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Xiaomi launches the7.9-inch Mi Pad tablet

Chinese budget smartphone maker Xiaomi yesterday unveiled its first tablet, expanding its product line-up to directly challenge established rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple.

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The .9-inch Mi Pad comes the same five colours that Apple chose for its plastic-backed iPhone 5c (Android-style green, light blue, yellow, apricot pink and white) for its tablet and added one more: the Mi Pad is also available in black.

Available in 16GB and 64GB variants, the Mi Pad comes with a Nvidia Tegra K1 quad-core 2.2Ghz ARM processor, 2GB of RAM and an eight-megapixel rear camera. With a 4:3 aspect ratio display at 2048×1536, Xiaomi says it offers the same resolution as the iPad mini.

The device also includes a microSD slot that supports up to 128GB and comes with a 6,700 mAh battery that Xiaomi says will provide 86 hours of music playback or 11 hours of video streaming. It’s running on Xiaomi’s own version of Android called Miui.

At $200, the 16GB Mi Pad is about half the cost of the iPad mini Retina ($399) and $100 less than the standard iPad mini. Perhaps more importantly in China, the Mi Pad also undercuts Samsung’s 16GB eight-inch Galaxy Tab 4.

The $270 64GB Mi Pad is an interesting tactical move by Xiaomi and makes it a fairly unique choice amongst Android tablets which, at the eight-inch range, tend to have 8GB or 16GB storage and rely on expandable storage to offer more space.

One thing the devices lack though is support for 3G or LTE.

According to Bloomberg, Xiaomi’s founder and CEO Lei says the company has prepped 100 apps and 400 games for its tablets and plans to have a 1,000 available by the year’s end. The device will first go on sale in China and then availability will expand to South East Asia, India, and Latin America later this year. No plans have been announced about launching in the US.

“We wanted the hardware to come close to, or even surpass Apple’s iPad,” Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun said at the launch event in Beijing. Xiaomi’s flagship smartphones, which are among the fastest selling in China, resemble Apple’s iPhone.

Privately held Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. It’s cheap yet sleek phones are popular in China, the world’s largest market for smartphones. Founded in 2010, the company leads a group of young Chinese home-grown handset brands that have successfully attracted local consumers with advanced features at lower prices than global brands.

The company expects to sell 40 million phones this year, compared to 18.7 million last year and 7.2 million the year before.

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