Zen Mobiles has been around for a few years consistently churning out mobile phones and has recently entered the highly competitive, crowded yet lucrative tablet segment. What we have in our labs this time is the UltraTab A100 that's recently been launched. We put it to the test and here's what we found.
Design and Build quality
Slim at 10.5 mm and weighing in at a mere 295 gms, the UltraTab A100 is pretty lightweight compared to other tablets in this category. The shell looks pretty tough from afar, but on closer inspection, the low quality was apparent. It's a bit flimsy and the piece we received had a weak display panel which would easily flex at one corner even with the slightest pressure. The chassis in contrast is very sturdy and the exterior matt-finished body is aesthetically appealing.
Supports MicroSD cards as well
The display panel has a good viewing angle, except for a certain minute position (from an angle below) which tends flush the colours to a large extent. But this problem is very minute and can be ignored completely. This Android-powered UltraTab has a 7-inch (17.78 cm) capacitive and multi-touch display having a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It is powered by a 1.2GHz processor, complimented by a Mali 400 graphics processor and the operating system featured is Ice Cream Sandwich (Android v4.0). It features 512MB of DDR3 RAM and an internal storage capacity of 4GB, which as usual, can be expanded to 32GB via the micro SD slot. The UltraTab has a built-in non-user replaceable 2800 mAh battery. Overall, the tablet is very comfortable to use and has ergonomically placed volume and power buttons.
Once unpacked, you would expect the UltraTab A100 to run flawlessly and smoothly, but that did not happen. A little configuration tweak, especially in the Developer Options section and you are good to go with a smoother interface. We did find an issue with the tablet, especially while it was charging. The user interface goes haywire with the touchscreen randomly and continuously clicking on anything when you attempt to use it. We have noticed a similar problem with a few tablets and phones. But it could be an interference coming through the main power source and not an issue with the charger or device. If you do face similar issues with your tablet or phone, we suggest you try using another power outlet or try the device in another location. If the problem continues, it is recommended that you don’t use the interface while the device is charging—watching a movie, listening to music or reading an eBook should be okay as there is little user intervention required during this phase.
Small and lightweight
We ran the regular benchmark tests on the UltraTab A100 to gauge the performance of the tablet and give us an idea of where it stands with other tablets in the similar price and features category. We also ran the usual battery test by running a few video and audio tests. Linpack tests reveal single-thread score of 14 MFLOPS and 12 MFLOPS in multi-thread, while AnTuTu Benchmark revealed a score of 2714.
Out of the box, the UltraTab natively supports media formats such as audio: MP2, MP3, WAV, AAC and WMA, video: MPEG1/2/4, MJPEG, H263 and H264: Image: JPG, BMP and PNG and Documents: ePUB, PDF, TXT and HTML. The tablet performs at par with any tablet in its category and we did not find any issue with speed or usage whatsoever. We tested a few video files on the tablet and they ran flawlessly with almost no jitter or image loss. High-definition (1080p) videos (though they are scaled down to match the resolution of the display panel) also played very well and also the quality of the display in the videos was excellent. Videos encoded in the native resolution for the tablet (800 x 480) played flawlessly with excellent video quality.
The device can play most standard media formats, but if you need to playback other media types such as MKV, you can download some free media players from the Play Store such as Rock Player or MoboPlayer. Music playback is pretty good and the built-in speaker is pretty loud but shrill—it has a higher volume in trebles and lacks bass totally. Hence, listening to casual instrumentals is good enough through the tablet's speaker, but vocals in both music and especially videos are very unclear. The speaker is back facing and hence adds to the problem of audio quality. We recommend using headphones for good music and video pleasure. The bundled headphones are in-ear type and look good, but the audio quality is not great and not too bad either. We recommend you use a different pair of headphones with the device to get a better experience from the media player.
Great for videos etc. but the text could have been sharper
A micro USB port is the only access to the device from a PC or as a USB host port. An 802.11 b/g/n completes the networking, but a Bluetooth interface is missing. There is no HDMI port available and connecting an external display or TV is not possible. A 3.5 mm audio jack and a power connector are the only other ports available. Bundled along with the product is a 5 V (2 A) power adapter or charger, a pair of earphones, a micro USB cable and a micro USB male to USB type A female adapter as a host port converter for plugging in USB storage drives, input devices such as a keyboard or mouse or a USB dongle for 3G internet connectivity.
The rear sports no camera for regular photos or videos, although a 1.3 MP front-facing camera is available for video calls. We did try recording a video using the front camera, but the playback juddered quite a bit. Casual fun videos and video calling can suffice with the video quality of the camera.
The UltraTab A100 features the Android ICS v4.0.3 out of the box. Applications such as AstroSage Kundali-Online, BSE/NSE Stocks, Documents to Go, CricBuzz, Free Dictionary, Aldiko, Astro, inBollywood, Paytm, ngpay, NexGTv, Mig33, MSN Droid x, Indian Newspapers, Horoscope and a few more are thrown in as free to use apps. The Android OS is pre-rooted and hence, apps which need root privileges for functioning can be installed freely.
The latest 7-inch ICS Tablet to hit the shelf
The battery test revealed that the tablet can give you a maximum play time of 3 hours and 47 minutes, which is very low for any tablet in the category. The Micromax Funbook which has the exact similar specifications as the Zen UltraTab A100 gave us almost seven hours of movie run time.
Verdict and price in India
Priced at an MRP of Rs. 6,000, we feel the Zen UltraTab A100 can be an option for those looking for a budget 7-inch tablet. We would recommend it as the cheapest option, but its drawbacks are it suffers when it comes to battery life and lacks an HDMI interface. If HDMI is a priority, and you want to connect your tablet to a larger display or monitor, then you should look at other models such as Micromax Funbook which has a good battery life, an HDMI port and a good build quality. Similar models are Karbonn Smart Tab 1 and Ainol Novo 7 Paladin which are almost similar in hardware features, price and performance.
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