This Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 review was updated to include the Mi Pad 2 Windows version. (3rd March 2016)
The Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 is the successor to the Nvidia Tegra K1 powered Mi Pad, this time around Xiaomi ditched the Nvidia chipset instead opting for Intel’s Atom X5 Z8500. The main reason behind this move is Xiaomi’s plan to release a Windows version of the tablet and dual OS, which the Nvidia being an ARM-based chip doesn’t support.
The Atom X5 Z8500 Gen8 GPU is around 25% weaker than the first Mi Pad model, so this move is interesting, Xiaomi had to downgraded performance in order to gain Windows support for the tablet. The build uses the same 2048 x 1536 Retina screen, but this time, the rear housing is metal instead of plastic and is 1mm slimmer.
What’s in the Box:
- USB Type-C cable
- Mini USB Power supply, 5 volts 2A.
- Paperwork in Chinese
Hardware & build quality:
The build of the Mi Pad 2 is one of the best, if not the best I’ve seen on a tablet in this price bracket. The finish is class A all around and it’s as good as an Apple product. The tablet is only 6.9mm thin, the metal finish and fully laminated screen give the tablet a quality feeling to it that you just wouldn’t expect for the price.
It doesn’t look like a $185 tablet in the slightest (Android version starting price) but more like a premium top of the line offering like the 8″ Tab S2 or Apple iPad Mini 2 or 4. The build quality is superb.
The tablet has 2GB of DDRL3 RAM, 16GB or 64GB of storage (Windows version is only 64GB) and powered by the latest Atom X5 Z8500 Cherry Trail as seen in the Teclast X98 Pro and ASUS Transformer Book T100HA. One thing we loose over the first model is MicroSD card support which is disappointing to see. It can’t have been too hard or costly to add a MicroSD card tray for the tablet. But Xiaomi omitted this option and has also done so in their latest mobile phone releases in a new push to drop support for MicroSD cards across their new range of devices. A bad move if you ask me and I hope Xiaomi rethink this move before it’s too late.
Screen and touch response:
Like the first model, the Mi Pad 2’s screen is a 2048 x 1536 pixel panel with super high 324 PPI. What does that mean? Well, it means the screen is extremely sharp, it’s even sharper than my Surface Pro 4 which has only 264 PPI compared to this screen.
The screen is also fully laminated like an iPad Mini 4, and it’s only the second Chinese tablet I have reviewed to have a fully laminated screen. The first was the Cube i7 (Not i7 Stylus), I hope to see more Chinese manufacturers going for the more expensive, but much nicer laminated displays without any gaps between the touch glass and IPS panel below.
The view angles are good, brightness and contrast are great too, with deep blacks. This is the best screen I’ve seen on a budget Chinese tablet. Still at 294 cd/m2 of brightness it’s bright, but far from being the brightest tablet around in Android.
But in Windows, disabling the adaptive brightness sees the panel hit 340 m2/cd which is much brighter. I have no complaints with this brightness and at this level it’s too bright for me indoors.
Touch accuracy and responsive is great in both Windows and Android, I have no complaints here.
Ports & Connectivity:
Xiaomi decided to go with the latest gen port and use a USB 3 Type-C and instead of a MicroUSB 2.0 port. This new standard allows data, charging and even video out at the same time with the right adapter. It’s also less annoying to insert as the MicroUSB 2.0 port as it’s reversible. No more 50/50 chance of inserting it correctly, the only downside is it’s a new spec port and harder to find adaptors and cables. But more and more are making their way out onto the market and into stores.
In both Android and Windows I tried Apple’s MacBook Type-C Multiport adapter, which has USB type-C in for charging, a USB port and HDMI out. Everything part from HDMI output worked. I could use OTG, a mouse, memory stick and charge the tablet. But no matter what I tried I could not get the tablet to output video.
It could be Xiaomi don’t have this enabled, support it, or the issue was the adapter? I’m not sure, if you know if it does support video or a certain adapter, please let me know.
Windows 10 Home and Experience:
The Windows 10 version of Mi Pad 2 finally started to ship out from China in February. Only the 64GB version comes with Windows or Android. A wise choice as I would hate to see the free available space on a 16GB unit running Windows! As it stand the Windows model has 43.2GB available on first boot in Windows. And Xiaomi opted for 64bit Windows 10, so you can run 64bit application.
The display scaling has been set to 200% which best suits this high resolution screen. Setting this to 100% or apps that don’t support Windows 10 scaling correctly shows just how tiny things would look on the 7.9 inch screen without it.
