Xiaomi Mi Pad: A value-for-money tablet worthy of consideration
Introduction, Design and Features
These days, the name Xiaomi attracts attention like a gunshot in a quiet suburb. Mention the name and everyone will be asking if you’ve got a device by the brand, which leads to two further questions: “How did you get it?” and “Do you have one to sell?”
This time around, we can say yes to that first one. And the device in question is the Xiaomi Mi Pad.
Announced earlier this month and going on sale three days later, the Xiaomi Mi Pad, like its other brethren, undercuts the competition by a large margin by supplying great innards while forgoing all else. The result is a potentially Herculean device in terms of performance, but not build. That said, it wouldn’t hurt your eyes when you do take a close look at it.
Design and features
Instead of starting with the device, this time we will take a look at the box in which the Mi Pad came in, to get a better idea of how a tablet powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 managed to stay below the RM1,000 mark.
The box is so plain the only thing printed on it is the Mi logo; Xiaomi didn’t even bother to give the cardboard of the box a different color, or in any way attempt to hide the fact that the box is simply made of cardboard. Even the labels are stuck on the box instead of printed.
As for the device itself, it does look good, but it does seem like it took design inspirations from the top two players in the industry. The material on the body, however, is plastic. The same applies to the buttons, but here Xiaomi at the very least bothered to give it a reflective, metallic finish. Ditto the Mi branding on the top-left corner at the front and on the lower midsection at the back.
While the 8.5mm thickness does give it the impression that it wouldn’t break when you sneeze with it in your hands, the plastic build does. That said, we’re not complaining that the Mi Pad is thick; it actually sits comfortably in our hands. The weight of 360g might get to you if you hold the tablet up in one hand for extended periods of time, but for short durations or when holding it up with both hands, it feels nicely balanced.
The speaker grilles are on the bottom, almost flanking the Micro-USB port. How you hold the tablet will be the main influence of your experience with the tablet’s sound quality; grip it tight and you may cover up the speakers, muffling the sound. Hold it loosely, and the sound bounces off your palm and reverberates towards you a little, improving perceived volume. Either way, don't expect to be getting the same sort of quality in public places as you would at home.
The 3.5mm audio jack is up top towards the left, the main camera is on the right corner of the back, and the microSD slot in on the left. It is quite annoying to have the microSD card tray requiring a pin to get out, it must be said. The secondary camera is right in the middle of the top bezel, and the notification light sits towards the left, in-between the camera and the Mi branding.
The display is a 7.9-inch IPS multitouch display with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 and 326 ppi. In effect, images are crystal clear. If you intend to get one for reading, watching videos or playing games, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to the display.
As for the interface, imagine using the looks of iOS on the interface, but on an Android device. That’s basically what the MIUI is. The base of it all is Android 4.4.4, with MIUI v6.3.1 over it.
The MIUI is kind enough to teach first-time users how to do certain things like rearranging your home screen, but it’s nothing a little fiddling wouldn’t help you discover anyway. Besides, the guide only shows up once, so if somewhere down the line you forget how to do it, you’ll have to resort to fiddling anyway. Most of it looks like iOS but works like Android, so for most of us who are at the very least familiar with either, it wouldn’t take too long to understand how the MIUI works.
The UI itself is clean and smooth, although you might see an occasional buffer or two when switching between apps, especially if you have very heavy ones running in the background.
Of course, there are other issues as well. While you can rearrange your home screen, you don’t get to decide which screen is your home screen. Also, all the installed apps on the device don’t sit in a main menu; you swipe to the side from the home screen and there they are, and removing them will uninstall them from your device. In other words, these are the apps themselves, not shortcuts.
The 8-megapixel camera at the back of the device has a back-illuminated (BSI) sensor, which may explain the lack of a flash. That said, photos taken in the dark are noisy as you would expect, and look like something out of a television from the 60's.
The UI itself is also pretty barren. You don't get much in terms of settings to play with, but there is enough to cover the bare basics.