Smartphone maker and former Oppo sub-brand Realme has two Android tablets in its portfolio. I looked at the 10.4-inch Realme Pad a few months ago and found it to be “a capable, affordable 4G Android tablet”. Now we have the smaller 8.7-inch Realme Pad Mini, which is a potential rival for Apple’s 8.3-inch iPad Mini, Amazon’s 8-inch Fire HD 8 and maybe even dedicated e-book readers, given that it has a reading mode display setting.
There are three versions available. I was sent the €229.99 model with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and 4G LTE support. There are also two Wi-Fi-only options, costing €199.99 (4GB/64GB) and €179.99 (3GB/32GB). These are low prices indeed, but how does the Realme Pad Mini deliver in terms of value for money?
It’s worth noting that, at the time of writing, the Realme Pad Mini is only shipping to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Portugal. However, as I was sent a review unit in the UK, I expect this will change. Realme products are not officially available in the US though.
Realme can sometimes play fast and loose with handset design — remember the lime-green GT Neo 2, or the epithet-emblazoned Realme 8 Pro, for example. But the Pad Mini, like its larger sibling, is altogether more conventional in its look and feel.
Most of my review unit’s backplate was grey, topped and tailed by lighter grey strips along the shorter edges. There’s a similarly demure blue version, but if you want LTE you must settle for grey. The rear camera is neatly tucked into one corner, and the Realme branding is subtle. The tablet measures 211.8mm by 124.5mm and is 7.6mm thick. It weighs 372g, which is a bit on the heavy side — perhaps because of the high-capacity (6400mAh) battery.
Aluminium is used for the backplate, which lends real robustness to the tablet, and this extends into the edges. One long edge has the power button and volume rocker, while the the SIM caddy — if specified – is on the other. You’ll find the USB-C charge/PC connection port and a speaker grille on one short edge, and a second speaker grille and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the other.
The screen offers more viewing area than a phone while being easier to slip into a bag than a regular-sized tablet. Even so, the ‘mini’ tablet form factor has never really hit the sweet spot, either for professionals or consumers.
Realme has tried to give the mini-tablet format a nudge in the right direction by including three reading modes in addition to the standard one. Eye Comfort takes away blue light, Dark Mode replaces white backgrounds with black, and Reading Mode pushes the screen into a greyscale palette. You can also select standard, warm and cool colours for the regular colour palette.
Unfortunately these various options and settings can’t be set to kick in on a time schedule or when a particular app is launched, although Eye Comfort, Dark Mode and Reading Mode can be toggled in the pull-down Quick Settings menu.
The 8.7-inch LCD has a moderate resolution of 1,340 by 800 pixels, or 179.4ppi. Every time I used the Realme Pad Mini, I noticed how text and image quality suffered. Realme claims a screen to body ratio of 84.59%, although our measurement puts it at 81.5%.
The stereo speakers leave a bit to be desired too. They deliver plenty of volume, and are fine for listening to spoken-word content. But music can be challenging, with bass tones lacking and a general lack of definition across the audio spectrum.
With just 64GB of internal storage and 14GB of that consumed out of the box, there’s only 50GB left for user apps and data. That’s not a lot, and if you’re budget conscious and move down to the €179.99 (3GB/32GB) model you’ll have even less to play with. Fortunately, a MicroSD card slot allows to add external storage, albeit at the expense of a second SIM.
The entry-level Unisoc Tiger T616 chipset returned Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 300 (single core) and 1192 (multi core). Leading-edge scores are over 1000 and 3500 respectively, and in general use I found the wait for anything to happen after prodding at the screen very irritating. The same applies to face unlock, and since there’s no fingerprint sensor, it’s face unlock or a PIN for authentication.
The SIM caddy in the LTE model can accommodate two Nano-SIMs or one SIM and a MicroSD card. Support for 5G, and indeed Wi-Fi 6 rather than Wi-Fi 5, is probably too much to ask for on a tablet in this price bracket.
The Realme Pad Mini runs Android 11 plus ‘Realme UI for Pad’. Realme’s UI overlay doesn’t add bloatware and software extras, but offers the various screen modes mentioned earlier, along with the oddly-named Assistive Ball. This is a circle you can position anywhere on-screen that makes it easier to access various functions.
Tap the ball once to go back a screen, tap-and-hold to get to the home screen, double-tap to see recent tasks. The Assistive Ball is quite low-key but useful, although I wonder if it would benefit from pop-out app shortcuts like the sidebar that Realme uses on its handsets.
Realme provides the Pad Mini with two cameras. On the back there is a single 8MP f/2.0 camera with a 76.9° field of view. Photography features includes burst mode, time lapse, panorama and slow motion, as well as a number of colour filters. If Portrait mode is selected rather than just Photo mode, there are various options available to alter the face, such as smoothing and changing colour tone. Night-time shooting is out of the question, though: there’s no flash and the few low-light shots suffered accordingly.
At the front there’s a 5MP f/2.2 camera with a 77° field of view. It shares the same facial tweaking options as the rear camera.
The Realme Pad Mini’s cameras are OK as far as they go, but look elsewhere (your phone, for example) if you want to capture images for sharing or keeping.
The Realme Pad Mini has good battery life. Its 6400mAh kept going for 16 hours 22 minutes under the PCMark for AndroidWork 3.0 battery life test. That’s not bad at all, and it stands up well against Realme’s own claim of 15.8 hours of video streaming.
Realme says the device supports 18W ‘Quick Charge’, but it’s actually very slow to charge. With the battery at 17% I started a charging session. After 15 minutes it reached 29%; it took an hour for the battery to get to 65% and a further half hour for it to reach 88%. After 1 hour 45 minutes the battery was at 94%.
While the price might be alluring, it’s worth considering the trade-offs before deciding whether the Realme Pad Mini is a good buy. You’ll need to be able to live with 179ppi screen resolution, sluggish performance and basic cameras. Internal storage is limited too, but at least there’s a MicroSD card slot.
On the plus side, the general build quality is good, as is battery life (although it’s slow to charge).
Realme Pad Mini specifications
|MicroSD card slot||yes|
|OS||Android 11 + Realme UI for Pad|
|Display||8.7-inch LCD, 1340 x 800 (179.4ppi), 16.7m colours|
|Dimensions||124.5mm x 211.8mm x 7.6mm (8.34in. x 4.9in x 0.3in.)|
|Screen to body ratio (claimed / measured)||84.6% / 81.5%|
|Charging||18W Quick Charge, reverse charging|
|Rear camera||8MP f/2.0|
|Front camera||5MP f/2.2|
|Networks||4G LTE, WCDMA, GSM (optional)|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)|
|Location||GPS/AGPS, Beidou, Galileo|
|Connections||2x Nano-SIM or 1x SIM + MicroSD card, USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Buttons||power, volume up/down|
|Sensors||magnetic induction, light, acceleration, gyrometer, proximity|
|In the box||Realme Pad Mini, 18W charger, info booklet with warranty card, USB-C cable, SIM card tool, quick guide|
|Price||€229.99 (4GB/64GB, Wi-Fi + LTE), €199.99 (4GB/64GB, Wi-Fi), €179.99 (3GB/32GB, Wi-Fi)|
Alternatives to consider
The Realme Pad Mini is currently only on sale in certain European countries, but there are several more widely available small form-factor tablets on the market, at a variety of price points. Here are three of them.
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