Huawei's MediaPad M5 has upgraded hardware and Oreo out of the box

Your options for good, cheap Android tablets a pretty limited these days. Samsung's Tab S3 line is the go-to option for many in the West. Huawei, however, occupies the number three spot for tablet sales — after Apple and Samsung — when you look at the global numbers.

The products haven't been perfect, though. The previous-gen MediaPad M3 suffered from frustrating software issues — a consequence of the older EMUI interface — although the hardware was solid.

At Mobile World Congress 2018, Huawei returns with a by-the-numbers upgrade to the MediaPad series, bringing modest spec upgrades, a fine-tuning of design and most importantly of all, newer software based on Android 8.0 Oreo.

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CategoryMediaPad M5 8.4MediaPad M5 10.8
Dimensions212.6mm x 124.8mm x 7.3mm258.7mm x 171.8mm x 7.3mm
Weight316 grams498 grams
ColorsSpace Gray, Champagne GoldSpace Gray, Champagne Gold
Resolution2560 x 1600 IPS LCD2560 x 1600 IPS LCD
CPUHuawei Kirin 960, Octa-coreHuawei Kirin 960, Octa-core
OSAndroid 8.0 + EMUI 8.0Android 8.0 + EMUI 8.0
Memory32GB/ 64GB/ 128GB + microSD32GB/ 64GB/ 128GB + microSD
WirelessWi-Fi: IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ac; 2.4 GHz/ 5 GHz Bluetooth: 4.2, optional LTEWi-Fi: IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ac; 2.4 GHz/ 5 GHz Bluetooth: 4.2, optional LTE
SensorsAmbient light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, Hall effect sensor, fingerprint sensorAmbient light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, Hall effect sensor, fingerprint sensor
AudioBuilt-in microphone, dual speakers, HUAWEI Histen stereo sound effectBuilt-in microphone, dual speakers, HUAWEI Histen stereo sound effect
CameraFront camera: 8MP, fixed focusRear camera: 13MP, autofocusFront camera: 8MP, fixed focusRear camera: 13MP, autofocus
In the box9V 2A travel charger, Type-C charging/data cable, USB Type-C to 3.5mm headset jack adapter cable9V 2A travel charger, Type-C charging/data cable, USB Type-C to 3.5mm headset jack adapter cable, M Pen (MediaPad M5 Pro only)

The MediaPad M5 comes in three flavors: There's an 8.4-inch version that handles very much like a giant smartphone, and a larger 10.8-inch model that's heftier, with more of a convertible angle. (Though still with software derived from the bits running on Huawei's phones.) The MediaPad M5 Pro is a special version of the larger model, and comes bundled with Huawei's M Pen stylus, as well as a keyboard dock. The tablet can also connect to any regular keyboard over Bluetooth, just like most other Android devices, and this will also activate desktop mode.

The hardware is solid if derivative. Unlike the Windows 10-powered Matebook X Pro, there's nothing too fancy going on with minimal bezels or precision-milled chamfers. Instead, the big design addition is 2.5D glass on the front, giving the tables a more organic feel. Both displays pack 2560x1600 resolution panels, and in Huawei's well-lit indoor demo area, both were sufficiently bright for easy visibility. That said, neither could hold a candle to Apple's laminated panel on the iPad Pro.

Other core features from Huawei's MediaPad series have made it across to the new devices too, including Harman Kardon audio tech behind quad speakers and Huawei's HiSten audio enhancements for wired music playback. These are, after all, primarily media consumption tablets.

Huawei's new tablet runs last year's chips, but performance doesn't seem to have suffered.

On the inside, both MediaPad models run Huawei's older Kirin 960 chip, as opposed to the latest Kirin 970 processor, along with 4GB of RAM and between 32 and 128GB of storage, depending on the model. That's somewhat disheartening, but presumably an indication of the mid-level price point Huawei's targeting for these new tabs.

In the limited time we used them though, we didn't run into any of the subtle performance glitches that affected the MediaPad M3. And the interface, though still essentially a blown-up phone UI, runs smoothly even at that relatively high resolution.

The MediaPad M5 Pro takes the hardware of the 10.8-inch model and adds Huawei's M Pen stylus, with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and a bundled keyboard dock. Huawei has also adapted the desktop interface from the Mate 10 Pro, which kicks into action when it's connected to a keyboard. Although we weren't able to preview this mode ahead of today's announcement, it appears to be almost identical to the Mate 10's implementation, which has its own basic window manager for resizing Android apps.

The Huawei MediaPad M5 ships later this year. Here's the pricing:

  • 4G+32GB Wi-Fi: 8.4" 349EUR | 10.8" 399EUR
  • 4G+64GB Wi-Fi: 8.4" 399EUR | 10.8" 449EUR
  • 4G+128GB Wi-Fi: 8.4" 449EUR | 10.8" 499EUR
  • 4G+32GB LTE: 8.4" 399EUR | 10.8" 449EUR
  • 4G+64GB LTE: 8.4" 449EUR | 10.8" 499EUR
  • 4G+128GB LTE: 8.4" 499EUR | 10.8" 549EUR
Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.