The Xiaomi Book S 12.4 is a new Windows tablet that belongs to a very small collection of Windows ARM tablets. Inside runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, similar to an Android device. It has a 12.4-inch display, works with an active stylus, and you can buy an official keyboard cover. It directly competes with the Microsoft Surface Pro X. So, should you get it? That’s what you’ll learn in this Xiaomi Book S Review.
Design & Built Quality
The Xiaomi Book S 12.4 looks like a typical Windows tablet. It’s 12.35 inches in size, has even black screen bezels and the black body is made of an aluminum-magnesium alloy. While I think it looks nice, I noticed that fingerprints are visible on the back fast.
It’s 8.95mm thin and weighs 720g without the keyboard. That’s quite light.
On the front, we get a webcam that you can use to record FullHD videos. The quality is fine, especially for video chats. Next to it sits a sensor for facial recognition which Xiaomi just like Apple calls Face ID. Together with Windows Hello, it works great.
There’s a 13-megapixel camera on the back and the quality is fine as well.
On the right side, we get a microSD card slot, a USB C port, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as a power button, and a volume rocker. So, we get one USB C port only which is also used to charge it. You can connect complex USB C hubs, external monitors, and other accessories.
Display & Speakers
Let’s get to the display. Even though it’s called Xiaomi Book S 12.4, the screen has a size of 12.35 inches according to the spec sheet. It’s a standard 60Hz screen which is 500 nits bright, just like the iPad Air. We get a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels so that texts and icons look very sharp.
Overall, it’s a very good display. It’s fully laminated, the touchscreen reacts well, it’s bright, and I was able to work with it outside comfortably. Sure, a 120Hz screen would be better than 60Hz, but the only Windows tablet that supports 120Hz is the Surface Pro 8 at the moment.
By the way, you can stream Netflix and others with HD quality on the Book S. In the browser and the app. That’s always the case with Windows tablets but certainly not with Android devices.
The speakers are fine for Netflix and YouTube. You can watch a couple of videos or even a movie just fine. But sure, the sound quality is not amazing and very far from an iPad Pro or so. The position of the speakers is not great because it’s on the lower end of the sides. That means when holding the tablet while watching something, you easily cover the speakers.
Xiaomi Smart Pen
You can write on the touchscreen of the Xiaomi Book S with the Xiaomi Smart Pen. That’s an active stylus that you’ve got to buy separately for around 100 Dollars. However, it might be that you own it already because it’s the same pen that also works with the Xiaomi Pad 5 Android tablet. That’s very handy in case you own both.
The pen is made of plastic and has about the size of a standard pen but instead of ink, we’ve got a pressure-sensitive tip. When pressing down harder, it draws a thicker line. On the side, we get two buttons that you can configure in the settings. And on the left side of the tablet, you can store the pen magnetically.
Xiaomi’s Smart Pen works very well. I was able to write handwritten notes in Microsoft OneNote without any issues and annotating PDFs in Drawboard PDF works great too. Windows 11 has many features for pens built-in and they all work as they should.
Windows has been supporting active pens for a very long time and that’s why even quite old traditional programs support one. Among these is Adobe Photoshop with which I edited a couple of photos just fine.
The stylus is not perfect, however. Since we get a 60Hz screen only, it sometimes looks like the writing is lagging behind the pen a bit. Especially once you compare it to a 120Hz tablet like the Surface Pro 8 or iPad Pro. But that’s always the case with 60Hz displays.
Hardware & Performance
Let’s get to the ARM processor. Inside the Xiaomi Book S sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage. Unlike the Surface Pro X, you cannot exchange the SSD yourself. And again unlike the Pro X, there is no version with LTE or 5G which is a bit disappointing.
Since this is an ARM processor, I wasn’t able to run all benchmarks but some were possible. In Geekbench 5, the performance is better than the first generation of the Microsoft Surface Pro X. However, the Surface Pro 8 is much faster than the Xiaomi. And you get even more performance with the iPad Pro and remember that the Apple M1 is an ARM chipset too.
In real life, the performance is fantastic for office work. Microsoft Word, Excel, and the Edge browser run very well even if you’ve got them all open at the same time and a YouTube video is running in the background or you’re downloading something. Adobe Lightroom runs okay too but as on all Windows devices, it’s sometimes a bit laggy.
When you’re multitasking a lot and especially when x86 programs are among them, the tablet can lag quite heavily. For instance, when watching a YouTube video in Chrome, using Edge, Office, and Word at the same time and also having Lightroom open, and then when switching between them, there can be quite some lag. With an Android tablet or iPad, you usually won’t be using that many apps at the same time but you certainly would with a desktop PC.
I was very happy to see that Adobe Photoshop runs quite well now. That’s an x86 program that runs in an emulator on this ARM chip. When I reviewed the Surface Pro X a couple of years ago, Photoshop wasn’t fun to use at all. But now it runs well and is similar to an Intel processor. So, Microsoft improved Windows on ARM noticeably.
The Chrome browser runs great too. However, many other traditional apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and many games cannot be installed. That’s because of the ARM processor and Windows on ARM. You must know that you cannot install all old Windows programs that were developed for the x86 architecture like an Intel processor.
I certainly cannot recommend it as a gaming tablet. It makes no sense to get an ARM-Windows device to play games with. Many cannot be installed but some are possible. I played a bit of Asphalt 9 and that runs well with medium graphics. But it’s not enjoyable at high graphics settings.
