Introduction

Busy making a name for itself, Xiaomi must be hoping their first ever tablet will get the attention it deserves, following a couple of flagships that had the cheek to challenge the big boys. Just like them, the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 will try and wow you with specs without making it too hard to guess who it is they've copied this time.

Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Apple, Xiaomi's approach to design isn't free from controversy but their devices have delivered a solid bang for the buck - hardly a surprise to users who are willing to look beyond the replica outfit.

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is, at first glance, a cheap version of the Apple iPad mini 2 - it has the same 7.9" diagonal, the same 1536 x 2048 resolution and MIUI looks and acts more like iOS than Android, on which it is based. The design is almost identical too though they couldn't quite match the slim profile. Made of glossy plastic, the Mi Pad 7.9 looks like the lovechild of an iPad and an iPhone 5c.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

With a mix-and-match Apple design and a MIUI skin for Android 4.4.4 KitKat looking like a pretty convincing iOS clone you're probably thinking you know where this is going. But Xiaomi just loves proving people wrong. If the screen resolution wasn't a clue, the Mi Pad 7.9 has some specs that are sure to impress. This is the first commercially-available device to be powered by Nvidia's Tegra K1 chipset combining a quad-core Cortex-A15 processor and a 192-core GPU for desktop-grade gaming graphics.

Here's what else in on the list.

Key features

  • 7.9" 1536 x 2048 IPS LCD of 324ppi, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Nvidia Tegra K1 chipset, 2GB of RAM
  • Quad-core 2.2GHz Cortex-A15 processor
  • ULP GeForce Kepler GPU with 192 cores
  • Android 4.4.4 with deep-running MIUI customizations
  • 8MP back and 5MP front cameras
  • Stereo speakers
  • MicroSD card
  • 6,700mAh battery
  • Competitive price

Main disadvantages

  • No cellular version
  • Plastic build
  • Sold exclusively online

Xiaomi most certainly want their first tablet to make it big for reasons other than its likeness to Apple's iPad mini. Yes, the similarities are just hard to ignore but Xiaomi probably thought there's no such thing as bad publicity, especially when it's their first tablet ever. Plus, they have the specs to silence the doubters. The Mi Pad has a stellar screen, a portable body, a chipset with great potential - especially for gaming - at a great price. Whether it's the 16GB or the 64GB version, a Mi Pad 7.9 will set you back some €100 less than any direct competitor.

It is obvious too that MIUI has seen a lot of hard work, both from Xiaomi and the developer community, despite of the looks, which would make Apple copyright lawyers cringe.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 at HQ

The company has given up brick-and-mortar retail and sells all its devices via its regional online shops. They won't sell to anyone residing outside of the official Asian Pacific markets. So if you don't happen to live in the handful of countries they do business in (China, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan), you'd have to go to a third-party online reseller to get one and hope nothing goes wrong or else you'll need to ship your product back to a service center abroad.

But back to the Mi Pad 7.9 - if you're interested in this device it doesn't hurt to read on and find out whether it is just another iPad replica or the best possible alternative that makes your budget.

Special thanks to XiaomiShop.com for providing the review unit.

Retail box and bonus accessories

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 comes in a minimalistic retail box that contains a standalone A/C adapter, microUSB cable, and a pin to pop up the MicroSD card slot. The box is barely bigger than the tablet itself.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Retail contents

Xiaomishop.com, who provided us with this review unit, also throw in several freebies with every Mi Pad 7.9 purchase.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomishop.com extra accessories

Design and handling

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 takes a lot of its design cues from the Apple iPad mini 2 - from the screen size, resolution and bezel to the layout of controls with only slight differences here and there.

The Mi Pad 7.9 has an all-plastic build that's nowhere near the premium feel of an iPad mini 2. Not to mention the plastic Mi Pad is actually the heavier of the two. The Mi Pad 7.9 sits at 202 x 135.4 x 8.5mm and it is 2 mm taller, 0.3mm wider, 1mm thicker and 29 g heavier than the Apple iPad mini 2.

All the edges are rounded and the device has a unibody construction with a plastic back panel that wraps around the sides. The four corners are nicely rounded as well, and, overall, it's a pleasant device to handle.

