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Review: Xiaomi Mi Pad

What is it?
After successfully launching an array of budget and mid-range smartphones, Xiaomi has finally launched its maiden tablet, the Mi Pad, in India.

Who is it for?
The Mi Pad is for everybody looking for a tablet, really. An affordable alternative to the iPad Mini and an able competitor to other Android and Windows tablets in the market, the Mi Pad is a great option on the table with a terrific price tag.


Design
Xiaomi is popularly called the 'Apple of the East', and it makes no qualms about borrowing the design cues from the Cupertino-based company. The Mi Pad is a manifestation of the same, and features a 7.9-inch display like the iPad Mini, although it is slightly thicker and heavier than the latter. The device has a pretty good, balanced size and you'd be fine while holding the tablet in one hand.

I wasn't too impressed with the glossy plastic shell at the back, but it's not that bad as well. It just tends to get a little slippery when you're holding it for an extended period like while watching a movie or playing a game. On the front side, the black bezel is almost identical to the Mini - thicker at the top and bottom. Unfortunately, in India, the Mi Pad is available in white color only which is a shame since there's a slew of a nice colorful option in other markets.

At 2048 x 1536 pixels with 326ppi pixel density, the IPS display on the Mi Pad is terrific. The colors are sharp and the touch-responsiveness is excellent. The 4:3 aspect ratio on the Mi Pad is a great win too, and offers a very usable experience in both orientations. While the viewing angles are pretty good, the reflective display isn't the best when you're outdoors in bright sunlight. The laminated screen also includes Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches.


Hardware
The Mi Pad packs a punch in the hardware department. Powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor with 2GB of RAM, the Mi Pad is an absolutely fantastic performer. The tablet sails through everyday usage, but that's not all. There are also no frame drops or lags even while playing HD videos or graphic-intensive games. The only gripe here is that the tablet tends to heat up uncomfortably while gaming. On raw performance though, the Mi Pad is right at the top.

In India, the Mi Pad is available in the 16GB storage variant only with the ability to extend the storage by an additional 128GB using a microSD card. Also, this variant is Wi-Fi only and has no cellular option, which might be a decision factor for some.

The Mi Pad packs in a 6,700mAh battery which lasts a couple of days with intermittent usage through the day. While watching a movie, the Mi Pad stretches to over 10 hours easily which is pretty good for any tablet with such high-resolution display.


Software
The Mi Pad expectedly features MIUI, the customized Android version from Xiaomi that powers all their smartphones and has quite a fan following. Of course, the tablet packs in MIUI in a slightly modified form to suit the larger screen estate that works well for the Mi Pad.
There's also a new home screen which features a grid of widgets - search bar, calendar, calculator, clock, music player, and notes. These widgets are laid out nicely and form a nice array however, frustratingly; you can't place apps on the same home screen as the widgets.

Apart from the changes to support the larger screen in overall UI and the native apps, MIUI on the Mi Pad obliterates the ability of changing themes. This is one of the popular features of Xiaomi smartphones and has cultivated a community of theme developers. Clearly, these themes, designed for the smaller screen size, do not work out for the larger screen and hence the omissions. Also, the entire security suite that features useful tools like memory cleaner and permissions manager is also surprisingly missing.


Camera
This is the section I usually attempt out of compulsion since I'm not a great fan of using a tablet to click photos. Even with that disinterest, the camera on the Mi Pad impresses nonetheless.

The 8MP rear snapper takes great photos in daylight with decent color reproduction. There's a little loss of details when zoomed in though. The night shots are brightened, but that also means there's a bit of graininess in the photos. The 5MP front camera is capable enough for good quality video calls, etc.

The camera app too is a stripped-down version of the smartphone app in MIUI, which is fair since you shouldn't be using your tablet for serious photography anyway.


The Best Part
- Excellent display
- Brilliant performance, even for gaming
- Good battery life

The Tragic Flaw
- Wi-Fi only
- Stripped down MIUI


Summary
Not many Android tablets impress, and the ones which do are let down by the app experience of even the most common apps, an issue because of the diversity in sizes of Android devices.

The expensive, premium Android tablets have therefore struggled to grab mindshare while the mid-range ones have struggled with matching up on performance. At ₹12,999, the MiPad is a terrific price for a very capable Android tablet - one which is a great buy for most people looking for an Android tablet, and a definite recommendation for all others.
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