The Huawei Mediapad Lite 7 is a 7-inch tablet marketed as a portable device featuring HD video playback and the ability to make phone calls, complete with SIM support. It ships with near stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, which it was running at the time of review, and there is no news yet on whether or not this tablet will be due for an upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.1 or 4.2.
The tablet supports the Google Play store, giving users access to Android's more than 600,000 apps. It weighs a little over 0.81lbs and has a single-core ARM Cortex A8 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of flash memory. It has an IPS display with a 1024 x 600 resolution, which equates to about 170 pixels per inch. By comparison, the Google Nexus 7 has around 215 PPI and the iPad mini has 163 PPI, and both units have a more powerful processor.
Build and Design
The tablet has a black frame around the 7-inch screen with a white plastic bezel. The white plastic extends over the top and bottom of the tablet a bit, onto the back, and it transitions to aluminum for the rest of the back casing. Overall, the tablet felt somewhat heavy and awkward, especially when compared to the Nexus 7 tablet. The weight of the tablet made it feel like it was slowly sliding or tipping out of my hands. Maybe individuals with bigger hands will find it easier to grip, but I couldn't really figure out a comfortable way to hold it.
There is a .3 megapixel front-facing camera on the top right of the display, which is suited for Skype and not much else. For comparison, the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini each has a 1.2MP front-facing camera. The rear-facing camera is also on the top right of the back of the tablet. This is an awkward placement for both the front and back camera. My hand constantly blocked the lens while holding the tablet in landscape. The rear-facing camera is 3.2 megapixels and offers a passable image quality; it is not great, but it would work in a pinch. The iPad Mini features a 5MP rear-facing camera, but the Nexus 7 is devoid of a rear-facing camera altogether. It is also easy to hold the tablet in a way that a hand will cover the camera, as the device is largely devoid of distinguishing features.
On the right edge of the tablet is a power button, a volume up and down button, a micro SD card slot that can hold up to 32GB of storage, and a SIM card slot. Contrary to most tablets sold in America, pushing the volume bar up, turns the volume down, and vice versa. It's awkward, especially when taking screenshots, which is done by holding the volume down button and the power button. The bottom edge has a headphone jack and a microUSB port for the charger. The speaker is placed on the back, which causes issues with sound quality. If the tablet is resting on something like a table or a lap, the sound will be obstructed.
On full brightness, the video quality was great and leaned towards a bluish, cold tint, rather than a warmer one. Most movie and TV content is letterboxed, with black borders on each side and a thicker border on the bottom to leave room for the menu bar. The menu bar disappears when you are not using it, but the video does not expand to fill that area when it does. Even in the ideal setting, the sound quality is still low, especially when compared to the iPad 2 or the Nexus 7. I watched an episode of 30 Rock using headphones and noticed that there was quiet but constant feedback that only disappeared when I turned the volume up on the tablet. The volume only masked the sound rather but didn't make it disappear. Occasionally the video playback became choppy from time to time and the sound would get out of sync with the video, though that may have been due to connectivity issues.
The MediaPad 7 Lite delivered decent performance. When it came time for web browsing, it got the job done, albeit a bit slowly. Not painfully slow, by any means, but it was noticeable at times. When viewing images on the MediaPad 7 Lite, it took a few seconds for the image to clear. The tablet completed multi-touch gestures with ease; I was able to pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom, and quickly swipe side to side.
As far as the benchmarks, it fell behind its competitors on both the Quadrant and Sunpsider benchmark tests.
Quadrant measures CPU, 3D, and memory performance. Higher numbers are better.
The keyboard was another story, however. It was unresponsive and so slow that I was often two or three letters ahead of the tablet, and I found myself constantly editing words for missing letters. The keyboard magnifies each key you hit, which I found a little distracting and it seemed to create an extra delay in responsiveness. Another thing to note, when I made edits to text, I would click where I wanted the cursor to go and sometimes it would bounce back to the end of the text.
The MediaPad 7 Lite handled simple games well, however, like Angry Birds, which comes pre-installed on the Android tablet. The graphics looked great and gameplay was smooth and responsive. The MediaPad 7 Lite came with other apps already installed like Kingston Office, which is already free in the Google Play app store. It offers a word processor app, slideshow presentation app, spreadsheet app, and a memo creator. These are versatile, easy to use, and should work in a pinch, though MediaPad keyboard issues will make some bouts of frustration.
I exhausted the battery by leaving the tablet on full brightness while streaming Captain America on Netflix. The battery life lasted just over 3 hours during this test. It would give the user enough time to watch a movie, and maybe browse the web a bit, but not much else. Huawei does not advertise a specific battery life, but it does note on its website that it depends on usage, especially with cellular data. Also, it's important to note that this tablet did not come with a wall charger. There was a USB to microUSB cord in the box, which I plugged into my laptop to charge. If the device was on, I was not able to get a charge, it would maintain but it wouldn't increase. The user needs to be sure the device is off when charging, otherwise you will not see the charge increase, but it does maintain a charge.
The Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite is only suited for basic web browsing and using light apps. For the price of €249, or $318 USD, at the time of review, there are tablets available such as the Nexus 7, which is noticeably more responsive when compared side-by-side and retails for $199 for the 16GB model. The Nexus 7 outperforms the MediaPad 7 Lite on many levels; specs, design, and performance.
For international travelers, the SIM card capabilities are very appealing. It's easy to quickly turn this tablet into a full-fledged phone, which some might find to be a selling point with this device. It should be noted, it does not have an earpiece, so users will need to rely on headphones for private calls. Also, I cannot vouch for the functionality of its 3G capabilities since I was unable to test them.
Bottom line, the Huawei MediaPad 7 Lite is not a horrible tablet, but it's far from the best in its class, which makes it hard to recommend to those in the market for an inexpensive 7-inch tablet. It may be nice looking, but it's heavy, and the keyboard functionality drove me crazy. The most appealing aspect is the fact that it has Google Play, an undisturbed Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 OS, and can be used a phone. The Huawei is currently shipping to China, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Africa, Russia, and Germany for €249. There is no current news on the Mediapad 7 Lite's availability in America at the time of review.