Tablets are in a strange place at the minute. Their market share is being eaten up by bigger smartphones, so brand’s are looking for ways to set their latest devices apart from the crowd. Apple made the huge iPad Pro, Microsoft has the laptop-baiting Surface Pro 4, and Samsung has just launched the TabPro S running Windows 10.
Now it’s Huawei’s turn. Announced alongside the Mate 8 at CES 2016, Huawei’s MediaPad M2 is looking to be the most immersive tablet yet. It’s equipped with Harman Kardon speakers and a number of software enhancements, and it’s one of the best-sounding tablets I've ever heard. Harman Kardon has specially tuned the M2, and as a result the speakers produce sound that's loud, detailed and overall hugely impressive.
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I listened to some music, a short snippet of a demonstration video and both had good bass levels and remained distortion-free – even when I turned up the volume. This could be a good choice for those who want a great media tablet.
The screen is strong too. It’s 10.1-inches, with a 1080p resolution and it’s sharp with strong viewing angles and a good punchy hit of colour. It was a little on the reflective side though, but to be fair the demo room where I was using the tablet had some particularly bright lights. So hopefully real-world use will be better.
The display also benefits from 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. When paired with the Huawei active stylus, you can use the suite of included apps to draw and take notes.
This nifty feature helps the MediaPad M2 compete better with the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Drawing on the tablet was impressive, with little to no lag and support of a variety of movements. The pen, too, is constructed well with a lovely metal build and a comfy feel.
Just like Huawei’s phones, the MediaPad M2 runs the brand’s own EMUI skin baked on top of Android. It isn't the greatest interface, mostly because it eschews almost all of the design choices that make Google’s latest OS so good-looking and replaces them with ugly icons and strange mixes of colours.
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However, on a tablet I can forgive the choice a little more, simply because stock Android still isn't really suited to the big screen.
Huawei’s software lets you use two compatible apps side by side – something sorely lacking on devices such as the Pixel C – and the majority of native apps have been specially designed for the bigger screen.
Specs-wise, the MediaPad M2 runs on one of Huawei’s in-house built Kirin chips. It’s an octa-core, 64-bit version that handled everything I threw at it during my demo with ease.
Apps opened quickly, lag was nowhere to be seen, and overall it was an incredibly smooth experience. There’s 3GB of RAM too, so furious multi-tasking shouldn’t cause too much of an issue. For those looking for a lighter hit on the wallet, Huawei will also sell a 2GB version of the MediaPad M2 that doesn't include the active stylus.
Like most of Huawei’s phones, the MediaPad M2 is a good-looking piece of kit. The metal body has a nice weight to it – this is definitely a two-handed device – but it’s thin enough to slip into a slim bag.
On the front you have a fingerprint scanner that not only adds an extra layer of security, but it can also be used for swiping through homescreens. I wasn’t able to test the speed of the scanner, but Huawei has shown on a number of occasions that it can build a fast fingerprint sensor so I have high hopes for this one.
Tablets need to do a lot to set them apart from the crowd, and Huawei seems to have achieved this with the MediaPad M2. It won’t be for everyone, but the super-impressive speakers and combination of the stylus and pressure-sensitive display are great features.
It also doesn’t come in too hard on the wallet. The top-end model comes with the stylus, LTE, 3GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage will cost $469, while $349 gets you 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage.