When you’ve tested, reviewed and owned top end tablet devices, it can sometimes be tempting to dismiss tablets that aren’t in this same category. However, Ausdroid always offers honest reviews on all devices, with criticism and praise given where it’s due. I’ve tested low-cost products in the past and returned them without writing up a review, as the product quality was just too low. So, you can understand that I was a little apprehensive about reviewing a sub-$300.00 10-inch Jellybean tablet, knowing what some of the other offerings on the market were like.
The “budget concious” 10-inch tablet market is a dangerous one to play in. The race to the bottom seems never ending, with slight savings on build quality, performance specifications, old versions of Android and other omissions to make a price point. There’s been some notable attempts at 10-inch tablets that simply weren’t up to standard, from manufacturers as big as Samsung and Motorola. The original Galaxy Tab 10.1 available via Vodafone and the Xoom spring to mind immediately.
With the Nexus 10 from Samsung and the Sony Xperia Tablet Z joining a growing list of tablet options, there’s an emerging gap in the 10-inch tablet race. At one end, there is the true performers, from internationally recognised manufacturers, and at the other end, the budget conscious devices. The latter tend to fall into two categories: a complete disappointment or a pleasing purchase which offers good “bang for your buck”.
The Leader Tab 10” from Leader Computers has been available through selected retailers for a few months now following it’s launch in March. It’s important to note that Leader is a wholesaler and will not deal direct with the public, they will simply refer you to your nearest reseller.
While the Leader Tab 10 hasn’t been advertised in commercial media, there’s a catalogue that Leader put out regularly to drive business to their resellers. Until recently, the Leader Tab was $299 (RRP) but in the latest catalogue available from 4 June, Leader has dropped the RRP to $249.
For your $250.00, the Leader Tab gives you the tablet itself, charger, MicroUSB cable and a printed instructions manual.
There’s some things that are going to bother users with the Leader Tab 10. It’s nothing that seriously affects the usability of the device, more that the build has broken with convention. The power and volume buttons, as well as the headphone jack and the data ports and speaker are all located on the left side of the device when it’s being held in landscape mode. More typically, these are distributed around the other three edges of the device.
The button controls mentioned have a really strong mechanical feel to them; there is no mistaking whether you have or have not pressed them. The volume controller is extremely responsive and works even when the screen is turned off, which is not always the case with tablets that are aimed at the cheaper end of the market.
For someone like myself who has had nearly two dozen Android devices enter and leave my life over the last few years, the biggest annoyance is the charging cable is not a MicroUSB but resembles the old school Nokia charging cables, of which you only get one in the box.
The Leader Tab 10 is cheap to buy, but this doesn’t mean that it is cheaply made or presented. Unfortunately, cheap tablets offer look and feel cheap too, but the Leader Tab has the feel of a more solidly constructed tablet and a look that’s fitting of a mid range device.
The Leader Tab still has a plastic feel to it, but it’s solid and weighty enough to make users feel confident in it’s construction. While there is some flex to the body when really put to the test — and you really do need a bit of force to get it to bend — it’s certainly not something you’ll notice in everyday use.
The Leader Tab 10 has a 10.1” IPS screen running at a 1280 x 800 resolution, which performs well for web surfing and productivity purposes, but lags a little behind on HD video. It’s quite a reasonable screen for the dollars you pay.
The performance issue on HD video is caused by 2 factors: the CPU — a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor — is only just enough to handle the throughput required for HD decoding, but also IPS displays as a general rule, while perfectly fine for a static image display and low definition video, struggle with shadowing on high definition.
Like any budget device, the Leader Tab is about compromise. While it would be nice to have a higher resolution screen, perhaps a better quality screen, the higher quality technology would add some extra weight and certainly add considerable cost. There’s only so much you can do without pushing a low-cost tablet into a mid-range price bracket.
As with any device, your battery use will vary from day to day and manufacturers will tend to give you a “best case” scenario. Leader have been quite conservative on their battery life estimates with their 10-inch Android tablet. Where manufacturers will usually claim a higher battery life than most users will ever see, Leader have gone the other way.
The battery life on this tablet is pretty impressive: there’s no other way to say it. Packing two 3600mAh battery packs, it would want to be impressive: that’s 7200mAh of battery capacity in a low-cost device. While Leader’s product specifications claim 8 hours of use, I have managed to extract nearly 3 days of use from the tablet while streaming music for at least 4 hours a day as well as emails, hangouts, web surfing and some other activity including gaming.
However, if I set out to destroy the battery as quickly as possible, it didn’t quite make Leader’s claimed 8 hours. With screen brightness right up and streaming video over wifi, I managed to kill it in a touch over five hours with HD video. I’ve tested devices twice as expensive that haven’t had this level of battery performance. I’m impressed, that’s all that’s left to say.
The Cameras and Microphone
The Leader Tab’s rear-facing camera runs at mere 2MP which doesn’t offer particularly good quality photos when compared to the 5MP rear-facing option on the Nexus 10 or 8.1MP on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, further highlighting the gaps between the performance and budget conscious range of 10-inch tablets. Provided the subject is still and you’re in good lighting conditions, you’ll get an acceptable photo, but like many tablets this is not something you could or should rely upon to capture precious family moments the same way many people do with the mobile phones.
The front facing camera is also running at 2MP, which is close to on par with even the high end 10-inch tablets currently available. For Google Hangouts, the front facing camera produced very acceptable results and even when I asked for feedback, there was very little critical feedback on the picture quality.
