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Hisense Sero 7 LT review: Cheap, but still not worth it

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The Good The Hisense Sero 7 LT has a Mini-HDMI port, expandable storage, and a competitive $99 price tag.

The Bad The Sero 7 LT has a low-resolution and inconsistently responsive touch screen and low internal storage capacity, lacks Bluetooth and GPS capabilities, and restarts unexpectedly.

The Bottom Line The Hisense Sero 7 LT isn't worth your money -- skip it and go for its more robust counterpart, the Pro, instead.

5.0 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5

When I first heard that the Hisense Sero 7 LT was only $99, I was pretty excited. As the stripped-down version of the already decent Sero 7 Pro, the LT, or "Lite," had the potential to be an even more affordable, but still reliable, device.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

See, I'm fine with the Lite stripping down a lot of the Pro's hardware specs to reach its low price point. But when performance starts taking a nosedive along with the price, I have a problem. Not only did it randomly restart and have a slow-to-respond screen, it also simply couldn't download a game (more on that later).

Rather than purchasing the Lite, it makes more sense (ha! see what I did there?) to fork over an extra $50 and get the Pro.

At 0.41 inch thick and weighing 0.78 pound, the Hisense Sero 7 LT is notably slimmer and lighter than the Pro. And, because it opts for a smooth plastic backing instead of the Pro's dimpled, rubberlike texture, its build quality feels less durable and sturdy. In fact, after just a few days of usage, the tablet had already accumulated some scratches and scuffs on its rear panel.

Hisense Sero 7 LT (back)
Priced lower than the Pro, the Sero 7 LT looks and feels cheaper, too. Josh Miller/CNET

The top edge houses all of the ports, which are (from left) a Micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Mini-HDMI port, and an exposed microSD card slot (up to 32GB expandable memory). On the left edge, you'll get a small sleep/power button and a volume rocker.

Above the display in the top-left corner is a 0.3-megapixel camera. There is no rear-facing camera. However, you will find a narrow slit on the bottom of the back panel for the audio speaker.

Hisense Sero 7 LT Hisense Sero 7 Pro HP Slate 7
Weight in pounds 0.78 0.82 0.8
Width in inches (landscape) 7.87 7.87 7.7
Height in inches 4.8 4.95 4.6
Depth in inches 0.41 0.43 0.42
Side bezel width in inches (landscape/portrait) 0.87/0.63 0.93/0.63 0.87/0.56

All in all, this device ultimately feels like it's worth $100. Though being thinner and lighter usually scores high marks for design, the Lite just feels cheap and almost toylike. It takes the already ho-hum aesthetic of the Pro and turns it down even lower. In the end, while it gets points for being reliable and staying in one piece throughout usage, its looks are definitely not worth writing home about.

Software features
Unlike the Pro, which ships with Android 4.2.1 out of the box, this tablet runs the skinless version of Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. That means you won't automatically get things like lock screen widgets and gesture typing like you do on the Pro. In addition, the UI is slightly dated. Hot keys for home, back, and recent apps are at the bottom left of the display, instead of the center. The app launcher has also been moved from the center to the top-right corner. And you must swipe up from the bottom-right corner to access your notifications and setting shortcuts. As an Android device, it comes with all your standard Google apps, such as Chrome, Gmail, Messenger, Google Play, and YouTube.

A few extra goodies include two retail apps for Walmart and Sam's Club; music-streaming and radio app Pandora; Kingsoft Office, a mobile suite and productivity app; and TV Remote, which transforms your tablet into a remote when linked to a TV.

Hisense Sero 7 LT (general usage)
The Sero 7 LT runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, whereas its Pro brother launches with Android 4.2 out of the box. Josh Miller/CNET

Lastly, you'll get an app called Vudu Movies and TV. With Vudu, you can rent HD movies, watch TV shows, and view trailers without a monthly subscription fee.

Hardware features
Powering the Hisense Sero 7 LT are a 1.3GHz dual-core processor and a 3,400mAh battery. You also get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and 1GB of RAM, and the listed amount of internal storage is 4GB of ROM.

Now, I know that the operating system will always take up some space, and unless your device is completely blank, you won't get the full amount of space as advertised. Indeed, the Pro has "8GB" of internal memory, but our unit really gave us just 4.84GB of available space. The amount of available space in the Lite, however, is a meager 565MB right out of the box, plus 1.36GB of built-in NAND flash memory. That wasn't even enough for me to install N.O.V.A. 3, which was only the first problem I'd encounter with the tablet and that game (more on that later).

And while it doesn't have GPS capabilities and NFC like the Pro, it's also important to note that the Sero 7 LT doesn't have Bluetooth, either, which is usually included with even the simplest of gadgets.

The device's display has a 1,024x600-pixel resolution. As such, you're not going to see the crispest and smoothest images, and hi-res images look grainy. The screen also has a narrow viewing angle; it would appear black just because it was tilted at a slight angle, and looking at it outdoors in sunlight was difficult. You'll also see plenty of color banding when it comes to images that contain color gradients, like some of the default wallpaper photo images.

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