At last, China-powered Indian branded tablets can compete with those of Samsung and Apple, thanks to the launch of several new cheap tablets in the dual-core, IPS 10-inch display category over the past few days.
Coming less than a week after Mediatek, which supplies the chips for a large number of Chinese manufacturers, announced plans to enable cheap quad-core tablets early next year, the new models are a blessing for Indian tablet fans.
The main weakness for cheap Indian tablets has so far been the low processing power (caused by the single-core A7 and A8 chips) and the atrocious, dim, low resolution displays.
Other problems, such as poor battery and poor looks, have already been overcome by Indian tablet brands such as Micromax, iBall, Karbonn and HCL.
Now, the last two challenges — more processing power and better displays — have also been addressed with the new launches.
As of the writing of this article, six brands have launched models based on the ‘dual-core A9’ + ‘9.7-inch IPS’ display combination. All the models are nearly identical, and are priced in the Rs 11,000 to 15,000 range.
The new models include the EAFT D-90t, the iBall Slide i9702, HCL Me G1, the Swipe Velocity and the Karbonn Cosmic Tab 10.
They all have 1 GB of RAM (compared to the 512 MB of RAM that most tablets in India have now) and are powered by the newer ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processors. In comparison, most tablets in India are powered by Cortex A8 or A7 processors. Cortex A9 is estimated to provide up to 50% better performance compared to A8.
In addition, while the existing tablets come with single-core processors, all of these have two cores. In other words, the overall processing ability should be about 3 times that of existing tablets. Another important aspect is the presence of ARM’s Mali 400 graphics processors, which helps the tablets play high resolution videos and games. The Mali 400 series is also used in Samsung Galaxy tablets.
The second big change is the display. So far, nearly every Indian tablet has come with 800 * 480 pixel display that barely worked in a brightly lit room, let alone outdoors. The new models have 1024 * 768 displays and have 9.7 inches diagonal length. In other words, the new tablets have exactly twice the number of pixels (dots) as the old tablets.
However, that is not the only improvement in the display category. Going by the display on the iBall i9702, they are super-bright and vivid. Much of the improvement is because of the fact that all of them (with the possible exception of the Karbonn Cosmic 10) use IPS (in-plane switching) technology. IPS displays tend to have ‘raised’ pictures, which increase viewing angle (preventing the darkening associated with LCD displays when tilted) and are better at reproducing colours.
All the models come with 8 GB of storage (see chart below) and 2 MP camera at the back. Some have VGA cameras in the front, while some models like the EAFT D90-T have 2 MP cameras on both sides.
They are all stylishly designed, though the ones with bigger batteries are heavier. For example, the EAFT D90T, the iBall Slide i9702 and the HCL G1 are slightly heavier than the other three, at 560-610 gm. The three are priced at Rs 14,000-15,000, higher than the others which are all priced at Rs 11,000.
The model Zync Z1000 is one of the fastest selling tablets in its category — primarily because it is the only one in this category that has built-in support for 3G sims, and also carries a price of just Rs 11,000. However, the bad news is that it carries the older Cortex A8 processor. That, however, has not prevented fans from making sure that the model is sold out at most online retailers.
Another trade-off buyers can make, if they want to cut the price, is to choose the small-battery versions. Two models, the 8-inch Swipe Velocity tab and the Karbonn Cosmic 10 inch, both come with 4,500 mAh batteries, unlike the others that come with 7,000-8,000 mAh batteries. The smaller battery also cuts about 250 gm of weight from the models, bringing them in the 350 gm range. Interestingly, both these models also have the 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Android, while the others have 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS version, though they are probably upgradeable.
However, it must be pointed out that the smaller batteries will mean that the tabs, which have enormous 9.7-inch displays, will last only about 2-3 hours between recharges.
There is very little doubt that other brands too, including Micromax, will launch models based on the A9-dual-core-IPS platform. With very little to set apart the tablets from each other in terms of specs, the final decision must be made on the availability of service centers etc.. Relatively newer brands may not be able to provide the required levels of service, including replacement and repair in cases of breakdowns.