The Nextbook Ares 11 is an unremarkable Android tablet in every category but price. It starts at $197, exclusively on sale at Wal-Mart, and it comes with its own keyboard.
Running the latest Google operating system, Lollipop 5.0, packing 64GB of internal storage, and offering a multitude of ports doesn't save the Ares 11 from its lackluster performance and rinky-dink construction.
It works fine for basic tasks like checking email, surfing the Web, and simple mobile games, as long as they're conducted one at a time. Any activity more than that and performance becomes sluggish, providing a stodgy Android experience. Easily overwhelmed, it slows down if multiple apps are open in the background and lags when switching from one app to another.
Without the keyboard, the Nextbook Ares 11 is outdated and subpar to most $200 tablets. With the keyboard, it's a better deal that provides extra functionality features for budget-conscious students and families alike. However, despite its few productivity perks and low starting price, its paltry performance and measly construction fall short for anyone looking for an adequate workstation.
The Nextbook Ares 11 dons a traditional tablet-hybrid design. Easy and straightforward, the tablet simply docks into the keyboard using the sustaining ports and the pogo connectors. When connected, the power LED light on the keyboard turns on.
The plastic-laden keyboard definitely feels cheap, but it's not uncomfortable to use. It doesn't recline very far, up to about 120 degrees, but it's enough to provide effective viewing angles. When the tablet is attached, laptop-style, the keyboard is slightly elevated, providing a more comfortable angle for typing. The touchpad is also a nice addition, giving you an alternative option to navigating using the temperamental touchscreen -- more on that later.
Another convenient feature of the keyboard is the backlit keys. The keys themselves don't light up; however, the surrounding blue plastic that wraps around them does, illuminating them for easy typing in dark environments. The blue adds a fashionable touch to an otherwise drab design, and it provides good contrast on the keyboard.
All of the ports on the tablet are located on its left edge. From top to bottom you'll find the microSD card slot, Micro-HDMI port, MicroUSB port, AC adapter port, microphone, and headphone jack. The keyboard has two USB 2.0 ports, one on each side.
Similarly, all of the buttons are located on top-left corner of the tablet. On the back, you'll find the power button, volume rocker and home button. To tell them apart by feel, the power and home button are slightly concave and the volume rocker sports a pair of dimples.
Unlike many tablets, the Nextbook Ares 11 does not charge via Micro-USB; it comes with its own power cord. The good news is it charges it relatively fast -- if you're not using it at the same time.
Aside from the included keyboard, the Ares 11 is a pretty simple, no-frills tablet. It runs on the latest version of Google's operating system, Android Lollipop 5.0, and it's a mostly pure version, with the exception of some unfortunate bloatware. It also ships with the full suite of Google apps to get you started.
Packing a relatively unadulterated version of Android, the Ares 11 is hampered by bloatware. The apps include Vudu, Flixster, Barnes and Noble Nook for Android, MusicMaker Jam, and, of course, Wal-Mart.
If you're new to technology, you'll benefit from the Nextbook user guide and FAQ. The user guide shows you how to set-up Wi-Fi and Google Play settings, as well as demonstrates how to conduct a factory reset. Unfortunately, you cannot uninstall these two "apps" -- they're more like shortcuts to the Nextbook website.
The Nextbook Ares 11 houses a 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F CPU, 1GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to another 64GB.