The MediaPad was launched by the local Telco’s. However Huawei’s past record with the S7 and S7 slim had been poor, and many still think MediaPad is the same device. The MediaPad in contrast seems to evolution of the S7 Pro devices with similar hardware but with HoneyComb 3.2 rather than Gingerbread as the base OS.
The MediaPad however has been available in the US much earlier, though with some slight changes to the design as the T-Mobile Springboard.
I had been waiting for the Asus Prime to be launched, but the device had been delayed once again, and decided I will try out a new device until the Prime was freely available in the market.
A device that caught my eye was the Galaxy Tab 7.7, however Samsung once again continues it long delay from launch to available in the retail market. The MediaPad caught my eye because it had very similar specifications for less than half the price.
The decision was made easier when my Telco offered me a 15% discount for long term clients, and here is a brief review of the device that I currently have.
The device sadly has no unique design and looks like a shrunken IPad device in look and feel.
However the device is fairly light, and definitely much lighter than the long service Galaxy Tab 7 and slightly slimmer as well.
Unlike the Samsung devices the external cover is made using Aluminum that makes if look and feel more like an small IPad.
The main change is in the rear of the device, where there are two black plastic covers at the top and bottom. The bottom one is removable and contains the SIM card slot and the MicroSD slot. The top is purely for design, and my personal opinion is that they could have skipped the black on top as it ruins the design of the device.
Unlike the old Huawei Android tablet devices, this comes fully in line with what the current market has. The key notes of the hardware are,
- Dual-Core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor
- Adreno 220 Mobile graphics with 1080P video playback
- 7” Capacitive Multi-touch IPS LED LCD touch screen with a very high resolution 1280×800, with a PPI of 216 making it very sharp (yes the pixel density is much higher than an IPad)
- 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage
- 5MP rear camera with auto focus and zoom (digital) feature and 720P HD video recording
- 1.3MP front camera that will allow video calls
- Large battery for a 7” (4100mAh) compared to devices such as the Acer A100
- Sensors: Light (for auto brightness) and Accelerometer sensor
- Built-in 2G/3G with HSUPA (5.76Mbps) and HSDPA (14.4Mbps) support
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Dual-speakers with SRS
The hardware definitely is in par with the latest crop of Android tablets. While most are familiar with the Tegra based devices on tablets, the Snapdragon is more commonly seen on phone devices. However with the Adreno 220GPU is more than capable for gaming, and has the advantage that it can play 1080P video natively.
For any tablet the screen is important, and specially for a 7”. The screen on the MediaPad is pretty good, which very good sharpness and brightness. For most times I have the brightness at 30%, as its more than good enough! The light sensor also means you can set it to auto brightness.
The viewing angles are good, which is expected for an IPS type screen. With a PPI of 216, the text is sharp and clear, and is very good for browsing and reading. I had no problems reading PDF magazines with no zooming even for small fonts, something that was hard to do on the Galaxy 7” tab with the lesser resolution.
The device also strangely comes with a feature that says standard resolution and high resolution. When I ran software to see if the resolution changed, I noticed no difference but what seems to be done is the image, fonts are scaled down lower when set to high resolution.
In standard resolution the multi-touch is good, though I have noticed that you have to give the odd double touch once in a while, a problem with several Android devices I have used, something you never come across with the Apple IPad which definitely has a superior touch experience. Hopefully Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream with its UI acceleration feature (a first time on Android) will resolve this problem.
In high resolution the icons are much smaller and can be problem for the chubby fingered folks (such as myself!). However the screen is definitely sharper in the high resolution mode. The captures below are scaled down, and the actual is much sharper. I will try to attach a higher res capture at the end of the review.
A common question is how good is it to a Samsung Galaxy series which is fast becoming the most spoken of the Android tablets, though the sales figures may indicate that other devices are selling in equal share!
- The screen is much bright than the older 7″ Samsung Galaxy tab, and with the higher resolution much sharper
- Compared to the new 10″ Galaxy tab, this screen is not as good, and lacking in the color vibrancy. However to be fair the Galaxy 10″ and 8.9″ screens are considered the best in the market, beating even the Apple IPad screen. Hence the screen in the new Galaxy 7″ Plus will definitely be more vibrant, though it may not be as sharp due to the lower resolution. The Galaxy 7.7″ due soon however may be the reference model with its super AMOLED screen, but with a price that is over 2 times this device its market placing is very different
- Compared to the Acer device i tested which was TN based LCD, this screen is on par or better.
The device build quality is quite good and feels very solid with no noticeable squeaks. However the metal cover means it is easily prone to dents and scratches and hence a case is compulsory.
