BARCELONA: Huawei has been fighting an ongoing war to conquer the Western smartphone and tablet markets for several years now. In the smartphone arena the Chinese firm has had some success, with analyst house IDC listing it as the third-biggest handset maker in 2013.
However, its MediaPad tablets have so far failed to match this success, and so the MediaPad X1 is the latest attempt from Huawei to rectify this situation.
Design and build
Visually, the MediaPad X1 is a lot nicer than previous Huawei tablets. It features a very slim 7.2mm aluminium chassis that houses a 7in display. The use of metal makes the X1 feel slightly more high end than other similarly sized tablets, such as Google's Nexus 7.
Thanks to its smaller dimensions, the MediaPad X1 is also more comfortable to use while held in one hand than the slightly thicker 7.5mm iPad Mini. This was also helped by the MediaPad X1's 239g weight.
We were also impressed with the MediaPad X1's build quality. Our time with the device left us suitably convinced that the tablet could survive the odd accidental bump, scrape and drop. Our only concern was that the metallic-finish chassis of our demo unit didn't seem particularly scratch resistant – though we didn't get a chance to fully check its durability.
Huawei made a big deal about the MediaPad X1's 7in 1200x1920, low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) LCD display, and we can understand why. Boasting a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch (ppi), the MediaPad X1's screen proved very crisp, with icons and text appearing sharp and clear.
Colours were vibrant and viewing angles were great. While the MediaPad X1's display was good, the only small qualm was that it wasn't quite as bright as some other tablets, such as the iPad Mini or Nexus 7.
Operating system and software
The MediaPad X1 runs the somewhat old Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system overlaid with Huawei's own Emotion UI 2.0 skin.
The use of the Emotion UI means the MediaPad X1's user interface is very different to most other Android tablets. In the past we've not been big fans of the Emotion UI and, sadly, this remained true during our hands-on time with the MediaPad X1.
The Emotion UI made using the MediaPad fairly heavy going, because Huawei has made a number of key changes. The biggest of these is the removal of the apps menu. Most Android phones feature an app menu button that takes the user directly to a window showing all installed applications, making it quick and easy to know what is on the device. Emotion changes this and – in a bid to look more like Apple iOS – places all installed applications in the main UI.
Thanks to the sea of custom applications Huawei has loaded onto the MediaPad X1, it makes the UI look very cluttered and more difficult to navigate.
The use of the Emotion UI also left us feeling slightly concerned about the MediaPad X1's potential to receive upgrades to newer Android versions. Traditionally devices using skinned versions of Android have taken longer to receive software updates. This is because the skin's custom code needs to be tweaked to work with new Android versions, and given how radically Emotion UI changes Android, we expect that this will be the case with the MediaPad X1.
The MediaPad X1 runs using a Hisilicon Kirin 910 1.6GHz quad-core processor that's backed up by 2GB of RAM. It also features advanced Cat 4 LTE connectivity. We didn't get a chance to see how the MediaPad X1 performed on a 4G network, but found it fairly nippy when connected to WiFi in the showroom.
The tablet proved capable of opening applications and webpages in seconds, and was fairly responsive in general. We didn't get a chance to install any benchmarking tools on the demo device or see how it handled more demanding tasks such as 3D gaming, but will be sure to do so in our full review.
Huawei has endowed the MediaPad X1 with a 13MP rear camera that boasts Sony's BSI Exmor imaging technology, plus a 5MP front camera. However, we've never been fans of taking photos on a tablet, because most have sub-par imaging sensors and thanks to their increased size are fairly unpleasant to take pictures on.
This generally remained true for the MediaPad X1, too. But, taking a few quick snaps on the showroom floor we had to concede we were impressed with how well images came out, at least when judging them by tablet standards. The shots we took looked fairly sharp and featured reasonable colour and contrast levels.
Storage and battery
The MediaPad X1 has 16GB storage, which can be upgraded to 32GB via its micro SD card slot.
One key selling point we didn't get to test was the MediaPad X1's battery life. Huawei claims the MediaPad X1's 5,000mAh battery will offer users 15 hours of video playback from a single charge. If true, this will be a massive selling point for the tablet, with most competitors struggling to make it to the nine-hour video playback milestone.
Huawei has not yet announced when the MediaPad X1 will be released, but has confirmed that it will cost €399 (£329). This means it will be more expensive than its main Android competition, the Google Nexus 7, which costs from £199.
But we were impressed with the device. The MediaPad X1 appears to offer premium build quality and above-average performance – a fact that can only be helped by its advanced 4G LTE connectivity.
The only possible thing we can see holding the MediaPad X1 back is the cluttered Emotion UI and its superfluous software additions.
Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Huawei MediaPad X1.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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