Chinese telecoms giant Huawei might not have established itself in the UK, but it’s already thinking big. Over the next ten years it expects to boost turnover from $6billion to $100billion – grabbing a slice of the tablet market in the process. First step to realising those rather lofty ambitions? The MediaPad, the company’s first Android-powered tablet device. On paper, it’s not a particularly ambitious piece of kit – there’s no killer USP; no easily-marketable pizzazz. But to be fair, 2011 saw a number of tablet launches fall flat in humiliating style. Clearly, Huawei has realised that rather than running before it can walk, a highly accomplished all-rounder is called for. And in that sense, the MediaPad
is a success, capable of going toe-to-toe with Samsung’s 7in Galaxy Tab.
In fact, its hard to fault the MediaPad – both in terms of build and spec. At 10.5mm can just about be described as ultra-thin. It’s compact, with a businesslike design and high-quality finish comparable with similarly-priced rivals. Huawei vaguely hinted that it chose the 7in route (rather than the 10in) so the
MediaPad would fit into handbags, and appeal to women. But there’s little to suggest this will be the case – unless a collaboration with Louboutin is in the offing.
Picking the MediaPad up for the first time is a pleasant surprise. It’s light and the aluminium body is extremely comfortable to hold. And if the MediaPad does have a standout feature, it’s the screen. While many budget and mid-range tablets are blighted by a tragically-bad screen resolution, the MediaPad’s 7in LCD touchscreen offers an impressive 1280×800 pixels, outstripping the Galaxy Tab’s 1024×600 offering. Head to head, the MediaPad’s display is actually better than those found on some 10.1in tablets. What’s more, it features the same IPS technology found in the iPad 2 and Kindle Fire, ensuring an excellent viewing angle.
Sensibly, Huawei has realised that rather than invest a small fortune on laboured Android tweaks, it has pretty much left the standard Honeycomb 3.2 OS alone. Pre-installed apps include the standard (Facebook and Twitter) along with Let’s Golf and Huawei Office, which gives the device out-of-the-box compatibility with PDFs, Word and Excel documents. It’s pretty much the only OS flourish you’ll find. The 5MP rear camera is promising given that the 7in Galaxy Tab offers a 3MP. It’s fairly ponderous and there’s no flash, but it’s unlikely that consumers who want to take a great shot will reach for a tablet, this is a hardly a deal-breaker.
Like the Galaxy Tab, the MediaPad runs a Qualcomm 1.2GHz dual-core processor, which copes adequately with HD video playback and skates through Honeycomb’s menus, firing up apps smoothly. Web browsing is fast and slick, with full support for Flash 10.3 and the high-performance ‘N’ Wi-Fi standard. If the tablet does begin to slow down, a multi-tasking window allows users to shut down apps running needlessly.
Connectivity is good. One of the plastic sections on the back of the MediaPad can be removed to insert a microSD card slot while on the side you’ll find a microHDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB port. Apple’s market share may have decreased to a ‘mere’ 80%, but the tablet market remains a tough nut to crack. While high-profile offerings from Motorola, BlackBerry and HP have been mercilessly snubbed by consumers, Huawei has watched, eager not to make the same mistakes.
The comparisons to Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Tab are well deserved, though if there is a drawback to the MediaPad, it’s that – initially, at least – it will be Wi-Fi only. Samsung, on the other hand, provides a choice of Galaxy Tab models: Wi-Fi only or 3G+Wi-Fi. Naturally, Huawei was never going to outshine Apple but neither did it intend it to. After all, what’s the point of going over the top with all guns blazing – only to beat a hasty, and very public, retreat. The MediaPad is a competent, Android Honeycomb tablet that, crucially, gets all the basics right from the start. If you can find the MediaPad for a sub £300 price, it’s one of the biggest tablet bargains around and, for this month at least, it’s a close call between the MediaPad and Xoom 2: Media Edition.
Huawei has played it safe. Still, you can hardly blame them when the result is such a solid, well-specified, Honeycomb tablet with a stunningly-sharp screen.
It’s a VW Golf to Apple’s Audi R8.