The entire front is covered with Gorilla Glass 3 and there're no physical buttons under the 7.9" display - Xiaomi has used the usual three capacitive keys instead as seen on their phones.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 front

The back of the tablet is mostly flat, slightly curved at the edges only. The plastic looks good but we would've liked a matte finish better than gloss. Other than being less prone to smudging, it would've slightly improved the grip as well.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 back

The Mi Pad 7.9 sits comfortably in the hand. The weight is acceptable and feels evenly distributed. Front buttons are within easy reach in portrait mode but in landscape orientation, the touch sensitive controls end up on the side - not the most convenient of places.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

If we agree that a successful design copying involves improvement, Xiaomi has failed on. This plastic take on the iPad lost its touch with the original as soon as it came off the drawing board. But even so, it's still a reasonably good-looking and comfortable tablet to use, especially if it's the price tag that matters.

Controls

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is mostly operated using the gorgeous 7.9" screen and a standard Android trio of capacitive controls: a Home button flanked by Back and Recent apps.

The three keys are barely visible on our unit in daylight but they're easy to get used to with some practice. Above the screen lies the 5MP front-facing camera and a tiny LED, which serves as a notification light. The Xiaomi logo finishes things off on the front.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The front controls • LED

On the right hand side of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9, a volume rocker is right above the power button. The latter has a rather flimsy press and feels a bit too low.

The left side of the Mi Pad 7.9 features a MicroSD card compartment, which takes a pin (supplied) to eject.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The sides of the tablet

The top of the Xiaomi tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack while the bottom features the MicroUSB port.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Top and bottom

The back is where two microphones are placed around the 8MP camera lens - in the top left corner, just like on the Apple iPad mini 2. Moving on to the bottom - there are two prominent speakers behind grilles in each bottom corner. The speakers, with a dedicated driver each, manage stereo output.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The back of the Mi Pad 7.9

Using the Mi Pad 7.9 in portrait mode feels natural and logical with the power and volume buttons located near your thumb on the right, the three capacitive keys under the screen just between your palms and the speakers uncovered on the back.

Flipping the device landscape ruins everything - the power button becomes unnatural to use, you'll need to remind yourself to adjust your grip so you don't accidentally hit a capacitive key and, at the same time, not to cover any of the speakers with your palm.

That may be nitpicking as no other tablet is equally easy to use in both portrait and landscape mode so perhaps we shouldn't expect it from the Mi Pad either.

Display

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 display follows Apple's iPad mini 2 to a T. It's the same diagonal at 7.9" and the same resolution at 1536 x 2048 resulting in the same 324ppi. The technology behind the screen is IPS, allowing for good viewing angles.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 screen

The pixel arrangement is typical RGB - an equal amount of red, green and blue subpixels making up every pixel.

We ran our display test on the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 and it didn't disappoint. Its blacks were pretty deep at 50% brightness, to only slightly fade at 100%, still managing around the same figures as the iPad mini 2. The display's maximum brightness came out at a very acceptable 502 nits at 100%, besting the iPad and just about every other tablet in the table below.

Contrast is commendable as well, again beating the Apple iPad mini 2 and losing only to the LG G Pad 8.3 and Samsung's Super AMOLED Galaxy Tab S 8.4.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 0.13 126 974 0.53 502 955
Apple iPad mini 2 0.2 167 835 0.56 450 804
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 221 398
Asus Google Nexus 7 0.25 244 954 0.36 327 908
LG G Pad 8.3 0.09 100 1112 0.33 345 1047
LG G Tab 7.0 0.1 98 946 0.45 404 898
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 0.34 281 830 0.6 498 822


The outdoor visibility test didn't go as well for the Mi Pad 7.9 - the screen tends to lose much contrast in direct sunlight. Its panel is pretty reflective to begin with, leading to a low score here. Keep the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 indoors and you'll be fine.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Battery life

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 has a 6,700mAh battery, which a pixel-dense screen and powerful chipset are sure to push quite hard.

The Mi Pad did well in both the browsing and video tests - 11 hours of web time and close to 13 hours of video playback - solid even if not quite the best.

