While the tablet market has slowed in recent years, there's still ample demand in an ever-changing category. And with the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro - the top-spec replacement to 2016's MediaPad M3 - Huawei is clearly gunning for iPad Pro territory, to deliver a do-it-all Android tablet with stylus in tow.
Ahead of its official unveiling at Mobile World Congress 2018 we got to see the tablet - and its two non-Pro equivalents - to see whether it's got the guts to make it a success.
Stylus, screen and style
- 10.8-inch, 2560 x 1600 IPS LCD panel, 2.5D curved glass
- M-Pen stylus included (4096 levels of pressure sensitivity)
- Android 8.0 operating system, running Huawei EMUI 8.0
- Metal unibody design, U-shaped antenna bands
- Champagne Gold and Titanium Grey finishes
- 13MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing
- Optional keyboard accessory
In this top-spec 10.8-inch form, the MediaPad M5 Pro separates itself from its non-Pro form by the addition of an M-Pen stylus, used to interact with the tablet. It offers 4096 levels of pressure, charges via USB-C and can deliver up to 50 day's worth of use from just 100 minutes at the charger. That's Apple Pencil territory there. It's capable of tilting and shading, too, for the artists out there.
If you want the full 2-in-1 experience then the addition of pogo pins means an optional keyboard accessory can be clipped on to make typing a breeze. We weren't able to see this as-yet-nameless accessory, which isn't included in the box, but its presence makes perfect sense at this level.
Without the add-ons, however, the MediaPad M5 Pro is a rather good-looking slate. It's suitably slim, its unibody design made from metal, while the antenna bands to the rear ape the company's U-shape smartphone equivalents to keep the design nice and tidy. Those bands being there, of course, to offer Wi-Fi and 4G/LTE connectivity if desired for working on the go.
The screen is a high-resolution LCD panel with ample brightness, "ClariVu enhanced display" to boos colours, and a 2.5D edge-curved glass atop. In our view the finish of this glass is too glossy, making it overly shiny and reflective - which won't necessarily be ideal for on-the-go working.
Software-wise, the Android operating system has been tweaked in typical Huawei fashion, with the company's EMUI 8.0 operating system sitting over the top of Google's stock setup. It doesn't affect things as significantly as previous versions of this software used to, while bringing a handful of additions - such as App Twin for dual Facebook/WhatsApp - to define its own path.
Performance and battery
- HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor
- Wi-Fi & LTE/4G connectivity
- Claimed 10-hour battery life
- USB-C for fast-charging
- Harman Kardon speakers
Under the hood, the MediaPad M5 Pro reflects what you'll find in many smartphones these days. The use of a Kirin 960 chipset reflects the innards of, say, a Huawei P10 Plus device from back in 2017. Why the company hasn't used the more recent Kirin 970 chipset we can only assume comes down to cost reasons.
Pair that with the EMUI operating system and Huawei claims the battery life will last for around 10 hours per charge. Use of the M-Pen stylus may reduce this, given the multi-pressure sensitivity being taken on board, but it's not a bad quote. If that's not quite long enough for you then the USB-C port can rejuice the slate from dead to full in under three hours. And these fast-charge systems are particularly good at quick top-ups in the sub-80 per cent region.
The last aspect of performance is the speaker design, which is co-engineered by Harman Kardon. There's no Dolby Atmos here - like you'll find in the company's MateBook X Pro - but the quad speaker design puts the goods out with ample volume just like its predecessor, which is great for games and movies. Unless you'd rather plug into the provided 3.5mm headphone jack, of course.
With the Android market largely void of true iPad Pro competitors - perhaps the Samsung Galaxy Book sort-of fits into that category - Huawei has had a good bash at elevating its offering with the MediaPad M5 Pro.
Despite the screen being a touch too glossy (no complaints of resolution or brightness though), if the price point is sufficiently south of Apple's proposition and the oh-so-pricey Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, then the M5 Pro certainly has appeal. It's good looking, offers on-the-go connectivity, and the M-Pen is included in the box too.
In the same breath the M5 Pro isn't especially enthralling; there's no distinctive unique selling point... unless, of course, the to-be-announced price kicks the competition to the kerb. We'll know more about that come Huawei's press conference at Mobile World Congress 2018.