The review of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 at Computer ShopperThe 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, for example, from Xiaomi. (Xiaomi is a very big name in China, where it is best known for its smartphones, but it is much lesser known here in the States.) Aside from the Android operating system and the differences that brings with it, the Mi Pad 3 is an Apple iPad Mini 4 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, 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.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 (Introduction)

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.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 (Contents)

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.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper


 

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Acer Iconia A1-830 Review and RatingsIf imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then the tablet we’re looking at here today, Acer’s Iconia A1-830, borders on idol worship.

Granted, in one way or another, every compact tablet (which we define as a model with a screen from 7 to 9 inches) competes with Apple’s industry-leading iPad Mini and iPad Mini With Retina Display. But few of them are as blatant about it as this $179.99-list Acer slate. Aside from the obviously different logos, the placement of the speakers, and a bit more heft, the Iconia A1-830 looks as though it came from the Cupertino design team.

As you’ll see in the course of our review, though, looks aren’t everything. In many ways, this 7.9-inch Android tablet is nothing like either of the core Apple iPad Mini models. Nor does it, in our opinion, offer a whole lot of competition for them.

Acer Iconia A1-830The one area in which the Iconia A1-830does soundly beat the iPad Mini, though, is price. When we wrote this in mid-April 2014, the standard (non-Retina Display) Apple iPad Mini sold for $299 (with 16GB of onboard storage), while the Retina Display model with the same storage was going for $100 more. In contrast, you can pick up the Iconia A1-830, with a same-size screen (7.9 inches, at a 1,024×768 native resolution) and the same 16GB for about $120 less—or perhaps an even bigger discount on sale. (iPads, meanwhile, seldom get marked down from list price, and even then, not by much.)

Another feature on this entry-level Android tablet, as well as most other Androids—budget-priced or otherwise—that you won’t find on any iPad is a MicroSD card slot, for expanding the onboard storage. Aside from that, though, nearly everything else—most notably, the display, the speakers, and the camera quality—wasn’t up to the iPad Mini’s mark.

All this is not to say that the Iconia A1 is a bad tablet—not at all. It’s just that it’s no iPad Mini, even though it looks like one. Still, the Iconia A1-830 is hands-down superior to the thicker and heavier Iconia A1-810 it replaces. And from that perspective—this is an entry-level slate, after all—it holds up much better. It’s well-built and attractive; it feels good in your hands; and the display stacks up well compared to those of other low-cost compact tablets.

Acer Iconia A1-830 (Horizontal)

On the other hand, several under-$150 7-inch slates, such as Dell’s Venue 7 and Asus’ MeMO Pad HD 7, perform as well as (or better than) the Iconia A1-830. And Acer’s model lists for only $50 less than Google’s field-leading compact Android tablet, the 2013 Nexus 7. Our point? You can get a comparable slate for less money and a much better one for only about $50 more.

Of course, the screen sizes aren’t exactly equal; you get nearly an extra inch with the Iconia A1-830’s 7.9-inch screen over the 7-inch brigade. And what you don’t get with any of the slates mentioned in the previous paragraph is a display with a 4:3 aspect ratio, like that of the iPad Minis. A 4:3 ratio is more like an old-style television’s, versus the more common 16:9 ratio used by most HDTVs and tablets today. We’ll look more closely at the Iconia A1-830’s display traits in the Features & Apps section later on.

In short, this tablet’s resemblance to the iPad Mini is at the same time one of its big strengths and weaknesses. It’s a good-looking, relatively well-performing slate, but it suffers, on a feature level, when compared to Apple’s ace. Plus, considering its many low-priced competitors, we think the list price is a tad high. At under $150, this would be a winning budget tablet, especially as it’s a near-8-incher, rather than a 7-incher. In fact, the closer the Iconia A1-830 might get to being $100 less than the market-leading Android, the $229 Google Nexus 7, the more we’d like it.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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