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Tablets

Huawei MediaPad

The Huawei MediaPad brings Android Honeycomb treats with a sturdy metal body and a bright, clear screen at an affordable price.

The Huawei MediaPad brings Android 3.2 Honeycomb functionality to a sturdy, metal 7-inch tablet. With a dual-core processor, it should have enough cojones to take on demanding tasks.

It's available towards the end of the year for around £275.

Design and build quality

Put the MediaPad on a table with a load of other Android tablets and we'd be pretty impressed if you could pick this one from the bunch. Like Huawei's Vision smart phone, the rear of the MediaPad is reminiscent of HTC's phones and tablets, with silver-grey metal being book-ended by black plastic. If you're keen on the look of the HTC Flyer, you'll instinctively have a soft-spot for the MediaPad.

In a similar nod to other companies, around the edge you'll find a metal banding, broken up by small black lines -- very similar to the design seen around the edge of the iPhone 4s.

Huawei MediaPad back
The unibody construction means the Huawei MediaPad is solidly built and did not yield to our aggressive fondling.

As a 7-inch tablet, the MediaPad is more portable than the plethora of 10.1-inch slates out there and with a thickness of 10.5mm, it could be squeezed into one of your larger jeans pockets without having to keep a sewing kit on standby.

Steve Jobs once famously quipped that you'd need to file down your fingertips to properly use a 7-inch tablet, but we're rather fond of the smaller size. It means you can use it with one hand much easier than larger tablets like the iPad. It's also small enough to chuck into a bag without having to think about it -- you certainly wouldn't need a dedicated case.

Of course, you don't have the same screen real-estate so web browsing and watching high-definition video won't be as pleasing as on a 10-inch tablet. The 7-inch size is arguably a fair compromise between phone and full-size tablet though.

The MediaPad shares the unibody design of the Vision phone, meaning that it's machined out of a single piece of aluminium, rather than being slapped together out of various bits and pieces. That should hopefully make it sturdier than the average slate. It certainly felt solid in our hands and didn't give in against our mighty barrage of squeezes.

It has a weight of around 390g, which is marginally heavier than the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, but considerably lighter than the iPad 2 that weighs in at a more bulky 601g. We found holding it up in one hand felt comfortable and we wouldn't feel bogged down if it was in our pocket.

There's a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera on the front of the Pad, which is great news for fans of video calling. You also get a 5-megapixel snapper on the back, complete with auto-focus but no flash. It can shoot 720p video too.

Huawei MediaPad camera
The 5-megapixel camera can shoot 720p video and is coupled with a front-facing 1.3-megapixel cam for video calling.

Screen

Huawei told us that the MediaPad has a full HD resolution of 1,080p, which would have put the resolution at a minimum of 1,920x1,080 pixels. That would have been phenomenal for a tablet. Sadly, something smelt all too fishy and after some digging, it turned out the actual resolution is a more modest 1,200x800 pixels.

That's still a good resolution though -- especially on a 7-inch device -- and beats the offering on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab. Small text and icons looked great and we loaded up high-definition YouTube videos that looked excellent with good contrast and deep black levels. It seemed a very bright screen, but that was difficult to accurately judge, given the very dim room we were in. We'll see how it looks when we get it in for a full review.

Huawei MediaPad screen
The screen is perfectly bright for cave-dwellers -- we tested it in a darkened room -- but we'll wait and see how it performs in daylight.

Performance

The MediaPad is running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which is the version of Google's operating system specifically designed for tablets. It's not the most recent version of the OS though -- that's Ice Cream Sandwich. The is probably going to be quite processor-heavy, so you shouldn't expect to see an ICS update on the MediaPad.

The Android interface on the MediaPad is sleek, with the wire-frame look of Honeycomb appearing as you scroll between home screens. The three navigational buttons remain at the bottom of the screen throughout your use; this allows you to quickly switch between open apps or go back to the home screen.

The tablet is running on a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, which is decent on a slate this size. Operation was very responsive and there was no discernible lag as we flicked through screens and opened apps.

We couldn't subject it to our full set of tests and benchmarks so we'll have to wait and see how it stacks up against the other tablets in the playground. But we're pleased with what we've seen so far, considering the relatively low price-tag.

Outlook

Huawei has done an admirable job in creating a tablet that is sturdy, has a good screen and a smooth operation. It's not the prettiest tablet on the market -- and it won't suit those who want a bigger screen -- but it's an attractive option for the price.

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