Artist Review: Xiaomi Pad 5 (2021)

The Xiaomi Pad 5 is the budget tablet to beat in 2021 in terms of value for money. No other tablets come close. It really is quite amazing what Xiaomi has done here with the specifications they managed to squeeze into this tablet.

Below are the specifications of the tablet together with the Pro model, and with the iPad (2021) came out in September 2021.

Model Xiaomi Pad 5 Wifi (2021) Xiaomi Pad 5 Pro 5G (2021) iPad 9 (2021)
Display 11-inch LCD @ 120Hz 11-inch LCD @ 120Hz 10.2-inch LCD @ 60Hz
Resolution 2560 x 1600, 16:10 2560 x 1600, 16:10 2160 x 1620, :4:3
Chip Snapdragon 860 Snapdragon 870 5G Apple A13
RAM 6GB 6 - 8GB 3GB
Storage 128GB 128 - 256GB 64 - 256GB
Main camera 13MP f/2 50MP f/2.5 8MP f/2.4
Speakers 4 way 4 way 2 way
Battery 8720mAh 8600mAh 8557mAh
OS Android 12, MUI 12.5 Android 12, MUI 12.5 iPadOS 15
Weight 511g 519G 487G
microSD card slot No No No
Stylus support Xiaomi Smart Pen (US $65) Xiaomi Smart Pen (US $65) Apple Pencil 1 (US $99)
Price (US$) $300 - 400 $450 $329


The unit I'm reviewing is the one with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. I went with the non-Pro version because of the significantly lower price.

The only area the iPad 2021 can compete is with the Apple A13 Bionic chip. According to benchmarks, Apple A13 Bionic chip is comparable to Snapdragon 870, and is faster than Snapdragon 860 by around 20%. In the real world, the user experience is going to be quite similar though when it comes to general use of the tablet.

Other than the processor, the Xiaomi Pad 5 has better specifications than the iPad 2021.

I bought my Xiaomi Pad 5 here in Singapore for US $300 equivalent, and the Xiaomi Smart Pen for another US $65. The local price here in Singapore for the Xiaomi Pad 5 is US $300. The current price on AliExpress is US $400~, and the pre-order launch price was US $300.

The thing with Android tablets is prices can drop quite quickly. So if you have the time to wait, I recommend waiting till the November and December shopping period for deals. If you can get this Xiaomi tablet at US $300, it's an incredible deal. If you can't and want to buy it at US $400, it's still a good deal. I've reviewed many tablets this year and this the best one in terms of value.

At the US $300 to $400 price range, you're going to get a terrific user experience with the Xiaomi Pad 5 over the iPad 2021. More on that later.

What's included


The tablet comes with a 20W charger and USB-C cable. The Xiaomi Smart Pen is sold separately for US $65.

Design of this tablet is very similar to the iPad Pro with its uniform thin bezels, flat sides, speaker and button placement. When I took the tablet out of the box, I went "Wow, this is the Xiaomi iPad Pro".


The main differences in design to the iPad Pro is the shape of camera module is different...


And the glass of the Xiaomi tablet raises above the metal frame. The Xiaomi tablet is 6.9mm thick while the iPad Pro is 5.9mm.

Build quality is solid. This tablet looks and feels premium.


That's the keyboard connector for the Xiaomi Keyboard Case which is around US $85.


There are 4 speakers, two at the top and two at the bottom. Audio quality from the speakers is fantastic.


Xiaomi Smart Pen attaches to the side of the table magnetically for charging. The magnets are not that strong though.

If you use a flip case with magnets, the pen may not be able to charge properly (according to my friend).

The Xiaomi Smart Pen is a Bluetooth stylus. Battery life is rated at 8 hours. Unlike the Samsung S Pen, the Xiaomi pen needs battery to work. But since the pen is always attached by the side of the tablet. Battery life is not going to be a problem.

Bluetooth pairing is done through tablet settings. One downside is there's no battery life indicator for the pen.


The LCD is vibrant and bright. Colours look great.


The 11-inch display is a good size to work with. It's about the size of an A5-sized sketchbook. You can rest your hand on the display and still have a large leftover area to draw on.


Resolution is 2560 x 1600 and aspect ratio is 16:10. Pixel density is 274 PPI. All the visual look sharp with no noticeable pixelation. This is just a really good display.