I would have preferred if Huawei had stuck to the T-mobile Springboard scheme of white covers at the back, and avoided the plastic at the rear top.
Software and Updates
The device comes pre-installed with Honeycomb 3.2 and has the over the air update feature. Interestingly it has two options update via Google server and Huawei server. I am a bit curious why the Google update feature is there, since Huawei has dome some minor customizations on top of the standard Honeycomb.
The device also comes with Huawei’s HiSuite Software, which does provide some decent features though the user interface is rather old-fashioned!
- Ability to install software by dragging and dropping into the interface
- Backup contents and restore
- Take images of the screen being shown of the tab onto your PC (screen captures)
I also found on the net that the device has been rooted, which should make things a lot more flexible. .
Unlike many tabs, this does come bundled with a file manager that is very good news, though you will definitely replace that with File Manager such as File Expert or Astro.
The device also ships with Google Market, so you have access to all the Google software, that definitely makes it a better proposition than generic tablets.
Complementary you also get the following softare,
- Games: Angry Birds, Asphalt 6 and Let’s Go Golf
- Yoko Office
Video Multimedia formats and Playback
Consider the device has a back camera and front camera, but don’t expect too much from the back facing 5MP camera. The camera is rather low end in nature and the picture quality is noisy. No LCD means that it will not be very useful in low light situations.
The video quality is acceptable, but just like the stills it is noisy.
The dual speakers are decent, and quite loud, an issue I had with the Galaxy Tab 7”. The sound is a match in volume to my IPad2 in sheer loudness.
Music playback is pretty good, though the speakers are definitely not very good on bass. While it does not distort, it can be bit shrilly.
Being a 7” if you were to hold the device with your hands in landscape mode, you could end up blocking one of the speakers, which is a problem for such speaker placement. However there is very little option for such devices to locate it elsewhere.
For a 7” this device comes with a rich set of connectivity options, which include,
- Micro USB, you can connect a micro USB to USB connector and then connect a flash drive if require as the device does support USB on the go
- Micro HDMI
- 3.5” headphone jack
- MicroSD card slot
Hence compared to the very popular Galaxy Tab devices the presence of the Micro USB and MicroSD provides greater flexibility.
The MicroSD is definitely needed since the tab only has 8GB of internal storage. However while you can hot swap the Micro SD, you need to pop the rear cover.
One weak point similar to the Galaxy tab is that the device cannot charge over the micro USB. You have to carry the bulky adapter that is given. However unlike a Galaxy Tab, adapter is a 6V, which means Huawei could have made this charge of the Micro USB.
An area for controversy for me at least. According to official Telco banner and many sites the device was supposed to have 8GB internal storage. However I found it only has 5.8GB, and popular mobile review sites have varying configurations on this area. Huawei in their official site DO NOT MENTION the size of the internal storage, which adds to the mystery.
Over 2.5GB of the internal storage is used at the start and the bundled software definitely is not that large. Need to check with another Honeycomb device to see if the base OS actually takes such a large size!
Here is a capture from Quadrant indicating the detected sensors.
Battery life and recharge time
Since my reviews are purely on feel, I don’t have measures to prove this but I am sure you can find reviews from sites on actual facts.
For a start any device with 3G enabled is going to drain battery, but what is important is how it performs with this feature disabled.
With 3G disabled the overnight loss in battery is around 2%. The device definitely can last a few days without charging.
But as a user I feel the battery drain is much greater than an IPad on regular use such as browsing, video playback. The recharging time is not slow as was the case with the Samsung Galaxy tab (that takes hours which is very painful), and is more akin to an IPad charging, which is bearable.
However the good news I that the battery recharge times are not as long as the Samsung process, and you can recharge the device in around 2-3hrs to full capacity.
I also found a charger on ebay that can be connected to your PC USB port, with the other end compatible with the Huawei Media Pad.
Quadrant Standard – 1901
LinPack (Single/Multi) – 46.088MFLOPS / 53.224MFLOPS
NenMark1 – 52.2 FPS
AntTuTu (2.4.3) – 5362
I tried out the some racing games including the bundled Asphalt, ROC, Drift Mania. Seems my device has a hardware problem, as the steering using tilt does not work properly (refused to turn to the right). I posted on the Huawei Facebook wall, and i got a response that i should get the device checked. Will update if this is a problem with my unit or if this is an incompatibility with the device once i take it to the service center.
Firmware updates and ICS upgrade
The good news is that Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is in the works for this device 🙂 and seems the next batch of the devices will be shipping straight with ICS, making this device among the first to be shipping with ICS after the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. The updates for existing devices has been scheduled for March 2012, hope it comes earlier!.
