OPINION: For years the tablet market has been a pretty boring place unless you’re in Apple’s walled garden.

Let’s do a quick state of play summary. While Apple’s been launching a wave of awesome new iPads, including the latest Pro and Air, which both top our best tablets guide, all the other big names seem to have lost interest.

Google bowed out of the market, confirming it has no plans to release an own brand Android tablet after the train wreck that was the Pixel C in 2017.

Microsoft’s still pushing Surfaces, but it’s not really making much effort, limiting each release to moderate changes, like a CPU refresh rather than reworking the wheel or significantly improving its offering, as Apple has.

Amazon has its Fire range, but these are cheap fodder designed for kids, which is why they constantly fail to break past 3.5/5 scores when we test them.

The only firm to launch anything resembling decent has been Samsung with its Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which was pretty much the only Android tablet to earn a recommended badge when we reviewed it last year. But with a starting price of $800/£800 this was hardly a mass market product.

This is also why whenever my family and friends ask me to recommend a tablet that isn’t an iPad I struggle to give them an answer

iPad Air 4

This is why this week I felt outright giddy when Xiaomi unveiled its spiffy new Mi Pad 5 Pro. To be clear, I’m basing this opinion on the tablet’s specs, I haven’t reviewed it. But, on that criteria it looks like the tablet I, and most Android fans, have been waiting for.

Let’s start with the hardware. It’s an 11-inch beast, with a games ready 120Hz refresh rate, 2560×1600 resolution LCD panel. Based on my experience with the Samsung Tab S7 Plus, those specs are great, with the only minor downside being its LCD, not OLED. The latter tends to deliver deeper blacks.

Under the hood, there’s a super-fast Snapdragon 870 CPU with 6GB of RAM. Not only is this gaming ready, but coupled with the tablet’s stylus and keyboard cover the Mi Pad 5 Pro could also be a solid option for creatives looking for mobile touch up station.

I’ve used Krita on the Tab S7 for basic inking for the last year and find the form factor and software to be wonderfully easy to use, especially when you get keyboard shortcuts working.

And the cherry on top? It’s set to retail for a much more wallet friendly 2,499.54 Chinese Yuan (roughly $386/£281). That’s less than half the price of the Samsung.

Make no mistake, on paper, this is the Android iPad clone I’ve been waiting for.

The downside? It’s currently only set to retail in China. Hopefully a wider release will come later.

If that doesn’t grind your gears I don’t know what will. Here’s hoping the firm changes its mind and spots the gaping hole in the Western tablet market sooner rather than later. If not, 2021’s looking set to be a very dull year for tablet buyers that don’t want an iPad.

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