Notebookcheck

Notebookcheck's Best of June 2013 – Smartphones and Tablets

Patrick Afschar Kaboli (translated by Martina Osztovits), 07/06/2013

BlackBerry strikes again. May was dominated by Samsung, but June is quite different. The BlackBerry Q10 clearly wins in smartphones, but, we could not elect a sole winner in tablets. Three devices including the waterproof Sony Xperia Tablet Z share the first place.

For the original German article, see here.

May was clearly dominated by the South Korean electronics giant Samsung. While Fujitsu could keep up with Samsung in tablets, the new flagship Samsung Galaxy S4 performed significantly better than the competition. However, June is different. We reviewed six tablets and seven smartphones, while it was vice versa in May.

In the tablet category we reviewed the Sony Xperia Tablet Z the second time. While still in pre-production state in May, we were excited to see what the developers improved before the launch. Of course the final model was rated. The Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina is a derivative of the Tab 9 AQQ Revolution. The manufacturer, first and foremost, focused on a high-resolution display and the name of the tablet was apparently inspired by Apple. The Galapad 7 from Palit is a newcomer. Contrary to our expectations, the small tablet of "unknown origin" performed impressively. The same is also true for the 3G-capable Huawei MediaPad 10 Link, which was also slightly criticized. The HP Slate 7 wants to be a very cheap alternative in the 7-inch segment. It did not disappoint us. Meanwhile, the Acer Iconia A1-810 could not completely delight us, although it is not a poor tablet.

LG came up with two new products in June - the mid-range LG E460 Optimus L5 II was already reviewed in May. The three cheap smartphones of the L II series cover the complete market range. The LG E430 Optimus L3 II is entry-level, while the top model of the series called LG P710 Optimus L7 II belongs to the upper mid-range. All three of them performed decently. Once again, we reviewed a Windows 8 smartphone from Nokia. However, the Lumia 720 is struggling to stand out from its sister models. This does not pose a problem for the Huawei Ascend Mate. The largest smartphone so far is a class of its own. Sony nearly launches new smartphones every week. Some of the models seem redundant, but not the Xperia L, which the author even classifies as "recommendable mid-range smartphone". Such a classification would be an insult for the BlackBerry Q10. With its powerful platform and excellent keyboard, the Q10 is the best model in June. The Chinese phone iOcean X7 cannot keep up with it, although it delivers quite a lot for a low price, e.g. a Full HD display. However, it also has disadvantages.

Tablets

Contenders:

Sony Xperia Tablet Z 85%

Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina 85%

Palit Galapad 7 85%

Huawei MediaPad 10 Link 84%

HP Slate 7 84%

Acer Iconia A1-810 83%

We already scrutinized a pre-production model of the newest Sony tablet in May and it performed decently. However, we were also excited to see what the manufacturer will optimize before the launch of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. E.g., the display had a yellow tint and the case could have been more stable. The latter did not improve. Meanwhile, Sony revised the display. However, the result is a mixed bag. While the display of the final model is significantly brighter and the yellowness decreased, the deviation of the gray levels increased and the color temperature is significantly too warm. But, the color fidelity is overall better. The overall good result did not change with the update. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z scores points with a slim, light, dust resistant and waterproof case, rather high performance and a decent main camera. However, front camera and speakers should be improved.

The Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina is only a kind of facelift and stresses a marketing term from Apple. It actually features a high-resolution display, but this would not sound that exciting. The approach of the manufacturer remained the same: a powerful tablet for a fair price. Moreover, the Tab 9 AQQR Retina is successful in this aspect. The display, especially its rather high resolution, leaves a decent impression. The battery life is notable too. The camera modules could have been omitted, but the manufacturer should definitely have included a GPS module. But, overall, the Bullman tablet performs decently.

Palit or Galapad – neither of the two names is familiar as a manufacturer of tablets. Initially, we were a little skeptical towards the unknown brand, but the Galapad 7 proved us wrong. It is a 7-inch tablet with good build quality featuring an Nvidia Tegra 3 branded SoC. In addition, the device does not have any serious disadvantages and only costs just under 180 Euros (~$231). Its pros are; high performance, decent build quality, attractive display and expandable memory. We did not like the short battery life and the low display resolution.

