Launched in the fall of 2015, the Xiaomi MiPad 2 is another in a long line of devices from this Chinese company that do nothing if not wow us on the spec sheet for their price. Luckily, the devices, including this new 8-inch tablet, often carry that wow factor into design, materials and the overall experience. If you can get used to their flavor of Android, Xiaomi devices are well worth your consideration.
Let’s not beat around the bush, the look and feel of this Android powered device will be familiar to most iPad mini users. With similar overall measurements, and an OS that rather accurately emulates iOS in many ways, the Xiaomi MiPad 2 is, as I say, a curious device that may just be a brilliant take on what users want out of tablets today.
Looking at the device, you’ll see a full metal backing, a full glass front and the basic set of buttons, ports and sensors of the typical tablet on the market today. That is, there is a rear facing camera up in the corner, a front facing camera up top in the center. Power and volume buttons live on the right hand edge of the device, up near the top. Although, you’ll find the power button situated below the volume buttons.
The bottom edge of the tablet houses a single USB Type-C port, while dual rear facing speaker grills live right at the bottom of the device. There also also a few mic holes and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge.
Warning, it’s sharp!
I am trying to be funny more than anything, but you will absolutely find that the front edge of the metal, along the front edges of the Xiaomi MiPad 2, feel sharp. Funny thing is, it is not sharp. I did try to use the tablet to slice some paper, it didn’t work. However, if you slide your fingers outward off of the display with a bit of pressure, you will feel, and be able to see afterward, how the metal edge scrapes off impurities of your skin. Sounds gross, and sorry to say, it kind of is.
Measuring in with a 7.9-inch IPS display, the Xiaomi MiPad 2 offers up 1536 x 2018 pixels of resolution, for 326 ppi. If you were keeping track, that is the same size and pixel count as the iPad Mini 4.
The display on the Xiaomi MiPad 2 is pleasant to look at, providing nice color saturation, great viewing angles and adequate brightness. When I say nice and adequate, I imply that this is not the best panel we’ve seen in our time. It would be unfair to say that you would be displeased with this device, but there is no question, placed side-by-side with most other current-gen LCD or LED display you will see the difference.
On a positive note, Xiaomi has included some controls to make your display look like you want it to. First, you can choose the color saturation level, between two options. Then you can choose the general color temperature, with three options of normal, warm or cool. Last, there is a Reading mode available, adding that familiar yellow tint to the display that makes it easier to look at in the dark.
I have to mention one last thing before we move on, there is a spec under the glass. At first I thought that the procedure I go through to test any new device’s display revealed a dead pixel, but, after close scrutiny, I’ve decided that it is simply a speck of dust under the glass. For those that are sensitive to such things, I cannot un-see this speck, it is driving me crazy.
Before we start talking experience, let’s talk about the actual hardware of the Xiaomi MiPad 2. Picking up from the design aspects, that full metal back includes the adequate holes to support your normal 3.5mm headphone jack and the new USB Type-C charging and data cable. The front glass goes edge to edge and there are capacitive off-screen navigation buttons in the lower bezel area.
Inside the MiPad 2 is an Intel processor, the Atom X5-Z8500, with 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 64GB of internal storage and a 6190mAh battery.
As far as sensors go, look for a 5MP front shooter complimented by an 8MP rear shooter. We original were told we’d find an LED flash, but that is not present on our 16GB Android version of the tablet. Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi ac are your main connectivity options. A selection of other typical sensors are on board, with one major exclusion, there is no GPS sensor in this tablet.
As an opinion, this tablet feels good in the hand, measuring in at 200mm x 133mm at just 6.95mm thick, it is a nice weight at 322g. The power button being placed below the volume buttons takes some getting used to, but both are easily accessed and offer a decent tactile response.
Finally, the rear facing speakers are loud and difficult to muffle by hand, but you may not like the hollow and somewhat distant sound they produce.
With a new Intel Atom X5-Z8500 under the hood, that’s a 64-bit quad-core processor, and 2GB of RAM, I was rather surprised to see an AnTuTu benchmark score of over 70K. As I like to run these benchmarks, but do not rely on them to tell the whole story, I proceeded to install a few of my favorite processor heavy applications.
I don’t know if it is this Intel processor, the heavily skinned MiUI version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, or the Intel HD Graphics for Atom, but everything I do on this tablet feels sluggish and slightly delayed after my touch. Navigating the OS is smooth enough, and the animations are fast, but as I say, there is a bit of a delay in the process. Mostly, it is the off-screen capacitive navigation buttons that cause me grief, often I miss them entirely or hit them twice as I am awaiting a response.
