Artist Review: Huawei Mediapad M5 Lite with M-Pen Lite

I've been getting many requests to review the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite so here it is.

As usual, my review is from the perspective of an artist. So let's see if this Android tablet is any good for drawing.

This secondhand unit that I bought comes with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. Retail price is around US $300 at the time of this review. There's a higher spec model with 64GB storage and 4GB of RAM at a, well, higher price.


The and no different from the MediaPad M5 Pro that I've reviewed many months ago.

This tablet comes with a 10.1-inch screen. The 1920 by 1200 resolution for this screen size is adequate and makes everything look sharp enough. Colours look great out of the box.

Depending on where you buy it, it may or may not come bundled with the M-Pen Lite and/or the official Huawei casing.


The screen is incredibly reflective though. There's no gap between the glass and the LCD beneath so there's no parallax. And when you're drawing, the strokes would appear directly beneath the pen tip.


All corners and edges are rounded off. The glass curves into the smooth aluminium metal. The weight is 475g which is reasonable for a tablet this size.


The ports included at the USB-C for charging and data transfer and 3.5mm audio jack. There's a SIM card and MicroSD card slot. It's great that Huawei has included LTE connectivity. Apple charges at least US $100 more for their LTE iPads.

Should you need to expand storage, you can use a MicroSD card. At the time of this review, a 400GB Sandisk MicroSD card is just under US $70. I don't think there's a need to choose the 64GB MediaPad unless you want the 4GB RAM. The 3GB RAM is not a bottleneck.

Oh, the audio quality of the four-way speakers is excellent, significantly better than the two way speakers found in many tablets.



The Huawei MediaPad is designed as a media consumption device that's meant to be used horizontally. When you're looking at the tablet horizontally, the power and volume buttons are at the right side. The fingerprint sensor is at the bottom, and 3.5mm audio jack is at the bottom left.

I find the button placement incredibly awkward to use when the tablet is in vertical format. When the tablet is upright, the power and volume buttons are at the top, and fingerprint on the right. OR the power and volume buttons can be at the bottom -- gasps! -- and fingerprint sensor on the left.

I don't think I'll ever get used to the button placement. In order not to get confused, it's best to use this tablet horizontally.


The MediaPad M5 Lite only supports the M-Pen Lite. This pen cannot be used with the M5 Pro tablet. And the M-Pen Pro cannot be used with the M5 Lite tablet. In short, the styluses are made specifically for the model they are to be used with, and are not interchangeable.

The M-Pen Lite has the same solid build quality as the tablet. The body has a smooth matte surface and it has a hefty weight (probably made of metal).


The M-Pen Lite (left) has a tapered tip like a wooden pencil. The M-Pen Pro (right) has an extended pointed tip. The tapered tip can be replaced but I'm not sure where you can buy replacement tips.

The pen is an active stylus that supports 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. It's powered by an AAAA battery which, if it's like the Surface Pen, should have a battery life of around 6 months to a year.

Since it's an active stylus, with certain apps, you may see the cursor appear when the pen tip hovers close to the screen, but you have to hover really close to the screen.

Performance

The processor used in this tablet is the Kirin 659 which is Octa-core (4 x 2.36 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4 x 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53). The MediaPad M5 Pro used Kirin 960 (4 x 2.36GHz Cortex-A73, 4 x 1.84GHz Cortex-A53).

According to benchmarks, the processor on the M5 Lite is two times slower than the one on M5 Pro. The slower processor definitely has noticeable impact on the performance and user experience.

The M5 Lite does not feel sluggish but it definitely is not ultra responsive. There's often that split micro-second delay to actions happening. When the tablet is being rotated, there's a noticeable pause before the interface changes orientation. When tapping certain buttons, sometimes there's no response and when I proceed to tap again, the action happens before the second tap.

The lag is not nice obviously but it's not the irritating type of lag. Ultimately, for the price of the tablet and the type of screen that comes with this tablet, many of the flaws can be forgiven. The thing is, when you're watching videos, you aren't going to be tapping around, or navigating much so the lag isn't a big issue.

Battery life is excellent. You can definitely get a minimum of 8 hours usage with its 7500 mAh battery.

Drawing performance

Drawing performance varies significantly depending on the app used.


ArtFlow works best. Pressure sensitivity and palm rejection works well. Lines are smooth without any jaggies. It's responsive too.


ArtRage has noticeable input lag. The line would trail the pen tip by a distance before it catches up. And it seems to have some issues with the pen registering strokes. Sometimes I would draw and nothing comes out.


