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Huawei MediaPad Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £330.00
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor
  • 7in 1280x800 pixel IPS screen
  • 4GB internal memory
  • Android Honeycomb 3.2
  • 5-megapixel back camera

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Most tablets of the past 18 months haven’t sold as well as their manufacturers expected, leading to drastic price drops of products like the BlackBerry PlayBook and, most notably, the HP Touchpad. Part of the reason for disappointing sales in almost all cases was quite how high the retail price was in the first place. Due to sell for around £330, Huawei’s MediaPad undercuts some of its rivals, but is it cheap enough to attract a crowd around such a little-known name as Huawei?

Huawei says that its strategy is to appeal to buyers other than the affluent male demographic that has made up a large proportion of tablet users to date – including plenty of female buyers. It’s not pink, thankfully, but is smaller than most Android tabs. It has a 7in screen, rather than the 10.1in screen used by the majority of Android Honeycomb devices.
MediaPad 1
There’s a natural assumption that something smaller will offer less power, but not so here. The Huawei MediaPad features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, which should make it at least as powerful as Tegra 2 models such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The size does help it shave off a lot of weight, though. At 390g, that it’s significantly lighter than larger tablets is immediately obvious. The large widescreens and 600g-plus weight of 10.1in tablets tends to make them feel unwieldy, and by comparison the MediaPad feels very comfortable, petite and lightweight enough to hold comfortably in one hand for extended periods.  

Its metal-bodied construction also helps to make it feel great in-hand. Most of the back is anodised aluminium, which offers a reassuring hardness that plastic can’t hope to replicate – without adding too much bulk or weight. It has that premium feel missing from the one 7in Honeycomb tablet we’ve tested to date, the Acer Iconia A100. MediaPad

Huawei’s claims of innovation are perhaps over-egging it, though. The design is clearly indebted to the iPhone 4 and iPad (primarily the first one), going as far as to include little black lines on the side that mimic the antennae indicators of the iPhone 4S.

However, the back design reminds more of HTC’s phones, such as the HTC Salsa and HTC Legend. There are two plastic cutaways, the bottom of which can be removed to reveal the microSD card slot and the 3G SIM slot. Not all MediaPads will allow 3G, and the £330 price quoted is for the Wi-Fi only model, which has 4GB of internal memory.
MediaPad 2

Something of a copycat it may be, but at least it pinches inspiration from some good-looking devices – and at 10.5mm thick it’s slim enough to claim ultra-thin cred. While no 7in tablets have been roaring successes yet, we still believe in the form factor. It’s large enough to make web browsing much more pleasurable than on a mobile phone, and yet small enough to be fully portable – which 10.1in tablets arguably are not.

On its sides are a micro HDMI port, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB and a dedicated power jack. As yet, we’re not sure if it allows charging over microUSB. But what is it like to use?

The Huawei MediaPad, like all Android Honeycomb devices, does not feature masses of user interface customisation – Google doesn’t let the manufacturers fiddle with it that much. There’s also an unusual paucity of pre-installed apps, and none of them are Huawei’s.

Aside from the standard Google apps, the MediaPad offers, Facebook, Twitter, Gameloft’s Let’s Golf and Documents to Go. Any of these could be downloaded from the Android Market, which is built into the device, but they do at least represent a few of the most likely initial downloads for many.
MediaPad 3
What are we missing out on? A DLNA interface, a custom media player, and a cloud storage app. Do we miss them much? Not really. Manufacturers’ own additions are rarely must-haves.

What’s much more important in a tablet is ace-ing the screen. The MediaPad has. It uses an IPS panel, which is the same tech used in the iPad 2, providing excellent viewing angles and vivid colours. At the hands-on event, lighting conditions were pretty awful for screen testing, but first impressions were good.

Although only 7in across, it uses the same resolution as its larger rivals – 1280×800 pixels. This offers a very sharp image at this size, with 216dpi pixel density. That’s a lot less than the Retina Display screens of the iPod touch and iPhone 4S, but it thrashes the 131dpi of the iPad and 149dpi of all the 10.1in Honeycomb tablets.
MediaPad 5
What we really want to know, and don’t yet, is how good the MediaPad will be at playing video. Its name suggests it’ll be a cracker, but we have doubts as to whether it’ll play any more than the Android standards of H.264 and MP4 – especially given how little emphasis is put on additional app functionality here. Huawei claims it’ll be able to play 1080p video, but this means little when we don’t know whether it’ll play download-favourites like MKV and DivX. Our survey says – not likely. In its favour, the micro HDMI will let you output the video signal to a television.

The Huawei MediaPad has two cameras, a user-facing 1.3-megapixel one for video calling and a 5-megapixel main sensor on the back. It doesn’t have a flash, but does at least provide autofocus, letting you hone-in on relatively close objects.

Autofocus speed was fairly slow, but this could have been in part down to the lighting conditions of the environment – which were terrible for photography. The camera interface is the Honeycomb standard, predictably. It can capture 720p video – but we can’t comment on its quality at this point. We’ll be back with more in the full review.

The web browser is the standard Android edition too, but the browsing experience should be just about perfect as the capacitive touchscreen feels very responsive and full Flash 10.3 support is in. Naturally, Wi-Fi support is here, including “N”, and if you opt for the 3G version you’ll get 14.4mbps HSPA .
MediaPad 4
Huawei says the MediaPad has a 6-hour battery life, a claim which we won’t get to test until we get a sample in for a full review. However, even if this figure is bang on, it’s still a lot less than most 10.1in Honeycomb tablets manage – the standard is between 8-10 hours. It should beat the comparable Acer Iconia A100, mind, which conked out after just 4 hours of video playback.

In pure design terms, the MediaPad is a success. It has the luxury feel that’s important in the tablet space, and is a lot comfier to hold than larger 10.1in models. Pricing is a sore point, though, because at around £275 ex. VAT (£330 inc) for the Wi-Fi-only model, it’s not a great deal cheaper than larger alternatives from better-known brands. Shop around and you’ll find the Motorola Xoom for under £330 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer (sans must-buy keyboard) for under £340. We doubt whether the MediaPad has the enough of a draw to attract buyers away from the iPad and the upcoming 7in Amazon Kindle Fire.

If you are interested in the Huawei MediaPad you’ll have to wait however as it won’t be available in UK stores until some time in the first quarter of 2012.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Other

Processor 1.2GHz dual-core
Memory (RAM) (Gigabyte) 1GB
Mobile Broadband/3G Yes (optional)

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