Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 review

Tablet launches are few and far between these days, so the MediaPad M5 is something of a rarity. It’s the follow-up to the MediaPad M3 – the number four is considered unlucky in China – and has similarly premium specs.

Huawei also launched two 10.8in versions of the MediaPad M5 but here we're concerned only with the eight-inch model. 

Price & Availability

Price depends on capacity and whether you go for LTE or not. Interestingly, LTE isn't just for data: you can use this tablet for phone calls too.

The MediaPad M5 isn't yet widely available, but the 32GB capacity in both Wi-Fi and LTE versions is on sale in the UK from Amazon. When larger capacities go on sale we'll add UK pricing to the table below. US pricing is Huawei's suggested price, not 'street' price.

Connectivity

Storage

Price (US)

Price (UK)

Wi-Fi Only

32GB

349 €

£309.99

Wi-Fi Only

64GB

399 €

TBC

Wi-Fi Only

128GB

449 €

TBC

Wi-Fi + LTE

32GB

399 €

£379.99

Wi-Fi + LTE

64GB

449 €

TBC

Wi-Fi + LTE

128GB

499 €

TBC

Features and design

There’s an all-new design for the M5, and it no longer looks exactly like an scaled up Huawei Mate phone. There are still plenty of similarities though, including the aluminium unibody and great build quality.

Gone is the stripe at the top of the rear, replaced by an antenna line which hugs the edges.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

The lozenge-shaped fingerprint scanner stays below the screen on the front, though, and it works well.

The MediaPad M5 comes in two colours - Champagne Gold and Space Grey – and brings everything up to date by replacing the microUSB port with a reversible USB-C port.

Unfortunately, as with many recent phones, the MediaPad M5 ditches the traditional headphone jack and bundles an adapter in the box so you don’t have to use USB-C headphones. It isn’t a deal-breaker but it's frustrating considering the decision to remove the jack wasn't because of waterproofing (there is none) or a lack of space.

Plus, the little USB-C to 3.5mm adapters are annoying, as they're too easily lost or left behind.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

Either side of the USB-C port are grilles, one of which houses a speaker. There’s a second at the top of the tablet, which means you get better stereo sound when watching videos in landscape mode. They're tuned (as all speakers seem to be these days) by a big speaker brand, in this case Harmon/Kardon.

They sound good, despite the fact they're not front-firing, and are nice and loud - certainly better than the audio quality from the iPad mini.

Cameras have been updated so there’s now a 13Mp sensor at the rear and (as before) 8Mp at the front. This seems strange: if you can afford to spend this much on a tablet, you probably also own a phone with capable cameras already. Still, they take perfectly acceptable photos, and shaky video. 

The screen retains the 2560x1600 resolution of its predecessor, which means it also has the same 359ppi pixel density. It’s a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is handy for watching video. It’s taller and thinner than the 3:2 aspect ratio you’ll find on any iPad, so it's not quite as well suited to reading books and for some apps.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

To all intents and purposes, it’s the same as the M3’s screen. That’s no bad thing, as colours are vivid, viewing angles wide and both brightness and contrast are very good. There’s a blue-light reduction mode for night use, a feature you expect to find on all modern phones and tablets.

Hardware

As mentioned, there’s a nano-SIM slot for LTE so you can pop in a data SIM and get online when out of Wi-Fi range. If you need to, you can even insert a phone SIM (as opposed to data-only) and use the MediaPad like a giant phone.

However, that's only on the SHT-AL09 model. There's a Wi-Fi only version (model SHT-W09), and it's unclear which regions will get which version.

What we do know is that the tablet will come in 32, 64 and 128GB versions, and all have a generous 4GB of RAM. They also have a microSD slot for adding up to 256GB of extra storage.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

Aside from the revised design and upgraded cameras, the other update is  the Kirin 960 processor. The M3 had the 950, and the 960 is the chip used first in the Huawei P10 phone. When asked why it didn’t use the more recent 970 from the Mate 10 Pro, Huawei essentially said that would have been overkill.

It’s a fair answer, too. Android Oreo feels highly responsive and there are no noticeable delays launching or switching between apps. You don’t get the artificial intelligence of the 970, but the 960 does have ‘machine learning’.

In GeekBench 4 it scored 5814 (multicore) which is about 300 points quicker than the Huawei P10, possibly due to a bump in clock frequency. In any case, it backs up why Android flies and the GFXBench score of 27fps in Manhattan means there's enough 3D grunt on tap for smooth gameplay too.

Software

Huawei takes an identical approach to its tablets as for its phones, which means the interface is just a scaled-up version of what you'll find on its phones such as the Mate 10 Pro.

For those unfamiliar with Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 overlay, it's very much 'inspired by iOS' and so should be familiar to iPad users.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

There's too much bloatware for our liking, but at least you can delete the apps you don't want. EMUI has its benefits, too. Thanks to some clever tricks for optimising RAM use and saving power, the MediaPad M5 should stay fast even with lots of apps installed and retain its battery power even when sitting idle.

And while we've only been using it for a couple of weeks, we've found performance to be beyond reproach and (unlike recent Amazon tablets) the battery doesn't drain significantly when you don't pick it up for a couple of days. In fact, battery life is in line with Huawei's claim of 11 hours of HD video playback.

MediaPad M5 8.4 review

Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4: Specs

  • Android Oreo 8.0 + EMUI 8.0
  • 8.4in 2560 x 1600 IPS touchscreen, 359ppi
  • Kirin 960 octa-core processor
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32/64/128GB (microSD up to 256GB)
  • 13Mp main camera
  • 8Mp front camera
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE (nano-SIM slot)
  • Non-removable 5100mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 212.6x124.8x7.3mm
  • Weight: 316g
  • Android Oreo 8.0 + EMUI 8.0
  • 8.4in 2560 x 1600 IPS touchscreen, 359ppi
  • Kirin 960 octa-core processor
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32/64/128GB (microSD up to 256GB)
  • 13Mp main camera
  • 8Mp front camera
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE (nano-SIM slot)
  • Non-removable 5100mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 212.6x124.8x7.3mm
  • Weight: 316g

SHOULD I BUY HUAWEI MEDIAPAD M5 8.4?

As was our verdict on the MediaPad M3: the M5 is an above-average tablet which is a good alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab range, and the iPad mini.

The iPad mini is available only with 128GB of storage these days. Even so, its £419 price doesn't seem outrageous given that the equivalent MediaPad M5 costs 449€.

But if you're after a cheaper tablet, the 2018 9.7in iPad starts at £319 for the 32GB model. That means it's a struggle to recommend the MediaPad when the iPad has a headphone socket, support for the Apple Pencil and - well - it's an iPad running iOS.