Huawei MediaPad X1 review: A sleek but flawed 4G LTE Android slate

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 3.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Its skinny metal body looks and feels luxurious, it has a bright and bold display, decent battery life and its camera can snap some good pictures too. Pop in a 4G LTE SIM card and you can use the tablet exactly as you would use a phone.

The Bad It's running on an outdated version of Android and Huawei's Emotion interface makes the tablet often rather sluggish and irritating to navigate.

The Bottom Line Although the MediaPad X1's software is unquestionably clunky, it still has a lot going for it. If you're struggling to decide between buying a new phone or a new tablet, the X1's 4G LTE capabilities make it a fair compromise.

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When does a phone become a tablet? Is it all about the size or is there more to it? With the MediaPad X1, Huawei has blurred the line more than ever. Huawei swears blind that this 7-inch Android device is a tablet, but it also has a SIM card slot that provides 4G LTE data as well as letting you make calls and send SMS messages -- functioning, essentially, as a phone.

As well as its phone skills, the X1 packs a Full HD display, a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, an attractive metal body and a 13-megapixel camera.

It's due to hit stores in the UK later in the year, although Huawei has so far only given an estimated price of €399 (£330, $550), which isn't exactly dirt cheap. It has a decent lineup of specs, but it's going to need those if it really hopes to take sales from Apple's iPad mini or the much more affordable Google Nexus 7.

Design

With its slim, metal body and cool blue paint job, the MediaPad X1 isn't bad looking at all. Its metal construction helps make it feel rather luxurious when you pick it up, as do the skinny bezels and the all-glass front. There's no flex in the metal back panel or any unpleasant rattling from the buttons, which makes it feel like a sturdy piece of kit.

At 7.18mm thick, it's roughly as svelte as the iPad mini, although its 7-inch, rather than 8-inch display helps make it narrower and shorter. I found I was easily able to slide it into an inside jacket pocket, although it's very awkward to keep in your jeans pocket -- something to bear in mind if you're hoping to use it as your everyday phone.

Whether you prefer its design to the iPad mini's metal body is purely a matter of taste. Personally, I don't think there's much in it, although the iPad certainly has more sex appeal in its name alone. I do prefer the X1's cool chassis over the rubberised body of the Nexus 7 though.

There are no physical buttons on the front of the device, but around the sides you'll find the standard volume and power buttons as well as the micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot, allowing you to expand the 16GB of built-in storage.

Display

The 7-inch display has a Full HD (1,920x1,200-pixel) resolution, which gives a pixel density of 314 pixels per inch. That's a step below the 326 of the iPad mini's Retina display, but it's really not a difference you'll ever notice.

huawei-mediapad-x1-mwc-2014-12.jpg
It's a crisp, sharp screen with Full HD resolution. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I found the X1's display to be very crisp, with sharp edges around icons and a comfortable clarity to small text in Web pages. It's bright too, countering most of the glare from the CNET office lights, once you crank the brightness up at least. I can say with certainty that it's easy to read under a grey London sky, although how it fares in the bright, midday Californian sun remains to be seen.

Colours are vivid as well, and it has decent viewing angles, making it a great all-round display for watching movies and TV shows when you're lying in bed or sitting on the toilet.

Software and processor

The X1 arrives running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is a disappointingly old version of Google's mobile operating system. The latest Android 4.4 KitKat has been around for a while now so there's no excuse to at least have version 4.3 on board.

Huawei has customised Android on the X1 with its Emotion interface. It's quite different from the stock Android experience, so you might not immediately realise you're on older software. The major change is that there's no grid-like app list. Instead, all of your installed apps are strewn across up to six homescreens.

I'm personally not keen on this change as it can be difficult to find where you've dropped an app -- going into the usual menu to see it in alphabetical order is much quicker in my experience. Emotion UI does allow for a lot of customisation though, including changing the homescreen panel transitions or applying various themes that change the colour schemes and app icons. If you like putting your own stamp on your hardware, Emotion UI might be right up your street.

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Huawei MediaPad X1

Part Number: MediaPadX17.0
Low Price: $409.00 See all prices