LONDON, UK (Pocket-lint) - The world of Android tablets has been rather quiet in recent years, what with Apple dominating the tablets market overall, so for Xiaomi to dip its oar in with its Pad 5 is a rather refreshing turn for Google-centric slates.
Alongside announcing its 11T and 11T Pro affordable flagship phones at its 15 September launch event, it was the Pad 5 that most captured our attention - in particular as Apple announced its new iPad mini the very night before. So is Xiaomi's tablet worthy of your attention?
Design & Display
- 11-inch LCD display, 2560 x 1600 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh
- Dimensions: 254.7 x 166.3 x 6.9mm / Weight: 511g
- Finishes: Cosmic Gray, Pearl White, Green
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, no 4G/5G/LTE
Other than Samsung and Lenovo you won't find many brands in the Android tablet space, which is as much competition as it is opportunity. Xiaomi is clearly no stranger to creating high-end products - you only need to look at its colourful Mi 11 Lite 5G as one example of its eye-candy - and its Pad 5 pulls in much of this experience.
That means a slender build - it's just 6.9mm thick, which is slimmer than plenty of current flagship phones - and solid frame, intersected with some tramlines for (there's no 4G/5G option available here, though, unlike the Chinese variant - it's Wi-Fi only), making for a sleek and effective look.
The 11-inch display is an LCD, not OLED, which may make you think it's not as high-end as could be - but, actually, having seen the screen in person at the London launch event, it's plenty bright and colourful, plus packed with more than enough resolution (it's WQHD+) to make all kinds of content look crisp as you like.
For a tablet the bezel is reasonably trim, too, which ensures the design continues its neat and tidy appearance. You need some bezel, of course, for gripping the device when watching content, playing games, or just picking it up to cart about.
Flip the Pad 5 over and the rear comes in a choice of finishes, shown here in a pearlescent white - which is why it has those "inside-of-a-shell" blue-pink hues - and its matte finish does a decent job of avoiding the very worst visible fingerprints.
Although the screen is flat, the rear isn't quite on account of its minor camera protrusion - which will make for a little "desk wobble" if you're laying it flat down whilst you work. It's not a giant lump, as you'll see on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, though, so that's a relief. Besides, you don't often need a rear camera on a tablet - so the 13-megapixel offering here is just fine as it is.
Hardware & Performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 processor, 6GB RAM
- Xiaomi MIUI 12.5 software (on Google Android 11)
- 13-megapixel main camera, 16MP selfie camera
- 8720mAh battery capacity, 33W fast-charging
- Stylus support (sold separately)
The Pad 5 has been positioned competitively, which means it doesn't get the most up-to-date hardware. Not that we think you'll likely notice: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 processor on board, paired with 6GB RAM, makes for what was a flagship experience just a year or two prior.
Having used the tablet for a handful of minutes at Xiaomi's showcase, it's clear the operating system runs slick and smooth - helped along in a visual sense by the display's 120Hz refresh rate, it must be said - and while we're yet to load up boat-loads of apps, this kind of hardware is well equipped to manage.
The main hurdle to this tablet's effectiveness is likely to be its software though. Not because it's built on Google's Android operating system, rather because Xiaomi's own MIUI software, here in version 12.5, has in our previous experience thrown various spanners into the works when it comes to things like notifications. You'll likely need to dig deeper into settings on a per-app basis to ensure that pop-up alert can happen, or that an app won't automatically go to sleep to try and preserve battery life. We'll be seeing how close to reality this is when we live with and review the tablet in full, of course.
Speaking of battery life, the cell on board is relatively capacious - similar to that of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, for example - and, therefore, we would expect longevity per charge to be decent. We already know how strong Xiaomi's battery throttling can be through various software additions, so if you want it to go the long distance we suspect it won't be an issue - although, of course, that will take days and hours of further testing in the future.
It's also worth mentioning the stylus support for this tablet. We say mentioning because we've not been able to see this pen in action so can't comment on how it will function. Really we think Xiaomi should bundle this in the box, like Samsung does with the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, to give it a real extra layer of appeal. That, we think, would be a little extra something to help separate it from the competition.
All in all, Xiaomi's tablet venture for wider markets is a good-looking, well priced and competently specified slate. It's a shame the stylus isn't included, and we're not sure yet whether Xiaomi's MIUI software will cause any hiccups, but if you're looking for a tablet predominantly for media consumption then it's a competitive offering against the likes of its Samsung or Lenovo direct competition.
That said, there's still the big question over usability beyond a 'big-phone-like' device, because Google has to date largely failed to embrace more work-focused functionality modes in Android - something Apple has slowly (and not entirely effectively) been working on - and, therefore, without accessories to bolster its appeal as a versatile laptop alternative, it hits the same hurdles as any recent Android tablet has had to face.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
More reliable software (probably) and with the stylus included - it's cheaper, too, which is an obvious bonus.