What we disliked about the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is that it got a little too hot at times, under strain. During heavy browsing the slate was relatively cool but when it had to play video, it got really hot. The Apple iPad mini 2 deals better with heating due to its metal body - metal distributes the heat more evenly across the entire back, helping the device to cool down while plastic isn't as good a heat conductor and the Mi Pad tends to heat up excessively at one specific area at the back.

We have got to mention there is no support for wireless charging either. The Apple iPad mini 2 omits that too.

Connectivity

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is a Wi-Fi only device, with no cellular option to be found yet.

Local connectivity includes a dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac support as well as Wi-Fi Direct functionality. There's Bluetooth 4.0 and wireless display connectivity over the Miracast protocol.

What's missing is a wired TV-Out option.

There's a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and wired data connectivity and USB OTG support so you can mount external drives.

MIUI goes after iOS

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 runs on a heavily-customized version of Android 4.4.4, called MIUI. Xiaomi mi3 and mi 4 both use MIUI v.5 but the MIUI on board the Mi Pad 7.9 is version v.4.8. Xiaomi recently unveiled MIUI 6 but as that is still in beta so it's not clear whether it will reach the Mi Pad 7.9.

As for the UI of MIUI, If you've ever seen iOS on an iPad you will surely see the similarities with MIUI on the Mi Pad 7.9 from the layout of the homescreen, through the lockscreen to the task switcher interface.

Before we dig in, it's important to note that currently the Mi Pad 7.9 is only available in China and thus doesn't come with Google Services pre-installed. Without those, the Mi Pad 7.9 doesn't have access to Google's Play Store, Maps, Calendar, Drive, YouTube, Gmail or access to any apps outside of Xiaomi's app store. Of course, you can always sideload the Google Services like we did. Most probably the versions of the tablet for other countries outside China will have the Google Services preinstalled.

Here goes a quick glance of MIUI on the Mi Pad 7.9.

The MIUI software on the Mi Pad 7.9 doesn't have too much in common with the OS we saw on the Xiaomi Mi 3 and 4 in its operation and looks. The MIUI icons are the same but there a lot of transparent UI elements and less shadows here.

The lockscreen is the simplest one you can find on an Android. It shows you a wallpaper, time and date and a swipe up to unlock command. There's no widgets support on the lockscreen and you can opt for a pattern unlock. Gone is the elaborate four-setting swipe wheel from the MIUI on the MI 3.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The MIUI tablet lockscreen

Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom, but you can dock up to six items. The Mi Pad 7.9 has two types of homescreen - the standard one with app icons and folders and a dedicated one for widgets.

You can add toggles to the standard homescreen and select a number of transition effects for it. You can also add additional standard homescreens but only to the right of the first one, while adding widget homescreens is only to the left of the first one - that way the two homescreen types are arranged right for the apps and left for the widgets.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Homescreen

The leftmost homescreen is dedicated to widgets. You get a swipeable list of widgets with some having subfolders (Google Play Music has two widgets). We've seen this duo homescreen implementation before on Meizu's Flyme OS, where the widget homescreen was a vertically-scrollable grid.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Homescreen

You can create folders by dragging an app icon over another one's. Opening up a folder is done exactly the same as on iOS 7 and 8 - the folder apps float to the center of the screen and the rest gets blurred in the background - a little too uncanny a resemblance here.

Xiaomi has a universal search function which can be found either through the task switcher menu or through the dedicated widget. If you type a query you'll get the local results (apps, music, videos) and the option to search the web or the play store.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Folders • Search

The notification are on the Mi Pad 7.9 is also very close to Apple's implementation - Xiaomi even calls it the same - Notification Center. It shows all of your notifications with the time and date and you get contextual options like on any other KitKat droid - if you get a message you can reply, a saved screenshot gives the option to share and more. A quick swipe to the left unveils the quick toggles page where you get to quickly turn settings on - Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Rotation lock and you have a brightness slider. You can add those toggles to the bottom of the notification area as well.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Notification area

The task switcher menu looks exactly like iOS - you get a thumbnail of the app along with its icon in the bottom. You swipe apps upward to close them and there's an added kill all button. Sadly if you scroll with your finger on the app icons the list doesn't scroll faster like on iOS and you can't drag more than one app at a time like you would on Apple's OS.

