Huawei MediaPad 3 review: A genuine iPad mini challenger, with a price to match

Huawei MediaPad 3: Performance

So behind the great screen, what’s powering the Huawei MediaPad 3? A 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 950 processor runs the show (the same chipset that controls the Huawei Mate 8), backed up by 4GB of RAM. It comes with 32GB of internal storage, and as mentioned earlier, there’s space for an additional microSD card to beef it up further. These are strong internals, and you’ll be unsurprised to learn that in day-to-day use, the MediaPad 3 is a dream to use.

Before this all begins to sound too good to be true, let’s get one thing out of the way: as a gaming performer, the MediaPad 3 is nothing to write home about. It managed just 6.4fps in the GFXBench GL 3 Manhattan onscreen test, and 11fps in the offscreen version. The test is deliberately intense, and the MediaPad 3 isn’t sold as a gaming device, but it still trails a long way behind its 8in rival, the Galaxy Tab S2 (12fps and 15fps).[gallery:8]

Fortunately, if you’re not a gamer, you’ll barely notice, and in Geekbench 3 – the test we use to assess devices’ non-graphical abilities – the MediaPad 3 is a smooth performer. It achieved a solid 1,542 in the single-core and a whopping 5,934 in the multi-core test. What does that mean? Well, if we bring back the table with the other tablets, it should become a little clearer. And yes, higher is better:

Geekbench Single-core

Geekbench Multi-core

iPad mini 4

1,694

3,058

Google Pixel C

1,347

3,976

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

1,244

4,182

Huawei MediaPad 3

1,542

5,934

With recorded performance like that, you won’t be surprised to learn that it feels extremely speedy and responsive in action, easily capable of multitasking and switching between apps. To be fair, that is the case with pretty much every new install of Android (if yours doesn’t feel quick when the device is fresh out of the box, you’re going to have real problems), but the qualities shown here should offer some good padding from the inevitable eventual slowdown.[gallery:9]

It all makes for a very nice tablet to use – small enough to throw in the bag and forget about, with premium features to make it stand out from the crowd. The fingerprint reader makes far more sense on an 8.4in tablet than it did on the 10in MediaPad 2, and the Harman Kardon speakers on both the top and bottom edges provide a surprisingly decent sound, offering a richer tone and more bass than you’d expect from such a tiny frame.

The camera is something of a weak spot. Both the front and back cameras are 8-megapixel affairs, and they offer acceptable enough photographs if you don’t have anything better, but you’d be better off with a good DSLR or most smartphones. Like most tablet cameras, the snappers here feel like an afterthought, but as someone who never really saw much of a point in putting a camera on a tablet, I can’t say it impacts my opinion too much.[gallery:11]

More important to me (and I suspect most of you) is the battery life, but sadly that’s another mild disappointment. Despite packing a 5,100mAh battery, the MediaPad M3 lasted just 8hrs 48mins in our standard tests, carried out in Airplane mode. If you do use it as a phone, as Huawei considers an option, you could see that disappointing stamina reduced further.

It’s not a terrible score. It has more staying power than the Hudl 2 (6hrs 58mins) and the Acer Iconia Tab 10 (6hrs 26mins), but compared to our favourites, which all last over ten hours, it feels a touch lacking.[gallery:13]

Huawei MediaPad 3: Verdict

Despite a weak camera (who cares?) and a middling battery, the Huawei MediaPad 3 is a really likable tablet with a great form factor and a hell of a lot going for it. It looks stylish, it’s nice to hold, has a superb screen and brilliant performance.

However, when I first wrote this review, we had no pricing information. Now we have it, it does take a little sheen off the tablet as it’s in direct competition with the iPad Mini 4 which is a tough old battle to win. We’ve only been sent pricing in Euros, but even with an optimistic conversion it’s a premium price to match the product. For the 32GB WiFi model, it’ll set you back €349. Assuming they go by the standard conversion trick of calling it £299, that’s only slightly undercutting the iPad Mini 4. It only gets pricier from there. The LTE 32GB model comes in at €399, as does the 64GB WiFi version. The 64GB LTE version hits €449.

No matter how good the Huawei MediaPad 3 is – and it really is – that’s a tough commercial pitch, outpricing the best known brand around. Despite that, you will be getting a very good tablet if you take the plunge, and as 8.4in Android devices go, this is as good as it gets. 

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