The Android tablet ecosystem—even if we could call it that— is disappointing at best. Apart from middling affordable options from Samsung and Lenovo, there’s simply not much out there. Samsung does have some fine options in the premium segment, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, but the Apple iPad walks away with both the mindshare as well as market share in that category.
So, realme’s entry into the tablet market is a welcome addition, especially in the entry level segment that is ripe for some disruption—something that the Chinese company is not unfamiliar with in other categories.
But first, who needs a tablet? Isn't a smartphone + laptop combination enough?
All said, a tablet is a handy device to have… watch a bit of Netflix, check your Twitter timeline and emails, read Mint Lounge stories… While smartphones are limited by their screen estate, a laptop (especially a budget one) isn’t the most portable and convenient device when one is not ‘working’. The timing’s right too since the pandemic has led to a lot more video calls, binge-watching, and virtual learning for a lot of people, and tablets are useful for all these activities.
The realme Pad is the maiden Android tablet from realme—as well as the broader BBK stable, which includes the brands Vivo, OPPO, and OnePlus. It’s an affordable tablet that steers clear of any gimmicks and focuses on providing a compelling multimedia and browsing experience for the masses. Does it deliver all of that? Here’s our comprehensive review of the realme Pad, but first, here’s what it packs under the hood.
Display: 10.4" WUXGA+ (2000x1200) LCD | 82.5% screen-to-body ratio | 360 nits brightness
Processor: MediaTek Helio G80 | 12nm octa-core | Mali-G52 GPU
Storage: 32GB/64GB | Expandable up to 1TB with microSD card
Camera: 8MP HD front camera | 105° wide-angle | 8MP HD rear camera
Battery: 7,100mAh | 18W quick charging | Reverse charging support
Operating System: realme UI for Pad | Based on Android 11
Ports: USB-C | Headphone Jack
Dimensions: 246.1 x 155.9 x 6.9mm | 440g
The good things
Despite being a budget tablet (starting at ₹13,999 for the 3GB + 32GB Wi-Fi-only model), realme hasn’t compromised on the design and build quality. The aluminium unibody chassis with chic chamfers looks pretty good and there’s a certain premium feel to it. I did feel a little heft (at 440 grams) after holding it for a reasonably long time but the weight distribution and the ergonomics are a delight.
On the design front, the realme Pad is really a winner. On my own, I would’ve picked the grey colour variant on impulse, but realme sent across the gold one as a review device. I wasn’t too thrilled about it but surprisingly, the muted gold colourway with a brushed finish too looks great and is neither extravagant nor outlandish.
On the front, the thick bezels around the 10.4-inch display look dated. But in everyday usage, I actually don’t mind them. It is comfortable to hold the tablet from the bezels so that my fat hands don’t obfuscate the display from the edges while reading or watching a video. realme Pad doesn’t have a fancy AMOLED panel or a high refresh rate—which is understandable at this price point—but there’s a good resolution LCD with good enough crispness and sharpness for a nice multimedia experience.
My only gripe with the display is its limited brightness levels. It’s quite sufficient indoors, but the reflective screen makes outdoor visibility a pain. Oh, and it catches fingerprints all the time. A lot of them.
While I’ll give big props to realme for its design efforts, it’s a shame that the tablet—unlike realme smartphones—does not come bundled with a case and since these are early days for realme tablets, there’s no third-party ecosystem for cases. I had to keep the tablet in a generic sleeve for the review period, so as not to dent the review unit.
The tablet sports four symmetrical speakers that sit behind large grilles adding to its character. The speakers support Dolby Atmos that are loud enough to fill a small room with crisp and clear sound. This adds to its appeal as a multimedia consumption device. And, of course, there’s the headphone jack… so bring along your wired headphones.
The not-so-good things
One of the things I’ve been conflicted about is the realme UI for Pad, the UI layer on top of Android 11 that powers the realme Pad. It’s mostly stock Android with a smattering of custom icons – there’s no differentiated theming, no excessive customizations, and no special Realme experiences.