The device has two options one to update from Huawei and the other from Google server. Each time i tried it says the version i have is the latest. However i went Huawei site and found more newer version that what i had. The direct link for downloads from Huawei is http://www.huaweidevice.com/worldwide/productFeatures.do?pinfoId=3135&treeId=3290&directoryId=5011&tab=0.
I noticed the following improvements with the HUAWEI_S7-301u_FIRMWARE_adroid3.2_C232B016_General_VersionForUser_05010SJR (9-Jan-2012) update.
1. Fixed the issue where the device switched to 2G far to easily, now it works better. However sadly it does not have the features that we find standard on the Gingerbread (GSM, GSM/3G, 3G only) which is far more simpler.
2. The update also has improved the touch implementation and i find the experience a lot more smoother.
3. Has updated versions of the bundled apps
4. Built-in file manager now detects the external SD card properly and seamlessly
5. Issue with games involving the tilt has been fixed. Now i can play my racing games!
On the negative side i noticed the following,
1. WIFI connectivity does not work properly (big bummer, since some apps and games insist on using a wifi connection to download larger downloads)
However the update using the download had some quirks which one should watch out,
1. Remember to back up your data and apps using the HSuite and also app backup, because if you update using the download it clears the local storage contents and the tablet is back to new state with the updated firmware. No such warning is mentioned in the Huawei guide for updating the firmware!
2. If you run the update and don’t remove the SD card, the device keeps updating on each re-boot. So make sure you remove the SD card after the update, and then re-insert the card back.
3. Once the update is done and OK comes on your screen the tablet will reboot, but the update is not done yet. It will then start the bundled app updates and then reboot again while showing the startup screen. the messages come in an ugly yellow DOS-like font 🙂
The device is definitely well built, and also very competitive priced. Currently its priced below even the older Galaxy Tab 7”, but is much higher configuration with faster 3G, higher resolution and brigher screen, better battery life, faster processor and graphics and greater flexibility in connectivity ports.
Another very important upgrade is that it is running Honeycomb and should be getting the much sought after Google Ice Cream update soon.
On the device per say, the screen and multi-touch are good and making it ideal portable device for your internet and video playback. The screen is very bright and the video is very crisp and clear. The audio is sufficiently loud for such a small device.
The connectivity options are great and giving you several options to easily transfer files into and out of the device. The connectivity options are far better than the popular Samsung Galaxy tab series which is hell bent on following Apple strategies, though the new 7” devices are now offering more options.
The cameras may not be great, but they will do their job, and the front camera makes it ready for video calling.
The battery life is decent, and based on some professional reviews it can do over 6.5 hours of non-stop video, which put it above the older Galaxy 7” tab, and far better than the Acer A100 which has less than 3+ hours in similar tests.
The device is better than generic chinese tabs since the hardware is more standard. My only hope is that Huawei who are now getting serious with their devices under their own name, will improve their software support services.
MediaPad and Google ICS update
Installed the near final ICS firmware, see my comments and benchmarks at https://rayazmuthalif.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/huawei-mediapad-ics-first-impression/
Where can I buy it in Sri Lanka and the experience when buying it
Currently only the Telcos are selling it, and the local supplier for Huawei (MiTech computers) is only getting shipment in January 2012. They have indicated they will bring down accessories for this device as well.
The local supplier also mentioned that the Telcos were getting these devices in bulk, and that pricing was much cheaper than the retail prices since they seem to be keen on pushing tablets to benefit from the eventual data usage!
Comparison with other popular 7″ tablets
Did a quick chart for the spec crazy group. The prices of the tabs are very different, and also differ from market to market. Selected them more with an Asian availability (devices from Motorola, Acer and Toshiba for example are hard to find here).
Finding accessories is something that is harder compared but that applies to most Android devices. Sadly Huawei has not yet got into the full thick of things by selling original accessories as done by other tablet vendors. The source hence is ebay, and the well known PDair case manufacturers.
I ordered some, will update the review once i get the goods. But here are some that caught my eye. I ordered a matt finish anti glare screen protector and microfiber case in addition to the USB charger. While many don’t like the matt finish specially since impacts the gloss of the screen, i find it more easier to use and like the non-glare feel.
Microfiber case : http://www.ebay.com/itm/Sikai-MediaPad-MibroFiber-case-Huawei-IDEOS-MediaPad-leather-case-Black-/190616907526?pt=PDA_Accessories&hash=item2c61a72f06
Silicon case : http://www.ebay.com/itm/SiKai-MediaPad-Top-Sensation-Protector-cover-Silicone-Huawai-Media-Pad-case-/190610235740?pt=PDA_Accessories&hash=item2c6141615c