MiCloud is Xiaomi's iCloud. It gives you 5GB of free storage and options to sync contacts, the gallery, notes, Wi-Fi passwords, browser history, music and enable the Find Device function if you ever misplace your Mi Pad 7.9. However, there is no Messaging service included like on the Mi 3 and Mi 4 smartphones.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Task switcher • MiCloud

Finally, the settings menu offers a list of the main settings on the left and a sub-settings menu on the right. Note that the settings for the system apps is in the settings menu and not in every individual app.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Settings menu

Xiaomi's MIUI v4.8 on the Mi Pad 7.9 works smoothly and we didn't have any stutter whatsoever. The dual-homescreen implementation will need some getting used to and many won't appreciate the total departure from Android and move into iOS waters from the Xiaomi developer team. Still if need be you can always change the UI with one of the many launchers available on the Google Play store.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is the first device to bring the quad-core Tegra K1 chipset to the market. While the Cortex-A15 cores have shown they can post good scores we're mostly looking to see what the Kepler-based 192 Cuda-core GPU can post up.

As is usual in our testing we went through the all-around and CPU-focused benchmarks, moved through to the GPU-intense ones (which should be the most interesting with the Tegra K1) and finally look at some HTML 5 and JavaScript tests.

The first tests are GeekBench 3, Basemark OS II and AnTuTu 4. All of them stress the CPU as well as the system (read-write speed, the lot). The Tegra K1 has four Cortex-A15 cores clocked as high as 2.22GHz, which is very high for this type of core (it usually runs below 2GHz). There's a third-generation battery-saver core but that one doesn't play a role in our testing. The chipset is built using a 28nm process, which should allow the chipset to be more power-efficient. The Snapdragon 800, 801 and 805 are all 28nm, while the Snapdragon 808 is built on using a 20nm fabrication process but hasn't made an appearance on any device yet.

Geekbench 3 puts the Tegra K1 in first place, ahead of the Exynos and Snapdragon rivals. AnTuTu 4 also gives the nod to the Tegra K1 over everyone else. The Snapdragon 801 inside the Samsung Galaxy S5 lags far behind in both tests.

Finally, we have Basemark OS II, which tests both single and multi-core CPU performance and gives an all-round chipset score. The latter shows the Tegra K1 inside the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 as the best performer out of the elite company but single and multi-core show its CPU to be far less impressive.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    3276
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    2881
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    2867
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2781
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    2512
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    1135

AnTuTu 4

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    39575
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    34016
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    33961
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    31754
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    17173

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1192
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    829
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    768
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    525

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    2394
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1999
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    1911
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    1141

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    8547
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    7493
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    5149
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    4873

Now for the Tegra K1's forte - graphics. The GPU inside the K1 is built on the Nvidia Kepler architecture, which powers some very high-end desktop cards. It supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.4 and can run the Unreal Engine 4. The GPU has 192 Nvidia Cuda cores and supports display resolutions of up to UHD resolution (that's 3840 x 2160 or 4K in laymans).

The Tegra K1 chipset has the most pedigree here and should have superior performance to its competition and it does. Gaming graphics benchmark Basemark X shows a score twice as high as any of the competition. GFXBench's onscreen and offscreen T-Rex 1080p and more-intensive Manhattan 1080 tests give an almost unanimous lead for the Kepler architecture and 192 cores of the K1.

The on-screen tests show the raw processing power of the GPUs and the Tegra K1 beats the Adreno 330 by a huge margin on T-Rex and twice as good on Manhattan. The GPU inside the Apple A7 chip doesn't have a chance in this battle. The Tegra K1 is the first device we've tested that shows an almost stutter-free Manhattan test with 27.3fps - that's as close to a fluid 30fps as a mobile device has gotten so far.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    53.1
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    26
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    22.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    20.5

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    39.6
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    21
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    14
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    13.6

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    27.3
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    8.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    5.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    5.6

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    19.8
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
    5
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    3.8
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    2.9

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    24456
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    6875
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    822

And finally for some web benchmarks. BrowserMark 2.1 and Kraken 1.1 test HTML 5 and JavaScript performance and the scores depend as much on the hardware as they do on software optimizations. In both the Tegra K1 on Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 ended up in last place, suggesting that Xiaomi has some work to do to properly optimize its web browser.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    4647
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    4777
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    4927
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    14761

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    1681
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Exynos)
    1515
  • LG G Pad 7.0
    971
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    952

It's certain that the quad-core Cortex-A15 processor can provide stellar power, owning the CPU tests but it's the graphics test that deem the Tegra K1 the most powerful chip around. The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 can play very intensive games without breaking a sweat, pumping out as many fps as are needed to get a fluid, stutter-free experience.