The microphone is adequate for what most users are likely to be using it for: the odd video call. I wouldn’t be recording any Ausdroid podcasts on this particular tablet but there aren’t many around that have the sound capture quality required to ensure a clear and crisp recording for extended periods of time, even in quiet environments.
The Leader Tab’s wifi supports 802.11b/g/n in the 2.4Ghz spectrum, which means it will be able to connect to pretty much any home based Internet router currently available. This tablet must have a good quality antenna in it, as it was connecting to my wifi at home from around 25 meters down the street through brick walls.
After such a great experience with the wifi in the Leader Tab, I guess I expected more from the Bluetooth but that was a little disappointing. While it met the claims of coverage on range, as soon as line of sight between the tablet and paired was broken, the connection got patchy. In most cases this really isn’t going to be too much of a hassle for you — it only presented an issue for me as I was using Bluetooth to connect to the Internet tethered via my Galaxy SIII which meant that IM was disconnecting, pages timed out and caused general annoyance.
The other point of interest was that while some depletion of battery is expected when Bluetooth is connected for extended periods, the Leader Tab did lose around 10% more battery with Bluetooth connected than without. The monster battery in this particular tablet was a definite saving grace in this area as it meant that the loss of battery didn’t really affect the usability of the device, taking less than half a day off of the battery life through constant and heavy use.
The Leader Tab has an HDMI output for connection to a larger screen such as a TV or computer screen. While personally, I don’t see myself ever using a feature like this, I did some testing by playing some Youtube videos and displaying some pictures from my Google Drive on a computer monitor. The connection could not have been simpler to setup — enable HDMI output in device settings, and plug it in.
Something to be very cautious of (particularly if you don’t have your charger with you) is that using the HDMI output decimates the battery, particularly if you’re streaming video to a larger screen as you’re using wifi, the GPU at a higher rate than normal and a secondary output that also requires voltage to be drained from the device for it to function.
Finally on the connectivity front, the Leader Tab has USB connectivity to transfer data to and from the device. Unlike more mainstream devices where the micro USB is also the charger, it’s important to note that Micro USB won’t charge this tablet; it’s simply there to transfer data. This is sure to be a major problem for some users, but even when being as battery hungry as I possibly could I did not manage to completely drain this device in a single day so as long as you’re prepared to charge your device overnight this shouldn’t be a deal breaker on the Leader Tab.
The speakers that are build into the Leadr Tab offer reasonable quality sound and good volume for notifications of incoming mail, chat and basic game sounds. I’m yet to find a tablet, or mobile phone, with speakers that offers full range sound for music playback and this is no exception. Unless of course you’re listening to music very quietly and don’t need full range sound, just a soft playback in the background.
For those who like to listen to music at a level where you can hear individual notes, hear the bass and get some serious groove on, you need to look at plugging in some good quality headphones or earbuds.
The testing we completed with the Leader Tab included two separate sets of earbuds and a set of over ear headphones all of which produced really impressive results. I was surprised to find that I needed to turn the volume down considerably because the tablet was driving my headphones so well. While the sound quality on wired playback is greatly dictated by the quality of headphones you’re using, this is a really impressive result.
While a power or “extreme” user would probably be disappointed with the lack of multi-tasking capabilities, meaning that the device doesn’t have any quick switch capabilities between running apps as well as the fact that beyond web surfing and email, multitasking is probably beyond the processor capabilities of the device. However, these users are likely to spend two to three times as much to get a tablet that meets their performance needs.
In the interests of being objective while reviewing the Leader Tab, it’s important to remember the price point that you’re dealing with: $249.00 for a 10” dual core tablet. For the dollars, the specs are appropriately aimed towards the low to mid range users who are likely to be doing some web surfing, some emails, a bit of reading and probably a few games and for these purposes this tablet is pretty much perfect.
The Leader Tab sports a 1.6Ghz Cortex A9 Dual Core™ Processor which is adequate for most users day to day use and while 2GB memory would be nice and allow just that little bit more to be done, 1GB should do the trick for the everyday user.
Running Android 4.1.1, the Leader Tab is more up to date than some of it’s more pricey competitors from recent times. This is a distinct advantage of a producer who doesn’t feel the need to put “their flavor” onto the Android experience and simply work with an AOSP based ROM.
The advantages of purchasing a white-box type tablet is that there’s no bloatware, either manufacturer-based or carrier-based, that wastes already precious and valuable space with apps and other bits and pieces that most users don’t need — and certainly don’t want — on their device.
It’s a no-frills installation of AOSP based Android, with a stock launcher on a stock ROM that offers you a customisable experience; it’s the way Android should be. Besides the basic suite of Android apps included with AOSP and Google’s own applications like Calendar and Gmail, there’s no pre-installed applications on the Leader Tab, leaving the space for users to install the apps they actually want..
ConclusionThe Leader Tab 10” is a reasonable device, and while it can’t compete nose to nose with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, Nexus 10 or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, when you look at the respective costs of those devices in comparison, the Leader Tab 10 offers is a decent tablet for a really attractive price.
At $249.00 the Leader Tab 10” offers users great value for money and reasonable performance.
The Leader Tab 10” is a solid and reliable device that will deliver reasonable performance to users for a considerable period of time with some expandability with the Micro SD slot. Like many of it competitors in the 10-inch budget conscious range, it suffers a few issues that can directly be attributed to the price range;
But the reality is that if users are looking for the full package, they’re not likely to be looking for a sub $300 10” tablet. Leader have a really nicely presented, solid performing, value for money offering in their 10” Android tablet.
Locate your local retailer here http://leader-online.com.au/DealerLocator and online through www.leader-online.com.au