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

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Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean is far from up to date. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On the downside, Huawei's software changes seem to have resulted in making the X1 very sluggish to use. It's packing a reasonably powerful 1.6GHz quad-core processor -- which scored a healthy 1,930 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark test. Swiping around the interface was often quite frustrating, however. Flicking between homescreens was laggy and juddery, as was pulling down the notifications bar.

Hitting the home button when in an app often resulted in a couple of seconds delay before you were actually presented with the homescreen and icons. This sort of sluggish performance really isn't acceptable on a high-end device. It's a particular shame given that the processor is clearly capable of running it well -- demanding games like Riptide GP2 and Asphalt 8 played without much trouble, but the Emotion interface just seems to drag it down. I'd be very keen to see a stock Android version.

Camera

Tucked into the metal back panel is a 13-megapixel camera with an LED flash. I popped over to the lovely River Thames to see what sort of snaps I can get.

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MediaPad X1 outdoor camera test (click to see full-size version) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

My first test shot was pretty good. Although it wasn't a particularly bright day, the sky is still well exposed and the darker buildings opposite, and the dark waves of the river, are easily visible. The generous helping of megapixels also means that there's plenty of detail in the image when you view it at full screen.

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MediaPad X1 'Smart' mode camera test (click to see full-size version) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's a bunch of different shooting modes, including a 'Smart' mode that automatically sets the best settings for the scene. It didn't seem to do that particularly well however, as can be seen on this shot of a daffodil, which has come out far too dark.

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MediaPad X1 normal mode comparison (click to see full-size version) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In normal mode, the brightness level is much better. The flower has good colours and the high level of detail means the petals have crisp, well-defined edges.

There's an HDR mode too, along with a bunch of filters and effects, and a panorama function that combines multiple shots into a wide scene. It stitched them fairly well, with only a small error on the sides.

Battery

The X1 also packs in a capacious 5,000mAh battery -- Huawei reckons it can keep chugging away for several days with normal use, which I don't think is too far from the mark. With moderate use involving downloading and playing games, watching an hour of Netflix, sending and receiving email and doing a bit of tweeting -- all at just over half brightness -- the X1 easily made it through a whole day.

How long you can keep it going really depends on what you do with it. If you slap in a SIM card and use it as your phone, making calls, browsing on 4G, with push-email activated and GPS active, you shouldn't expect to squeeze out the "several days". Keep brightness down and avoid anything too taxing and I don't doubt you'll be able to make it most of the way into the second day.

An interesting quirk is the ability to plug your phone into the X1 and use the X1's battery to charge your phone. You'll need a separate cable -- a micro-USB to micro-USB, which I've not even seen before, so I doubt you'll have one just lying around -- and you will of course be sacrificing some of the slate's life, but if you really need your phone to survive until you can find a plug, it'll certainly come in handy.

Conclusion

Although Huawei states that the X1 is a tablet, its ability to make calls and send texts means you can legitimately use it as your main phone. Whether you see it as a phone or a tablet, the X1 is a decent bit of kit. Its screen is sharp and bold, while its slim, metal design is easy on the eyes.

It's sadly let down by its outdated version of Android and Huawei's interface, which makes using the slate at times rather frustrating. If you're struggling to decide whether to spend your hard-earned cash on a new phone or a new tablet, the X1 is a good compromise. If you don't fancy battling with a clunky interface though -- and you already use Internet-based calling and messaging services -- you'd be better looking towards the iPad mini.

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