Finding a good 10-inch tablet without breaking the bank can be a challenging task. The sub-$300 market is rife with 7-inch tablets whose better performance comes at the expense of a smaller screen, while 10-inch offerings often skimp on power in favor of size. The Insignia Flex 10.1, available exclusively at Best Buy, rings up for just $239.99 (list, 16GB), packs a bright 10.1-inch display, and offers enough power to satisfy most users.
Design and Hardware
The Insignia Flex measures 6.52 by 10.37 by 0.38 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.23 pounds, lighter than many 10-inch tablets including the fourth-generation Apple iPad, which weighs in at 1.44 pounds and the plastic-backed 1.41-pound Toshiba Excite 10 SE. Despite being called the Flex, the tablet feels very sturdy, with brushed metal covering much of the back panel.
The top inch of the rear casing is plastic and houses a tinny-sounding pair of stereo speakers on each end of the tablet. On right side is the volume rocker and Power button. The controls feel flimsy; they don’t sit flush with the side of the tablet and instead hide underneath the edge. In my tests, the Power button didn’t always respond when pressed, requiring the occasional firm push to get my point across to the tablet. When lying flat on a table I could only adjust the volume or turn off the tablet by lifting it a few inches.
The 1,366-by-768-pixel IPS display is easy to look at, with wide viewing angles and vibrant colors. Most current large-screen tablets pack 1080p screens, so the Flex is a bit behind the curve at just north of 720p, but it also costs a lot less than much of the competition. The 16:9 display is perfectly suited for movies and widescreen games in landscape orientation, but since it’s thin and long, it looks a bit awkward in portrait mode.
The Flex is a Wi-Fi only tablet with 802.11a/b/g/n dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz support. There’s no GPS, but you get Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. The Miracast app allows for video streaming directly to or from your HDTV or other Miracast-enabled device without a wireless access point. Currently, few HDTVs support Miracast, so I wasn’t able to test this feature.
Onboard storage is advertised at 16GB, but only 12.7GB is available, though you get a microSD slot that supports cards up to 32GB. The card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, micro USB and micro HDMI ports are all on the right side and away from your hands, making it comfortable to hold the tablet in landscape mode even with the ports occupied. While holding the Flex in portrait mode I found myself accidentally adjusting the volume or turning off the display. The micro HDMI port is a nice addition, mirroring the tablet’s screen on your HDTV. Rotating the tablet will change the aspect ratio on the Flex as well as the TV. Luckily this can be disabled. And you’ve got Miracast if you happen to have one of the few HDTVs that support it.
The 720p front-facing camera snaps 2-megapixel photos and enables video chat. The quality isn’t the best, but it’ll get the job done. There is no rear camera, but at this price point it’s no surprise, and given the quality of most tablet cameras, it’s not really missed.
OS and Performance
The Insignia Flex runs a largely unmodified version of Android 4.1.1, so it’s a couple of iterations behind the latest 4.3 version of Jelly Bean. Bloatware is minimal here: The CinemaNow, Astro File Manager, Geek Squad, and FAQ apps are easily removable. The built-in media player handled every type of video and audio file we threw at it, save for FLAC.
Powered by Nvidia’s older Tegra 3 processor running at 1.2GHz, the Flex performed well enough in our benchmark tests, scoring 13,847 on Antutu’s CPU test, which measures all-around performance, and 56 fps on the Nenamark graphics test. Coby’s similarly priced MID1065scored a mediocre 7804 on Antutu and 37.6 fps on Nenamark. These scores are fine for a sub-$300 tablet, but higher-end tablets like the Toshiba Excite Writeand its Tegra 4 processor managed 28,798 on Antutu, more than double the Flex. The Write also crushes the Insignia Flex in Taiji, another graphics benchmark, scoring 40.27 compared with the Flex’s 11.52 frames per second.
Video playback was smooth and Web browsing was without hiccups. While the tablet performed well in most other aspects, I didn’t have high expectations for gaming given the older CPU. Gameloft’s Asphalt 8 was consistent in its inconsistency, with frame rates dropping dramatically when rendering difficult graphical elements. Glamour shots of the high-end cars were marred by a stuttering screen during close-ups. Casual, less graphically intensive games like Fruit Ninja and Candy Crush Saga were fine. During extended gameplay the tablet’s temperature rose a bit, but not so much as to be a cause for concern.
Another drawback to the Tegra 3 platform is game incompatibility. Nvidia recommends downloading the TegraZone application from the Google Play Store to see a list of Tegra-compatible games. But most of these games are being released for tablets like the Toshiba Excite Write, with its Tegra 4 processor.
The Insignia Flex’s battery life is good. In our rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to maximum and the tablet’s Wi-Fi on, the Flex lasted 7 hours, 48 minutes, besting the same-screen-size Toshiba Excite 10 SE by about 11 minutes, and the Coby MID1065 by three hours.
If you’re looking for a big display and a big bargain, the Insignia Flex 10.1 is an excellent choice. Other tablets with the same screen size, like the slick and waterproof Sony Xperia Tablet Z and the high-definition Google Nexus 10, offer better performance and higher resolution screens, but at higher price points that force them to compete with our Editors’ Choice large-screen tablet, the Apple iPad. The Flex’s closest competitors are the Coby MID1065, which is similarly priced ($209.99), but only offers 8GB of integrated storage, and the Toshiba Excite 10 SE ($349.99), which is more than $100 more for the same capacity and similar features. The Insignia Flex provides a happy medium.
|Screen Resolution||1366x768 pixels|
|Operating System||Google Android 4.1.1|
|Dimensions||6.52 x 10.37 x 0.38 (HWD) inches|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD|
|Battery Size||7000 mAh|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||16 GB|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||128 ppi|
|Processor Speed||1.2 GHz|
|Screen Size||10.1 inches|
|CPU||nVidia Tegra 3 Quad-Core|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc