Cube iPlay 10
From £74 inc VAT from fave.co/2huHaU5
One of the most difficult things in choosing a budget tablet is knowing how far you should compromise on specifications and performance. You don’t expect a powerhouse with an amazing screen, but you also don’t want to waste your money – no matter how small an amount of cash that is – on what is in essence a rubbish device that you’ll probably bin in a few months.
Two of the most popular budget tablets on the market right now are Amazon’s Fire 7 (£49
from tinyurl.com/ydzcc6g2) and Fire HD 8 (£79 from tinyurl.com/y9kwbmgy). We think they’re great tablets, well-priced and -sized for children especially, but they have one massive drawback in that they don’t support Google services, including Google Play. If you are buying one for a child then they could be disappointed when that game all their friends are playing is not to be found in the Amazon App Store.
This Cube iPlay 10 tablet arguably offers a better deal, and is at least technically superior. You can buy it right now from GearBest for £74, which puts it on par with the Fire HD 8, though you should also factor in import duty since it’s coming from China. This will cost 20 percent of the value printed on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11. So all in you could be looking at a price of more or less £100.
Unlike the Amazon tablets it supports Google Play and Google services such as Gmail out of the box, so
you can install whichever mobile apps you require. This is a vanilla version of Android Marshmallow, which is not the latest version of the operating system, but it is fast and responsive with zero bloat.
The Cube also has a larger and higher-resolution 10.6in IPS display, which may be better suited to watching films or playing games, but at the same time makes this a larger device that could find itself more easily dropped. A Micro-HDMI port allows you to hook it up to an even larger screen, such as a television, should you so desire.
Performance among the three tablets should be much the same, with all three sporting a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, but the Cube has a tad more memory and double the storage at 2GB and 32GB respectively. The latter can also be expanded via microSD up to 128GB (the Fire HD 8 meanwhile supports expansion up to 256GB).
The battery is larger in the Cube, too, although the company’s claims of seven hours fall short of Amazon’s 12. Both tablets are going to take an annoying length of time to recharge – this one around 4 to 5 hours over Micro-USB. (A plug is not supplied, but you can use any USB charger with a Micro-USB cable.)
Though Amazon’s tablets come in bright and punchy colours, they are still just plastic devices. This Cube device also uses plastic in its design, but it has a metal rear panel that adds a touch of sophistication (which is then at least partially removed by the large Chinese logo on the back).
We would not go so far as to say this appears to be a premium device. In fact we find its design rather odd. It’s evidently designed to be used in portrait mode, with the apps shortcut and reasonably quiet stereo speakers found on the right (or in this case bottom) edge, but its size means the Cube is more comfortable to hold in landscape mode. The 16:9 aspect ratio feels odd when held in this manner, though – we’re more familiar with 4:3 tablet screens, but this widescreen ratio is well suited to movies.
The screen itself is an IPS display, which is a technology known for its realistic colours and excellent viewing angles. It’s also full-HD in resolution, which makes for sharp text and images. But this is rather a dull display and, despite what the manufacturer says, it is not easy to see in direct sunlight.
The screen is of a good size, however, and we like how it seems to be fairly adept at repelling fingerprints. Given the price tag of the Cube, we didn’t expect anything more than this.
Screen bezels are rather thick, which means the device is larger than it perhaps needed to be. All 10in tablets are big, but at 267x168x9.5mm and 608g this one might be a bit chunkier than you’d like. We can’t see an obvious reason for this, given that there is no physical home button – which also means no fingerprint scanner – and the photography tech is nothing special.
In common with the Amazon tablets you get a 2Mp camera at the rear and a 0.3Mp VGA webcam at the front. It’ll do for video chat, but not much else. But then we can’t image you taking too many photos on a device of this size.
From the back of the device the silver plastic frame is visible, with a strip running along the top. It doesn’t look great, but it should help heat to dissipate somewhat. Pleasingly it feels reasonably durable, with minimal creaking and flex when pressure is applied.
Inside the Cube is a quad-core MediaTek MTK8163 processor running at 1.3GHz, which integrates the ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU. There’s also 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. That’s actually a better-than-average spec for a budget tablet, though it is by no means up there with tablets costing several times the price.
We weren’t able to run our usual Geekbench 4 benchmark on the Cube, but in AnTuTu it turned in a score of 36,890 points. That’s around the same sort of
level as the Galaxy A7, a mid-range smartphone from Samsung. That seems a strange comparison, but a tablet is after all just a phone with a larger screen and (usually) no SIM slot.
None of these scores is anything to brag about. But whether this tablet is powerful enough for you really depends on what you want to do with it. It can handle casual games, video playback, web browsing and the sending of emails no problem. If you have in mind more intensive tasks you might be better to look elsewhere, but be prepared to pay an awful lot more.
The Cube covers all the standard connectivity bases, with dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and OTG. It lacks support for NFC and cellular networks, but neither is a surprise at this end of the market.
They say you get what you pay for, and that is very often the truth. There is some evident cost-cutting in this Cube iPlay 10 tablet, but in comparison to the Amazon tablets that top our budget tablets chart it has a larger, high-resolution screen, more storage as standard and, most importantly, full support for Google services. Performance is largely the same, which is capable enough for casual tasks.