Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro (10.8in) review: The elegant hybrid tablet that rivals the iPad Pro

With a handful of business-friendly features and a bundled stylus, this tablet is an attractive iPad Pro alternative

Price
£417
  • Excellent speakers; Optional 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity; Blistering fingerprint scanner
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack; Expensive; Doesn’t replace a Windows 10 PC

The iPad Pro has inspired many imitators, with multiple manufacturers jumping on the productivity-focused hybrid bandwagon. One such device that's aiming to be a portable companion for busy professionals is Huawei's MediaPad M5 Pro, a beefed up variant of the company's M5 tablet, including stylus support and a keyboard cover.

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro 10.8in starts at 450 for a Wi-Fi-only 64GB tablet. The version we're testing here is the 500 64GB model with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. The non-Pro 10.8in MediaPad M5 is 50 cheaper, but this doesn't ship with - and isn't compatible with - the M-Pen.

It's attractively-priced, but with such stiff competition from the likes of the iPad Pro and Surface Pro, can it hold its own?

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro (10.8in) review: Design and build quality

Picking up the tablet, you'll notice its slender design. Combined with the M5 Pro's curved metal body, a glass front that curves subtly at the edges, and a slender, 7.3mm-thick profile, it's a masterpiece of tablet design.

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The M5 Pro comes into its own, though, when you use it more like a laptop. The MediaPad M5 switches into desktop mode when you drop it into the keyboard case. Disappointingly, though, the keyboard isn't bundled in - only the stylus - and you can't use desktop mode on an external monitor, either, like you can with the Mate 10 Pro.

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, facing forwards. At the rear is a 13-megapixel camera and a set of four Harmon Kardon speakers. These are incredibly impressive and provide a loud, distortion-free sound that are capable of reproducing an accurate sound throughout the frequency range.

However, while the MediaPad M5 gives with one hand, it takes away with the other: by which we mean there's no 3.5mm headphone jack. With the jack missing, you'll have to rely on the supplied USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for wired headphones, which is eminently losable. And remember, there's no other physical port here so unless you have a splitter you'll not be able to use your wired headphones at the same time as charging the device.

The placement of the USB-C port in the bottom right corner is rather awkward, too. If you want to use a keyboard like 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.

At least wireless connectivity is well rounded, though. You get 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 and even 4G connectivity, plus microSD card expansion with support for cards up to 256GB in size.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro (10.8in) review: Display

The MediaPad M5 Pro's display measures 10.8in across the diagonal and has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 at a classic aspect ratio of 16:10, with a pixel density of 280ppi.

This puts it at a (small) disadvantage to its more practical rivals, the iPad Pro 10.5in and Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Both of these have squarer displays that are better suited to working on when they're attached to a keyboard in portrait orientation.

Huawei uses an IPS display here and this can be tuned to an accurate or vibrant colour profile, which are denoted by Normal and Vivid in the settings menu. In either mode, the screen looks great. Similar to the iPad Pro's pitch-perfect display, videos and photographs look fantastic on the M5 Pro and viewing angles are spectacular, too.

As for the numbers, they're fine, too, although not spectacular. Maximum brightness is 363cd/m2, which is adequate for indoor use but indicates you might struggle to read material displayed on screen outdoors in bright ambient light. The contrast ratio is decent, too, at 1,331:1 and ensure colours pop and stand out.

It's a great screen, although not up to the standard of the fabulous AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and the iPad's display is both smoother at 120Hz and brighter.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro (10.8in) review: Performance and software

Housed inside the Huawei MediaPad is a 2.3GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor and 4GB of RAM. That's plenty of horsepower to play around with, although it isn't anywhere near as fast as the A10X Fusion in the 10.5inch iPad Pro. With 4GB of RAM, multitasking is a breeze and the MediaPad M5 Pro was able to handle whatever we threw at it.

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For productivity, the tablet is perfectly capable of coping with strenuous tasks and, when dropped into the optional keyboard case, it gives you the option of switching over to a desktop-style UI running on top of Android Oreo. This adds desktop-style UI elements and lets you run windowed Android apps instead of forcing you to run them full screen, but otherwise, it's Android, pure and simple with all of that OS' strengths and weaknesses.

Great though Android might be on phones, it still doesn't quite cut it as alternative to a Windows 10 2-in-1 for us and that's principally because most Android apps aren't optimised to run in a desktop-style interface. There are some important apps that work well, including Google Docs and Microsoft Office, but many that don't and quite a few that still don't even support auto rotation. It's also worth noting that the full mobile version of Microsoft Office isn't even free to use on the MediaPad, since it has a screen larger than 10.1in.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of the M-Pen in the box is a bonus and it's up there with the best in terms of its specifications. The stylus has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and is capable of both tilt and shade functions. Compared with the Microsoft Surface Pen or Samsung's S-Pen, the M-Pen doesn't quite have the same soft feeling to the nib. It feels a touch hard and unforgiving. But if sketching is your thing and you like to take handwritten notes instead of typing them, it's a worthy inclusion.

As for benchmarks, it's on a par for CPU operations with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 and for gaming you can expect around 20 to 30fps in taxing titles, which is acceptable. But it's slower than the Tab S3 and a long way behind the 10.5in iPad Pro for gaming.

As for battery life, that's more impressive, with the MediaPad M5 lasting 12hrs in the Expert Reviews video benchmark. It's still slightly beaten by the 10.5in iPad Pro in this test, but only by an hour. The 7,500mAh battery also charges pretty quickly - in just under three hours.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro (10.8in) review: Verdict

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro might not be flawless but it certainly is an excellent tablet and at around 500 you're getting good value for money for the specification.

It might not replace a Windows 10 2-in-1 and lags behind the 10.5in iPad Pro for apps and general performance, but it's cheaper than the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 and competitive in terms of its features. If you like the idea of using an Android tablet for play and a little bit of work, the MediaPad M5 is worth considering.

Verdict

At around £500, this Android tablet isn’t cheap, but with 4G connectivity, a decent stylus and stunning design, it offers good value for money

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