Tablets from China – Teclast X98 Air 3G

wpid-wp-1422528030820.jpegIt’s been a while, since I last experimented with Chinese tablets. This is mostly on account of having no much use for them lately.
After Christmas I decided to get a new one, and I’m certainly not disappointed with my choice.

Disclaimer: This is in no way a representative test, I’m only sharing  of my experience with my shiny new toy.

Why would I need a new tablet anyway? In the middle of last year I’ve upgraded my phone to a 5.5″ THL T11 octa core, with 2G RAM and 16G internal storage. It’s trusty, fast and reliable. It’s good enough to cover me on the go, with a decent display to read on and a one day worth battery life to go with.

Whenever I’m home, I sit down and break open my old Acer, which is fast enough to run the latest Ubuntu (always on alpha versions)  but with a 15″ display and full size keyboard, that allows me to type faster than any predictive input will ever on a touchscreen.

During the winter holidays I wrote some posts on the laptop to realize it is getting old. After less than an hour, the display starts to break up and the writing becomes unreadable. To put it more precisely, the video memory is becoming corrupted with time. It’s a good excuse as any, to start looking for a replacement.

I sampled the tablet scene, looking for something that is affordable, yet powerful. I was originally looking for the Xiaomi MiPad, which matches the hardware found in the latest iPads. Tegra K1 processor with higher than retina display sounds like a safe choice. After some digging into the reviews, it turns out, it has overheating issues, the battery is prone to go flat pretty fast, and it doesn’t have built-in GPS. If I want a mobile device I expect to be able to know where I am. After a few rounds on Aliexpress I finally settled for the Teclast.

The reviews were mostly positive, recommendations for the battery life (8500mAh) , the display resolution (2048×1536), build quality (aluminum body and frame) and the simple yet elegant design. Some reviews went for more technical details, they were complementing the latest Intel Z3736F quad-core 64bit processor, running at 2.16GHz, the ample 32Gb storage, the 3G support for great mobility. The GPS was also mentioned, to have a short lock time, and high sensitivity.

For those who want something to complain about, it has no automatic environmental light sensor so you have to manually adjust the light levels. The camera 8Mp normal , 5Mp (both from Sony) on the screen and has no flash. It only has a single micro usb slot, so attaching an external keyboard and charging can’t be simultaneous,unless you have a bluetooth keyboard. It only supports 3G and no LTE, which I would have wanted to try, and only single channel wifi (2.4GHz, bgn, no 5GHz).

It actually can be used as a phone, but the 9.7″ display might make it look awkward. Maybe with a bluetooth headset it would not be as bad.

To be absolutely frank, I would still not have gotten this tablet. My instinctive curiosity kicked in, when I was circling about the tablet scene with no real intent to actually buy. It can out-of-the-box support dual boot to Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4. I always wanted to compare these two on the same hardware! It was a few dollars more, but I thought if I want to choose from the two later, I can always reinstall the tablet. Until then I have to live with the partitioning 10Gb for Android and 22Gb for Windows. No shared storage. It does show however, how different the two OSes are.

I’m not a big Windows 8.1 user, I have only encountered it on my significant other’s laptop and it felt wrong. As if it was designed for tablets, it requires so much touchpad action, and I always felt I had to touch the screen instead of the touchpad. I thought, well it will be lovely on the tablet.

So after unwrapping and setting up the blazingly fast Android (it was no real surprise) I switched to Windows. For that you have to turn the device off, press a number of buttons on startup and choose between the two options on a Chinese boot screen. Fortunately you can permanently have it remember that you want to select on boot, as I have no idea what button I had to press to get this menu!

And the Windows is just fast! I was surprised to see how fast it works, I touch an application and it’s open. So I tried to live with it for a while. I expected to have a really smooth user experience comparable to the Android and preferably even better
After all this OS is designed for these display sizes, unlike all-purpose android that runs the same on 128*128 smartwatch as well as 20″ external monitors. I was in for a surprise and not a good one at that!

The standard user interface is fine, intuitive and easy to get around, once you know it a little. The applications however are sub-standard the on-screen keyboard is so prone to mistakes I have to type every single letter twice. I found no substitute for the factory keyboard so far, so whenever I want to type something on that I’ll use a proper keyboard,or just switch to Android. I realized that most applications for Windows have no concept of high DPI resolution screens. VLC for example uses so small controls, I barely made out the icons. I was quite disappointed to learn, that this powerhouse of a processor only has 32 bit Windows installed. That’s quite unfair.

I realized it came with a year worth of Office 365 license, so I would have no problem editing documents at home. It’s also able to run Java, so I guess it can be used to use my archaic Internet bank as well. These I never got right in an android tablet. Otherwise I guess I will stay in Android for most of the time.

Overall I can recommend this tablet to anyone who wants to have a great piece of hardware. Only consider dual boot, if you seriously want to use both systems! Otherwise going with the operating system of your choice you’ll have all the storage to yourself in a quite powerful tablet.

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