The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite is a tablet the whole family can share. With multiple user profiles, parental controls, and eye-protection for kids, the M5 Lite aims to be the focal point of your home’s mobile entertainment center.
Huawei is pitching the MediaPad M5 Lite as an ideal around-the-house companion. The hardware falls in line with Huawei’s current design language, just as the software does with the company’s EMUI concept. What’s particularly interesting are the additional tools Huawei is making available to parents, who can take greater control over their kids’ screen time.
Is this tablet a fit for your family? Let’s find out in our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review.
Tablets are great for consuming media. The slate form factor capably bridges the divide between watching video on phones, which can be too small, and watching on laptops, which can be awkward. Kids often take to tablets naturally, as if the product category was conceived just for them. My daughter seized upon the M5 Lite and preferred it to her Chromebook for catching up on her favorite YouTube channels.
I find tablets with 7- or 8-inch screens to be ideal for portability and usability, but 10-inch screens are often more cinematic. The M5 Lite has a 10.1-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This gives the tablet an oblong look compared to tablets that have a 4:3 screen. The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite’s dimensions are on par with those of the $329 Apple iPad, meaning it is about the size and shape of a comic book.
This is no piece of Playskool plastic.
Despite aiming the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite at younger users, the tablet is sculpted from fine materials. An attractive metal chassis forms the rear surface and side edges. Diamond-cut chamfers catch the light and the sand-blasted aluminum has a nice texture. The front panel is all glass, of course. The glass is fitted snugly into the chassis and boasts a rounded shape along the edges. The M5 Lite is not ruggedized, so a case may be in order to keep it safe(r) from clumsy hands. Huawei didn’t skimp on the design or the materials; this is no piece of Playskool plastic.
The controls are a mix of good and bad. The buttons for waking the tablet and adjusting the volume are on the right side. My daughter thought they were easy to find and use. A tray on the left edge allows you to boost storage via microSD memory card or add a SIM card for cellular data.
The problem is the headphone jack.
First, let me say that I’m grateful that there is a headphone jack. Huawei’s pricier MediaPad M5 Pro doesn’t have one. Huawei put the jack on the M5 Lite’s left edge, all the way at the bottom. Any headphones you plug into the jack will stick out sideways and get in the way of your hand position as you try to hold the tablet. This location also makes the jack susceptible to damage from pressure. To make matters worse, the USB-C port is right next to headphone jack. I don’t think Huawei thought this through.
The screen is good, but not great. It has 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, which is Full HD. The pixel density comes in at 224ppi, which is well under the 264ppi offered by some competing tablets. This means the MediaPad M5 Lite’s display isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like it to be. The LCD panel puts out plenty of light for easy viewing in most conditions, like the couch or the back seat of a car. Color is not as accurate as it should be. The entire displays skews a bit cool, so whites often have a blue tint to them. This isn’t an issue when you’re watching videos; it’s more noticeable when browsing the web or using Google apps.
Huawei cooked up some special stuff for families. An app called Kids Corner lets kids have their own space on the tablet, all while falling under the watchful eye of their parents.
Our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review unit runs Android 8 Oreo and is skinned with Huawei’s EMUI 8. EMUI is a pretty heavy-handed skin and can be annoying at times. The OS is capable and includes all features with which Android users should be familiar, such as multiple home screen panels, Google Feed, an app drawer, the quick settings shade, and so on. I like that Huawei allows you to pick from several different home screen styles.
If you have kids aged 10 or up, I’d let them use the standard Android UI. They won’t like the Kids Corner mode, which is for younger tots.
Kids Corner is not just a setting, but an entirely separate mode of operation. As a parent, you’ll have to first set it up, complete with different profiles for different kids. You can control which apps kids are allowed to access, how long they’re allowed to use the tablet, when the blue light filter kicks on, and so on. Each kid can record his or her own fingerprint and instantly unlock it and go to their profile. Another tool helps parents prevent kids from holding the tablet too close to their eyes. It can be set to near, medium, or far. Depending on the setting, the M5 Lite will alert the viewer to back up a little if they get too close. This is meant to prevent strain on young and growing eyes.
Kids Corner sounds like Sesame Street.
Once the tablet has been put into Kids Corner mode, it cannot revert to standard mode without the parental PIN code. This means your kids can’t sneak out of Kids Corner and access other parts of the UI.
There’s one problem: Kids Corner sounds like “Sesame Street”. There’s a really annoying soundtrack playing in the background that’s all nursery-rhyme style. It definitely did not resonate with my daughter, who is 12. She complained it was for little kids.
The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite holds up well enough to daily use, but it’s obviously not a high-end machine.
Huawei selected its own Kirin 659 processor. This octa-core engine is supported by 3GB of memory. I wish it had 4GB. The tablet tended to get a bit warm after viewing video for about 30 minutes, though it never became uncomfortably hot. The Kirin 659 can handle basic media playback with no trouble at all. Music, movies, and books all loaded quickly and streamed smoothly over WiFi. It’s not as capable when it comes to games. Tetris won’t tax it, but high-quality racing games such as Asphalt will have the MediaPad M5 Lite begging for mercy.
I’m disappointed with the storage. It ships with just 32GB. The system consumes a full 13GB, leaving you with just 19GB for your stuff. This shouldn’t be much of a problem if you’re using the M5 Lite to stream content via WiFi at home, but it can become an issue if you plan to use the device offline, such as in the car or on an airplane. The good news is you can supplement the built-in storage with a microSD card up to 256GB.
Intense games will have the MediaPad M5 Lite begging for mercy.
Battery life is excellent. The tablet contains a 7,500mAh battery and it is good for more than 10 hours of video and gaming. The included charger can top up the battery fully in just under three hours.
Harman Kardon helped Huawei tune the four speakers. The M5 Lite delivers stereo and multi-dimensional sound with plenty of gusto. The speakers can be pushed pretty hard, though sound suffers from distortion at louder volumes. It leans a bit toward the treble-y side of things; it could use more bass.
The Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios kept me connected with no problem.
The camera is good enough for grainy video chats and silly pix with the kids, but that’s about it.
Final thoughts: Who is the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite for?
Huawei created a compelling tablet for families in the MediaPad M5 Lite. It’s a well-crafted piece of hardware with only a few foibles. I wish the screen were just a bit better and the headphone jack were pushed to another part of the chassis. The Android 8 operating system and Huawei’s EMUI 8 ran smoothly and weren’t overly annoying. The kids’ software, while certainly powerful and enabling for parents, is aimed at very young kids and comes off as babyish. I wish Huawei had a Teen Corner in addition to Kids Corner.
The good battery life means the M5 Lite will run as long as your kids do, and, should it get lost under the couch for a week or two, still have some juice left.
At $299 it’s a solid competitor to Apple’s $329 iPad. For Android families who want a capable machine for entertaining the household, the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite is up to the task.
That concludes our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review. Will you buy this tablet?