If this sounds like disapproval already, wait until you hear about my go-to, cross-platform game for testing. If you have not noticed yet, I have now played Asphalt 8 on Android, Windows and iOS devices for testing here on the site. This includes Android tablets with benchmark scores half that of the Xiaomi MiPad 2, but sadly, somehow, the MiPad 2 offers up abysmal game performance, indeed, the worst I’ve experienced on an Android device.
It’s not all bad. Despite a little bit of delay when scrolling a large web page, as an example, the overall OS and app performance is adequate for your day to day needs, the average user will be happy with their experience. However, if you are a gamer, or need to run any processor intensive software, I’d recommend you try before you buy on this one.
Now that I’ve thoroughly bashed the Xiomi MiPad 2 for its processing performance, let’s look at a more impressive part of the device, the battery life. Equipped with a fair sized 6190mAh battery, the MiPad 2 manages to keep the lights on for a respectable amount of time. Our initial run with the device included benchmark test, gaming, watching video and other hard hitting tasks to put the device through its paces, considering all this, we were happy with just over 5 hrs of screen-on time.
On our normal day to day operations with the device, the Xiaomi MiPad 2 offered up the industry typical 5.5 to 6 hours of screen-on battery life. If that is not enough for you, the Xiaomi MiPad 2 comes with a Battery Saver mode, shutting down various services and tasks to extend battery life.
As the camera on the Xiaomi MiPad 2 is, as with many tablets, more of an addition than a feature to focus on, let’s keep this simple. The 8MP sensor performs well, but without image stabilization we found more than one of our photos had to be discarded because of movement blur. Mostly this was a difficulty in the location of the on-screen trigger button, requiring two hands to take a photo if you plan to do any selective focusing.
I found the camera glass to be sensitive to fogging. At first I thought the sensor just couldn’t handle low light shooting, but frequent quick cleanings of the glass and low light performance is actually pretty good. Daylight shooting is solid as well, but the absolute bottom line, please do not purchase this tablet for photography purposes, in the end, it is just a tablet.
There is a thing that device manufacturers do with software on mobile devices, they take Android and create what we call skins or ROMs. The result is an Android powered device that has manufacturer specific design, hardware support, features, apps and more. The Xiaomi MiPad 2 uses a base of Android 5.1 Lollipop and converts it into what they call MIUI 7.1. There is an optional Windows 10 model available as well.
Here is the thing, and this is likely one of the main reasons that the Xiaomi MiPad 2 is not available for sale in the U.S. at this time, MIUI is designed to be comfortable and familiar for iPad users. This is a decidedly non-Android approach, but it creates one of the most unique flavors of Android you will ever see, that is, it looks and feels like iOS.
Many will be turned off by MIUI 7.1. After all, if they wanted an iOS powered device, they would have purchased an iPad, but there is so much more to it than this. We’ll talk about the price difference later, but for now, let’s just say that the Xiaomi MiPad 2 costs a lot less than the iPad mini 4.
Price aside, MIUI is still Android at heart. While the difficulties in bouncing between software ecosystems are less these days, there is still a divide. Those familiar with Android apps and features will be at home on the Xiaomi MiPad 2, and at the same time, those familiar with the user interface of iOS will be pleased to not have to learn many new techniques.
That being said, catering to both sides inevitably means compromises. These shortcomings are only compounded by the fact that Xiaomi is unable to pre-load Google apps and services. That’s right, you will need to follow some Chinese guides and sideload some apps befire you can use the Play Store to download your favorite apps and games.
Loading Google apps and services on your Xiaomi MiPad 2 is not the end of your struggles. You may find, as I have, that the Play Store crashes frequently, and if you cannot read Chinese, there will always be a few pre-installed apps that you may never even know what they are.
Another quick example is the fact that installing Google Play Service includes the Google Settings app, instead of the MIUI iOS looking alternative. This is great news for Android fans, but aspects of it are still broken, you will need to head back to the MIUI app management as the Apps section in the Google Settings tool crashes every time.
Bottom line, even with a custom launcher to ease the user experience for the average Android fan, the software still feels and acts a little buggy. If I knew how to read Chinese, this might be a different story, I might have even stuck with the default MIUI a little bit longer before installing a new Launcher.
Last item in terms of software, we suspect that one of the biggest issues with device performance is the OS on this tablet. With a benchmark score of near triple that of our old Nexus 7, the latency of the software should not feel near equal. Don’t get me wrong, the OS itself navigates fast and smooth, it is just that fact that there is a unexpected delay when hitting the navigation buttons that actually disrupts the flow of the device.
Once you dive into the world of Mi, it is important to mention that you are joining a large and friendly community of technology enthusiasts. This does not have to matter to you, but the culture around the brand is light-hearted and filled with fun mascots and accessories. Xiaomi pays close attention to its users, if ever you wanted to help influence what the next manufacturer built device or software will include, this is the ecosystem that you want to get involved with.