At a Glance
- Capable budget gaming tablet
- Robust, premium design
- Great battery life
- Uncertain update roadmap
- Poor camera quality
- Slow charging
A rare worthwhile competitor in the small tablet space, the Realme Pad Mini impresses with its design and gaming performance but general usability and software support could be better.
The Realme Pad served as the company’s first play into the tablet market, arriving towards the end of 2021. Now, it’s looking to turn that one product into a range, with something a little bit more portable, in the Realme Pad Mini.
Hot on the heels of the Realme 9 series’ arrival, the Pad Mini is not only the company’s second-ever tablet, it’s a somewhat unusual entrant in the tab space; being one of only a handful of smaller-screened slates from a reputable brand.
Apple, famously, has the market cornered, with its own iPad Mini but Samsung has long been offering up smaller entries within its Galaxy Tab series that hover around the 7in to 8in mark, while many of Amazon’s Fire slates also operate in the same space; in terms of both display size and affordability.
After the Android tablet market’s relative dormancy over the last few years, renewed interest – primarily from Chinese brands, like Xiaomi and Oppo – has injected fresh competition into the space, and Realme’s Pad Mini looks like an ongoing statement that Realme’s keen to get in on the action.
Design and build
- 7.6mm thick aluminium unibody
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 372 grams
Last year’s Realme Pad set the tone for what the aesthetics of a Realme tablet should look and feel like, and all of that original slate’s key design traits carry across to the Pad Mini.
As in the smartphone market, the resurgence of straight-sided slab-like design work is alive and well in the tablet space too, with the Apple and Samsung being staunch advocates of the style. Based on its tablets, this take is clearly something Realme has also been drawn to.
Like the standard Realme Pad, the Pad Mini sports a milled aluminium frame with light chamfering along its back edge, with what are assumed to be antenna divides, splitting the rear into three sections, visually. The back is flat and near-featureless, save for a single rear camera, pushed tight into one corner, while Realme’s logo sits unobtrusively diagonally across in the other.
There’s a lot more going on along the edges of the Mini, with what looks to be a colour-matched metal power key and volume rocker on one side, a SIM tray (on the 4G LTE model, at least) on the other, speaker grilles on the top and bottom (when the tablet’s being held in portrait), a microphone and USB-C port on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on top.
While a thickness of 7.6mm sounds pretty slimline when talking about phones, in the tablet market, it’s not quite as waiflike a measurement as you might think. Being a more affordable slate, Realme has used an old engineering trick that helps the tablet appear thinner when in actuality the black bezel of the display protrudes from the frame slightly.
Provided you don’t have especially small hands, you can grasp either side of the Pad Mini in one hand (for a more secure grip than is possible on most larger tabs), while using it with the other. However, at 372 grams, it’s deceptively heavy for a smaller slate and might get tiring to wield after a while, especially for younger users.
There’s no bumper case in the box, as you might find with Amazon’s Kids Edition tablets but there’s also little concern about Realme’s build quality here, with a precision-milled unibody that feels reassuring rigid and well-built in hand.
Display and audio
- 8.7in WXGA+ IPS LCD
- 179ppi is on the low side
- Maximum brightness could be better
- Good speaker stereo separation
To justify its ‘Mini’ nomenclature, Realme has dressed its newest tablet with an 8.7in 5:3 display; although that’s actually one of the largest panels you’ll find in the category (along with the similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite), before jumping up to more conventional tabs with displays measuring 10in and up.
It’s proportionally in line with your average paperback book, meaning bookworms might appreciate the Pad Mini as a portable full-colour backlit eReader of sorts; helped by the fact that Realme’s software includes a bevvy of options to tweak and tune the viewing experience.
There’s Eye Comfort mode, which warms the colour temperature of the visuals, a dedicated Reading mode that switches everything to monochrome and a system-wide Dark mode that, when reading, can serve up white-on-black text.
While the IPS LCD’s colour and contrast are surprisingly solid for such an affordable slate (even if settings to increase vibrancy or saturation would have been nice), it doesn’t quite measure up on brightness, which even at its maximum (which Realme quotes as 360nits) isn’t enough to effectively combat bright sunlight, when viewed outdoors.
A pixel density of just 179ppi also hurts the viewing experience, with obvious pixelation around on-screen elements, not to mention limitations on finer details; such as how small text can be before quality is impacted too heavily. Although I understand Realme’s desire to keep the Pad Mini affordable, just because the display is smaller doesn’t mean choosing the right panel for the need it’s trying to fill should be any less important.
