Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 review

The MediaPad M5 8.4 is a metal-bodied iPad Mini alternative, offering Android users premium design, sound quality, power and battery life. 

If you’re wondering how big this tablet is, the clue’s in the name, with the M5 8.4 sporting an 8.4-inch portrait screen, although with identical internals and screen resolution to its bigger brother, the M5 10.8, this is definitely a case of mini and mighty from a specs point of view.

Sound quality is also excellent thanks to a stereo speaker setup, which, combined with the 2K display, gives the slate strong multimedia credentials.

The MediaPad M5 8.4 is available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB storage options, and there’s also microSD card support. 

The power under the hood is similar to that found in 2017’s Huawei phones, the P10 and P10 Plus, in the shape of a Kirin 960 processor paired with 4GB RAM. The entire MediaPad M5 series is also available in both Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + LTE combinations.

Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 price and availability

  • Starts at around £309
  • Don't expect to see it in the US

In the UK the entry-level 32GB MediaPad M5 8.4 with Wi-Fi only is priced at £309. That’s the only model we have pricing for right now, but based on the Euro pricing for the other models we’d expect the 64GB Wi-Fi model to come in at £350 or a bit more, and the 128GB Wi-Fi model to be around £400, with the LTE variants costing up to £50 more. 

We also expect the MediaPad M5 8.4 to come to Australia, but we don't have any word on pricing or availability yet.

Adding some context to these prices, Apple’s iPad Mini 4 starts at £399, so around £90 more than the MediaPad M5 8.4, and Huawei’s slate offers a larger, more traditional widescreen display and slightly better battery life, and so its likely to appeal to Android phone users looking for a tablet for YouTube, Netflix and the like.

Design: Good looking and comfortable to hold

  • Premium look and feel
  • No headphone jack

Machined from metal and glass, the MediaPad M5 8.4 is off to an excellent start design-wise. It’s a traditional-looking tablet with minimal distractions, and it feels as good in the hand as it looks. 

Above the 8.4-inch 2K screen on the front of the tablet are a small selfie camera and the Huawei logo, while below it is the fingerprint scanner/optional home key.

The glass curves along the very edges into the metal body adding to the rich, tactile experience. Meanwhile, the antenna strip is machined into the metal, a stylish way of making sure signal strength is solid, while no chunks of plastic disrupt the clean aesthetic.

A lone USB-C slot sits pretty on the bottom of the M5 8.4, while a headphone port is noticeably absent. All the buttons are on the right-hand side of the tablet, positioned towards the rear of the edge.

This makes them invisible when you’re looking at the tab head-on, which is a nice design touch, although expect some fumbling when trying to find them with your fingers in the first few days of using the tablet.

A beefy camera bump suggests that the MediaPad M5 8.4 packs some serious shooters, while lines of perforations along the top and bottom edges indicate the tablet’s speaker placement when held in landscape orientation. 

Screen: 2K goodness, not greatness

  • Sharp at 2K resolution
  • Good quality, though not class-leading

The Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 screen has a 2K resolution – 2560 x 1600 to be exact. To put that into context, the iPad Mini 4 has a pixel density of 324 pixels per inch, while the MediaPad 8.4 boasts 359 pixels per inch.

The M5 8.4’s IPS screen tech offers strong viewing angles and great brightness levels. You can tune the screen to suit your preference, with colour balance controls in the settings. 

There’s also a ‘Vivid’ viewing mode to boost the tablet’s saturation, giving it AMOLED-like vibrancy, even if it can’t deliver the deep, inky blacks of an AMOLED screen.

A blue light filter means eye protection is integrated at an OS level, and you can also drop the screen’s processed resolution to save a little battery. 

Interface and reliability: Tickety-boo

  • Newest version of Android
  • UI is customisable, but heavy

EMUI, Huawei’s custom skin on top of Android, is significantly heavier than stock Android, and it also preloads a number of third-party applications onboard. 

This isn't a bad thing per se: third-party apps can be disabled or uninstalled, and what some might view as heavy-handedness on the part of Huawei could also be viewed as customisability. Importantly, it doesn’t slow the interface down.

More good news is that the M5 series runs Android 8, making them among the few Android tablets around rocking the latest version of Google’s operating system out of the box.

Using EMUI 8.0 you can customise everything from transitions to your homescreen grid size on the MediaPad M5 8.4. 

The fingerprint scanner is responsive and accurate, and doubles up as a navigation button, replacing the space-consuming black navigation bar at the bottom of most Android devices. 

It’s a great feature, saving screen real estate while being intuitive and useful.

Performance: Fast, not the fastest

  • Kirin 960 is powerful and power-efficient
  • Well suited to gaming and demanding tasks

The combination of the Kirin 960 processor and 4GB of RAM helps the MediaPad M5 8.4 to excel at everyday tablet tasks. The likes of eBook reading and web browsing are a doddle, 4K video plays back smoothly, and even the latest games run well. 

Geekbench benchmarking returned a multi-core score of 6,540, suggesting you should encounter no issues in day-to-day use. 

Running a more graphically intensive benchmark, Antutu, produced a score of 189,878. These scores aren’t going to blow any 2018 flagships smartphones out of the water, but for a things are looking good. 

