Vodafone, as part of their Smart line of devices, has released a budget friendly Android tablet; the Vodafone Tab Prime 6. With a 9.6″ display, a 4G radio, Android 5.0 and a wallet-friendly price, let’s take a look at this device and see what sets it apart from other budget contenders.
Vodafone have released a number of devices recently with the Smart First 6, an entry-level device as the name suggests and the Smart Prime 6 which delivers slightly power at a budget friendly price. The Vodafone Tab Prime 6 however is the only in-house branded tablet, and sits alongside the smartphones previously mentioned in a new look Vodafone line-up of devices.
Unboxing & Overview
Like their smartphone line up, the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 is packaged in a very “Samsung”-esque box, with some simple call outs for its 4G capability on the front, alongside a still of the device, and the box contents on the back.
Included in the box is:
- Vodafone Tab Prime 6 device.
- Wall Charger.
- Micro USB cable.
- Quick Start Guide.
Unlike the Smart First 6 smartphone, this device doesn’t feel all that budget.
The back of the device is covered in a matte grey finish and isn’t the most grippy of surfaces which for a tablet is somewhat troublesome. However the front of the device makes up for this by having, either by happy coincidence or design, I’m unsure which, bezels that allow for a comfortable handling position when using the device in landscape.
Staying on the front of the device, the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 has a 9.6″ IPS LCD display with an HD resolution of 1280 x 800 delivering just 157 ppi. More on the display later.
On the top of the device sits the 3.5mm audio jack and what appears to be a reset switch. On the right edge sits the power button, as well as a single piece volume rocker. At the bottom edge, only a Micro USB port is evident, and the left hand edge is clean.
Moving around to the back of the device, and there’s a bit more going on. The 5MP camera is the stand out feature on the back and sits at the top left section of the device. On the opposite side of the back of the device sits the SIM and expandable SD Card slot (up to 32GB) covered by a port flap. In the middle of the back plate there are subtle Vodafone and 4G logos along with a docking port. Further down sits the one speaker on this device.
The full specifications of this device are as follows:
- Dimensions 244mm x 146mm x 8mm weighing 406g
- 9.6″ IPS LCD 1280 x 800 display
- Quad-core 1.3Ghz Snapdragon 410 CPU
- 16GB internal storage with SD Card available up to 32GB
- 1GB RAM
- 5MP Rear camera / 2MP front facing camera
- 4600 mAh non-removable battery
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and 4G radio
Design & Hardware:
There seems little that can be done to differentiate tablets in terms of form factor or otherwise. The Vodafone Tab Prime 6 is no different. A widescreen aspect ratio is evident here, as in most tablets with the exception of the recent Nexus 9, and it delivers very similar button placement. Nothing out of the ordinary.
The 9.6″ IPS LCD display is as good a place as any to start. In general use it’s more than usable, although on a larger screen than a smartphone, the resolution is laid bare. It’s not particularly bright, and text can appear fuzzy at times. Playing media is acceptable however and the IPS display does a decent job of representing colours successfully in videos but other activities such as reading and browsing are less enjoyable. Viewing angles however are good and there is little colour distortion at wide angles.
Strangely, media playing is another area I only had good words for the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 and its ability to perform under load. Videos didn’t stutter and audio was in sync 100% of the time with our sample videos. Once more, switching to web browsing, gallery viewing, apps and emails showed a different story. All, on occasion, produced stutters and lags reminiscent of a performance dip from the Quad-core 1.3Ghz CPU.
The above won’t have come as a surprise to anyone who is used to reading the specifications on a device. It’s functional whilst delivering nothing new or special.
There are elements of this device that do fall below par however. Namely the sound delivery and optics. Let me start by saying this; speaker placement, on any device intended for media consumption at any level, is a HUGE decision. Front facing speakers, as we’ve discovered on HTC’s devices give great clarity, whilst enlarging the overall footprint of the device. Many other tablets have place speakers on the bottom of the device, which are then covered by a users’ hands as they attempt to hold or operate the tablet. Bother of these have their pros and cons.
The one place a speaker should NEVER be placed is on the rear of the device unless it has some serious clarity and power behind it. Sadly, the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 doesn’t achieve the kind of clarity required from a rear mounted speaker. It can be quite loud, but clarity is a huge issue and it tops out relatively easily meaning louder sequences in videos are often distorted and poorly managed. This is evidentially one area in that costs were cut.
The 5MP and 2MP cameras also fall short, but on a tablet, most consumers don’t expect much from these. The 2MP camera is acceptable for video calls, but not much else, whilst the 5MP camera struggles to display any kind of clarity in its photos. It’s a short and sweet conclusion of the optics in this device; they simply aren’t good, but this shouldn’t be a selling point for a device such as this in any case. One final point to note is that the 5MP rear facing camera on the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 seems to be fixed focus as I’ve found no way to change the focal point or indeed push for the device to focus on a new target. There is no call out about fixed focus that I can find, however it seems to be the case which is curious.
One area that seems to perform admirably and is incredibly important to a tablet device is the battery. At 4600 mAh, we managed to get 4.5 hours of HD video playback before needing a recharge. That’s not bad at all. Standby loss is minimal also, however Android 5.0 does bring with it some quirks and as such, occasional stints of charge loss are felt, seemingly without reason. We’re not sure we can attribute this to the hardware itself. Most users will be happy with the battery life on this device, but again, it’s not trend setting; simply acceptable.
Software & UI
Android 5.0 is bundled with this device and it’s nice to see a near stock implementation. Navigating for any first time user is fairly intuitive after only a brief period of familiarisation. Due to the dearth of memory on this device however, the 1GB RAM is often easily reached when using multiple applications as many use cases would require on a tablet in 2015. These performance issues are often seen in task switching and upon first boot whilst files are put into memory. If you’re a user who requires only a browser, email client and maybe a messaging application open, you might well be fine, however in our usage we found frequent sluggish performance.
The camera app is specifically sparse with a “manual” mode that allows the change of ISO, and white balance, however this seems to have little effect on the actual outcome.
There isn’t much more to say. Android Lollipop 5.0 is a nice looking operating system with many bugs that can manifest in a number of ways. Intermittent battery drain and sluggish performance (no doubt hampered also by the poor CPU and RAM implementation) are semi-regular occurrences and can’t be aimed entirely at the hardware on this device. We expect some, if not all, to be patched in future updates.
The Vodafone Tab Prime 6 is an interesting device. At £150 on a PAYG deal, many consumers would be forgiven for plumping for it. The device is one that will most likely be purchased for a first time tablet user and in that scenario, I certainly cannot suggest that the recipient wouldn’t be happy with the purchase.
The device performs most of the tasks that everyday users would require, however attempting to multi-task causes the tablet to really work hard to perform and this is where some frustration might creep in.
Nobody who wants to be taking photos with a device should be looking at this device, or indeed a tablet device at all. Optically, this just scrapes by as adequate for video calling.
The long and short is that if you’re somebody who wants to pickup a device every now and then, check some emails, browse and make some purchases online and then put the device down again for another few hours, you’ll be happy with the Vodafone Tab Prime 6, especially at £150. The one slight issue is that older devices out there, with more features are in and around the same price bracket. Whether users want to take a punt on continued support on these devices (The Nexus 7 for example) remains to be seen, and Vodafone might well get more sales off the back of that very decision.
The budget tablet market is one that is still forming, as many consumers utilise their phones for more and more scenarios that Tablets would originally have been ideal for. Perhaps as a bundle deal (Vodafone?) with a Smart First 6, this might be an attractive deal for the first time smart device user?
Let us know what you think in the comments below?