Budget Android tablets have had a bit of a bad rep in the past, and deservedly so. But things are changing.
The Versus 10.1DC is priced at a similar level to the Nexus 7 but has a 10-inch display, and though the CPU isn’t rated high highly as the Nexus it is dual-core nonetheless, which should render the pesky performance problems so often associated with cheap tabs a thing of the past.
The TouchTab is reasonably nicely styled. It has the look of an off the shelf Chinese tablet, so there’s nothing unique or interesting in the design, but it’s inoffensive enough.
The build quality, featuring an aluminium backplate, is solid, bar some minor creaking when holding it tightly and a strange bubble effect that appears on screen when you press it too hard, but only in specific spots.
The tablet is weight at 650g, with above average thickness at 11mm. Combined with the widescreen display the tablet becomes uncomfortable to use in portrait mode, it just feels heavy and poorly balanced.
There’s a good selection of ports down the right hand side for expansion, including miniUSB, mini HDMI and microSD. Also, there’s a port for the dreaded proprietary charger – you can’t just power this up using the same cable you use on your phone.
Around the back is a two megapixel camera that is very responsive but takes grainy shots (there’s also a 0.3MP camera on the front), plus stereo speakers.
An added surprise in the box is what Versus describes as a ‘high sensitive stylus pen’. This offers none of the tricks you get with the pen on something like the Galaxy Note, and we didn’t find it especially sensitive either.
The TouchTab runs Android 4.1.1, which makes it about as up to date as any non-Nexus tablet. It is virtually unskinned, with tweaks to the UI amounting to not much more than some HDMI settings and, strangely, an omnipresent screen capture icon.
Versus has also added quite a lot of third party software, and while we can see that some buyers will welcome the chance to launch straight into a game of Angry Birds, all of the apps are free and freely downloadable so add no actual value to the product.
Some even go a step further and become a nuisance. The 1Mobile Market – and alternative app store – is really not needed because the Play Store is on board, and was also horrible to use due to the prevalence of low res graphics it uses. Fortunately all the junk can be removed, although doing it through yet another third party app, ApkInstaller, is hardly the most intuitive way to go about it.
Given the amount of extra software here, it’s strange that only a small selection of the Google apps are among them. You get Gmail and Calendar, and Google Now is here too, but you’ll need to download Chrome or Maps yourself. Incidentally we had a bad time with Maps. The multitouch capability was very unresponsive when zooming in and out of maps, a problem that we were unable to replicate elsewhere.
For the most part performance was fine. We had issues with the Dolphin browser – another pre-installed app – where it would become unusably slow when scrolling in certain sites. It felt like a lack of RAM was the issue, except there’s a perfectly sufficient 1GB available and we couldn’t repeat the issue in other apps. The old stock Android browser is also here, along with Flash if you want it.
The dual-core 1.6GHz processor was able to handle most tasks and ensure smooth scrolling through the UI. It never felt like an especially fast tablet, and our benchmark tests backed that up, but it didn’t feel underpowered either.
The screen, with 1280 x 800 pixels stretched across 10.1 inches, is on the low res side. If you’re a pixel density enthusiast you’ll certainly have no problem picking out the individual pixels on the screen. We didn’t find it too bad for eReading, though (or at least so than the weight was). Or to put it another way the pixel density of 149ppi is better than the iPad 2, and only marginally worse than the new iPad Mini.
However the screen is dim by anyone’s standards. There’s no ambien light sensor for auto-brightness, so we cranked it up to the max where it became just about right indoors. Don’t expect to be able to see the screen at all outside in mid summer.
This may be an attempt to prolong the battery life as far as possible. This is the one area where we were genuinely disappointed by the TouchTab. The 7000mAh battery should be good enough to live with the competition, but in our tests four and half hours of screen on time in normal use was about the best we could manage.
The Versus tablet lacks the polish you get from some of the bigger name Android manufacturers, but is otherwise a perfectly serviceable tablet. Despite a few quirks, some of which could be fixed via a firmware update, it’s a ten-inch tablet for the entry level market that won’t leave you with instant buyers remorse.