The story is a bit brighter where audio is concerned, with that standard 3.5mm jack making wired headphone use wholly accessible – an absent feature on plenty of tablets, nowadays.
As for those stereo speakers, when holding the Pad Mini in landscape, the offset grilles make it comfortable to hold without obscuring their output and there’s a clear stereo separation that flips automatically if you rotate the slate 180° (when in portrait, no matter which way around you hold the Pad Mini, the left channel comes out of the speaker nearest the front-facing camera, while the right channel comes out of the one by the USB port).
There’s acceptable clarity and good loudness from the pair of drivers inside the Pad Mini but they lack any real bass, with an otherwise flat profile that’s functional but not exceptional.
Software and features
- Android 11 w/ Realme UI for Pad
- Limited software update roadmap
- Only basic multitasking functionality
‘Realme UI for Pad’ (atop Android 11) feels notably different to the user experience found on the company’s smartphones. For a start, it looks and handles a lot more like stock Android, and beyond the settings menu, there’s little that suggests much else has been done to differentiate it. (even the setup process hasn’t been tweaked to say ‘tablet’ instead of ‘phone’).
The result is clean and should be easy enough to get to grips with for newcomers. However, more could have been done to capitalise on the additional screen real estate that even a smaller tablet like this affords a user; compared to what fits on a conventional smartphone-sized display.
Android’s native split-screen multitasking is all you have to work with, so there’s no Smart Sidebar or floating window apps to speak of; as can be found on various Realme phones. This feels like either a huge oversight or possibly an intentional move by Realme to dissuade users from trying to multitask, for risk of overtaxing the tablet’s modest hardware, either way, don’t expect this to be a pocket productivity beast.
There are some signs that Realme has made an effort to be intentional with the Pad Mini’s software experience, with entries like Google Kids Space and YouTube Kids positioned front and centre on the primary home screen. Navigation is also supported by Realme’s own ‘Assistive Ball’, which isn’t so much some sort of medical aid as it is a floating navigation button that can be dragged around the display to be kept within easy reach and used to navigate back, home or into the open app switcher.
The other quirk that often comes with affordable phones and slates is their limited update support and at present, it’s unclear whether the Pad Mini will live to see an upgrade to Android 12 or beyond. The standard Realme Pad originally launched with a similarly murky future ahead of it and it wasn’t until four months after the tablet’s unveiling that promise of a move to Android 12 surfaced, which itself isn’t set to roll out until Q3, 2022.
- Unisoc Tiger T616 chipset
- Up to 4GB RAM & 64GB storage
- Surprisingly competent gaming performance
Android tablets that run on Unisoc chipsets (like the Nokia T20) aren’t typically known for their grunt and that’s just as true with the Realme Pad Mini. It’s evident from the choice of silicon that the company had a different set of use cases in mind, compared to the standard Realme Pad, which sports a more capable MediaTek Helio G80 processor.
Based on the experiences delivered by the Unisoc T616 and 4GB of RAM-powering the Pad Mini tested in this review, the lower 3GB RAM model is best left alone, no matter how enticing its lower asking price might seem.
From waking the tablet up with a button press or a double-tap of the display (there’s no fingerprint sensor, but there is face unlock), to swiping around the UI, to app load times, there’s an ever-present delay that you’ll either learn to live with or resent; either way, it’s doesn’t make for the most seamless user experience.
While I never expected the Pad Mini to offer high fidelity mobile gaming, it did exceed expectations in that department, with titles like Asphalt 9 running without much complaint and Call of Duty Mobile topping out at medium graphical settings and high frame rate settings (bearing in mind the Pad Mini’s display is fixed to 60Hz), with only the occasional dropped frame, extended loading screen or noticeable input lag.
Confusingly, so long as you’re not looking to do some competitive online multiplayer, the Pad Mini actually delivers better performance whilst gaming than it does when swiping around the general user experience.
- 6400mAh battery
- 18W fast charging
- 23% charge in 30 minutes
- Full charge in 2 hours 45 minutes
A large portion of the Pad Mini’s weight comes from its 6400mAh battery, which twinned with the modest display resolution and internals grant it strong longevity, even with the 4G cellular model tested here.
More demanding actions, like gaming, obviously put more strain on the battery, with the average round of Warfare on Call of Duty Mobile sapping up to 5% charge (with auto-brightness on), otherwise it should serve up around 9.5 hours of screen-on time per charge.
