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Xiaomi Pad 5 review: A not-so-basic iPad alternative

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
369
inc VAT

Android finally has a strong iPad contender on its hands, but it’s not without flaws

Pros 
Stunning 120Hz display
Solid performance
Great battery life
Cons 
Tablet issues on Android remain
iPad 2021 performs better for less
Weak cameras
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Android tablets like the Xiaomi Pad 5 typically struggle under the weight of their Apple-branded counterparts. Android as an OS still isn’t suited for large-screen use, but every once in a while we review something capable of giving the almighty iPad a run for its money.

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The Xiaomi Pad 5 – a well-priced Android tablet with a lot to like in terms of core componentry – might have finally done enough to get Apple executives hot under the collar, but is it still hamstrung by the limitations of Android?

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Xiaomi Pad 5 review: What you need to know

The Xiaomi Pad 5 is an 11in tablet running Android 11 with Xiaomi’s own EMUI 12.5 software overlay. The 2,560 x 1,600-resolution IPS display is HDR 10 capable with support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio, with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz – which isn’t available at this price if you go down the Apple route.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 860 chipset handles the processing duties, and in the UK the Xiaomi Pad 5 comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. It has two cameras – one on the front above the screen and another on the rear – and you have a choice of two colours: Cosmic Grey and Pearl White.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Price and competition

The Xiaomi Pad 5 usually costs £369, although at the time of writing this review Xiaomi has dropped the price to £329. It’s also throwing in a free Xiaomi-branded commuter backpack with every purchase, as well as a Mi 360 security camera worth £40 if you buy direct.

The Xiaomi Pad 5’s key rival is Apple’s basic iPad. The starting price is £50 less than the Pad 5’s RRP (£319), although this is for the 64GB version – there isn’t a 128GB model and the 256GB variant costs £459.

The 2021 iPad is more powerful than the Xiaomi Pad 5, but it has half the RAM (3GB), the display is both lower resolution and smaller (10.2in) and the refresh rate is limited to 60Hz. If you want anything above that, you’re going to have to buy the £749 iPad Pro, which is an entirely different beast.

But what about Android? There’s not a lot, as it turns out, and your only proper rival at this price is the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which has received a discount since release and can now be picked up for around £269. It’s an older tablet, so performance isn’t as good, but it matches the Xiaomi Pad 5’s battery life and comes bundled with a stylus.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Design and key features

The Xiaomi Pad 5 is a swish Android tablet both inside and out. It’s a relatively simple construction, but despite this, looks quite elegant, with chamfered clean-cut edges, minimal screen bezels and a premium reflective finish on the rear. It matches the more expensive iPad Air in terms of looks, with the basic iPad continuing to look rather dated by comparison.

It’s a little on the heavy side, tipping the scales at 511g, but it’s actually quite thin at just 6.9mm. It doesn’t take up too much space in a backpack, either, measuring 255 x 166mm and the stylus support makes it a great on-the-go working tool. Xiaomi doesn’t include one in the box, however, which is a shame.

A three-pin POGO connector is located on one of the tablet’s long edges, and this is used for connecting keyboard accessories. Again, Xiaomi doesn’t include one in the box, but bizarrely it also doesn’t sell any on its official UK storefront, either. You can still connect Bluetooth peripherals, but I would have liked the option to use this as a proper laptop hybrid.

A volume rocker is positioned on the opposite edge, with a power/fingerprint combo button located just around the corner. It supports face unlocks, too, although it doesn’t have an IP rating for water and dust resistance or Gorilla Glass screen protection.

The quad-speaker array is Dolby Atmos-certified, which in my tests delivered surprisingly rich, full-bodied sound with only a faint hint of tinniness at maximum volume. A USB-C port sits at the bottom, and this supports wired charging speeds of 33W – the 2021 iPad is far slower by comparison at just 20W.

The Xiaomi Pad 5 has an 8MP (f/2) selfie camera and a 13MP (f/2) rear camera. Neither of which are particularly special – there’s not a lot of detail and images looked rather dull.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Display

The Xiaomi Pad 5’s 11in display is an IPS panel with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. It supports Dolby Vision and HDR 10 content, and the default refresh rate is 120Hz. This can be toggled to 60Hz in the settings if you prefer.

There are three display modes to choose from, with the ‘Standard’ setting achieving sRGB coverage of 90.7% and a total colour volume of 91.7%. With an average Delta E colour variance score of 1.18, you won’t be able to find a more colour accurate display for the price.

Brightness is also great, peaking at 444cd/m2 in our tests. This is fine for using the tablet outdoors, but isn't bright enough to truly take advantage of HDR content – for that, you’ll want something much more expensive, like the Galaxy Tab S8 or iPad Pro.

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Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Performance and battery life

Take a peek inside the Xiaomi Pad 5 and you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset. This is an octa-core part with a maximum clock speed of 2.96GHz, and it’s backed by 6GB of RAM in the UK model, with 128GB of internal storage space. Sadly this can’t be expanded any further.

Performance is exceptional for the price. The iPad and its A13 Bionic chipset still has the edge, but not by nearly as much as I was expecting. With a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 662 and a multi-core processing result of 2,773, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is rapid. Paired with the 120Hz display, this makes for a tablet that feels as smooth as its top-scoring benchmarks suggest – every other low-priced Android tablet we’ve tested is left languishing in the dirt.

Gaming performance is also very good, although the Adreno 640 GPU isn’t quite powerful enough to take full advantage of that 120Hz refresh rate. An average frame rate of 65fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 onscreen test is pretty good, but it could be better.

Where the Xiaomi takes a commanding lead is in battery life. Here, the Pad 5 lasted for 15hrs 4mins before running dry during our video-playback test, outlasting the 2021 iPad by just over two hours.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Software

And now to the bit where it all falls apart for Android tablets. It’s well reported that iPadOS and its slick user interface is the superior tablet operating system, and that isn’t set to change any time soon. Not unless Google knuckles down and seriously considers a separate version of Android that plays nicely with tablets.

Because as it stands, Android just isn’t there yet. The Xiaomi Pad 5 is running Android 12, with Xiaomi’s MIUI 12.5 skin placed on top. This is the same experience as you’d get with any of Xiaomi’s recent smartphones, albeit stretched to fit a bigger screen.

This, of course, presents a few problems. The first of which is that the app icon layout on the homescreen utilises a lot of blank space, especially in landscape orientation. There’s not a lot in the way of widgets, either, and I also would have liked to see a makeshift desktop mode akin to Samsung’s Dex, which could have helped alleviate some of these problems.

Xiaomi Pad 5 review: Verdict

It’s not often I finish writing an Android tablet review where I’ve had plenty of nice things to say about it. Tablets running Google’s mobile OS that are actually worth recommending are few and far between, but the Xiaomi Pad 5 has hit its brief and then some.

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It’s just a shame that the tablet experience on Android still isn’t quite up to scratch. Because otherwise, the Xiaomi Pad 5 nails every aspect – from design to performance to display quality, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is an absolute stunner, and still worth recommending if you’re fully ingrained in the Android ecosystem and don’t want to take a detour down the Apple road.

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