Photoshop CS5 without proper Windows scaling support, means the menus are super duper tiny and extremely hard to see. Making this version at least of Photoshop super frustrating to use.
Running a few tabs in Chrome Windows show the memory is already over 70%. 4GB of RAM would have been ideal, but as I’ve seen on many tablets running 2GB Windows 10 is still quite usable. Just don’t expect to multitask like crazy as once you full up the RAM Windows starts to use virtual RAM which tends to slow things down somewhat.
Chrome isn’t that well optimized for Atom devices running Windows 10. However it still worked fine and the only real hiccup is the scrolling using touch isn’t as smooth as Edge. Edge is super iPad like smooth and over the Windows experience is fluid and rapid. The system feels quite fast with Windows opening up quickly and dispute the high resolution, small panel touch accuracy is one of the best and very responsive.
Android Rom and Experience:
For the most part, the custom MIUI 7 ran smooth with a very iOS look to it. Xiaomi has done their best to mimic the iPad Mini even in the Roms look, with an icon set, time, battery icon and launcher layout very similar to iOS. It is of course only a skin on top of Android 5.1 which is what powers the launcher.
They customized the ROM with some extra settings like a Child mode, setting where you can lock out certain apps from use. And a notification light tweaking where you can set a whole range of colors to suit. The settings menu is slightly rearranged, but any Android 5 user shouldn’t have a problem finding their way around the ROM.
There are a few Chinese apps like Games and the Xiaomi App store that can’t be uninstalled. My first ROM was a multi-language Rom that Gear Best or the supplier had installed for export as it had Google Play installed. The stock original Mi Pad 2 Rom only supports Chinese and English, no Play installed.
But my unit had Play to begin with and updating to the latest 7.1.3 Mi Pad 2 at the time of this review resulted in the loss of Google Play functionality, but the Play app store is easy enough to download and install again.
On first boot you get 1.2G to 1.3GB of usable free RAM of the 2GB on board. Most of the time the Rom is fast and responsive, but there were times when I would switch from an intensive game like Mortal Kombat X to the home screen to then be meet with a “Just a Sec” screen and my app icons blurred briefly. It didn’t happen all the time, but it was a little annoying to see as even MediaTek mobiles I review don’t have lag like this. Sometimes the Rom would also have micro stutters, but normally only when pushed hard multitasking. On the 7.1.3 stable
On the 7.1.3 stable Rom things seemed to have improved, and the experience was slightly faster. So I do think Xiaomi are aware of this and my time with the tablet already saw 3 updates which were bugs and stability improvements.
I was also surprised to see it has FM radio support, I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere on the promo images or press release. And it’s not that fake streaming radio over the internet I was half expecting to see, a but proper hardware FM tuner that requires you to plug in a headset for the antenna. It works great, a nice little bonus. I don’t expect this to work in the Windows 10 version even if the hardware is still there.
My Mi Pad 2 reviewed is the 16GB version, which only gave me just over 12GB free. I don’t recommend getting this 16GB model if you’re a gamer or you have a large MP3 collection. 12GB just doesn’t cut it for most people. And since Xiaomi decided to not support expandable storage via MicroSD you’re stuck with it.
The Windows 64GB version has 42.GB free and Xiaomi use Toshiba brand eMMC’s model 064G70. The benchmarks results are below.
These speeds are impressive for a eMMC drive. Particularly the 4k random reads and writes. They are some of the highest seen here at Tech Tablets.
The Atom X5 Z8300 performed as expected in Windows, matching scores from the X5 Z8500 powered Teclast X98 Pro in everything apart from 3DMarks Ice Storm 1.2. The PCMark 7 score was helped by the fast eMMC drive beating the X98 Pro.
- Geekbench 3 score: 898 single & 3016 multi
- 3DMark Ice Storm 1.2 score: 19732
- 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited: 22940
- 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme: 14231
- PCMark 7: 2769
The Atom X5 Z8500 had scores on par with other X5 Z8500 tablets tested in Geekbench 3. With a single core score of 954 and 3208 this result was good. The 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited score of 18077 was less than the Teclast’s X98 Pro’s 24,000+ score. But the rest of the benchmarks like Antutu 6, the Mi Pad 2 did well for the chipset.
Screenshots of all the benchmarks I ran are below:
The Mi Pad 2 can handle most games well however, demanding titles like Modern Combat 5 and Mortal Kombat X proved too much for the tablet and frame rates suffered with slow down. Everything else including Marvel Contest of Heros, Eternity Warriors 4, Real Racing 3 etc was perfectly playable and smooth.