Connections and storage: Everything but a 3.5mm jack

  • USB-C and SD support are handy
  • USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle in the box

The MediaPad 8.4 features all the connectivity options we’d hope for in a premium Android tablet.

That means a USB-C port for charging, data transfer and audio, SIM card support on the LTE versions, and SD expansion options.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS are also present, so you should have no problems staying connected, whether it’s to the web, your wearable or Google Maps.

The entry-level storage option of 32GB should be sufficient for basic tablet use with limited amounts of gaming. If you need more you can supplement this with an SD card, or opt for the 64GB or 128GB model. 

Battery: Long haul ready

  • 10-plus hours of screen-on time
  • Plenty of power-saving modes

Average use at above 50% brightness will give you in excess of 10 hours screen-on time with the MediaPad M5 8.4, which is a very competitive performance. 

And if you need the tablet to last longer, Huawei has you covered. Fire up the plethora of battery optimisations, which range from small tweaks like adjusting the output resolution through to a more holistic power-saving mode, which disables a few background functions, and you can enjoy a little more slate time.

The M5 series also support fast charging, shipping with a zippy power brick in the box. 

However, with the Mate 10 tablet and P20 phone ranges Huawei has shown us the wonders of Supercharge, a much faster charging solution than mere fast charging. 

This tech is notably absent from the M5 8.4, and that's a real shame given the fact that a full charge will take in excess of two hours.

Camera: Like most tablet cameras…

  • Poor main camera
  • Front camera is okay

Starting with the main camera, and it’s a bit of a disappointment. Even in good lighting dynamic range is poor, with blown-out areas and dark, muddy blobs in the shadows being the norm.

There’s a HDR mode that helps to improve things if you remember to fire it up, but in regular auto mode the MediaPad M5 8.4 isn't going to win any prizes. As for low-light images, these are grainy by default, with the problem compounded by the absence of a flash.

Additional shooting modes can help you to improve things a little. From light-painting through to a full manual mode, if you’re prepared to dip into the settings you can get some half-decent shots. That said, our recommendation would be to avoid the camera all together unless you really need it.

The front camera is actually more in line with what we’d expect to see from a decent smartphone, managing as it does to take fair-looking selfies.

If also fashions a flash by using a blast of light from the screen at full brightness – blinding stuff.

Full HD video is recorded at up to 60 frames per second (fps), with 4K recorded at up to 30fps, and there’s an option to activate a digital stabiliser for video which works nicely. There's no slow motion option available, however, and, as for stills, low-light performance is terrible.

Camera samples

Multimedia: Looks and sounds great

  • Seriously good speakers
  • Plenty of power for gaming

While the MediaPad 8.4 may drop the ball when it comes to imaging, it picks it right back up again when it comes to multimedia. Content looks great on the 17:9 aspect ratio screen, and the speakers are excellent too.

The M5 8.4’s dual-speaker system benefits from Harmon/Kardon tuning to produce excellent sound for such a thin, good-looking slate. 

It's also great for gaming. While it’s a touch big for any titles that would have you thumbing the extremities of the display, games with contained on-screen controls are a joy, and they also look stellar. 

And bookworms rejoice: the MediaPad M5 8.4 hits the spot as an ebook-reader thanks to its portability, nice weighting and ergonomic curves.

It’s a matter of personal preference whether the absence of a 3.5mm headphone socket is going to bug you, but it's a relative non-issue for us – and the fact that Huawei includes a USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle in the box is a nice touch.

Verdict

If you’re an iPhone user it’s easier for us to recommend an iPad Mini 4 than the Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4, despite the iPad offering worse value for money. The reason is simple: iOS will be familiar, and your current suite of apps will work on your shiny new tab. 

However, for Android users, or potential buyers who consider themselves OS-agnostic, the MediaPad M5 8.4 is incredibly compelling. It undercuts the iPad Mini in price, and offers more in the process.

Everything about this tablet is a joy to use other than the camera, which is a peripheral consideration for most tablet users, and the starting price is reasonable. 

Decent Android tabs are also few and far between at the moment, making the M5 8.4 even easier to recommend. 

Despite not quite being a five-star device, the Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 is still the best sub-10-inch Android tablet around right now. 

Who's this for?

This is a tablet made for content consumption. Books, movies, games, memes, tweets, streams… with or without headphones, landscape or portrait, in-hand or on a surface, the MediaPad M5 8.4 will meet your needs. 

On the flipside, this tablet isn't for anyone who wants a world-class camera experience. 

Should you buy it?

It's easy to recommend the MediaPad M5 8.4. It's a well-priced, premium Android alternative to the iPad Mini 4 that looks slick and offers great performance and battery life. 

There really is only one rival to the MediaPad 8.4 right now and that's the iPad Mini

iPad Mini 4

The iPad Mini 4 costs more than the MediaPad M5 8.4, despite the fact that it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. The screen is 7.9 inches, making it half an inch smaller than the M5 8.4, and its 2:3 aspect ratio doesn’t work as well for video content. 

That said, the interface and app refinement across iOS are better than the Android plus EMUI combo, and it will likely be the preferred choice for iPhone users.

Read our full iPad Mini 4 review

First reviewed: April 2018

Basil Kronfli
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