There’s no doubt what Huawei had in mind when it started work on the MediaPad M5 Pro.If Apple could win over creative professionals with the iPad Pro for £719, it could surely do the same with a slick Android tablet that undercut its rival by £200.
Its key weapons are the bundled M-Pen stylus and a number of tweaks to Android that make it almost feel like a Windows laptop. When dropped into the optional keyboard case, it gives you the option of switching to a desktop-style UI running on top of Android Oreo. Just to add to that Microsoft feel, it lets you run windowed Android apps rather than full screen.
Don’t dump your Windows laptop just yet, though. You can’t connect an external monitor and, while Android is great on phones, not all Android apps thrive in a desktop-style interface. Some are fine, most notably Google Docs and Microsoft Office, but quite a few don’t even support auto rotation. Also note that the full mobile version Of Microsoft Office isn’t free to use on the MediaPad since it has a screen larger than 10.1in; you’ll need to pay or be an Office 365 subscriber.
Turning our attention to the “creative” rather than the “professional”, Huawei largely hits the spot with the M-Pen. The stylus has 4,096 levels ofpressure sensitivity and is capable ofboth tilt and shade functions, so it’s great for both sketching and taking handwritten notes. It’s a touch hard and unforgiving compared with the Microsoft Surface Pen or Samsung’s S-Pen, both ofwhich have a softer-feeling nib, but remains a great inclusion.
Style in spades
Just like Apple and Samsung, Huawei knows how to create a stylish tablet. The combination ofcurved metal body, a glass front that curves subtly at the edges, and a slender, 7.3mm profile means it’s a masterpiece oftablet design.
Holding the tablet in landscape mode, there’s a front-facing 8-megapixel camera at the top of the device and a lightning-quick fingerprint sensor on the right-hand side. A 13-megapixel camera and powerful set off our Harmon Kardon speakers sit at the rear. These are truly excellent: distortion-free, they’re capable of reproducing an accurate sound throughout the frequency range.
However, Huawei giveth and Huawei taketh away: there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. You’ll have to rely on the supplied but easily mislaid USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter for wired headphones, and note there are no other ports here: unless you have a splitter, you can’t use your wired headphones while charging the device.
The placement ofthe USB-C port in the bottom right corner is awkward, too. Ifyou want to use a keyboard such as the Logitech K480, which has a slot for propping up your tablet, the low placement of the port means the cable snags on the slot, so you have to use the tablet upside down.
The most important thing to know about the MediaPad M5 Pro’s display is its size and resolution: measuring 10.8in across the diagonal and with 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, it looks sharp despite its size. It loses out only when placed next to the brilliant displays ofthe iPad Pro 10.5in and Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.
Both of these have squarer displays (the M5 Pro’s is a classic 16:10 ratio), which some might argue is a disadvantage when working laptop style with a keyboard, but both also win for quality. In the iPad’s case, that’s due to the smooth 120Hz screen – it really does give it a paper-like feel – while AMOLED technology on the Samsung lends images that extra pop.
But, to emphasise, the M5 Pro’s display is a pleasure to gaze at. Huawei uses an IPS panel that can be tuned to an accurate or vibrant colour profile, denoted by Normal and Vivid in the settings menu. In either mode, the screen shines. Videos and photographs look great, and viewing angles are spectacular, too.
Maximum brightness is 363cd/m2, which is fine for indoor use but indicates you might struggle to read material displayed on-screen in bright sunshine. The contrast ratio is decent, at 1,331:1, while 87.3% coverage ofthe sRGB gamut is good. The problem isn’t the M5 Pro’s screen; it’s the competition.
Huawei owns the HiSilicon semiconductor manufacturer, so it’s no surprise to see one of its chips inside the MediaPad: in this case, a 2.3GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor. Together with 4GB ofRAM, multitasking proved a breeze, and the MediaPad M5 Pro ran smoothly no matter what I threw at it.
Benchmarks don’t lie, though. It’s no match for the A10X Fusion in the 10.5in iPad Pro, proving to be more akin to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 in CPU-intensive tasks. For gaming you can expect around 20 to 30fps in taxing titles, which is acceptable. But, for gaming, it’s slower than the Tab S3 and a long way behind the Apple iPad Pro.
Battery life is more impressive, lasting for exactly 12 hours in our video rundown benchmark. The iPad Pro lasts a little longer, but only by an hour. Also note the MediaPad’s 7,500mAh battery charges quickly – it’s full in just under three hours.
I wouldn’t normally dedicate any more than a few words to a tablet’s camera, as I can’t see why you’d want to use such a big device for anything more than the occasional snap, but here the M5 Pro is so impressive that it deserves a little extra attention.
Its rear f/2.2 13-megapixel camera with phase detection autofocus picks up plenty of detail, especially with HDR enabled. Switching this on emphasised the red brickwork of a building I was photographing without overexposing the sky.
In low light, however, the rear camera struggles. There’s lots of image noise, blurry text and softened details. Its front-facing f/2.2 8-megapixel camera suffers the same softened look. So it isn’t perfect. Neverthleless, for a tablet, it’s a great camera setup.
iPad Pro rival?
We’re still waiting for confirmation ofthe UK price, but Huawei’s stated €499 in Euroland (including sales tax) buys you a lot of machine: 64GB ofstorage, 4G connectivity and the M-Pen. Don’t want 4G? Then buy the 64GB Wi-Fi version for €449. There’s also a non-Pro 10.8in MediaPad M5, which is €399, but this doesn’t ship with – and isn’t compatible with – the M-Pen.
€499 might seem like a lot of money for an Android tablet, but its closest rival, the 64GB 10.5in iPad Pro, costs £719 and doesn’t ship with a stylus. The smaller 9.7in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 does include a stylus, but costs £530 and comes with half the amount of storage.
The MediaPad M5 Pro might not replace a Windows 10 2-in-1, and yes it lags behind the 10.5in iPad Pro for apps and general performance, but it’s far cheaper than the Apple tablet, larger than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and competitive in terms of performance and features. Ifyou like the idea of using an Android tablet for play and a little bit of work, the MediaPad M5 is a fine choice.
Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro
Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro might not replace a Windows 10 2-in-1, and yes it lags behind the 10.5in iPad Pro for apps and general performance, but it’s far cheaper than the Apple tablet, larger than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and competitive in terms of performance and features. Ifyou like the idea of using an Android tablet for play and a little bit of work, the MediaPad M5 is a fine choice.