Medibang Paint Pro has input lag as well. It also has navigation lag. Pinch, zoom and rotate seem to have some stutter, as if the frame rate is low.


Infinite Painter has some input lag as well but otherwise works fine for drawing.


Adobe Sketch works fine and is quite responsive.


With Sketchbook it's difficult to get truly smooth lines. There are wobbles and jaggies with all the strokes.

Note that all tablets with pens will have input lag. It's just that with the MediaPad M5 Lite, the gap between the line and the pen tip is larger than other tablets I've seen. But that input lag does not seem to affect all apps. ArtFlow and Adobe Sketch are quite responsive and have similar input lag I've seen in other tablets, e.g. iPads.

Unless otherwise mentioned, navigation such as zoom, pinch and zoom mostly work smoothly with except in Medibang Paint Pro for some reason.

Pressure sensitivity works well with all the apps. Palm rejection is good but not flawless so do expect some stray strokes when you draw while resting your palm on the screen. It would be good to check your drawing once in a while for stray strokes because you don't want to have a completed drawing only to find stray strokes which are difficult to remove later on.

The hard plastic pen tip is incredibly slippery on the glass surface and that really affects control. It's like sketching on ice. Once you glide, it's not easy to come to an instant stop. This will take some time to get used to. Those who draw fast may find this to affect them more.

Conclusion

This tablet is designed to be a media consumption device. Huawei already gave you a few hints at that with the button placements, 4 ways speakers and the name of the product itself. As a media consumption device, I can rate this 5 out of 5 stars at the price it's selling. If you're just going to be watching videos, checking email, surfing the internet, I don't have much hesitation recommending this over the 9.7-inch iPad.

Yes, there's going to be slight lag occasionally. To make and sell a tablet at this price point, there is bound to be compromises. Here we have excellent build quality, beautiful screen, SIM and MicroSD card slot, wonderful speakers but an average processor. When you know there are going to be compromises, suddenly the lag is not as frustrating because that's something you expected. The only concern is whether this tablet would get slower in the future. If you really want to future-proof the tablet, it's best to get the MediaPad M5 Pro instead.

As a tablet for drawing, performance varies significantly with the apps you use. Of all the apps I've tested, only ArtFlow and Adobe Sketch have the least input lag and are most responsive. My favourite app Medibang Paint Pro even has navigation lag. But it's not like it's slow to zoom, pan or rotate, it's just that the navigation animation appears choppy, like it's updating with slow frame rates. Drawing apps on the iPad definitely have more consistent performance, but the iPad is also more expensive and you also have to consider spending another US $99 for the Apple Pencil.

Ultimately, if you're thinking of getting tablet for drawing, you have to know what you're getting into. If it's just for occasionally sketching or note taking, this may still be a good option mainly because of the low entry price. If you're a beginner, it can help you discover whether or not you like to draw digital without having to invest too much money. But if you already know you're someone who draws often, then this tablet may not be as suitable, unless the main apps you use are Adobe Sketch and ArtFlow. So as a tablet for drawing, I would probably rate this a 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5.

Pros
+ Beautiful design and premium feel
+ Beautiful screen with good colour reproduction
+ Solid build quality
+ 1920 x 1200 resolution is sharp for a 10.1-inch screen
+ Android 8
+ Pen has pressure sensitivity
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ M-Pen Lite is relatively accurate
+ SIM and MicroSD card slot available
+ Good battery life
+ Lots of decent drawing apps on Android
+ 4-way speakers have excellent audio quality
+ Good price for the screen and features included

Cons
- There's occasional lag
- Slippery pen tip on the glass surface
- No replacement tips included, and difficult to find where to buy online
- Weird position of the logo, power and volume buttons

Availability

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1 Comment

Oh man, i just got this

Oh man, i just got this tablet a week ago, first thing i did was disable the apps i don't use, especially facebook and messanger, leaving me with a an average of 2.15 gigs of ram out of the 3. I don't have any lag problems with sketchbook, and most programs i use like pixly for pixel art barely takes about power.

Huawei really cut the right corners off this tablet and at 275 plus tax it was a steal i have a 1100 microsoft surface 6 and i using this tablet way more than that with the splitscreen option with references on 1 side, my drawing on the other and a small youtube window thanks to oreo 8.0.
The 1920x1200 screen is more than enough to have multiple windows.

Battery is bigger than the expensive samsung tab s4 and the tablet just about 2 days on regular use. I love this tablet!

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