Huawei MediaPad M3 Review
Interface and Functionality
As you’ll see throughout this review, the Huawei MediaPad M3 is an overall solid tablet. However, one of its biggest weaknesses has to do with its interface. The tablet is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMUI 4.1 layered over it, and that creates for a software situation that’s a bit less than ideal.
Android Marshmallow on its own is perfectly fine, but it’s that pairing with EMUI that drags that M3 down. This is only my second time using a device with Huawei’s EMUI, and it reminded me as to just why I have such a strong distaste for this take on Android. There’s no app drawer and no ability to add one (save for downloading a third-party launcher), the timeline style of the notification menu is not at all practical, and various animations throughout the UI tended to get hung up from time to time. A lot of the pain points that I have with the MediaPad M3’s software look to have been resolved with Android Nougat and EMUI 5.0, but until the M3 gets an update, we’re left with a software package that feels incredibly dated.
Those issues aside, it’s only fair to point out some of the benefits that this current form of EMUI does have to offer. You can switch around the placement of the on-screen navigation buttons so that they’re in the spot that’s most comfortable for you, and you can even add an additional toggle for bringing down your notification panel. Huawei has also included something that they call the “Floating dock”, and this is essentially a floating navigation bar that pops out whenever you tap on the on-screen circle that you can position on any side of the screen. These little tweaks here and there do add a bit of functionality to the MediaPad M3 that you don’t see with stock Android, and once the update to EMUI 5.0 arrives, the interface and software experience with the M3 will be worlds better. However, with no confirmed date from Huawei as to when that update will actually happen, we’re sort of left waiting in the dark on that one.
Processor and Memory
In regards to the processing package, we aren’t looking at the latest and greatest silicon from Qualcomm or MediaTek. Instead, the M3 boasts Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 950 processor. The Kirin 950 is an octa-core chipset that’s clocked at 2.3GHz. The Mali-T880 MP4 makes up the GPU, and 4GB of RAM help to ensure that you can multi-task with ease.
As a whole, performance on the MediaPad M3 is very good. Apps open quickly, web browsing is smooth, and having numerous apps open at once don’t slow down the M3 at all. Basically, the M3 is exceptional when it comes to lightweight to average use. However, when it came time to really put the M3 through its paces, I was left feeling a bit confused.
When conducting all of the processor and performance benchmark tests, the M3 really did shine. Its single-core score on Geekbench 4 was 1542, and its multi-core performance got a score of 4744. To put things into perspective, the Google Pixel and its Snapdragon 821 CPU scored 1525 and 4148 for its single-core and multi-core performance respectively. With the MediaPad M3 scoring higher for both single and multi-core performance than one of the fastest phones of 2016, I was expecting tremendous things from this gadget.
Huawei’s MediaPad M3 is great at browsing the web, using apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc., and streaming 1440p video on YouTube. I also downloaded and played Mortal Combat X and Modern Combat 5, and while both games were certainly playable, the performance of them seemed a bit lacking when compared to the Asus ZenPad 3S 10 that I previously reviewed. It took quite a bit longer for these games to actually open up on the MediaPad M3, and numerous in-game animations appeared noticeably slower and more jittery than I was expecting. This was definitely disappointing considering how high the M3 scored in its benchmark tests, and my guess would be that, while the Kirin 950 certainly is a very powerful processing package on its own, it’s not properly optimized for as many apps and games as it should be. This is still a fast tablet for most use cases, but there are certain situations here and there where the MediaPad M3 feels quite a bit slower than it should. And, unfortunately, those situations do detract quite a bit from the joy of using the tablet.
As for storage, the M3 comes equipped with an internal capacity of either 32 or 64GB. That should prove to be more than plenty of space for most people, but if you find your storage needs to be even more intense than what the tablet is capable of out of the box, you can add an additional 128GB thanks to support for microSD cards.
On the connectivity side of things, the MediaPad M3 is fairly well-stocked. Wi-Fi bands 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac are all supported, as well as Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS. There are certain models of the M3 that support 3G and LTE networks, but the model that’s being sold here in the US does not support such connectivity options.
The one downside for the M3’s connectivity options is its lack of USB Type-C. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with microUSB, but with Type-C becoming more and more prevalent in our world, using a device in late 2016 with a microUSB port does feel a bit outdated.