As for recharging the Pad Mini, while its generously-sized battery lasts a long time, it also takes a long time to refill. Realme includes an 18W charging in-box, but even with what the company brands as ‘fast’ charging, it takes around 2.75 hours to fully replenish the Pad Mini, with the battery refilling at a rate just shy of 12% every 15 minutes (up until 80% when that rate then slows).
- 8Mp f/2.0 rear camera + 5Mp f/2.2 front camera
- Poor camera quality, especially in low light
- Front-facer supports face unlock
Generally speaking, tablet cameras are best when used sparingly or not at all (assuming you also have a smartphone or dedicated camera on hand, as the sensors on those will undoubtedly be better), and that’s especially true when talking about budget slates, like the affordable Pad Mini.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a single 8Mp sensor on the back (without an LED flash or any other accoutrements), while a 5Mp front-facing snapper sits nestled into the Pad Mini’s relatively-thick bezel.
Image quality is serviceable if you’re snapping a picture of a receipt or your want to make video calls using the front-facer but just make sure there’s plenty of light, as both sensors struggle if there’s anything but an abundance of the stuff.
Post-processing tries to make something of the images, but even in well-lit conditions and with some nice colours, detail is poor at best and, in truth, a murky mess most of the time.
Realme does include manual controls and video capture, but quality takes an even deeper dive with the latter, particularly as there’s no stabilisation to speak of.
Price and availability
Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll likely find the Realme Pad Mini available in one of four SKUs, each in one of two colours: grey (pictured) or blue.
- 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, WiFi-only = €179.99/INR₹10,999
- 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, 4G LTE = ₹12,999
- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, WiFi-only = €199.99/₹12,999
- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, 4G LTE = €229.99/₹14,999
You can pick the Pad Mini up directly from Realme’s own web store, with availability in eastern markets, including India and the Philippines and across select areas of Europe, such as France, Spain, Italy and beyond. UK availability is on the cards, however, the company hasn’t yet confirmed when or how much it’ll cost in the region.
While there’s a different chipset running the show, the aforementioned Galaxy Tab A7 Lite is the most like-minded alternative to the Realme Pad Mini, despite having launched back in 2021. It arrived at a similar asking price, with a similarly sized and specced display, and also runs Android 11.
The main difference – aside from running Samsung hardware and software – is that it’s consistently received security patches since release, not to mention its time in the market means that, despite offering a similar experience (it sports a 2Mp front-facer, instead of a 5Mp unit, as on the Pad Mini), it’s already received at least once price drop that’ll likely continue to fall.
Other alternatives include the more recent Galaxy Tab A8 or, if you’re not dead-set on a straight Android experience, Amazon’s ludicrously affordable (but older) Fire 7 or Fire HD 8 Plus.
While worthwhile affordable Android tablets are few and far between, just because the Pad Mini is both cheap and from a reputable brand, doesn’t make it an automatic buy.
The design language and build quality set out by the original Realme Pad carry across beautifully to the Pad Mini; making it one of the better-looking tablets in the affordable space and aesthetically above its standing in the wider tablet market.
Aspects like display and camera quality are par for the course for a slate at this price point, while gaming performance surpassed expectations, especially when other aspects of the user experience, including UI navigation and app load times, were consistently underwhelming.
If only Realme had spent more time tailoring the user experience to better serve the form factor offered up by the Pad Mini, would it make for a stronger recommendation, however, the unclear update roadmap means that, even though it doesn’t require a huge investment, the long-term value of the Pad Mini remains questionable.
If you’ve decided that the Pad Mini doesn’t meet your needs, check out our rundown of the best mini tablets, best Android tablets and best overall tablets to see what else the market has to offer
Realme Pad Mini: Specs
- 8.7in 5:3 WXGA+ (1340×800) IPS LCD
- 12nm Unisoc Tiger T616 processor
- 3GB RAM or 4GB RAM
- 32GB or 64GB UFS 2.1 storage
- microSD expandable up to 1TB
- Aluminium unibody
- 8Mp f/2.0 76.9° rear camera
- 5Mp f/2.2 77° front camera
- Stereo speakers
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Android 11 w/ Realme UI for Pad
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 4G LTE (optional)
- 6400mAh battery w/ reverse charging
- 18W fast charging
- 211.8mm x 124.5 x 7.6mm
- Colours: Grey, blue