“Go buy an entry-level iPad” used to be my go-to advice to anyone venturing out to buy a tablet during the pandemic, but in the recent past, there’s been a resurgence of genuinely good Android tablets in the sub-40,000 category, most notably last year’s Xiaomi Pad 5 and the recent OnePlus Pad.
The all-new Xiaomi Pad 6 carries forward the excellent fundamentals of last year’s model and upgrades them across the board in the most meaningful fashion, while undercutting the OnePlus offering on price.
From a distance, it may be hard to tell the Xiaomi Pad 6 apart from the Pad 5 due to relatively similar dimensions, yet practically every single design element sees an upgrade.
Gone is the smudge-magnet plastic rear panel, replaced by a metal rear that contributes to a greater sense of sturdiness, while shaving off 21 grams (490g) in the process. The rear camera module now draws inspiration from the Xiaomi 13 Pro smartphone, yet what looks like a multi-camera setup is really only a single 13-megapixel shooter. Other tweaks – a front-facing camera that’s centered on the right bezel for framing subjects better while in landscape orientation, pogo pins that have moved to the rear for attaching to the optional keyboard case, and a magnetic charging strip on the right edge for charging the second-generation stylus.
The flat metallic edges (6.51mm thick) and the 11-inch screen lend the Pad 6 a compact carry-everywhere use-anywhere design that fits in the smallest of backpacks and on the most cramped of economy tray tables.
As with the Pad 5, the Pad 6 is still missing a headphone jack and a fingerprint scanner, but the USB port sees an upgrade to a Type C Gen 3.2 port, which supports high-speed data transfer and the ability to connect to an external display for 4K resolution/60 frames per second output. There’s no SIM card option though, so you’ll have to use a hotspot when you’re out and about.
As much as a device like the Pad 6 lends itself to being used in landscape mode, it was odd that the entire setup process happened in portrait orientation. Once it was up and running, the 11-inch screen, 2.8K-resolution IPS LCD screen does not disappoint, either in terms of colors, details, or brightness levels. Granted, this is no AMOLED panel, and neither should one expect it to be in this price segment, but watching Dolby Vision HDR streaming content is a treat on the Pad 6 display.
Aiding the multimedia experience is the four-speaker setup with Dolby Atmos support, which collectively get loud and room-filling without compromising on details and richness. What’s even more impressive is that the Pad 6 screen now supports an improved 144Hz maximum refresh rate, with seven-stage adaptive refresh rate auto-switching that switches between 30/48/50/60/90/120 and 144 Hz based on the content on your screen. Interacting with the user interface, opening apps, switching between apps is super fluid and snappy.
Depending on the variant you pick up, you’ll get 6GB/8GB of LPDDR5 memory paired with 128GB/256GB of fast UFS 3.1 storage for ₹26,999/ ₹28,999 – both variants have the Snapdragon 870 chipset running the show, which make it a formidable device for gaming and everyday productivity apps alike. Games like Call of Duty: Mobile ran at the highest settings for extended 40-minute durations without any performance throttling or rising temperatures. Battery life on the 8840mAh battery is respectable – you can expect around two days of usage on a heavy workload of streaming media, some work applications, and some games – and the included 33W fast charger topped up the battery in a little over two hours.
But it’s never been about the hardware, has it? Android on tablets is often let down somewhat by software and apps not adapting better to the large screen, which is where MIUI 14 on top of Android 13 takes a few meaningful strides towards optimizing the experience for tablets.
You can run two apps side by side and float another app on top and multitask away to another app only to have the split app pair retained in memory, ready to use. There’s a new beta feature where you can mirror the screen of a connected Xiaomi 13 Pro smartphone onto the Pad 6 display, and even click photos and drag and drop files from the phone to the tablet without a hitch. It’s limited to the 13 Pro and the Pad 6 at the moment, but Xiaomi intends to roll this out more broadly to their other smartphones as and when the software matures. Full marks to Xiaomi for trying an innovative ecosystem play here. What’s more, Xiaomi has promised to deliver 3 years of software updates and 5 years of security updates on the device.
The cameras on the Pad 6 are serviceable, both for video calls and for a particular use case Xiaomi sees being used heavily on tablets – document scanning. The centered camera in landscape mode works much better for video calls, and there’s a dedicated document mode in the camera app. If you must be that person who’s holding up a tablet to take photos, know that the rear camera takes decent images in good light (and in low light with the built-in flash) but videos are distinctly underwhelming.
About those accessories that Xiaomi has bandied at launch to be key to the Pad 6 usage experience: the keyboard case ( ₹4,999) attaches to the pogo pins on the rear and offers 64 keys with numerous shortcut functions and a handy multi-task key that lets you quickly switch between apps and bring up the dock. It lacks a trackpad, so folks who regularly use productivity applications (particularly large spreadsheets) may prefer connecting an external mouse. The fairly shallow 1.3mm key travel means the typing experience is a bit mushy but if I could manage to type this far, it should work for all but the most finicky of typists.
The Smart Pen (2nd Generation, ₹5,999) does well for creative applications like sketching with reasonably low latency, and I quite liked the convenience that the two buttons delivered, from taking screenshots to switching between different pens.
Both accessories are strictly for the Pad 6 and aren’t compatible with the Pad 5, and since they are extra purchases, I’d spring for the Pad 6 keyboard case first over the Smart Pen.
As with its predecessor, the Xiaomi Pad 6 earns an easy recommendation over the Pad 5 even at its reduced pricing – the upgrades are legitimately good to justify the additional outlay, and it even edges ahead of the OnePlus Pad for the amount it delivers for the price. Of course, you could sneak a peek at the iPad 9th generation as well, for the sheer variety of tablet-friendly apps and the extensive accessory ecosystem.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.