Huawei continues to break into the tablet and smartphone market. The Huawei MediaPad 10 Link could increase market shares with a unique feature mentioned in its name. "Link" means that the 10-inch tablet comes with a 3G module for mobile Internet. Although it does not support LTE, the currently fastest standard, the build-in HSPA+ module is already rather fast and completely sufficient for a tablet. The bright display with wide viewing angles and the high-end build quality are more than sufficient. In addition, the Huawei tablet is rather fast in our application benchmarks. However, you have to be patient while surfing. Here the MediaPad 10 Link does not belong to the fastest devices. Furthermore, gaming suffers from low performance. The lack of GPS and the high power consumption reduce the final rating.

The HP Slate 7 wants to be a cheap all-rounder. With decent features and a very cheap price, the manufacturer met its goal. You get a decent display, good performance, an overall sound build quality and a rather up-to-date Android version for a low price. However, the low price becomes apparent in the following aspects: poor camera modules, lack of a GPS receiver and short warranty.  Still, in consideration of the fair price, the final result is impressive.

The latter should also be an incentive to buy the Acer Iconia A1-810. The 7.9-inch tablet is available for 180 Euros (~$231). Display size, XGA resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio slightly reminds one of the Apple iPad Mini. However, they do not have anything else in common. The case of the Acer A1 is solid, but the used materials are cheap. Meanwhile, the cheap tablet offers decent performance, the newest Android version and the camera delivers good picture quality. However, the built-in GPS module is not up to scratch.

Tablets of June 2013: Sony Xperia Tablet ZBullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina, and Palit Galapad 7.

The winner's podium was never this crowded before. Three tablets share the award this month. However, with 85%, none of them could reach top rating. They deserve the crown in absence of better competitors.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Award Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Award Sony Xperia Tablet Z

What we like

The elegant look, the extreme thinness and the comfortable weight.

What we'd like to see

A more stable case would suit a device in the top class well.

What surprises us

That Sony made the display brighter and its colors more accurate, but the grayscale deviations and color temperature problems worsened.

The competition

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z wants to play in the top league. Therefore the competitors are: the Apple iPad 4, Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T, Google Nexus 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – the crème de la crème, that is.

Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Award Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina
Award Bullman Tab 9 AQQR Retina

What we like

That while the Samsung SoC has been replaced by the Rockchip RK3188 it only has a negative impact on the benchmarks. The performance suffices everyday tasks.

What we would like to see

The camera modules are poor and it completely lacks a GPS module. Furthermore, we would appreciate if the device could also be charged via its micro USB port.

What surprises us

The user will appreciate the extremely fine resolution and very wide viewing angles. In addition, Apple products with Retina display are significantly more expensive.

The competition

Bullman Tab9 AQQ Revolution

Apple iPad 4

Google Nexus 10

Palit Galapad 7
Palit Galapad 7
Palit Galapad 7
Palit Galapad 7
Palit Galapad 7
Palit Galapad 7
Award Palit Galapad 7
Award Palit Galapad 7

What we like

The tablet includes features missing on the Google Nexus 7. For example, the memory is expandable and you can make video calls using the webcam.

What we'd like to see

The display could use a better resolution. The battery could also stand to have a higher capacity, which would improve the tablet's battery life.

What surprises us

At a suggested retail price of about 180 Euros (~$231), the Galapad 7 is able to be an attractive buy. Let the competition with the Google Nexus 7 begin.

The competition

Google Nexus 7

HTC One X

Fujitsu Stylistic M702

Asus Memo Pad Smart

Smartphones

Contenders:

LG P710 Optimus L7 II 84%

Nokia Lumia 720 87%

LG Optimus E430 L3 II 84%

Huawei Ascend Mate 86%

Sony Xperia L 85%

BlackBerry Q10 89%

iOcean X7 80%

While the LG P710 Optimus L7 II is the best model of LG's L smartphones, it is mid-range in the current smartphone market. This is also reflected by the recommended price of 300 Euros (~$385). The LG phone has a decent build quality, its touchscreen works flawlessly and the battery life also allows prolonged outings away from a power socket. The image quality of the main camera is at least decent. Contrast, black value and viewing angles can convince, too, but cannot conceal the low brightness. Low performance, high power consumption while idle and the poor speakers decrease the rating even more.

The LG Optimus E430 L3 II, the entry level of the L7 II series only cost 99 Euros (~$127), i.e. one third of the top model. This price is extremely low for a full-fledged smartphone. Is the L3 II indeed full-fledged? No, it is not. The display is too small, its resolution too low, the memory too small, and the performance moderate. Fortunately, it is equipped with an IPS panel. In addition, haptics and build quality are all right, too. The battery life, an important criterion in this price category, is extremely long. If you are looking for a cheap smartphone for everyday tasks, the LG Optimus E430 is not a bad choice.