Windows gaming, on the other hand, was a little better, mainly due to the fact we can lower settings and the resolution something we can do in Android as easily. Store titles run fine even in the native screen resolution, well apart from Modern Combat 5 Blackout which has to be the most poorly optimized Windows store game around. It even lags on the Core M tablets. But popular online titles like League of Legends and Counter Strike Global Offensive were surprisingly playable with reduced settings of course.
To gauge the battery life of the Mi Pad 2, I ran PCMark for Android’s battery life test which constantly runs web apps and other software until the battery reaches 20%. Set to 50% brightness and Wifi on, the Mi Pad 2 scored 9 hours and 13 minutes work time.
So you can expect over 10 hours of web browsing if you run the battery right down. With Wifi off and watching videos, I think you would be able to get around 12 hours.
Gaming is a different story, the most demanding on any tablet and you should be able to get around 5 hours at least. Battery stats below:
In Windows battery life is similar, around 5 to 6 1/2 hours of on time with the screen at 50% brightness using Edge and watching movies. Gaming this figure will be around 3-4 hours depending on how demanding the game is. But these figures are great and the best seen in the the 7.9 & 8 Inch tablet catagory. All helped by the 6100 mAh battery whereas most 8 inch tablets have only 3300 to 4000 mAh batteries.
Heat and throttling:
The highest I saw the CPU temperature get up to when gaming and pushing the tablet hard was 69 degrees using the CPU Temps app. With that maximum temperature, the tablet wouldn’t have been throttling, but it will be interesting to see if the Windows 10 version will. In my experience, Android seems to run much cooler.
The surface of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 does get warm when gaming, but nothing I considered to be outside of the norm for such a thin tablet.
Under Windows 10, the Z8500 Atom hit 81 degrees. Which isn’t great. It’s the same result as other X5 Z8500 tablets and it seems to be a common thing for this chipset. It didn’t thermal throttle, but it can’t have been far off from it.
Using the supplied 5 volts 2 amp charger the Mi Pad 2 took just over 3 hours to fully charge from 10%.
The audio output from the stereo speakers on the rear of the tablet sound great, not only are they loud, they have a hint of bass and have to be some of the best tablet speakers I’ve heard. Finally, someone hasn’t overlooked the speakers, well done on Xiaomi for choosing some speakers that actually sound good for once.
Audio output from the 3.5mm jack is very clear, there is no static or interference. Volume output is good and I could even drive my HyperX cloud 2 headset just fine. Xiaomi has included various audio options for tweaking the sound output just right. If you just so happen to have a set of Mi headphones you can select them in the audio option and the equalizer will be tweaked for that particular headset. With my Mi Standard headset, it did make a slight difference.
The MIUI audio options also let you set the remote buttons to change tracks or stop/start and even assign buttons. Overall the sound quality is excellent and inline microphones are supported.
The inbuilt microphones included worked well with apps like Skype.
The front facing 5MP camera of the Mi Pad 2 takes an okay photo with beautifying options. It looked good on Skype and much brighter than all of the front facing cameras I normally see on these budget tablets out of China.
The 8-megapixel rear auto focus camera takes a decent photo, great macros. Landscape photos show some blur and over sharpening, but not bad for a tablet. It’s not going to match the iPad Mini 4’s cameras. And video recorded was limited to 720p with no options yet in the current 7.1.3 firmware. But even so the photos and video again, were better than most tablets apart from my Surface Pro 4’s 8MP camera.
Here are some rear camera samples:
In Windows you can shoot up to 1080p and the cameras are definatly on of the best if not the best seen on a tablet of this size here on TechTablets. They are legagues ahead of the other 8 inch tablets that only have 2MP cameras normally with a fixed focus on the rear. Props to Xiaomi for not going cheap on the cameras where most do.
The Mi Pad 2 is a pleasure to use, the build quality you get for the price is nothing short of amazing. While it may not be the fastest performing Atom X5 Z8500 tablet tested and there were some minor hiccups with MIUI 7, the ROM should improve with further firmware updates being pushed out regularly by Xiaomi.
Windows works great on the little tablet aided by a quick Toshiba eMMC, for those that want a mini iPad but with a full OS like Windows, this is the tablet to get.
Overall I can fully recommend this tablet for those that want something as close as possible to an iPad Mini, without the price tag or OS. But only if you can live without the expandable storage and HDMI out that keep this tablet from being an almost a perfect 7.9/8 inch tablet. It’s definitely the best of the smaller tablets tested to date and I look forward to seeing the rumored dual boot release in March 2016.
Questions? Why not join us in the Mi Pad 2 Forum.