The only issue is that while you're tasking the GPU or CPU with heavy lifting the Mi Pad 7.9 would get really hot - something, which can be attributed to Xiaomi's poor choice of heat-distributing materials.

Phonebook

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 doesn't offer a SIM slot and there's no cellular option in the works so there is no dialer on the slate. There is a Contacts app which lets you organize your Google contacts. There's no Directory (a.k.a. Groups) tab here but you do get your favorite people with the option to add others.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Phonebook

Contact info is displayed as a list of all available details. You can edit contacts, add images or details and have countless information tabs available.

Email and text input

There is no messaging app on the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 but you get two email clients to work with. The standard Xiaomi client has a clean simple white interface with your email folders on the left and your list of messages on the right. You can add more than one account and you get a Combined view of all your emails from both accounts. The Email app can handle Exchange, POP or IMAP inboxes.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Email

Moving on to email, the Gmail app (if included) has handy shortcuts at the bottom of the screen and supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there's no unified inbox.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Gmail

MIUI relies on Google keyboard for the text input - it has always been pleasure to use and is one of the most preferred Android keyboards out there. On this screen the keys are comfortably large in both portrait and landscape mode. There is support for gesture typing, handwriting and voice input.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Google keyboard

Gallery

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to a view of your camera roll with two shortcuts at the top that change the view to either album view of your Local images or album view of your Cloud images. You can't change this view, nor can you customize the default folders.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Gallery

The available features when viewing a single image are pretty standard - set image as wallpaper/contact image, share it, delete it, enter edit mode or just get more info.

The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the shadows or the highlights.

Video player

Xiaomi's video player has very basic interface but rich video decoder support. It managed to play everything we threw at it down to the AC3 audio codec, which is troublesome on so many other devices.

You can also access all your movies through the video section in the gallery.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Video player

The video player, just like the music player, offers access to a paid video streaming services for movies and TV shows.

The app itself lacks support for subtitles or pop up play.

Music player

The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well-laid out, easy to navigate interface. It has a huge visualization screen doubling as a Now Playing windows. Below you get four non-customizable tabs - All Songs, Artists, Playlists and Online.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Music player

The Online tab is where you pay for the Baidu Music service, which allows you to listen to their huge online track collection. Here you can also find various internet radio stations you can listen for free.

The player has cool 3D effects, transitions and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section. Interestingly there are no equalizer presets and you can't set your own, essentially leaving you to the built-in settings alone.

We ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 and it proved to be a very good performer. The speakers are very loud and produce deep stereo sound, we only wish the speakers weren't placed on the back and so close to each other.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPad mini 2 65.7 62.1 72.3 Below Average
LG G Pad 8.3 66.9 75.7 66.6 Good
Google Nexus 7 68.6 65.9 75.8 Good
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 68.7 66.5 75.8 Good
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 75.7 66.6 76.8 Very Good
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 75.7 69.6 82.7 Very Good


Audio quality is good, but not quite perfect

The Xiaomi Mi Pad turned out to be a talented performer in the first half of our test - the one with an active external amplifier. The tablet had good volume levels as befitting to its device class and excellent results in most readings. The frequency response is the solitary exception, but it still rates as good.

Unfortunately plugging in a pair of headphones brought the quality of the Mi Pad audio output down quite significantly. Both intermodulation and harmonic distortion appeared and stereo crosstalk rose notably. Volume levels also dropped and even though it's minor, it's unusual for a slate.

