We may not have had a chance to have a look and properly explore Tecno’s previous Android slates but we did spend quite some quality time with its latest tablet, the Tecno DroiPad 8 II.
First things first, globally, users are least interested in plain old slates. They are more inclined to buy “detachables” than the old-fashioned blown-up versions of smartphones in all their candy bar form factors that most tablets really are. While that is true of the overall global tablet market, things can always be different here at home since we are still young. As such, tablets like the Tecno DroiPad 8 II, do stand a chance, however slim.
- Size: 211 x 123 x 8.3mm
- Display: 8-inch HD (800 x 1280 pixels) IPS LCD
- Memory: 1 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage (expandable via microSD slot)
- Camera: 5 MP main; 2 MP sensor on the front
- Processor: 64-bit quad-core MediaTek MT 8735P
- Operating System: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- Battery: 5,000 mAh (non-removable)
- Network: 3G, 4G LTE
- Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, microUSB 2.0
- Other: FM radio
One of the first things one will notice upon unboxing the Tecno DroiPad 8 II tablet, of course besides the ridiculously long name, is that it is quite heavy. Really heavy. In fact, since it has matching looks, it can easily qualify for consideration as the iPad 2’s mini version from 5 years ago that never was.
The other thing that you will notice is the all-metal design of the tablet. In fact, as already noted in our preview piece, other than the small plastic strip at the top that is necessary for the network radios, only the glass on the front breaks the monotony of the DroiPad 8 II’s metal enclosure. As a result, there are some drilled holes at the bottom to make it possible to let out sound from the two dual stereo speakers (finally a device that doesn’t try to trick you that it has two speakers while there’s just one behind the two grilles). With the current cold Nairobi weather, you will feel the cold metal when reading your newspaper (ePaper?) on the tablet early in the morning, something the tablet does so well.
We have to appreciate the effort made here. At the DroiPad 8 II’s price, you are lucky to get any external metallic component on competing devices. The options out there are all plastic. For those to whom this matters, we guess it’s kind of a big deal, right?
Generally, compact tablets that are not so small to collide with the increasing number of phablets but smaller than the iPad (9.7-inch), seem to hit the sweet spot. The Tecno DroiPad 8 II is one of the many that fall in that range. At 8-inches, it is not too big for you to handle it with one hand nor is it too small to compete with all the big smartphones out there. It’s just large enough to not fit in the front pockets of your pants.
The display of the tablet is one of the positives. It’s not as pixelated as pricier options in the market are but it is not grainy either. We have been able to enjoy content that ranges from the daily digital newspaper to a couple of eBooks to watching HD movies without any hiccups. And by hiccups, we mean anything that comes between us and the experience we get. In fact, at 8-inches, the DroiPad 8 II can easily become your small cheap moving theatre cum library.
The tablet, like any other device being released today, has two cameras. Cameras are a big deal on mobile devices today but we are still not convinced that they are such a big deal on tablets. Let’s say they are nice to have. The DroiPad 8 II’s cameras both on the front and the back are not any good but it’s not like any of that matters anyway. It’s a tablet, taking photos or recording videos with it, while cumbersome, should be the last thing you are buying a tablet for. But wait, it’s your tablet, right? So you can do with it as you please and we surely don’t want to be the ones standing in your way so may be that information helps.
Tecno is not bringing its flashy new user interface, HiOS, to the DroiPad 8 II. As a result, you get the old Tecno UI on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop which the device runs. For the most part, performance will be smooth and up to desired or expected levels. You will, however, experience the occasional stutter, like we did. That is very limited and only comes to fore when you push the device to its limit, something you are not likely to be doing often if at all you will.
Unlike other similar tablets we have used before, Tecno does not bundle anything in the form of content to act as incentives to buy the device. You know, things like magazine subscriptions and the like. However, with an already subsidized price, we think its fair game.
Battery life should be the last of a user’s worry. The tablet packs a beefy 5,000mAh battery unit that lasts much longer. With the USB OTG adaptor that is included in the box, users can even share some of that juice with other devices.
Just as we are not proponents of going around snapping pictures using tablets, we are also not convinced that you should use your tablet to receive or make phone calls. Not only is it cumbersome to be holding an 8-inch slate that is 8.3mm thick over your ear or desperately trying to fire a quick text in the matatu, it makes one look like a clown. Really. It will be a while before some things become acceptable. Still, the Tecno DroiPad 8 II will do that if you demand of it. Tecno has included 2G, 3G and 4G LTE radios so that the tablet behaves pretty much like your average smartphone. Word of advice: take advantage of the LTE capabilities of the device to slot in a 4G SIM and access content online instead of trying to cover your ear with the device in the name of making phone calls.
One of the positives of the Tecno DroiPad 8D, as it is also known as, is some subtle tweaks to the software that cannot be ignored. After retiring version 3 of Android (Honeycomb) which was meant for tablets, Google has made little steps to make the overall Android experience on tablets any better. Device makers have been left to their own devices (ha!) to figure out how to make it easy for users of their devices to find their way around.
On the Tecno DroiPad 8 II, users can easily take screenshots by tapping a quick shortcut on the navigation strip at the bottom that also houses the home, back and recent apps/task switcher on-screen controls. The controls are spaced out in such a way that regardless of how one is holding the tablet, both hands can access either set on the left or the right easily. This is a big contrast to the standard Android practice of having these buttons at the centre which makes it difficult to access them on tablets. Oh, and you don’t need to stretch to view your notifications or access quick settings, there’s a dedicated shortcut as well on the far left of the navigation bar. Handy!
Tecno has managed to pack a compact tablet with the basics while still being reasonable. Reasonable? Yes, because the tablet’s main selling point is Tecno’s discounted asking price, Kshs 16,500. There are a lot of mediocre Android-powered tablets out there, some as cheap as half the price of the Tecno DroiPad 8 II but none anywhere as impressive as Tecno’s latest effort. Those that are not mediocre, like Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab A 7, will have a hard time matching the pricing from their Kshs 21,000 ivory towers but still give Tecno the run for its money that is necessary to keep it on its toes.