones. So I’ve spent a few weeks using Huawei’s new MediaPad M5 alongside my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 tablet to see how it compares. Overall, there’s a lot to like, and there are enough differences between the two that one or the other will clearly be better for you depending on your usage and budget.
Huawei MediaPad M5 By The Numbers
All models come with a QHD (2560 x 1600 pixels), slightly curved display. 64GB of storage and a microSD slot are also standard, although the devices only have 4GB of RAM, which might be a little light for heavy multitasking.
The model I’ve been using is the top-of-the-line Champagne-colored Pro version. It comes with an active stylus. There are pogo pins for a keyboard, but one isn’t included. There isn’t a headphone jack, so you’ll need to use it with Bluetooth headphones or listen to the stereo speakers, which are quite good.
MediaPad M5 First Impressions
One of the first things I noticed when picking up the M5 is its long, narrow, shape. The display’s aspect ratio is 1.6:1 (2560 x 1600 pixels), nearly the 16:9 of most HD video. That makes it a natural for viewing media, but a little awkward for using in portrait mode hand-held to read or take notes. In contrast, the S3 has a more-classic 4:3 (2048 x 1536 pixels) aspect ratio. That means black bars (or zooming) when watching most modern video content, but also makes it more friendly for reading documents and taking notes. The difference in aspect ratio means that despite its larger nominal display size of 10.8-inches, it doesn’t necessarily offer more usable space when creating content than the 9.7-inch display on the S3.
In general the device is very responsive. I did notice that full-screen scrolling in apps like gReader was not as silky-smooth as on my S3, but if you didn’t have something to compare it with, you might not notice. Buttons are placed on the bottom of the tablet, so it’s clearly designed to prefer landscape mode, as befits a device aimed at entertainment. That makes it a little odd to use if you are holding it in portrait mode. The fingerprint sensor (the only physical “button” on the front side) works well, although like with any tablet it can be awkward to orient it with your finger.
Active Stylus, but Don’t Lose It
Excellent Entertainment Experience
Where the M5 really excels is entertainment. The high-resolution, wide-aspect-ratio display is ideal for looking at HD content. I fired up Plex to view some locally-stored media, and Netflix to do some streaming. Images were suitably high resolution in my tests, although I’m not sure I could tell what effect Huawei’s “Clarivu” technology had on improving them. Audio from the quad speakers (on the 10.8-inch versions; the 8.4-inch model has two) was very impressive. Most of the time when I stream movies on a tablet I use headphones or earbuds, but I’d certainly be more than happy with listening to these speakers as long as I was in surroundings that made it possible.
When I compare video quality with the S3, they’re very close. Both smoothly render high-resolution content, although as with scrolling, the S3 might have a slightly silkier flow. The M5’s wider aspect ratio gives it a much larger image when viewing HD content, as you can see from this side-by-side photo of both tablets showing the opening scene from Planet Earth II. Color was excellent on both devices, although I think I could give a slight edge to the S3 for quality of the highlights and a little better color depth.
Is The Huawei MediaPad M5 The Android Tablet For You?
If you’re looking for a slick Android tablet that specializes in entertainment, and can live without a headphone jack, the MediaPad M5 delivers. If you’d prefer a more all-around device with a less dramatic aspect ratio, and have some additional room in your budget, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for a bit more (about $500) might be a better choice.