When playing Youtube videos, black bars are small. And you can play Youtube videos at 1440P.


The display is also laminated so the gap between the line and the pen tip is minimal, not noticeable when drawing or writing. There's no parallax or misalignment. Tracking is accurate.


The display has 120Hz refresh rate so you can expect smooth animation with scrolling webpages, pan-zoom-rotate, swiping across the home screen.

The latency, unfortunately, is not different from using a 60Hz display. There's still a gap as the line is trying to catch up with the pen tip. The difference with 120Hz and 60Hz when it comes to latency on the Xiaomi tablet is, at least the lines don't appear in a choppy manner. There's the latency gap, but at least the animation of the line appearing is smooth.

Anyway, latency is not an issue unless you're someone who draws really quick, and I mean REALLY quick. With my normal drawing speed, I don't even notice or think about the latency.

General performance

The overall performance of the tablet is smooth and lag-free even with many apps open. I tried playing Genshin Impact and the gaming performance is smooth.

Apps launch fast. Switching between apps is fast. 120Hz refresh rate also makes the performance feel more snappy.

The main downside is apps in the background will often refresh when you switch to them. It's not a big issue since apps and webpages load fast. Apps that use a load of RAM may take longer to reload. For example, when I play Genshin Impact and switch to web browsing, and switch back a few seconds later, there's a good chance the whole game will reload.

Since I don't really game, my overall experience is pretty smooth, a positive experience.

Xiaomi Smart Pen


The Xiaomi Smart Pen is sold separately for US $65.

The design is almost cylindrical except for the flat side that attaches to the side of the tablet. The body has a nice matte texture. It has a nice weight and is comfortable to hold.


The two side buttons are pre-programmed to shortcuts for taking screenshots and taking notes. These buttons are placed slightly higher and further away from the pen tip compared to the Samsung S Pen. I like the button placement because it's difficult for me to press the buttons accidentally.


The pen tip actually has matte surface coating on it. Despite the matte textured surface, the pen glides on the glass too smoothly for my preference. When drawing straight lines, if you don't have good technique, the pen can glide away from the intended path. I won't say it's that slippery but it's definitely very smooth. It's going to take some time to get use to it, especially when you need to draw accurately.

The pen tip should last for a long time as it's so smooth on the glass. I probably don't recommend apply a matte screen protector because it's going to wear down the pen tip faster, and it's difficult to find replacement tips.

There's only one replacement tip included. At the time of this review, replacement tips are not available. When I reviewed the Huawei MatePad Pro with their Huawei M Pencil, it took several months for replacement tips to be available. If you want to look for replacement tips, the best place is on AliExpress.

Pen performance and line quality test


1. Initial Activation Force (IAF) is low but you still need to apply slight pressure to get a line.

2. Jitter or wobble is not very noticeable with slow diagonal lines.

3a. Lines are not able to taper as smoothly compared to Apple Pencil or those pen tablets or pen displays.

3b. This makes drawing certain subjects more challenging, e.g. blades of grass, hair. Whether this will affect your work will depend on the type of art you create. If you draw professional comics, then the pen performance may not be good enough.

4. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth. However due to the IAF, it's difficult to make the line go back as thin as it can be.

5. Dots can be drawn easily.

6. Maintaining consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width is not difficult. There's minor changes in the thickness but nothing too significant.


Tilt sensitivity works great. You can get different thickness for broad strokes depending on the angle of tilt. It's easy to get smooth thin and thick transition with tilt.

Palm rejection works flawless with apps where you can choose to have only pen input for drawing.

Apple Pencil is still the best stylus on a tablet. Xiaomi Smart Pen and Samsung S Pen are on par and come in at second place. The pen performance that you see above is probably the best an Android tablet and pen can put out so far. There's still room for improvement before the performance can match Apple Pencil.

Drawing experience

My overall drawing experience is still quite positive despite the issue with IAF.


Huion Sketch


Huion Sketch


Medibang Paint


Concepts


Concepts


Concepts

Drawing apps on Android


Google Play Store is included.

There's a good selection of drawing apps on Android although the variety is not as huge as what you can find from the Apple App Store. But even if you have an unlimited selection of drawing apps, it's not like you're going to use that many apps. The main downside to the Google Play Store is the lack of graphic design apps, e.g. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Affinity Designer.

