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Notebookcheck's Best of October 2012 – Smartphone and Tablet Edition

Patrick Afschar Kaboli (translated by Bernie Pechlaner), 11/18/2012

The calm before the storm? October was a rather quiet month in the realm of smartphones and tablets. There were very few big releases, with the exception of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, that captured the attention of the technology press. It feels that everybody was waiting for the release of the new product from Microsoft.

For the original German review, see here.

We didn't see a plethora of new smartphones and tablets during the month of October here at Notebookcheck.com. The most like factors would be the impending arrival of the new Windows 8 tablets with the Microsoft's Surface tablet in the lead, and the much awaited new releases from Apple and Google. It seems that the competition was exercising restraint and not taking any chances.

However, we were still able to review some exciting new devices like the inexpensive Bullman TAB 9 AD Revolution and the smartphone/tablet fusion, the Asus PadFone.But the highlight was clearly Samsung's new smartphone (more like ‘phablet’), the gargantuan Galaxy Note II.

Category Tablets

Contenders:       

Toshiba AT270-101 84 %

Sony Xperia Tablet S 85 %

Bullman TAB 9 AD Revolution 83 %

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A 83 %

Our first candidate in October was the Toshiba AT270-101, a 7.7-inch tablet with an AMOLED display, Android 4 OS, and the Nvidia Tegra 3. The little tablet did very well in our test with good performance and decent build quality. Kudos has to be given to Toshiba for having such a user-friendly warranty. The display is not very bright though, and this resulted in a reduction of points. The AT270 ended up with 84 percent as the final score because of this drawback. The MSRP of 549 Euro (~$725) is no bargain either.

The Sony Xperia Tablet S did even better. This is Sony's first tablet in a while and an impressive one at that. The Xperia scored really well in our tests. Certain quality issues (but our review model was unaffected) did make Sony take the Xperia Tablet S off the market. This was unfortunate as the Sony tablet did end up with the highest score (85 percent) among all the Android tablets for the month of October. We liked the distinct and splash-proof design of the chassis, the full-sized SD card slot, and the very good display. In addition, the Xperia also didn’t weigh a lot. However, the WLAN module could use some improvement.

The Bullman TAB 9 AD Revolution is a comparatively inexpensive tablet that still managed to score reasonably well. We liked the bright 9.7-inch display with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The screen uses IPS technology and therefore features very stable viewing angles. The tablet with its Rockchip SoCs also delivers decent performance. There were several faults that we had to pick on. The ambient light sensor of our review unit wasn't working, the tablet gets really hot in some spots and driver support is definitely lacking. Although we wouldn't consider this tablet to be a revolution as the name would suggest, it's still pretty solid overall and the price of 299 Euro (~$395) seems fair. As the Bullman lacks both 3G and GPS, it ended up with a final score of 83 percent.

The last candidate we subjected to our tests was the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A. The 9-inch display size seems a bit exotic compared to the 7-inch and 10-inch competition. Not so out of the ordinary is Nvidia's Tegra 3 platform, which allows for decent performance. Despite the low price of around 230 Euro (~$305), the tablet includes both HDMI and a microSD slot. The display doesn't meet our expectations, though. The screen doesn't get very bright and the viewing angles are very –poor, courtesy of archaic TN technology. The final score for the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A - 83 percent.

Tablet of October 2012: Toshiba AT270-101

It was not an easy decision to pick the Toshiba AT270-101 as the winner. After all, Sony's Xperia Tablet S did fare better in our review and constitutes the better package overall. Since Sony admitted quality issues, we decided to follow suit and take the Tablet S out of the race and the Toshiba AT270 became the next logical choice.

Toshiba AT270
Toshiba AT270
Toshiba AT270
Toshiba AT270
Toshiba AT270
Toshiba AT270
Award Toshiba AT270
Award Toshiba AT270

What we like

The compact, very lightweight device is the perfect companion for long trips. Performance and features are also on par.

What we'd like to see

We don't even dare to ask for better cameras anymore. But the display brightness just has to be higher. As it stands right now, Toshiba is wasting the potential of the AMOLED technology.

What surprises us

We find the fact that Toshiba offers their tablet with so many fairly priced warranty options  which is a big win for the discerning user.

The competition

The most prominent (and also cheaper) competitor is the Google Nexus 7. If size is important, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus N deserves a look. And of course, all current-generation Tegra 3 tablets.

Category Smartphones

Contenders:

Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100 87 %

Asus Padfone 83 %

In this category we ended up with a duel, since we only received two devices to review: the Asus Padfone and the Samsung Galaxy Note II, two units which couldn't be any more dissimilar. The Galaxy Note II is downright exotic with its unusual display size of 5.55 inches. At the time of writing this article, there was no larger smartphone out there. The Asus Padfone is also far from run-of-the-mill. With a few steps, the compact smartphone can be converted into a tablet. Is the metamorphosis a valuable feature or simply an unsuccessful compromise?

A 5.55-inch AMOLED display with HD resolution, the top ARM processor from Samsung, and the (at the time of our review) newest OS Android 4.1 Jelly Bean  are some f the stand-out features of the “phablet”. The big smartphone scores well in almost all categories. The performance is great, the touchscreen flawless and the battery life very long. Only the materials of construction could be better, as they are not quite fitting for a device with a MSRP of 700 Euros (~$920). The build quality leaves nothing to be desired, however and the rear camera (8 MP) is even suitable for taking decent photographs. The final result was a very well deserved 87 percent. 

A hybrid of smartphone and tablet - that's the new device from Asus. We admit it - the Padfone is not only clever, but elegant and functional. The smartphone turns into a full-fledged 10-inch tablet in a jiffy. Unfortunately, there are disadvantages. The device is rather heavy, the resumption of apps running in the background doesn’t always work, and a second power adapter would make life easier. We think the Padfone has potential and many users can end their search for both devices with a single purchase. The Padfone scored 83 percent in our review.

Smartphone of October 2012: Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100

The Samsung Galaxy Note has very distinct performance advantages and features a better display and a very decent camera to boot. The largest smartphone is indeed very impressive.

Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Award Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100
Award Samsung Galaxy Note II GT-N7100

What we like

The courage to bridge the gap between a tablet and a phone to address a niche market. Samsung doesn't need to fear competition in this size category yet. The uncompromising performance matches perfectly.

What we'd like to see

Higher quality materials and a brighter screen. LTE would be the icing on the cake.

What surprises us

How compact 5.55 inches can be.

The competition

The Samsung Note II competes with both tablets and smartphones. Competition from within its own ranks comes from the Galaxy S3 and the Note 10.1. Only Apple's iPhone 5 is capable of matching its performance.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Notebookcheck's Best of October 2012 – Smartphone and Tablet Edition
Author: Patrick Afschar Kaboli, 2012-11-18 (Update: 2013-06- 6)