£70 doesn’t buy you much in the technology market, right? Normally a £70 tablet wouldn’t provide a great user experience but recently a new development has hit the market in a wave of cheap Windows 8 tablets, including the Connect 7″ Tablet from Tesco, but how does the device shape up?
I’ve tried using a 7″ Android tablet previously and I couldn’t get on with the form factor, but maybe a fresh approach with a different OS might make a difference. For your hard earned £70 you get a 7″ tablet with two 2 MP cameras, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage and a 1 GHz Quad Core Atom processor.
The tablet provides connectivity options through mini HDMI, micro USB, and Micro-SD sockets along with WiFi and Bluetooth.
As well as the hardware you also get a free years subscription to Office 365, which in itself is worth £79.99 and you also get a £10 credit on Blinkbox, so on paper this looks like a bit of a bargain and when ever I mention a negative element in this article please remember that the device only costs £70.
Running Windows 8.1 the Connect Tablet provides access to both the tiled metro interface and the traditional windows desktop environment. Access to the windows environment was one of the elements that initially interested me with the tablet, but in reality trying to use windows desktop on a 7″ touch screen is truly painful, even with a virtual on screen track pad.
I was looking forward to some classic gaming using dosbox but unfortunately the app crashes without a hardware mouse connected. However you can turn the Connect tablet into a full blown PC by connecting it to an HDMI monitor and USB or Bluetooth peripherals. This may cause an issue though as the device is charged through the single Micro USB socket so should you connect a USB device you can charge the device at the same time. This may severely limit the practicality of using the device as a desktop replacement, especially as the battery life isn’t great.
There were 3 other early blows which I discovered early on when using the Connect Tablet and these are related to a Email, Calendar and Twitter. The first problem was with the default Windows 8 mail client is ridiculously bad, especially on a 7″ touch screen, it might be better with a mouse but in my experience on this device it was excruciating. The second issue was that I’m a Google services user and it quickly became apparent that the standard calendar app wasn’t syncing my calendar correctly, which after a little research was revealed to be caused by a licensing issue between Google and Microsoft. These two issues were easily resolved through installing alternative Apps, with Touch mail providing a nice touch friendly mail experience and One Calendar proving to be a great calendar App. The third problem is which I had to resolve is that the Official Twitter App simply won’t authenticate any of my Twitter Accounts, looking through the app reviews on the Store this is a problem that affects a few users, I have yet to find a solution or a decent replacement app, which is a bit of a blow.
I’m also going to throw this out there now, the camera is the worst I’ve seen on a device for quite some time, although the requirement for a camera on a tablet is questionable.
So there’s quite a few negatives there, but this is a £70 device, and with a few tweaks there are some positives. Firstly let’s forget that the Desktop mode exists, hide the icon, it doesn’t work well on the small screen anyway. Secondly find a mail and calendar app that works for you, and suddenly things start to look up.
I personally like the live tile interface, it delivers information in a functional and visually attractive fashion and by taking 10 mins to find and arrange the live tile apps that appeal to you and suddenly you get a quick and easy home screen which is tailored personally for you.
Given the small screen I decided that the tablet would best be suited for small blasts of usage rather than long sessions, with this in mind I set out to look for a few casual games which could be payed in short shifts. I was impressed with the results. There are some really good games that work well on the Connect tablet, Halo: Spartan Assault and Age of Empires: Castle Siege are both outstanding Microsoft games and I heartily recommend Transport Empire, Age of Sparta and Star Wars Commander all of which are designed to be played in bite size chunks.
For those into Candy Crush, Jewel Star provides a comparable experience.
All the games above worked well on the tablet and media playback is dealt with well, in fact the only time I’ve really noticed the humble processor struggle was when I tried the mobile version of FIFA 15.
So in summary, with the Connect tablet you get some bad elements, like the default email client, lack of decent Twitter client, dire camera and less then fantastic battery life, but you also get some good and with a bit of work you end up with quite a nice user experience.
I might take some stick for this but in my opinion the overall ‘metro’ experience is better then that of Android on a 7″ device and for value for money you really are struggling to match the Connects Tablet from Tesco.
The Connect Tablet was a bit of a punt but one that has proved to be worth while, of course if you are thinking of purchasing Office 360, then buy this tablet instead, giving you access to Office and affectively a free tablet.