Nokia Lumia 720: At first glance, it is difficult to see how the newest Nokia device with Windows Phone 8 differs from the other Lumia models. The hardware, which is nearly identical in many current Windows smartphones, is the same. With a recommended price of 379 Euros (~$486), the 720 should range higher than the 520 and the 620. It features the same display size and resolution as the 820 model, but a lower processor performance. Nevertheless, it delivers a decent performance. The very bright display is impressive, and the expandable internal memory convenient. Contrary to several other Lumia models, the battery cannot be replaced. As the battery life is very long, you can get over it easily.

With its 6.1-inch IPS display, the Huawei Ascend Mate is currently the "biggest smartphone" reviewed by Notebookcheck so far. It belongs to the relatively young group of so-called phablets, i.e. a smartphone in tablet size. Huawei equips its huge smartphone to fit the upper class. Processing is done by a fast quad-core from the manufacturer's own production. In addition, it features a powerful GPU. The display "only" uses a standard HD resolution, but is very bright and has wide viewing angles. Performance, build quality and handling deserve praise. The few criticisms are typical for current smartphones: weak cameras and heavily reflective display. But, we can summarize: "The Ascend Mate is fun."

Another new smartphone from Sony? Yes, and the Xperia L indeed has a right to exist. It is a decent mid-range model for a fair price. The 4.3-inch display is protected by robust glass and delivers a resolution appropriate for its category. In addition, it is bright, but black value and contrast could be better while the colors are sound. We found a lot of positive aspects in the Sony Xperia L. It does not only have a high-end build quality, but also looks elegant. The camera with HDR function shoots decent pictures and the battery life is long. Furthermore, Android 4.1 is not yet outdated.

With the Z10, BlackBerry managed a successful comeback in the smartphone segment. For a long time, it got rather calm around the pioneer of this segment. The Canadians successfully continue with the BlackBerry Q10. The most striking detail of the Q10 is its physical QWERTZ keyboard, which works perfectly. The downside of fast typing: The display size is notably limited. The build quality is high-end. We like the choice of materials. You can see at first glance, that it is a genuine business device. The technical basis of the BlackBerry Q10 with fast SoC and 2 GB RAM perfectly suits high demands ... and its high price. Nevertheless, it is disappointing, that the display is not very bright and cannot completely cover sRGB. However, contrast, black value and viewing angles are - typical for OLED - excellent. The same is true for the decent handling, the business features and the sophisticated OS. To summarize, there are only a few points of criticism: The moderate cameras and the offers in BlackBerry's app store should be improved.

The last smartphone in June comes from China, too. The iOcean X7 wants to belong to the upper class and features a 5-inch display with IPS technology and Full HD resolution. So far, renowned manufacturers only offer such in the expensive luxury class. Meanwhile, the iOcean only demands 250 Euros (~$321) for the X7. However, the Chinese phone cannot keep up with the established competition in terms of SoC and memory. Nevertheless, the X7 is not at all lame. Everyday tasks run smoothly and surfing is swift. But, there are also negative points: The internal memory is small and cannot be used satisfactorily. The GPS receiver and the brightness sensor are not perfect either, and the wattage of the power adapter is too small.

Smartphone of June 2013: BlackBerry Q10

Once again, a BlackBerry smartphone wins the crown. After the Z10 in March, the BlackBerry Q10 is elected the best smartphone in June. To summarize, it simply performs best and comes with an excellent keyboard.

BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10
Award BlackBerry Q10
Award BlackBerry Q10

What we like

In addition to the great operating system is the brilliant keyboard in combination with the good touchscreen. This is what mobile working should look like.

What we'd like to see

Slightly brighter display, preferably similar to the luminous one in the BlackBerry Z10.

What surprises us

There are not many smartphones with mechanical keyboards. Once you get used to it, you would not want to leave it. Also, the high battery life of the device.

The competition

In addition to the technically identical Blackberry Z10, the Blackberry Q10 competes with the flagships Samsung Galaxy S4Apple iPhone 5HTC One X+, and Samsung ATIV S.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Notebookcheck's Best of June 2013 – Smartphones and Tablets
Author: Patrick Afschar Kaboli, 2013-07- 6 (Update: 2013-07- 8)