Android tablets have seen a renaissance of sorts in the past two years. But while Samsung has pushed out credible options for Android loyalists in the flagship segment, the app optimisation and ecosystem advantages of the iPad OS have ensured iPads—entry-level to Pro—dominate the conversation. The budget tablet segment, though, has been bereft even of credible options. The Pad 5 hopes to plug that gap…and for the most part, Xiaomi delivers.
Looking a bit like a love child of the iPad Air and a Xiaomi smartphone, the Pad 5 shares the slim body and boxy rounded edges with most modern iPads, with a 13MP rear camera sitting on a bump reminiscent of last year’s Mi 11x series of Xiaomi smartphones—it also offers an 8MP selfie camera. Those slim 6.9mm dimensions house a 10.95-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and the metal frame is balanced by a quality plastic rear that keeps the tablet at a shade over 500g (though it smudges easily). The rear has pogo pins to connect to the keyboard accessory, and the right-side edge has a magnetic charging strip for the Bluetooth stylus—both optional accessories are sold separately. It is, however, missing a headphone jack and a fingerprint scanner.
The sleek design travels and handles well. The only nitpick is the top-centre (almost smartphone-ish) position of the front camera—not ideal for video-calling if the tablet is in the landscape orientation. Both cameras are serviceable, though, for video calls or scanning documents.
Clearly, the big draw of the Pad 5 is the 120Hz refresh-rate LCD screen, a feature so far seen only on tablets priced twice as much. You can pick 120Hz for increased fluidity and smoother animation for apps and gameplay…or dial it down to 60Hz to save some battery. The 1600x2560-pixel resolution panel is bright, vibrant and crisp, and HDR10/Dolby Vision support makes it great not only for productivity but for streaming all manner of content.
There’s a capable quad-speaker setup, two on each side, with the tablet adjusting stereo sound automatically when you switch from the horizontal or vertical orientation.
What has ailed budget tablets thus far is the poorly translated software experience, with little to no attention paid to how user interfaces scale for larger screens. Xiaomi, however, has paid attention on this front, customising the MIUI 13 based on Android 11 to the Pad 5 form factor. Aside from system apps redesigned for the increased screen real estate, there’s a floating dock with your favourite and recently used apps at the bottom that you can summon in any window, to switch between apps or bring apps up in mini floating windows or in split screen mode (in supported apps). Very handy if you quickly want the calculator or the notes app. It’s also worth mentioning that the MIUI for Pad 5 has no bloatware, and if you look past the inherent app ecosystem advantages the iPad OS enjoys, the Pad 5 is a tablet experience done right. It will hopefully only get better with Google’s forthcoming exclusive-for-larger-screens Android 12L.
Keeping things snappy is the high-end Snapdragon 860 chip, which flies in everyday use, with 6GB memory and 128/256GB of fast storage. Switching between apps, high-end mobile gaming, all these feel buttery smooth, though one does wonder how well 6GB memory will hold against some of Android’s memory-hungry apps in the long term. The odd omission is GPS, and there’s only a Wi-Fi model on offer (no LTE variant), so you will need to use a mobile hotspot when you are out.
You do get good battery life, though—the 8,720mAh battery lasts for days on light usage and should hold up for a full day’s worth of work and play. There’s support for 33W fast charging but Xiaomi bundles only a 22.5W charger, which tops up the tablet in a little over two hours.
Xiaomi is positioning the Pad 5 as a work-and-play companion, which explains the optional accessories on offer. The Smart Pen ( ₹5,999) stylus is good for scribbling notes, annotating documents or doodling/drawing, and there is two-button support invoking app shortcuts or changing pens while drawing, but it’s functional and doesn’t match the pricier (and lower latency) offerings from Samsung or Apple. Far more useful is the keyboard cover, with its ample key travel and dedicated key for invoking Android shortcuts, but Xiaomi is yet to reveal the pricing of the cover. So opinions on whether it’s worth it will have to wait.
True to Xiaomi, though, what’s key is that this refined tablet experience, one that sincerely checks most boxes, is priced aggressively at ₹26,999 and ₹28,999 for the 128GB and 256GB storage variants, respectively. At this price, you get a well-built tablet with an excellent display and speakers, enough power and juice under the hood, and a set of useful accessories that eke more out of the device, assuming Xiaomi prices the keyboard cover right. Want a feature-rich Android tablet without breaking the bank? You can’t go wrong with the Xiaomi Pad 5.
Price: Starts from ₹26,999
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 860
Cameras: Rear: 13MP, front: 8MP
RAM and storage: 6GB+128GB, 6GB+256GB
Operating System: MIUI for Pad
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.