World of Tanks Blitz runs fantastic, however, even when setting the graphics to their highest.
When playing games but also when working intensively, I noticed that the Xiaomi Book S can get very warm. Of course, it does, since it has no active cooling which also means it’s dead silence. I’d say it gets similarly hot to an iPad Pro and Surface Pro 8.
Windows 11 in S Mode
Just like on all recent Windows tablets, the Xiaomi Book S is running Windows 11. However, it’s Windows in S Mode. That means that out of the box, you can install apps from the Microsoft Store only. Because of this, the system is supposed to be more stable and secure – which is the truth, I’m sure, since you cannot install any kind of malware by accident from random websites.
The downside is that you can’t install any app from websites. And that means you cannot install any that are not listed in the Microsoft Store. Among the ones that are missing are Google Chrome and tons of others like Photoshop. Others like Lightroom, Drawboard PDF, Netflix, and many more are listed, however.
I reviewed the tablet in S Mode at first because I think this makes sense on an ARM processor. It’s not meant to be a gaming tablet anyways and I don’t think Xiaomi wants you to get it as a Photoshop tablet either. If you want that, I think you should get an Intel device.
Living without Chrome is fine because the Microsoft Edge browser is based on Chromium now anyways and works well. And you can use all Office apps, Lightroom, Netflix, and so on. On Windows devices, I mostly use the browser alone anyways and all web apps work as they should.
Windows 11 without S Mode
But I did want to test Adobe Photoshop and also try Chrome and see if there’s any difference regarding battery life. So, I turned off the S Mode which works very fast and easily with just a couple of clicks. You don’t even have to restart Windows.
Once you deactivate the S Mode, you can install Google Chrome and Photoshop just like with any regular Windows PC. Well, almost. As I said, we’ve got an ARM chipset here and that means that many apps won’t run.
Windows on ARM is not perfect yet. But it could get more interesting in the future once you can install Android apps easily. That’s not possible in Germany where I tested the tablet yet but soon you should be able to install the Amazon Android App Store. But I have no idea when.
By the way, there is one big advantage that all Windows tablets including this one have compared to Android devices. Since updates are delivered by Microsoft and not by the manufacturer, every Windows tablet usually will be much longer up-to-date with software than any Android device is. That was always an advantage of Windows that I should point out more.
You’ve got to buy the keyboard cover for the Xiaomi Book S 12.4 separately at around 150 Dollars. Like with some competitors, it consists of two parts. There’s a cover for the back that’s connected magnetically and has a kickstand built in. You can use it without the keyboard when watching a movie or so. And then we get the keyboard part which also has a touchpad built-in and is connected using a separate connector. Folded up, the front and back are protected.
The cover for the back looks good and I like that you can open the kickstand very wide. But I noticed that the magnets are not very strong and certainly too weak so that you can grab the tablet by the kickstand securely. No big issue, of course, but some competitors do this better.
The keyboard itself is a good one. Because of the 12-inch screen, it’s big enough and I was able to type comfortably on it immediately. Just as on my laptop. A background light is built-in which is nice to have. Unlike with the Surface keyboards, you cannot use it at an angle though.
Below the keyboard sits a touchpad that’s big enough and works great. Multitouch gestures work fine. So, while the keyboard cover is not perfect, it’s a good one overall.
In my battery test, the Xiaomi Book S 12.4 got a runtime of 6 hours. For this, I’m always looping an HD YouTube video at maximum brightness. This time in the Edge browser. By the way, no matter if in S Mode or not, there was no difference when running this battery test. I got a result of 6 hours both times.
Xiaomi Book S Review: Final Verdict
So, should you get the Xiaomi Book S 12.4? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Book S. It’s a cool tablet with good built quality, a pretty screen, a solid pen, and features like facial recognition. The keyboard cover is not perfect but fine too and I enjoyed working with it.
The question is why should you consider getting the Xiaomi Book S? If you want Windows 11 because you want to run traditional Windows programs, then Windows with an ARM chipset is not suited for you because many won’t work. A Windows tablet with an Intel chipset like the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the better choice for most.
Do you want an ARM processor because of its longer battery life? Well, my battery test shows that the runtime is not amazing. And if you don’t even need Windows, then why not get an iPad or Android tablet?
With that being said, I can imagine that the Xiaomi Book S can be an interesting choice for some. For instance, if you mainly want an Office tablet and don’t want to use traditional Windows apps but love the Windows desktop interface. Windows 11 in S Mode on an ARM chip is still better than the Samsung DeX desktop mode, in my opinion. And it is cheaper than the Surface Pro 8.
Let’s check out some alternatives.
I think for most the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the better choice. It has a premium build, works with an active pen too, has a better 120Hz screen, and supports a fantastic keyboard cover. Here we do get a normal Intel chipset with normal Windows 11 that also runs old Windows apps. By the way, I think the Surface Pro X is not a great choice for most just like the Xiaomi Book.
If you don’t care about Windows but want a large 12-inch tablet, then check out the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro with the M1 chipset. This ARM processor is much more powerful, it has a brighter screen, supports 120Hz, and can be used with a fantastic active stylus and a keyboard cover. Yes, iPadOS is a mobile operating system first. But Safari on iPads is a full desktop browser now and you can use iPads with a mouse and keyboard as well.
- Pretty 12.35-inch display
- Good pen support
- Premium design
- Solid keyboard cover
- Windows ARM noticeably better
- Good performance
- Many Windows apps not supported
- Short battery life
- No LTE 4G option
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