Check out the table and see for yourself.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Xiaomi Mi Pad +0.04, -0.42 -92.0 90.1 0.0055 0.069 -88.4
Xiaomi Mi Pad (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.43 -91.6 89.8 0.375 0.335 -46.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 +0.05, -0.02 -95.7 92.3 0.0044 0.0096 -96.0
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (headphones attached) +0.01, -0.05 -95.7 92.1 0.012 0.014 -44.4
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 +0.02, -0.07 -93.3 93.3 0.0019 0.011 -89.2
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.06 -93.1 93.1 0.0074 0.037 -70.2
LG G Pad 8.3 +0.14, -0.11 -93.8 92.9 0.0021 0.0082 -93.8
LG G Pad 8.3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.11 -90.7 92.7 0.0074 0.208 -53.6
Google Nexus 7 (2013) +0.00, -0.23 -92.2 92.3 0.036 0.020 -92.3
Google Nexus 7 (2013)(headphones attached) +0.83, -0.12 -92.4 92.3 0.010 0.208 -49.3
Apple iPad mini 2 +0.04, -0.39 -93.8 93.7 0.0011 0.0067 -82.9
Apple iPad mini 2 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.00 -93.6 93.6 0.0023 0.030 -62.2


Xiaomi Mi Pad frequency response

Xiaomi Mi Pad frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

8MP snapper

The camera mounted on the back of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is capable of capturing 8MP (3264 x 2448) stills and 1080p videos. True to its Apple-inspired ways, the Mi Pad 7.9 is very scarce on options giving you only a virtual shutter and camcorder buttons with no additional settings for resolution or quality.

There's not even a panorama or HDR mode present on the Mi Pad 7.9 but seeing as how you're mostly going to use the slate as an indoor pet, we can't say we're surprised.

Xiaomi has loaded the Mi Pad 7.9's camera with a lot of shooting effects like Sepia or Black and white. The viewfinder shows you how the effect would look in real time.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Camera app

As for quality, the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is not that bad as you would suppose bearing in mind it's a tablet, and not a cameraphone. There's plenty of detail to go around and we like the dynamic range and colors. Things are mostly sharp in the center but our unit exhibited some odd blurring here and there in some images. There is also a lot of noise present in the photos even in good light - especially in solid colors (like the blue in the sky or the yellow in the building below).

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 camera samples

Macro samples came out good. The Mi Pad 7.9 was fast to focus and snapped images with good close-up detail and a slight separation of the subject and the background.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 macro samples

Overall, when push comes to shove, the Mi Pad 7.9 will be even able to fill in for a cameraphone with barely any compromises.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 in our photo compare tool

Video recording

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 churns out 1080p videos at 30fps. They carry a lowly bitrate of around 14Mbps and a very low 96Kbps audio bitrate, very low 16kHz sampling rate with mono sound. All adding up to very low numbers and in turn just "okay" quality.

Videos have a good amount of detail and run smooth but noise is still very much present and there are artefacts here and there during playback. The sound in the videos isn't impressive as well.

Here's a 1080p@30 fps video sample (25.4MB, 0.14s).

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 in our video compare tool

Two browsers

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It does a great job browsing, syncing with your MiCloud account, supports downloads, there is a night mode too.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Web browser

The browser looks very clean, has an intuitive pull down to refresh feature and is just as fast as Chrome. You can view your links from MiCloud, there's a search field which that defaults to the Chinese Baidu but you can always change it to Google.

There's no Incognito mode, where the browser doesn't save any history. That comes with Chrome, which was also preinstalled here. Chrome has seamless syncing with all the devices with your Google account and is very fast as well.

Other apps

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 offers a great file managing app called Explorer, but there is no document viewer/editor pre-installed. There are plenty for free in the Play Store though (even ones made by Google), so this shouldn't be a problem.

The Explorer app even comes with an FTP function allowing it to connect to an FTP and directly upload content to your online servers - pretty neat.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Explorer

The custom Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views. There's no Agenda view though on the ample Mi Pad 7.9 screen events aren't hard to spot. The Clock app is rather limited with only the ability to show you the time for the cities you've preset. There's no stopwatch or counter and no alarms functionality.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Calendar • Clock

There's no sound recorder or weather app on the Mi Pad 7.9 but you get the excellent Notes app. You can create notes with reminders and attachments in them and even organize notes into folders. There's no integration with services like Evernote, though. A pretty minimalistic calculator is here, too.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Notes • Calculator

Interestingly, the Mi Store isn't preloaded on the Mi Pad 7.9 and in its place we have the Google Play one. We don't see a reason why the tab can't have both.

