What kind of a tablet can you get for $38 (list)? Not a very good one, that’s for sure—but that may not matter if there’s no other tablet you can afford. The Ubislate 7ci isn’t designed for people with options, but don’t stop reading here. Even if you have options, you might want to look at this super-cheap tablet, for a variety of reasons.
The Ubislate is solid, if cheap. It’s 7.2 by 4.8 by .4 inches (HWD) and weighs 11.2 ounces. It’s made of matte black plastic, and there are helpful labels on the back showing where the volume buttons, headphone jack, and such are. There’s a memory card slot marked “TF Card” (“TransFlash” is an old, obsolete name for microSD) and a single speaker on the back. The battery is sealed in.
The screen is an immediate disappointment. The 800-by-480, 7-inch panel doesn’t have a viewing angle. It’s more like a viewing point. Go 45 degrees off a direct view and all the colors go thoroughly weird, like you’re looking through a privacy screen. You simply can’t lay this down on a table and look at it from an angle; you have to be looking at it straight on.
The Ubislate connects to the Internet via 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. It had no trouble connecting to four different networks I tried. That’s the only wireless connectivity it has—there’s no Bluetooth, GPS, or NFC, for instance.
The Ubislate is also available in India, where it only costs about $20 with a government subsidy. The slideshow below is from when we first encountered the tablet; the hardware on the U.S. model is the same as on the Indian version.
Performance and Apps
The Ubislate runs Android 4.2.2, but in a very weird way. The tablet comes with both Datawind’s app store and the Google Play store, but Google Play runs very poorly: I got some apps to download after a few tries, while other attempts quit or gave me server errors. Ultimately, I wasn’t willing to count on the Google Play support. I had much better luck with Amazon’s Appstore, which worked flawlessly. Datawind includes its own app store, which only has fifteen apps, but they’re useful things like Facebook, LinkedIn, and the official Google Gmail app.
Then there’s all the random, strange, preloaded bloatware—a bucket full of it, like an ad-supported Web browser which supposedly accelerates page loads (it didn’t, in my experience), a bunch of games, and the admittedly useful Kingsoft Office suite.
The 1.2GHz generic Cortex-A8 processor in the Ubislate runs everything very, very slowly. Forget benchmark results. Peformance ranges from “gummy” to “really, please be patient,” with more apps taking several seconds to load and render their initial screens. Many apps hesitate on launch, even simple kids’ games like Fruit Ninja, Fruit Sorter, and Toca Lab, although the games were playable through the occasional stutter. Murtha’s popular Drawing Pad kids’ drawing app suffered from jerkiness and serious lag. I certainly wouldn’t load any game which relies on heavy action.
The tablet has better luck as a pure media player. There’s a music player onboard which handles AAC, MP3, OGG, and WAV music. My 320kbps music files skipped occasionally, although 192kbps files didn’t. I had no skipping problems with H.264, Xvid, and DivX video files played through the weird pre-loaded “2160P Super-HD Media Player,” with HQ YouTube videos, and most notably with Netflix downloaded through Amazon. Audio through headphones was loud and rich.
In terms of storage, the device has two partitions: one 1GB, and one 1.4GB. It also has a microSD card slot, which supports memory cards up to 32GB.
The Ubislate’s utility as a media player, though, is limited by its poor battery life. For battery, I got 2 hours, 23 minutes of video playback on one charge with the screen on full brightness.
There’s a front-facing camera which takes lousy selfies and records 25-frame-per-second video, both at 640-by-480 resolution; the Ubislate also has a mic on top, so it’s ready for video chatting.
At one point all of my app icons went away until I rebooted. Yeah, it’s like that.
Comparisons and Conclusions
At $37.99, the Ubislate is designed to be a primary Internet access device for the unconnected. The cheapest other tablet I actually recommend is the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which I found for $78 on Newegg, so there’s a big difference there. The Ubislate’s Achilles heel is that it needs Wi-Fi, so if you don’t have Internet access at home, you’ll be sitting around in Starbucks, McDonald’s, and at the library a lot. But if you have no other way to do the basic Web browsing needed for homework, job applications, and the like, the Ubislate can save you time waiting for those shared library PCs.
The device’s throwaway price leads me to think of other uses for the Ubislate, though. It could make some decent digital signage: Buy one to sit outside every conference room in your office and run a digital conference room sign app, or prop one up on the counter in your deli showing the daily specials. The Ubislate could be seatback entertainment in a car that has power ports, or where you don’t usually drive for more than two hours. It could be a first tablet for a small child, with simple apps, where you don’t have to worry about the kid destroying your expensive pad.
The Ubislate 7ci isn’t a general-purpose tablet. Let’s make that clear. If it didn’t cost $38, this would be a two-star review at best. If you can afford it, by all means go for a Nook HD, Amazon Kindle Fire HD or Asus Memo Pad HD 7, all of which offer far less frustrating experiences. But although they’re all under $200, they all cost at least triple the price of the Ubislate 7ci, making this the tablet to get if you can’t afford any other tablet.
|Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility||2.4GHz|
|Screen Resolution||800-by-480 pixels|
|Operating System||Google Android 4.2.2|
|Dimensions||7.2 by 4.8 by .4" (HWD) inches|
|Screen Type||TFT LCD|
|Battery Size||2800 mAh|
|Video Camera Resolution||VGA|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2.4 GB|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||133 ppi|
|Processor Speed||1.2 GHz|
|Screen Size||7 inches|
|CPU||ARM Cortex A8|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc