Disappointing displayConservative looksRuns hot after gaming for some time
The XOLO Play Tegra Note Tab is one of the best tablets we’ve seen especially in this price range and will make a great buy.
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Xolo Play Tegra Note: Detailed Review
Tablets are supposed to be the harbingers of doom for laptops. After all, they are more portable, have better battery lives, offer (to the normal user) almost the same functionality. So, why not give ‘proper’ gaming a shot too? That seems to be the XOLO Play Tegra Note Tab’s push and boy, does it take gaming seriously. A look at the box it comes in shows that with some pretty heavy Nvidia branding everywhere. It does look like Nvidia took the front-seat in the development of the Tegra Note Tab, although that’s just my assumption.
Anyway, let’s move on ahead and see if the XOLO tablet is indeed a mean, green, gaming machine.
Every new device in the market seems to have a particular USP when it comes to hardware. In the Tegra Note Tab’s case it is the Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset that includes a quad-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz and a GeForce GPU. The hardware promises excellent performance and it does deliver on that promise. But I’ll get to that in a bit. Other noteworthy hardware features include a 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels, 1GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage (along with support for microSD cards up to 32GB), stereo speakers, a 5MP rear camera and a VGA front-facing one.
Here’s a detailed look at the specs of the XOLO Tegra tablet along with those of some competing tablets such as the Nexus 7 (2013), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and the Asus Fonepad.
A look at the table suggests that the Xolo tablet will handily beat the other tablets, although its HD display does fall short of the mark set by the Nexus 7 (2013)’s full-HD IPS display. But like always, the specs only tell half of the story.
The Xolo Play Tegra Note Tab comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and XOLO has promised that it will be prompt with OTA OS updates. But then again, most manufacturers tend to make similar promises, so that’s nothing special. XOLO has wisely stuck to the basic Android UI without any unnecessary flashiness gumming up the works. Since this is a Tegra powered device, it comes pre-installed with Nvidia’s Tegra Zone, an app store with apps and games optimized for Tegra hardware, which is slowly becoming an impressive ecosystem in its own right. More often than not, you know that a game downloaded from the Tegra Zone will look good and play well on a supported device.
Another neat software feature that gets its own hardware accessory is Nvidia DirectStylus, that you can make use of with the bundled, you guessed it, stylus. DirectStylus comprises of two separate apps- Tegra Draw and Write, which let you sketch/paint/write on the tablet. The stylus works really well and can be used with surprisingly decent levels of accuracy. Of course, if you have been blessed with a dying man’s scrawl for your handwriting, like me, then the stylus will not be able to produce the most optimal results. Once you do pluck out the stylus from its housing, the tablet intelligently turns off regular touch inputs so that you don’t accidentally mess stuff up with your palm, and also enables a ‘lasso’ feature using which you can copy anything on the screen and save it as an image.
The stylus makes it quite easy to write and sketch
All in all, XOLO has played it safe and wise with the software features on the Tegra Tab. And I certainly can’t fault them for that when things do end up working well.
The Tegra Note is not the flashiest looking tablet out there and looks pretty conservative. Aesthetically speaking, the stand-out bits are the two massive speaker grills that flank the 7-inch screen and the rubberized portion that vaguely resembles an ‘X’ and has the Tegra branding on it. The looks aren’t helped by the really thick black bezel that surrounds the display, making it look smaller than it is. The tablet is also a bit heavy at 320 grams and at 9.6mm, cannot be considered slim.
On the other hand, the Tegra Note is well-built and even though it may not rely on metal in its construction, you will not find anything to complain about its build. The rubberized portions on the tablet are definitely a large factor in helping the tablet feel solid.
Probably the biggest disappointment in the entire Tegra Note package is its 7-inch display. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the 720p (800p to be precise) IPS display is bad, it’s just that on a device that does so many things right, the 720p display is the one that impresses the least. While 720p on a 7-inch display was the standard to aspire to last year, with the launch of the 1080p (well, 1200p, to be precise) Nexus 7 this year, there is a new standard in play.
For some strange reason for its display package, XOLO/Nvidia decided to go with uber glossy glass under which there appears to be a lot of space before the actual panel begins. This means that extreme and normal viewing angles are affected by two factors- 1) The actual reflectiveness of the glass; 2) The visual distortion that’s created because of the space between the glass and the panel.
In other aspects, the display conducts itself well. This is not the sharpest display you’ll see on a tablet, but it does manage to be quite vibrant and reasonably bright. Keep in mind though, that because of the glossiness, it will be a pain to use under sunlight.
If you had begun to grow disinterested in the XOLO Play Tegra Note Tab (that really is a mouthful) after that bit about the screen, here’s where it will pull you back in. There really is no polite way to say this- the Tegra Note’s performance kicks so much ass that it will probably have to wear a plaster cast for the rest of its life. In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Tegra Note shoots past competing tablets with utter arrogance and is clearly the best performer with only the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (at Rs. 45,000) managing to get slightly close among Android tablets. In fact, we had to pull in the best performing Android smartphones to give the Tegra Note some competition, and there too it beat the LG G2 and came in second to the Sony Xperia Z1.
Take a look at some of the scores posted by the Tegra Note in some of the synthetic benchmarks below.
Of course, as we’ve mentioned often, synthetic benchmarks aren’t the best way to measure how a device will actually perform in real-life. Well, the Tegra Note also manages great performance when it comes to daily use. The overall performance while navigating the interface, browsing the Web and running apps is smooth, brisk and left nothing for me to complain about.
Battery life is very good and the tablet lasted for ten hours in our continuous video playback test where we ran a 720p video with the brightness set to max and the Wi-Fi on. This would translate to about 15-20 hours of normal use which includes a little gaming, browsing and running apps. Since the Tegra Note is supposed to be a gaming tablet, it’s only appropriate (and quite impressive) that it will give you about 4 hours of continuous gaming on a single charge.
Well, let’s get down to the gaming performance then, shall we? I tried out a bunch of games on the Tegra Note including Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8: Airborne, Dead Trigger 2, Dead on Arrival 2, Zen Pinball HD and Eden to Green. In Dead Trigger 2, the presence of the Tegra 4 chipset was felt when it gave the option of ‘Ultra High’ graphics in the ‘Performance’ tab, whereas in the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, the maximum setting for graphics was ‘High’. There is a visible difference between the two settings as you’ll notice in the screenshots below. Unfortunately, at ‘Ultra High’, there were some noticeable drops in framerates when the screen got too cluttered with zombies. In all the other games, performance was great except for in the case of Asphalt 8, where the game kept recognizing the tablet as a controller and as a result couldn't be played.
Dead Trigger 2 on the Tegra Note (top) and the Nexus 5 (bottom). Notice the difference in textures and the presence of reflective water (bottom right) in the top screenshot and the absence of it in the bottom one.
The Tegra Note comes with a third-party app that works as the default camera app. It offers more features than the default Android camera app but is wasted on a pretty average camera. Like other tablet cameras, this one is horrible under low-light and just about average under good lighting. The video recording, on the other hand, is quite good and the 1080p videos shot by the 5MP camera look good and the playback has no frame-rate issues.
The default camera app
The XOLO Play Tegra Note tablet is available from today for Rs. 17,999, which frankly is a killer price for a tablet that does so many things well. At this price, the only real competition the Tegra Note gets is from the Nexus 7 (2013) that's now being sold in India directly by Google for Rs. 20,999 (16GB). If the display and overall design and feel is paramount, then we’d recommend the new Nexus 7. However, where the XOLO tab scores is its performance, some neat additional features (such as the stylus and the Tegra Zone access) and the ability to accept microSD cards. Which of the two sound more attractive is a decision I will leave to you. Just know that buying either of the two will be a great decision.
To sum it up, the XOLO Play Tegra Note Tab (oh god, that name again!) is one of the best tablets we’ve seen especially in this price range and will make a great buy.