It’s a good thing, yes, since it’s clutter-free and there’s no bloatware. However, the vanilla interface is limited and there’s no additional software experiences to boast of, which is surprising since realme has a very evolved realme UI that powers its smartphone portfolio.
One of the reasons for this choice might be the modest hardware internals it packs.
The MediaTek Helio G80 is an entry-level chipset and combined with just 4GB of RAM (the variant I tested), the performance is just passable. Games like Asphalt 9 and Battlegrounds Mobile India often stuttered even with graphics turned all the way down. But I think that is expected going in. It’s not a gaming tablet and thankfully, doesn’t pretend to be one. You’d be fine with casual games, but that’s that.
Otherwise, while browsing the web or streaming a video, occasional lag apart, the experience is not arduous. App crashes were common though, but I think that can be fixed with a software update. It’s odd that the software is a bit buggy despite being nearly stock Android. Since you can’t stretch the processor anyway, the tablet doesn’t get hot even at its peak performance.
While the realme Pad has an excellent battery life—it easily lasted me over three days (great standby time!) with 3-5 hours of daily usage—the battery capacity of 7100mAh is not the largest in a 10-inch tablet. Yet it takes just a tad bit under three hours to charge the tablet from 0 to 100%. I mean it’s fine if you have a settled charging schedule, but it’s not the fastest that we’ve seen these days in smartphones and tablets. If you are in a pinch, a 30-minute charge will juice up the tablet to just about 25%.
There’s also support for reverse charging. Just make sure you keep a USB-C to USB-C cable handy, and you can charge your phone or headphones when you’re out and about.
realme Pad features Google Kids Space, an Android tablet experience that helps kids discover apps and games as well as curated books and videos targeted to their age and interests. Combined with Google’s Family Link and its parental controls, as a father of a four-year-old, I quite like Kids Space and its implementation as a vibrant and age-appropriate gateway to the internet. I highly recommend parents to explore it before handing out a tablet to their kids. It’s a wild, wild west out there.
I’ll quickly summarize the cameras because it is dorky to use tablets for clicking pictures when there’s a smartphone in your pocket (don’t do it, please). The 8MP rear camera shoots pretty good shots in daylight though, but low-light shots are, well, nothing to write home about. The front camera is just about okay for selfies, but works well for video calls, especially since it boasts of a wide angle. And by the way, the two microphones on the realme Pad make for an enjoyable video-calling experience.
The bottom line
The realme Pad isn’t a powerhouse but does just fine what it sets out for – a casual Android tablet with a decent display, loud and balanced speakers, and an excellent battery life. And hey, it looks good too!
When it comes to smartphones, realme tries to punch above its weight each time putting out devices that offer an incredible value for money. Not here though. That said, the realme Pad might be an outlier in its portfolio but serves the need of the market. If one is mindful of the expectations, the affordable tablet wouldn’t disappoint.
The realme Pad might not be a disruptor in terms of price or offering but could well add some much-needed flavour to the Android tablet market in India. Hopefully, Xiaomi is listening as well. HMD Global too debuted its similarly priced Android tablet – Nokia T20 – in India a few weeks ago. It’s awkward to credit COVID-19 for anything positive, but the pandemic-fueled demand for personal devices might just stimulate the Android tablet ecosystem after an extended limbo of sorts.
The realme Pad starts at ₹13,999 for the 3GB + 32GB Wi-Fi-only model and goes up to ₹17,999 for the variant that packs in 4GB RAM and comes with LTE support. Unless, the usage is quite basic, I’d recommend skipping the entry-level variant and go for the one with 4GB of RAM. realme did share that a 6GB + 128GB model should follow, although it is not yet clear if that will make it only to Europe or launch in India as well. No ETA as well.
On paper, the budget hardware and a just good enough software experience would make realme Pad a tough sell, but because of dearth of options in the market, for anyone who’s looking for a basic Android tablet as a companion to lounge around at home or on vacation, the realme Pad fits the bill. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.