[amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ed298214-c577-11e7-bc59-137fc9ea5efc’]The release of new Android-tablet contenders has slowed to a trickle over the past few years, and many of these models have been designed to mimic one or the other of the immensely popular Apple iPads. Take today’s review unit, the $259.99-MSRP Mi Pad 3 [amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7800fc75-c577-11e7-b214-7560558b02e8′], for example, from Xiaomi. Aside from the Android operating system and the differences that brings with it, the Mi Pad 3 is an Apple iPad Mini 4 [amazon_link asins=’B016PW4NX6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’91b09c49-c577-11e7-bb55-799ef44c3cff’] at any distance greater than arm’s length, and shares a lot with that iconic tablet if you look at it closer.
The Mi Pad 3 comes, for example, with a screen of the same size and same resolution: 7.9 inches on the diagonal, and 2,048×1,536 pixels. And, as you’ll see in the next section, the two tablets have several other like physical attributes. Where these Android-based iPad-alikes usually differ, though, is in their pricing. Unless you’re dead-set on Android, why would you pay the same price (or close to it) for a facsimile?
The Huawei MediaPad M3 [amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a7ec9898-c577-11e7-b469-991f50198c46′], another iPad Mini lookalike we reviewed recently, for one, lists for $299.99, or $100 less than the Mini 4 (and $50 more than the Mi Pad 3). The question is, of course, do you get the same value and ease of use from an Android iPad clone as you do from an actual iPad? Obviously, given the popularity, build quality, and overall user experience of the iPads (including the Mini 4), and the strength of the Apple iOS app ecosystem, these tablets are tough to beat. But—we speculate—that isn’t what Xiaomi, Huawei, or any iPad lookalike maker is trying to do.
Instead, these iPad wannabes are offered as money-saving alternatives. For those who can’t afford (or aren’t inclined to spend) $400 or more for a small tablet, these “premium Android” models have a market opening. And some, we think, succeed more than others.
In the case of the Mi Pad 3, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on, it’s not the fastest tablet out there. But it holds its own, even against bigger, more expensive slates. And, from the user-experience perspective—without the benefit of benchmark comparisons—it runs well, with no real sluggishness, crashes, or other performance issues evident in our hands-on time with it. We also like the way it looks and feels. The Mi Pad 3 is thin, sturdy-feeling, and well-balanced, making it pleasant to hold and use.
Now, it does have a shortcoming or two. The body lacks an SD-card slot for expanding storage, for one thing, which is a semi-staple among Android tablets that gives them an (often much needed) edge over Apple’s stable of tablets and smartphones. Also, due to the sheer popularity of the iPad, the availability and frequent updating of tablet-specific apps is tilted a little in the iPad’s favor.
Even so, there is no shortage of Android apps, including tablet-optimized ones. After spending a significant amount of time with the Mi Pad 3, we found little to dislike about it. We have little hesitation in recommending it as a lower-cost alternative to the iPad Mini 4.
FYI, in the U.S., the main source for the Mi Pad 3 is GearBest.com, which specializes in direct-from-Asia tech; you can find the product page here, and GearBest is also offering a coupon code at this writing (MIPAD3CANAL, good through the end of June) that knocks the price to $259.99. Just take heed, when and if you buy, of where it will ship from. It’s possible that if not warehoused in the U.S. at the time of your order, your tablet may ship direct from China, which could take longer than you might expect. Amazon Prime it ain’t.