Summer of 2023 feels a long time ago for more reasons than one. Among the few launches that left a mark was the Xiaomi Pad 6. An effort to spark Android tablets into some form of relevance. After years of attempting to compete with the Apple iPad, or make a genuine case for productivity focus. Xiaomi didn’t leave much on the table in terms of performance, battery stamina, design, a gorgeous screen and building a few tablet specific useability features atop an MIUI software that was admittedly meant for smartphones and held back by Android’s limitations. Time has now changed.
It’s been a struggle. Android’s lack of effort towards any sort of specific functionality for tablets and useability drawing on the advantages of bigger display real estate (multi-tasking, being crucial), has led to tablet makers develop some layers themselves. Samsung’s DeX mode which transforms the home screen into something that resembles a Windows desktop, on their recent Galaxy tablets. OnePlus’ multi-tasking smarts into OxygenOS on the OnePlus Pad and OnePlus Pad Go. But none has embarked on a software transformation as extensive as Xiaomi’s HyperOS.
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A complete overhaul, best defines the Xiaomi HyperOS. It is, after all, designed to replace MIUI, a software that has carved a legacy for itself. MIUI had, for significant parts of the past decade, defined flexibility of software customisation (relevant for phones in particular). With time, it began to not look as fresh anymore. As it opens a new chapter, HyperOS’ flexible approach fits Xiaomi’s smartphones and tablets. In a way, HyperOS will be that common thread between the company’s phones, tablets and smart home devices, as well as mobility pursuits, which they’re increasingly in focus.
Since it is built from the ground up, its approach to fundamentals enables faster performance, a lighter file system, supports more file systems and takes up less storage. On the Xiaomi Pad 6, there is a distinctly snappy response to app loads and app switches, more so than MIUI (and that wasn’t sluggish by any stretch of the imagination). Transitions are pleasant. Font looks easier on the eye. The interface breathes better. On the Xiaomi Pad 6, the HyperOS update defines a refresh to a magnitude that isn’t always possible. The experience feels completely new, and it isn’t just the visual overhaul.
The Xiaomi Pad 6 x HyperOS now makes a strong case for a primary or secondary work device in office, at home or carry along for meetings. More so, than before. Crucial to that is the flexible frame – apps you use on your phone seamlessly adopt the wider screen layout on the tablet. The HyperOS interface, home screen and app drawer look pleasant – though I’d hope there will be options to modify app icon size and the app dock dimensions too.
A new Workstation mode has been introduced. Toggle this on, and an Android tablet transforms into something you’d be more than happy to work on. Something that you’d be more familiar with, a bended take between Windows desktops, the macOS and a whiff of the iPadOS too. Imbibing the strengths of each, should hold the HyperOS in good stead.
The app dock on the home screen becomes wider, and you can have more app icons at quick access – Microsoft 365 suite, a VPN app, web browsers, notes, to-do lists and perhaps even your favourite sports score app. This mode only works in landscape orientation, right so because you’re expected to have the keyboard docked and primed to work on documents, reply to emails or get some editing done.
I’ve always complained that the multi-tasking options on an Apple iPad (though decidedly more elaborate after a point) present a stiff learning curve for a beginner. That isn’t at all the case with HyperOS. The three dot menu atop the active window is your quick reference point to have multiple apps (we tested up to three apps) sharing the same screen space, side-by-side, quickly and in a window-ed look. It is convenient to have a view of more than one app – your email on one side as you work on a document or read through a web page, for instance.
Scaling is optimised well enough for this 11-inch (2,800 x 1,800 pixel) resolution display.
Turn off Workstation Mode, and you’ve a regular Android tablet in your hands. The app dock on the home screen becomes a bit smaller and therefore holds fewer app icons (be more selective here). Icon and widget scaling, as well as text sizes, look pleasant. There are a bunch of lock screen customisation options, which are fun to try out. The Control Center, accessed by swiping down from closer to the right edge of the display, has a very iOS-esque look – and that is only a positive, since its streamlined significantly (there’s an option to enable names for each feature too, if icons-only confuses you).
I did note that two apps sharing screen, outside of the Workstation Mode, tend to close automatically if you minimise them, even momentarily. That is a bug easily fixable with a future HyperOS update, but for now, stick to Workstation mode for the serious workflows.
The reworking of a system as a whole has meant the preloaded system apps get a renewed set of features and visual appeal – Gallery, Notes, Calculator and Weather, the biggest gainers. I’d have preferred a versatile file manager too, that’d have had significant use for those envisaging a desktop-esque experience. Something akin to Apple’s Files, which brings within its fold other cloud storage platfoms too, including Onedrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. There is significantly less bloatware (in simpler terms, pre-loaded third-party apps you may or may not want), and we so far haven’t encountered any advertisement notifications or injections within apps.
Battery life will likely get even better in due course – it already lasts two full days as a work machine (screen at 50% brightness; refresh rate set to auto), before the meter reads 9% along with a stern suggestion to charge. Most experiences, at least on our Xiaomi Pad 6, feel well optimised (except for the multi-tasking bug). It wouldn’t be outlandish to say, HyperOS makes the Xiaomi Pad 6 feel like a completely new tablet. More refined, certainly more relevant, for a hybrid computing era.