Anything that isn't on the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store so if you see something missing you can easily add it in later.

Final words

Xiaomi did well with the Mi Pad 7.9 and they know it. Very few compact, affordable tablets end up as solid as this. They need to travel light (and stay within budget) but compromises weigh them down. Well, not the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9.



It's got a different kind of problem - at least from a certain perspective. To be fair, it takes a great deal of confidence to go after the top dog right from the very first try. And we think most of Xiaomi's confidence is well founded.

It's just that trying so hard to look like the iPad doesn't feel right, not where we come from. True, it will cost you much less and offer similar, and even superior specs, but the Mi Pad 7.9 does get carried away trying to impersonate the iPad. On the other hand, this may be a valid strategy in China and Asia Pacific where - we should not forget - this device is mostly meant for.

This by the way is easy to spot in our device, which was handed to us stripped of Google services and an interface that borrows heavily on iOS to begin with. Yep, our review unit is one of those you can get only in China, where Android isn't exactly what we're used to.

There's no app drawer for starters and most of Google's apps and services would've been replaced by their Chinese equivalents. By the way, Xiaomi's business model is no stranger to monetizing online services and customization options.

Good thing the Play Store wasn't a big deal to install, so we got the Mi Pad 7.9 in familiar shape in no time.

Key test findings:

  • Build quality is great, but plastic feels cheap, however there is a rich choice of colors
  • It tends to heat up excessively when under load
  • The screen is solid, with great contrast and overall, excellent indoors
  • The battery life is good
  • Connectivity options are varied, but there is no 3G version
  • The speakers are loud and clear, we rated them as Very Good
  • The MIUI interface for tablets takes after Apple IOS even more than the _phone_ version; it's based on the latest Android KitKat 4.4.4 but it's far from the latest MIUI version; it offers rich customization options but not that many proprietary features as other manufacturers
  • The tablet is fast and responsive with only the occasional glitch here and there, impressive graphics performance
  • The audio quality is good, especially with an external amplifier
  • Video player supports every audio and video codec except WMV
  • The camera is very good for a tablet

We'll say it again, not bad for a first try. And the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is competitively priced to boot. The 16GB version (that's expandable via microSD card) will set you back €240 - that's a bargain compared to Apple's prized mini. Not quite so when compared to the Android-powered competition. Let's have a look at the potential rivals below.

First and foremost, let's get the lookalike Apple iPad mini 2 out of the way. It costs around €100 more and comes with the same screen in terms of size and resolution but boasts a much higher-quality metal build and still offers the biggest selection of tablet-optimized apps. With the new mini around the corner, a price cut for the iPad mini 2 will be well in order.

The Apple A7 64-bit chipset doesn't have the nominal graphic prowess of the Tegra K1 but you won't notice a difference in speed and responsive in any other usage scenario.

Apple iPad mini 2

Apple iPad mini 2

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX isn't a very viable option outside the US and Western Europe but is worth a mention here. It costs a little more than the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 and offers a great 7" 1200p display, stereo speakers, solid build quality and a capable Snapdragon 800 SoC. It is the best way to tap into Amazon services on a handheld.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

We can't do without the excellent Nexus 7 (2013) - it should be on the shortlist of everyone shopping for a compact Android tablet. It's a solid hardware package with a 7" 1200p display, good processor, stereo speakers, minimalist and comfortable design. This is Google's compact champion available at or around the same price as the Mi Pad 7.9.

Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013)

Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013)

LG's G Pad 8.3 as much as the Mi Pad 7.9, it has a slightly inferior chipset and a lower screen resolution but it makes up for that with a gorgeous, bigger 8.3" display, a premium build and a lighter body.

LG G Pad 8.3

LG G Pad 8.3

Samsung has a solid offer in the premium compact class in the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. It has a bigger 8.4" display of the much higher 1600 x 2560 resolution, a Snapdragon 800 chipset, 8MP camera, stereo speakers and the latest Android has to offer packed with Samsung's feature-rich TouchWiz. Best of all, the Tab Pro 8.4 costs even less than the Mi Pad 7.9 or the LG G Pad 8.3 (according to Western European prices).

