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Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: Packed with features but lacking in speed

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
650
inc VAT

Xiaomi keeps the price low but the Book S 12.4in isn’t the speediest of 2-in-1 laptops

Pros 
Reasonably priced
Sharp, vibrant screen
Long battery life
Cons 
Mediocre performance
Clunky keyboard case
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The Xiaomi Book S is the first Windows on ARM device we’ve looked at since the advent of Windows 11 and it’s interesting for a number of different reasons. It’s only the second laptop of any stripe we’ve seen to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 and it’s also the first that’s able to run 64-bit applications under emulation.

Perhaps most significantly, the Xiaomi Book S is among the most reasonably priced premium Windows 2-in-1 machines you can buy. At a mere £650 (or £750 with the keyboard and stylus), Microsoft’s pricing of the woefully underpowered Surface Go 3 is looking increasingly misguided.

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Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: What you need to know

Like Microsoft’s mini detachable, the Xiaomi Book S is a 2-in-1 tablet. Out of the box it runs Windows 11 with S mode, it has a 12.35in, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution touchscreen display with stylus support and it’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 chipset with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage.

That’s the laptop equivalent of the Snapdragon 855 smartphone chip so it isn’t the very latest silicon. The newest handsets are two generations on from this on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. However, with performance equivalent to the Microsoft Surface Pro X and the HP Folio Elite, it should suffice for light office-based tasks, web browsing and media consumption. It’s a very efficient chipset, too, leading to impressively long battery life.

Like most 2-in-1 detachables, there are two cameras: one on the rear (13MP) and one on the front (1080p, Windows Hello compatible) and there’s even a microSD card slot for storage expansion.

The one major thing the Xiami Book S lacks is any kind of cellular connectivity but it’s no great problem to tether it to your smartphone instead.

READ NEXT: The very best 2-in-1 laptops available

Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: Price and competition

Unlike most laptops, there’s only one configuration for the Xiaomi Book S available and it costs £650. The price rises to £750 if you want the the detachable keyboard and active stylus included.

Its main rivals are the Microsoft Surface Pro X and the HP Elite Folio. Both are Windows on ARM devices, both are 2-in-1 detachables and both have similar sized displays. They’re also far more expensive than the Xiaomi Book S for the same RAM and storage – £1,069 and £1,620, respectively, including keyboard and pen – although they do have cellular connectivity built in, with 4G on the Surface Pro X and 5G on the Elite Folio.

The very best 2-in-1 Windows detachable you can buy is the Microsoft Surface Pro 8. It’s much more powerful and runs full-fat Windows but that’s even more expensive (£1,179 including keyboard and pen), while the Microsoft Surface Go 3 is smaller and more compact but a bit weedy when it comes to performance. The Go 3 will set you back £719 with keyboard and pen if you go for the minimum specification we’d recommend – the Intel Core i3 model with a 128GB SSD.

Another option you might want to consider is the Asus VivoBook 13 Slate OLED but although it’s cheap at £379, has a lovely OLED display and comes with a stylus and keyboard in the box, it’s underpowered and a bit on the slow side.

Finally, if you’re not fussed about the operating system or the screen size, the basic Apple iPad is worth thinking about. You can get hold of one of those equipped with 256GB of storage, the keyboard case and Apple Pencil stylus for a smidge over £700.

Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: Design and features

In keeping with the low-ish price, the design of the Xiaomi Book S is as basic as it comes. The tablet itself is nicely enough made: it’s topped with scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 3, it’s slim at 8.95mm from screen to rear, it’s light and the majority of the chassis is finished in matte plastic that doesn’t pick up fingerprints too readily.

The keyboard case, on the other hand, is a rather clunky affair. The kickstand comes as an add-on plate that clips magnetically to the rear of the tablet and the keyboard sits flat on your desk. Unlike the Surface range of devices, there’s no way to fold the back of the screen up against the bottom of the screen, tilting the keyboard for more comfortable typing. And it doesn’t work particularly well on your lap, either.

Physical connectivity, as it is with most tablets, is limited. There’s a USB-C 3.2 port on the right hand edge, which you’ll mostly be using for charging, alongside a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from a magnetic contact on one of the long edges for attaching the keyboard, that’s your lot. There’s no 4G or 5G modem, either; only dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity.

The keyboard and touchpad work well enough. There’s plenty of travel and some nice positive feedback to each key and, although small, the touchpad feels responsive and reliable. The stylus, on the other hand, is a bit of a disaster. Palm rejection simply doesn’t work very well, even when enabled via the Windows 11 Pen & Ink settings panel. You have to be very careful to press the tip of the stylus to the screen before resting your palm on the surface, otherwise you’ll likely move your cursor or switch windows by accident.

And, in another wild swing of fortunes, the webcam is brilliant. It captures footage at 1080p with stunning quality and supports Windows Hello facial recognition login.

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Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: Display and audio

For a budget device, the Xiaomi’s screen is on another level. It’s sharp at 2,560 x 1,440, bright (peaking at 558cd/m2) and is capable of reproducing 96% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. It has a contrast ratio of 1,450:1 so on-screen content is impactful and easy on the eye.

My only real complaint is that it isn’t the most colour accurate of displays. Still, an average Delta E colour variance score of 1.88 versus DCI-P3 isn’t a disaster and neither is the 2.6 versus sRGB.

There isn’t much to complain about when it comes to audio, either. The stereo speakers located on each edge of the tablet lack warmth but they go quite loud and they’re clear enough for podcasts and radio.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best laptops for students

Xiaomi Books S 12.4in review: Performance

Performance of Windows on ARM devices is always somewhat difficult to gauge, principally because our usual line up of benchmark tools won’t run natively. Geekbench 5 runs fine, though, and results indicate that it’s just as quick as its rivals for CPU-bound tasks, and a tad slower than the old Microsoft Surface Laptop Go.

It lags a long way behind the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2, however, and this is a machine that starts at a significantly lower price.

Results in the GFXbench test suggest graphics capabilities aren’t too stellar, although here the Book S does nudge in front of the original Surface Laptop Go. Note that the Microsoft Surface Pro X and the HP Elite Folio aren’t included in this cart because GFXBench wouldn’t run at all at the time of testing. You can expect the results for both devices to be close to the Book S, though, as they use similar GPUs: in the case of the Microsoft Surface Pro X, the Adreno 685, and the Elite Folio the Adreno 690.

The one standout aspect of performance was battery life. In our video rundown test with the screen set to 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged, it lasted 13hrs 41mins in our video rundown test, way in front of all its rivals save the much more expensive HP Elite Folio.

Xiaomi Book S 12.4in review: Verdict

All things considered, the Xiaomi Book S 12.4in isn’t a bad machine for the money. If you want a 2-in-1 detachable like a Surface Pro X (£1,069) but can’t afford the price, it’s a decent option. The screen is sharp and colour rich, battery life is excellent and although performance isn’t anything special, it’ll be fine for basic tasks.

If you’re desperate for a stylus-compatible tablet, however, I’d recommend you opt for an iPad (£459) instead as the Apple Pencil works really well. And, if you need a tool for work, I’d advise you to choose a proper laptop. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 (From £529) is the perfect place to start and the Acer Swift 3 SF314-511 is even better, although it is a little more expensive at around £700.

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