updated 04:45 pm EST, Thu January 10, 2013
Huawei iPad and Nexus 7 contenders on display at CES
Huawei is looking to make a big push in the United States market this year, and it's prepared two new tablet entries as a part of that push. As we just said in looking at the Chinese company's handsets, we also spent a bit of time with Huawei's 10- and 7-inch tablet offerings today, the MediaPad 10 FHD and the MediaPad 7 Lite. We found a couple of solid devices, but we also found something of a mystery wrapped in a conundrum.
The MediaPad 10 FHD has a really solid build quality to it. It's probably better built than just about any non-Asus Android tablet on the market. Huawei eschewed the plastic backing that most manufacturers go for, opting instead for a Magnalium metal unibody. The device is about 8.8mm thick, weighing 580g. It's got a bit of heft to it, but it's a reassuring heft. Its 10.1-inch 1920x1200 LCD has in-plane switching, allowing for good viewing angles, though its screen does appear to be a smudge magnet. The MediaPad 10 FHD will come in two configurations, one with a 1.4GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, and the other with a 1.2GHz processor and 2GB of RAM... or at least that's what we think the breakdown will be. The note card breaking down the machine's internals wasn't terribly helpful, and the attendant's eyes glazed over when we asked for more specifics. In any case, this tablet should be well able to run its preinstalled Android 4.0 build and to handle Jelly Bean, though we got no roadmap on a possible upgrade.
The MediaPad 10 FHD also has an optional keyboard dock that we were able to try out. It really seemed a bit tacked on, and poorly so at that. A number of people testing out the keyboards had trouble getting the tablets to dock in the first place, and one or two units were actually broken from people trying and failing to connect the device to the docking mechanism. If people are breaking your demo units just trying to plug them in, that's typically not the best indicator. Also, the keyboard is cramped and unresponsive. Given the build quality of the rest of the device, we're really hoping this is just a work in progress and not something that will actually ship.
The smaller MediaPad 7 Lite is Huawei's answer to the Nexus 7 and iPad mini. It's competitive with the former but not with the latter. The smaller MediaPad bests the Nexus 7 in terms of build quality, composed as it is of much the same materials as its larger sibling. It also has both front and rear cameras, giving it the edge over the Nexus 7. Its build quality, in fact, seems almost comparable to the iPad mini, even though it is chubbier and weightier than Apple's device. It may be the white coloring, but the bezel on the smaller MediaPad seems even more noticeable, and it definitely shows off smudges. Still, depending on price, this could be a tempting option for many consumers when it comes to the US market.
And that paragraph's last sentence shows our conundrum in handling Huawei's newest products. The company has given no release dates for either the MediaPad 10 or 7. Attendants were also unsure as to how Huawei is likely to price the devices. They are coming to the American market at some time, though, we just don't know when.
One last riddle: why would you want to pick up the MediaPad 7 Lite when, for probably a couple hundred bucks more -- and maybe a bit of hassle importing it -- you could grab the Ascend Mate, which has a better screen and is almost as big?