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

There's plenty of choice of quality tablet hardware and the prices are looking better and better.

The Mi Pad 7.9 is arriving to a market that's not exactly friendly to newcomers but the Chinese tablet isn't afraid to make a stand. OK, perhaps it does so in a loud, cheeky kind of way but it's not just noise it's making. The Tegra K1 chip is begging you to throw heavy games at it, the screen is good enough, the battery backup adequate. In fact, the Tegra K1 chipset and the quality 8-inch display are probably worth the asking price alone.

This is a tablet for China and Asia Pacific but it's got what it takes to make the trip to European shores. When it does so, many will take it for just another iPad copycat. But some of us won't be as quick to judge.

Special thanks to XiaomiShop.com for providing the review unit.

Retail box and bonus accessories

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 comes in a minimalistic retail box that contains a standalone A/C adapter, microUSB cable, and a pin to pop up the MicroSD card slot. The box is barely bigger than the tablet itself.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Retail contents

Xiaomishop.com, who provided us with this review unit, also throw in several freebies with every Mi Pad 7.9 purchase.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomishop.com extra accessories

Design and handling

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 takes a lot of its design cues from the Apple iPad mini 2 - from the screen size, resolution and bezel to the layout of controls with only slight differences here and there.

The Mi Pad 7.9 has an all-plastic build that's nowhere near the premium feel of an iPad mini 2. Not to mention the plastic Mi Pad is actually the heavier of the two. The Mi Pad 7.9 sits at 202 x 135.4 x 8.5mm and it is 2 mm taller, 0.3mm wider, 1mm thicker and 29 g heavier than the Apple iPad mini 2.

All the edges are rounded and the device has a unibody construction with a plastic back panel that wraps around the sides. The four corners are nicely rounded as well, and, overall, it's a pleasant device to handle.

The entire front is covered with Gorilla Glass 3 and there're no physical buttons under the 7.9" display - Xiaomi has used the usual three capacitive keys instead as seen on their phones.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 front

The back of the tablet is mostly flat, slightly curved at the edges only. The plastic looks good but we would've liked a matte finish better than gloss. Other than being less prone to smudging, it would've slightly improved the grip as well.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 back

The Mi Pad 7.9 sits comfortably in the hand. The weight is acceptable and feels evenly distributed. Front buttons are within easy reach in portrait mode but in landscape orientation, the touch sensitive controls end up on the side - not the most convenient of places.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

If we agree that a successful design copying involves improvement, Xiaomi has failed on. This plastic take on the iPad lost its touch with the original as soon as it came off the drawing board. But even so, it's still a reasonably good-looking and comfortable tablet to use, especially if it's the price tag that matters.

Controls

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is mostly operated using the gorgeous 7.9" screen and a standard Android trio of capacitive controls: a Home button flanked by Back and Recent apps.

The three keys are barely visible on our unit in daylight but they're easy to get used to with some practice. Above the screen lies the 5MP front-facing camera and a tiny LED, which serves as a notification light. The Xiaomi logo finishes things off on the front.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The front controls • LED

On the right hand side of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9, a volume rocker is right above the power button. The latter has a rather flimsy press and feels a bit too low.

The left side of the Mi Pad 7.9 features a MicroSD card compartment, which takes a pin (supplied) to eject.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The sides of the tablet

The top of the Xiaomi tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack while the bottom features the MicroUSB port.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Top and bottom

The back is where two microphones are placed around the 8MP camera lens - in the top left corner, just like on the Apple iPad mini 2. Moving on to the bottom - there are two prominent speakers behind grilles in each bottom corner. The speakers, with a dedicated driver each, manage stereo output.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The back of the Mi Pad 7.9

Using the Mi Pad 7.9 in portrait mode feels natural and logical with the power and volume buttons located near your thumb on the right, the three capacitive keys under the screen just between your palms and the speakers uncovered on the back.

Flipping the device landscape ruins everything - the power button becomes unnatural to use, you'll need to remind yourself to adjust your grip so you don't accidentally hit a capacitive key and, at the same time, not to cover any of the speakers with your palm.

That may be nitpicking as no other tablet is equally easy to use in both portrait and landscape mode so perhaps we shouldn't expect it from the Mi Pad either.