The Xiaomi Pad 5 – Is it Android’s response to the Apple iPad?

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Android tablets, as a category, have been surprisingly listless over the past couple of years. There have been a few bright sparks along the way, but they’ve been few and far between. Android 12 and Android 13 in their dedicated tablet variations may bring about some excitement, but to be brusque about things, there really isn’t much competition for the entry spec Apple iPad, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air or any of the iPad Pros. The Xiaomi Pad 5 might be a rare bright spark again, but as you piece things together, you’ll realise the costs aren’t very different from the most affordable iPad.

Two options to choose from, with differing value for money. There’s the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage spec that’s for 26,999 and for 2,000 more, you get the 6GB+256GB option. It is a no-brainer to recommend the latter – the extra storage will inevitably come in handy for downloaded music and Netflix offline downloads when you’re traveling.

If you’re looking for a direct Android rival for the Xiaomi Pad 5, you’ll struggle. The one-generation-older Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE prices start around 39,999 (which is a different price band altogether), while the Galaxy Tab A8 (this is around 28,490) just isn’t in the same league as far as specs and the overall user experience go.

This is where things become a bit complicated. The comparisons above are if you intend to use the Xiaomi Pad 5 as a tablet. However, if there is an element of workflow introduced into the mix, you’ll need a keyboard and perhaps even the stylus, called Xiaomi Smart Pen. This stylus will cost you 5,999 more. The price of the Xiaomi Pad Keyboard is still unknown.

This will inevitably and significantly increase your outlay on the Xiaomi Pad 5 – it isn’t entirely dissimilar to how you’d piece together things for an Apple iPad. Not exactly an affordable price tag at the end of it all, is it? So much for expecting a different approach. For perspective, the iPad prices start at 30,900 while the Pencil costs around 8,500 and the Smart Keyboard costs around 13,900. Keeping the ambiguity of the keyboard aside, you do pay a bit more for the entire iPad puzzle, but it isn’t really that much more.

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With the innards that include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 chip (this was a smartphone flagship not too long ago), an 11-inch display which does 120Hz refresh rate and a large battery, it is nevertheless worth considering, keeping in mind the scarcity of options elsewhere, if Android is indeed what you need.

An octa-core processor that’s a couple of years old, paired with 6GB RAM, isn’t at all a slouch. The Snapdragon 860 did very well in its time, and still has enough grunt to allow for multi-tasking and some bit of gaming too. There is no doubt that the Xiaomi Pad 5 is faster, and holds performance longer, than any of its similarly priced Android tablet rivals. As always, there are two sides to a coin.

The Xiaomi Pad 5 is, from what we can decipher based on our experience, a very powerful Android tablet for typical tablet tasks – web browsing, e-books, a bit of gaming and binge-watching content on the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video (the very good display helps). We encountered no problem with HDR content on streaming and except for a notch higher than tepid heating on the back, racing games were very playable for a significant period of time.

But if you’re looking to find the sort of performance headroom that’s usually needed if this is to become a really portable computing machine, then it’s not plain sailing. After all, the chip’s age has to show at some point, and multitasking with resource intensive tasks will show slowdowns soon enough. Microsoft Edge with 24 tabs open (most websites in desktop modes), a handful of documents being worked on in Microsoft Office and Canva helping resize and edit images, the experience somehow wasn’t as slick as it is on an iPad. Open more apps, and you’ll see stutters quite prominently. That’s to be expected, isn’t it?

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As does the fact that Android on tablets, even after years, still behaves like a resized version of the experience that’s otherwise meant for phones. Xiaomi MIUI for tablets isn’t bad, but there’s still a lot of catching up to do if the iPad has to be genuinely kept in sight. A lot of apps still aren’t optimized for Android for tablets – Instagram and Twitter being two basic ones. You don’t see such app eccentricities on an iPad, irrespective of the screen size.

The one thing that’s absolutely spot on with the Xiaomi Pad 5 is its 11-inch display. It is an LCD panel, but then again, that has power frugality advantages too. This ticks off the 120Hz refresh rate on the checklist, and that’s great if you’ll be watching movies and TV shows on this often. It is a bright display, but it can be made to go really dark in the lowest of brightness settings – that’s a good thing. Colours are vibrant, yet not unnaturally so.

Let us get one thing crystal clear. The Android ecosystem, and Xiaomi specifically in this case, aren’t giving you an iPad alternative on a budget. It costs almost the same, give or take a few. This cost has partly been achieved by using a chip from 2019. Fair enough. The thing is, Android and every part of the tablet puzzle thereafter, still doesn’t have the sort of refinement that iPad and the iPadOS do. But if Android tablets are what you really are after, there is nothing better in the market around the 30,000 mark.




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