When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010, it marked the start of almost a decade and a half of total dominance of the tablet market for Apple.
Even die-hard Apple refuseniks often make an exception for iPad because Android rivals tend to be either incredibly bad or bewilderingly expensive (I’m looking at you here, Samsung).
So the news that smartphone upstart OnePlus was making its own tablet was intriguing. OnePlus made a name for itself with a series of great Android phones which boasted premium specs at a fraction of the price of flagship phones.
Over the years, the price of OnePlus phones has crept up, sadly – but the new OnePlus Pad offers very good value indeed at $479 with a case thrown in.
The screen is sharp and bright even in direct sunlight
The new OnePlus Pad offers very good value indeed at $479 with a keyboard case thrown in
For that money, you get a processor up there with the very best, more than capable of handling most apps.
The tablet also packs a large, great screen and solid battery life – which is precisely the recipe OnePlus used to get its claws into the smartphone market.
The battery lasts for an entire month on standby, OnePlus says – I have no reason to doubt this, as it barely went down when I left the tablet untouched. And it charges to 80 percent in an hour.
The standby mode is far better than the competition – iPad Pro only lasts a couple of days – and the fast charge outpaces any tablet I’ve previously tested.
No bones about it, the machine is great value on the hardware front. The 144Hz LCD screen is sharp, and at 500 nits, is bright enough to be used outdoors (just).
The battery life is also pretty sensational, almost to the point where you don’t have to think about it – and if you get caught short, it comes with a beefy 67w charger that can restore it to 80 percent within an hour.
It’s got a distinctly ‘tall’ screen (it’s the first-ever tablet with a 7:5 aspect ratio), which isn’t an earth-shattering innovation, but makes it easier to read or work on documents on screen.
Buying tablets is often a fairly confusing experience due to the profusion of ‘Pro’, ‘Max’ and ‘Ultra’ models of Apple and Samsung tablets – with the OnePlus Pad, what you see is what you get.
There’s one specification, with one color, green (which ‘signifies life and new change’, OnePlus informs me).
One of the eternal truths of electronics is that if you’re paying a low price, there will be stuff missing.
Here, there’s no fingerprint scanner, just a face scanner (so you won’t be using banking apps on the Pad), and there’s no cellular connection, only Wi-Fi.
The screen is also LCD, not OLED – but these are all fairly insignificant details, and the screen’s gorgeous for watching videos and playing games.
But can you do a day’s work on it? Android tablets used to be an absolute nightmare if you had to use one for work, with many apps unpredictably turning into phone apps on-screen.
There’s the occasional flicker of that here (the Amazon Prime app suddenly turned into a floating phone-sized window when I tried to shut it) but it’s mostly a very laptop-like experience – helped immeasurably by the $140 Fusion Folio case, which offers a keypad with pleasingly clicky keys which is very easy to type on.
Both front and back cameras are positioned centrally (Pic: Rob Waugh)
The gadget is pleasingly slim at 6.54mm (Pic: Rob Waugh)
Google pulled its socks up with tablets with the release of Android 13, with the OS optimized to work on large screens, and Google and Microsoft’s apps all work very well horizontally.
The camera is positioned centrally, with face-following tech (useful for Zoom and Teams calls).
Both rear and front cameras are OK, rather than sensational (but really, who wants to be taking photos on a tablet?)
As a laptop substitute, it pretty much works (in fact, I’m typing this on the OnePlus Pad right now without too much yearning to be back on my ‘real’ computer).
OnePlus have added a split-screen mode for an even more ‘laptop-like’ experience, and the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 (a very high-end chip) means you never feel like the device might start pouring steam out the sides when you’re at work.
With the odd hiccup where apps refuse to go into horizontal mode, this isn’t as polished a performer as Apple’s iPad Pro.
But it offers an incredible level of performance for the price, and it’s a great-looking machine too, just 6.54mm thick and with a pleasing metal unibody design (although I notice a bit of scuffing around the magnetic connectors for the keypad after just a few days).
For highly mobile workers (or just for keeping children silent in the back seat of the car for very long periods) it’s a great product.
It may not knock Apple’s iPad off its perch, but it certainly marks the entrance of a powerful new competitor for Apple’s all-conquering slates – and one that’s definitely worth considering for anyone looking for a lower-priced, slimline machine.
Rob’s final score: Four out of five.
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