Clip Studio Paint is probably the best illustration app available on Android. It's basically the same desktop version ported over to Android so you get all the tools and features. It's a subscription based app on the tablet and you cannot reuse your desktop license.

Medibang Paint is a freemium alternative to Clip Studio Paint. It's quite capable too. Freemium means it's free to use but some tools and features are locked behind the paywall.


Concepts is my favourite drawing app. It's a vector illustration app with infinite canvas.

Other notable drawing apps on Android are Krita, Infinite Painter, Sketchbook and Huion Sketch.

iPad 2021 vs Xiaomi Pad 5


The iPad 9 (2021) is only better because Apple Pencil performance is better. Other than that, the design is dated, there's only 3GB RAM and 64GB storage. Display is not laminated. Speakers are not true stereo. Display is 60Hz.

If I have US $400 - $500 to spend, I'll probably go with the Xiaomi Pad 5 Pro because despite the drawing performance not being as good as the Apple Pencil, the overall package just provides way more value for money.

Actually, if you're not into drawing, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is the obvious choice to buy, hands down, no brainer.

I feel like if I were to buy the iPad over the Xiaomi Pad 5, I would go "I wish I had bought the Xiaomi" everyday. Whereas if I have the Xiaomi, I really don't feel like I'm really missing out too much.

I've reviewed many tablets over the years and I've come to the stage where I just use whatever that's in front of me as long as it can get the job done. I don't mind if it's an iPad or Android tablet, but I won't use Windows tablets for professional digital drawing.

As to which tablet to get, my advice is to look at your workflow and the type of art you make, and choose the tablet that best suits your art style. If your art requires absolute precision, and you should know that by now, then the Xiaomi is probably not for you.

The other main reason, besides Apple Pencil, to choose the iPad is the variety of drawing and graphic design apps available from the Apple App Store. The variety is larger that's for sure but note that you're not going to be using that many drawing apps at the same time. Most people gravitate towards Procreate and just that so it doesn't really matter if the variety is huge.

What's really missing with Android really is graphic design apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and Affinity Photo and Designer.

Conclusion

What Xiaomi has done with the Xiaomi Pad 5 is impressive. You can now get a great looking tablet with good performance for a fraction of what Apple is charging. FYI, the iPad Air (2020) with 64GB storage is priced at US $599 and that doesn't even come with a 120Hz display or 4-way speakers!


In terms of drawing performance, it's good but not as good compared to the Apple Pencil. Drawing performance is on par with the Samsung S Pen. The only thing I didn't quite like is how slippery the screen is when drawing so that affects accuracy. That will take some time to get used to. The main thing is I still enjoy drawing on this tablet very much.

As a tablet for general use, it's 5 out 5 stars. As a tablet for drawing, it's probably 4.5 out of 5 stars. Would I recommend getting this tablet over the iPad 2021? Absolutely because the overall user experience is just so much better. E.g. Better display, audio, more storage, nice design, USB-C, cheaper.

I'm someone who's budget conscious like to get the most value. For years I've been recommending refurbished iPads over new models because the refurbished ones are the better deal. So in this case, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is the better deal, and provides way more value than an iPad.

Oh, if you want to buy the tablet, make sure to get the global ROM for the default English interface.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Solid build quality
+ 4-way speakers with fantastic audio quality
+ USB-C
+ Pen snaps to the side for charging
+ Tilt and pressure sensitivity works well
+ Palm rejection works well
+ Vibrant and bright display
+ Sharp visuals with no pixelation (274 PPI)
+ 2560 x 1600 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio
+ 120Hz refresh rate
+ Laminated display
+ Base model with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage
+ Snapdragon 860 has good performance
+ 10-14 hours battery life
+ Extremely competitive pricing for the non-Pro model
- No battery indicator for Xiaomi Smart Pen
- Apps in background often reload
- Slippery display when drawing
- Replacement pen tips impossible to find currently
- Possible Android OS updates not guaranteed

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2 Comments

Hello!

Hello!
Thank you for this great review! It certainly gives an excellent perspective other than just "hunch", as we see many users comment over you tube review videos!
I know this review is about art purposes mostly, but what can you say about writing with smart pen? like, if I'm using this tablet for studying?
Thank you in advance for replying!
David

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