Ripping off the iPad in all the right ways

Xiaomi Pad 5 top-down view of a news feed and floating youtube

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Android tablet world is divided into two camps. Ultra-affordable options are the norm, and although they lead in terms of sales, they are really only good for watching movies and series or reading-related assignments. At the other end of the spectrum are super-premium tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, which gives you a whole lot of hardware but is held back by the limitations of limited tablet-optimized software. What has been lacking in the market is a solid mid-range option that competes with Apple’s beginner-level tablet portfolio. Enter the Xiaomi Pad 5.

This is not Xiaomi’s first rodeo. The company’s first tablet effort was shamelessly ripped off the iPad. Xiaomi Pad 5 is ironically not that different from iPad either. But you know what? I do not complain.

Hardware that screams value

Xiaomi Pad 5 in hand shows news feed

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Xiaomi’s ability to match amazing hardware with a great price is well known, but finding a good balance requires a mix of intuition and really knowing your audience. To that end, the Xiaomi Pad 5 makes all the right moves with both its inclusions and omissions.

It all starts with the display. Like I said recently when I checked out the Realme Pad Mini, a screen is the cornerstone of any good tablet. In fact, it is raison d’être to buy a tablet in the first place. Xiaomi delivers the goods here, with an 11-inch screen that has all the bells and whistles, including a 2K resolution, high brightness levels and compatibility with standards like Dolby Vision. You even get a 120Hz refresh rate for that extra bit of smoothness, even though it does not support variable refresh rates. There is a lot here that you will miss with the correspondingly priced entry-level iPad.

All of these features make a tangible difference to the user experience. Watching Netflix is ​​a pleasure and the text looks sharp. It’s also fun to play games thanks to the strong colors. I found that the wider image format was great for watching video content, although I personally am biased towards the higher image format on iPads for reading.

How did it take so long to crack such an obvious formula?

Xiaomi Pad 5 closes the multimedia experience loop with quad speakers. The speakers are very loud and vocals cut easily through the mix, but they are not quite as crystal clear as those on the iPad. However, the tablet copies a nice little trick from the iPad that increases the immersion. The speakers change direction based on how you hold the tablet, and I found the feature extremely convenient to have while watching YouTube in a floating window and scrolling through Feedly next to it.

Finally, mid-range tablets are all too often lined with ho-hum chipsets that simply lack the grunt needed to create a fluid user experience. Not like that on the Xiaomi Pad 5. It may not be entirely groundbreaking, but the decision to use a Snapdragon 860 chipset was the right one. The two-year-old processor is still more than capable of hassle-free everyday use and advanced gaming. In addition, there is enough ground clearance to ensure that the tablet will continue to run smoothly for years to come. While doing so, Xiaomi has also comfortably avoided the problem of increasing costs too high with the latest and greatest hardware. Honestly, I’m surprised that it took any company so long to crack such an obvious formula.

Related: Your guide to the best tablets

The software experience sells it

Xiaomi Pad 5 placed on a table with several open apps

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

What makes the iPad very special is the software experience, and Android fans have spent years trying to strike the balance between functionality, usability and app ecosystem. While the latter is still quite problematic, Xiaomi has made progress towards solving the first two issues by doing what it does best – being ahem “inspired” by Apple.

While MIUI has long prioritized an interface that is only on the home screen, similar to the iPad, this time it has also picked up some clever tricks for the dock. For example, the dock always shows the last three apps you’ve used on the right. It’s a smart little shortcut to jump between apps.

MIUI on Xiaomi Pad 5 gets a lot of inspiration from iOS, but it’s okay.

Like the iPad, you can press the split button for an app while in the multitasking menu, and you can click it to one side of the screen. You can then adjust it freely so that it flows back across the width of the screen. However, the Xiaomi Pad 5 doubles the productivity experience by letting you launch two additional floating apps by long-tapping the icon. I found it very productive to have floating windows for Spotify or YouTube in addition to dual apps loaded.

Xiaomi Pad 5 app drawer

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Xiaomi’s focus on optimizing any system app for a widescreen experience also stands out and shows care. I know it’s a low bar, but Android tablets have traditionally shown some respect for the end-user software experience, as we saw recently with Realme’s tablets, and it goes a long way towards making the product better for the user.

The Notes app includes, for example, a full-span view as well as deep integration to the pen. A variety of brush styles also add to the experience and let you use the tablet for more than just random doodles.

Xiaomi Pad 5 placed in keyboard dock

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The same attention to detail also includes the optional keyboard and stylus. The folio-style keyboard appears as a well-designed product with key journeys that go beyond what you get on Apple’s folio keyboard. In fact, the experience is not that far from the excellent Magic Keyboard, though it is far more affordable. I wrote a significant portion of this article on the Xiaomi Pad 5’s keyboard and quickly got used to touch typing. I especially enjoyed the fact that the entire keyboard can be configured with shortcuts to launch specific apps.

Xiaomi Pad 5’s folio keyboard accessories offer excellent key travel and a host of quick shortcuts.

Similarly, Xiaomi has copied the iPad’s side-mounted stylus setup. However, the pen contains two buttons, one of which acts as a shortcut to the note app. The second key can be used to capture screenshots and comment on them as you wish. I found the wait time close, but not quite as good as the Apple Pencil. Nevertheless, the user experience is perfectly functional, and it’s more than you can hope for at the price Xiaomi is aiming for.

Xiaomi Pad 5: An inspired rip-off

Xiaomi Pad 5 placed on a shelf with pen and notes

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

As I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit shocking that Android OEMs have not been able to bring the valuable smartphone model to the tablet segment to date. The combination of good enough specifications and great software optimization makes sense, and the Xiaomi Pad 5 handles the hardware proposal. Even more important is the fact that the software experience gives the Xiaomi Pad 5 a degree of coherence despite the inadequacy of tablet apps in the Google Play Store.

Xiaomi Pad 5 top-down view of a news feed and floating youtube

Xiaomi Pad 5

Xiaomi Pad 5 brings mid-range specifications and a great software experience to the tablet segment.

The biggest competitor to the Xiaomi Pad 5 comes in the form of the 10.2-inch Apple iPad ($ 329). Although Apple’s budget tablet does not have nearly as good a screen or multimedia chops, it makes up for it with access to a robust app ecosystem.

On the Android side of things, the Samsung Tab A8 ($ 229) is one of the more obvious competitors. Although the tablet compromises a bit on the performance side with its choice of a Unisoc processor, it compensates for that with an excellent screen, speakers and a high-quality user experience.

The thing is, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is one of the best mid-range tablet options on the market, with little in the way of direct competition. Combined with the optional accessory, it provides a pretty good facsimile of the iPad experience, for a lot less money, and that is perhaps the best we could wish for.

What do you use a tablet for?

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