Before reading on, we strongly suggest that you clear your mind of any memories and preconceptions that you may have about Telstra tablets. Yes, there have been some doozies in the past. The terribleand T-Hub, for example. These were woeful products, where Telstra clearly put price before any other consideration, and it showed. But the new 4G Tablet is a different beast entirely. For once, it feels well made, with a strong soft-touch plastic underside scored with a dimpled texture that gives the tablet a little grip. If you're familiar with the Motorola Xoom, you will see the similarities here.
- Screen: 10.1-inch
- Processor: dual-core 1.5GHz
- RAM: 1GB
- Platform: Android Ice Cream Sandwich
- Storage: 16GB
- Connectivity: 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth
The tablet's mechanical controls are all where we'd expect to find them, with the headphone socket along the left-hand side and the power and volume on the top. Under a plastic flap on top, you'll find space for a SIM card and a microSD memory card.
Most importantly, and perhaps surprisingly, the screen on the Telstra 4G Tablet isn't terrible. We're not going to wax lyrical about it being in the same league as the iPad's Retina display — it's not — but for the price, this is a very usable tablet touchscreen. Colours are good, and the brightness is fine, and although some of the text and graphics can be a bit rough around the edges, everything is mostly crisp.
We did notice that the ambient light sensor was a bit inconsistent, and that the screen can sometimes struggle to settle on an auto-brightness setting, but the easy fix for this is to set a brightness level manually and forget about it. The LCD panel is also deeply set below the glass, compared with better models. This can make the screen seem a little washed out a times, and it accentuates reflections on the screen when viewed under bright light sources.
The weight of the unit is one of our only major concerns, design wise. At 670 grams, this tablet weighs nearly as much as the first-generation iPad, and is about 100 grams heavier than most tablets of this size this year. For some people, this might make for an uncomfortable tablet to hold for long sessions, especially in situations where you don't have something to rest it on.
|Telstra 4G Tablet||iPad 3G 16GB||Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1||Asus Transformer Pad (3G)|
|16GB storage||32GB storage
|Android ICS||iOS 6||Android ICS||Android ICS|
User experience and performance
To say that Telstra, or its manufacturing partner ZTE, has customised the user interface from its Android Ice Cream Sandwich base would be stretching the truth a little. This is essentially a stock Android experience, coloured by a few original wallpapers and a couple of pre-installed apps.
One of the significant changes is to the lock screen, where an app called Mi-EasyAccess controls the front door. This gives the user two options: either hold down to unlock the tablet, or swipe to reveal six customisable app shortcuts. These, obviously, unlock the tablet directly into the associated app when pressed.
For the tablet's AU$480 price tag, Telstra includes a punchy Qualcomm dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and an Adreno 225 graphics unit. Telstra doesn't list the RAM of this unit in any of its official documentation, but several apps we've used claimed that there is a total of 630MB of RAM in play — quite an unusual number. This combination delivers, though, scoring well on performance benchmarks and easily running complex 3D gaming titles like Riptide GP.
The tablet's 6900mAh capacity battery also delivers the goods, managing six and a half hours of continuous web browsing on a 4G connection. Standby power is also quite good; we estimate that it would take between four and five days to run through a full battery cycle with 4G on and sync settings set to automatic.
Important to the value proposition of this tablet is its 4G network compatibility. At AU$480, this is the cheapest 4G tablet available in Australia, and one of the cheapest tablets to offer a mobile data option at all.
This is also an important element to consider when deciding whether to buy this tablet. AU$480 will nab you the tablet, but you will have to supplement this with AU$30 or so per month for data. If you think you are unlikely to use the data, and that you'll rely on Wi-Fi instead, there are better Wi-Fi-only models to be had for this price.
Besides mobile data, the 4G Tablet also supports connections to Wi-Fi networks, including Wi-Fi Direct sharing and Bluetooth pairing. There is no near-field communication (NFC), however.
Besides the essential tablet features, Telstra also includes two cameras: a rear-facing 5-megapixel module, and a 2-megapixel lens on the front. There are a number of pre-installed apps outside of the stock Android experience, including World Clock, Voice Recorder, an Office document reader and a Power Manager tool. Of course, you can supplement these with your choice of the 700,000 apps available on the Google Play Store.
Telstra-branded products have been a laughable affair in the past, but the 4G Tablet is a big step away from this tainted history. This tablet feels good to hold, though heavy, and offers big value for money with its battery life, processing, 4G connectivity and decent touchscreen. In this price range, you could choose a Wi-Fi-only iPad, Nexus 10 or Samsung Galaxy tablet instead, but with few trade-offs to tie it down, the Telstra 4G Tablet is worth a look, too.