A Rotten Apple Spoils the Barrel
Huawei hasn't been active in the tablet scene for much of this year. Besides giving us a glimpse of its MediaPad 10 FHD at Mobile World Congress 2012, the Chinese company virtually went under the radar while powerhouse Samsung released several tablet devices one after the other.
Its existing 7-inch tablet, MediaPad is one of the finest products the company has produced so far, although we found that there is still much room for improvement in terms of software optimization and user experience. Months later, Huawei released a more affordable version, dubbed the MediaPad 7 Lite (but fortunately supports 3G for data consumption on the move). Did Huawei manage to address some of our concerns and make improvements to the MediaPad 7 Lite? Let's find out in this review.
The MediaPad 7 Lite shares some design traits as the MediaPad such as the sturdy aluminum chassis and rounded corners. While the metallic chassis gives a cool and solid feel to the device, it is a pity that the MediaPad 7 Lite feels and looks like a brick when compared to the other 7-inch tablets. At 370g, the MediaPad 7 Lite is about 58g heavier than the Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi + 4G). Here's a quick weight check of the other 7-inch class tablets from the Android camp:
- Google Nexus 7 - 340g
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) - 344g
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 - 340g
- Toshiba Regza Tablet AT270 - 350g
While the weight disparity may seem insignificant on paper, the difference is very obvious when you personally experience the various devices. As you can tell, we've handled lighter and more portable tablets, and as such, we find it hard to overlook this aspect.
Melted Ice Cream Sandwich
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is actually quite a decent operating system and most Android tablets we've reviewed last year are preloaded with it. There wasn't much that you can find fault with this mobile OS. However on the MediaPad 7 Lite, the story is a different one altogether.
Interface transitions, app loading and almost everything else done on the tablet were just not as fluid as we've expected. The lag was quite noticeable, especially after having handled the buttery smooth Google Nexus 7, which is priced just a tad more than the Huawei slate. Its overall performance is simply unacceptable by today's standards, and even more frustrating when you take into account that it is not running any customized interfaces. It's a classic example of how manufacturers fail to optimize the hardware to work in tandem with the software.
Multimedia and Battery Performance
Its 7-inch IPS LCD display belongs to the era of tablets in 2011 where it was the norm for 7-inch tablets such as the BlackBerry PlayBook and HTC Flyer to sport a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. Having said that, the multimedia viewing experience is adequate if you do not have high expectations. Otherwise, you are better off with the other Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 7.
If you are planning to use the MediaPad 7 Lite a secondary imaging device, you can forget about that idea since tablets generally do not perform well in this aspect. When tested, we found the 3.2-megapixel rear camera takes pictures of mediocre quality, further reinforcing the norm. A front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera is available and should suffice users who engage in video calls frequently.
Battery life is disastrous as the tablet could only last 3 hours and 22 minutes in our standard battery test. In comparison, the its older MediaPad sibling had a battery uptime of 4 hours and 49 minutes. This is quite disappointing considering that both tablets have the same battery capacity (4100mAh). The current leader in this class of products is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (updated to Android 4.0), which has a whopping battery mileage of close to 12 hours! So the MediaPad 7 Lite isn't a good video playback companion, but when further subjected to the actual usage conditions such as occasional web surfing, apps usage and the likes, we found the tablet could barely last through a day.
The Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite is unfortunately the worst tablet we've reviewed so far. It disappoints in almost all aspects, from user navigation to battery life. Its S$328 price tag may seem attractive, but we honestly feel that your hard earned money ought to be spent on something better. Currently, the market is brimming with better alternatives such as the S$499 Google Nexus 7 32GB (Wi-Fi + 3G), S$498 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) (Wi-Fi +3G) 16GB model. Simply put, there is no reason for the Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite to even be available in the local market. In other developing countries where the price disparity could be greater with a different level of consumer buying power, the MediaPad 7 Lite might have a chance, but we still feel the company could have done a better job.