Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 review: Up-and-comer
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.
Xiaomishop.com, who provided us with this review unit, also throw in several freebies with every Mi Pad 7.9 purchase.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The top of the Xiaomi tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack while the bottom features the MicroUSB port.
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.
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.