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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 the Pad 5 is a rather refreshing turn for Google-centric slates.

This 11-inch tablet has enough spec prowess to give even Samsung a run for its money - features such as a 120HZ fast refresh screen top the list - so is Xiaomi's 2021 flagship worthy of your attention?

Our quick take

All in all, Xiaomi's tablet venture for wider markets is a good-looking and competently specified slate. It's a shame the stylus isn't included in the box, but if you're looking for a tablet predominantly for media consumption then it's a competitive offering against the likes of Samsung or Lenovo.

That said, there's still a 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 more effectively been working on - and, therefore, without accessories to bolster its appeal as a versatile laptop alternative, this Xiaomi hits the same hurdles as any recent Android tablet has had to face.

Still, if that's what you're looking for then the Pad 5's stellar battery life, fair price, high refresh-rate screen, and a lighter touch with its MIUI software, all combines to make for one of the more competent Android slates we've seen for some time. It won't have Apple worried, mind, but as a step in the right direction for Google's market it's a strong entry.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Android's answer to the iPad?

Xiaomi Pad 5

4.0 stars
For
  • Battery life is impressive
  • Attractive design and build
  • Decent 120Hz LCD screen
  • Stylus and keyboard accessory compatible
Against
  • Stylus not included
  • Screen a fingerprint magnet
  • Selfie camera should be on longer side
  • MIUI software can cause hiccups with some apps

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Design & Display

  • 11-inch LCD display, 2560 x 1600 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate
  • 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
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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 finishes - you only need to look at its colourful Mi 11 Lite 5G as one example of its available 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 connectivity - there's no 4G/5G option available here, though, 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 been living with this screen for some time, 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.

The only downside we've really spotted is that the screen coating is a little keen on fingerprint smears. Maybe it's a byproduct of having a larger screen, but it's something we've continually spotted more than with our day-to-day flagship phone.

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. 

A big win for this tablet is the 120Hz refresh rate panel. This isn't dynamic, however, in that you select from either 60Hz or 120Hz options only, the latter aiding on-screen smoothness - most particular in scrolling apps, prominently in web browsing and social media more than games, we find.

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 (more so than the grey-black model, in our experience).

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.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Pad 5 review photo 36

The front camera, meanwhile, is arranged on one of the shorter sides, so if you're using the tablet in landscape orientation then it won't make any sense at all really. We think it should have been positioned to one of the longer sides instead.

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

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.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Pad 5 review photo 37

Having used the tablet for a number of days now, it's clear the operating system runs slick and smooth - further helped along in a visual sense by the display's 120Hz refresh rate - the Wi-Fi connection is speedy, and apps load up pretty promptly. Sure, there might be fractions of seconds in it compared to the best-of-best available, but in isolation this tablet feels of a flagship level.

The main hurdle to this tablet's effectiveness is Xiaomi's 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 sometimes thrown a spanner into the works when it comes to notifications. You'll need to dig deeper into settings on a per-app basis to ensure that, say, your desired pop-up alert can happen, or that an app won't automatically go to sleep to try and preserve battery life.

We've found this experience much the same in Xiaomi's phones, too, but as on a tablet device we do a little less from a personal point of view - WhatsApp can stay on our phone only, thanks very much - it's not been an experience-breaker by any means. Indeed, we've not seen any distinctive delays in any of the games and services that we've been running.

Speaking of battery life, the cell on board is relatively capacious - similar to that of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, for example - and, as a result, longevity per charge is decent.

Part of that will come down to how Xiaomi's software puts apps to sleep, as for the first couple of days with this tablet we were too busy to use it - but it held 90 per cent charge over that 48 hour period without dropping charge.

When it comes to epic gaming sessions, Xiaomi reckons you'll get 10 hours of non-stop use from the tablet. This is one of those rare moments when that, based on our use, seems like an underestimated figure - with stop-start use we've been getting more like 12 hours of gameplay in, which is good going for such a screen size and resolution.

Charging, with the supplied 22.5W charger, takes around two hours. There's compatibility with 33W, but you'll need a different plug purchase to make that happen. A little strange, really, seeing as Xiaomi phones now support 120W super-fast charging options. But, then again, as a Wi-Fi-only tablet these kinds of speeds aren't massively missed for an around-the-house type of device such as this.

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Accessories

  • Stylus support (pen sold separately)

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.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Pad 5 review photo 26

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 the little extra something to help separate it from the competition.

The same can be said of keyboard docks: Xiaomi offers support, but hasn't provided such accessories, which might speak somewhat to the tablet's confidence as a laptop replacement (indeed, on day three, a MIUI software update was prompted to help correct for "keyboard compatibility issues").

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To recap

Xiaomi's 2021 tablet venture is a good-looking and competently specified slate. However, there's still the a question over usability beyond a 'big-phone-like' device for media consumption, because Google has largely failed to embrace more work-focused functionality modes in Android - which is not solely a Xiaomi issue by any means. Still, if that's what you're looking for then the Pad 5's stellar battery life, fair price, high refresh-rate screen, and a lighter touch with its MIUI software, all combines to make for one of the more competent Android slates we've seen for some time.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Editing by Stuart Miles.
Sections Tablets Xiaomi