Alcatel’s newest Android Go-powered tablet is a Telstra exclusive 8-inch tablet for just $129. Unusually for a tablet, and certainly for a cheap one, the Telstra Essential 8″ (its proper name) includes built-in 4G, and when bought from Telstra, it comes with a $10 credit for calls and SMS.
As with the cheap smartphones of a few years ago, cheap Android tablets usually aren’t all that good, and while the Telstra Essential 8″ has a few good points, it’s let down by a few others. Let’s take a look through.
What’s inside the Telstra Essential 8″ ?
Firstly, in the box you get the bare necessities – the Tablet itself, of course, plus a charger, USB cable and 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo. As for the tablet, the specifications are pretty basic:
|Alcatel Essential 8″ (Telstra Exclusive)|
|Dimensions||209.5 x 125 x 8.29mm x 279g|
|Display||8-inch IPS LCD|
1280 x 800, 189ppi, 16M colour, IPS
|Processor||MediaTek MT8765WB 28nm 4 x 1.28GHz|
PowerVR Rogue GE8100 GPU 58Hz
|Memory||1GB RAM / 16GB storage (10.2GB free) with microSD to 128GB|
|Camera||Front: 5.3MP (2.1MP video) fixed focus, no flash|
Rear: 8.3MP (2.1MP video) fixed focus, no flash, HDR
1920×1080@30fps (default 1280 x 720@30fps), EIS
Approx charge time at 5V/2A is 4 hours
Talk-time up to 25 hours (3G)
|Connectivity||Single SIM 4G (locked to Telstra)|
LTE Bands B1/3/5/7/8/28/38/40
Dialler app included (use as a phone)
Wi-Fi N 2.4Ghz only
BT 4.0 SBC codec
No GPS chip (Assisted GPS using Wi-Fi or 4G)
|OS||Android Go 8.1|
Plastic frame and back
No glass protection
|Sound||3.5mm audio jack|
rear lower back-firing speaker
|Additional||Kids Mode, Eye Care, Google Lens, Face unlock|
While the 8-inch display leads itself to some comfortable media consumption (and it’s good for reading), the lacklustre Mediatek processor is pretty slow, and the 1GB of RAM really seals the deal; this is not a performance tablet, and you’ll struggle to do anything too much with it.
But, cheap and cheerful, this isn’t really what the tablet’s designed for. This is a table that is great for reading the news, tapping out a quick email, and even watching a few videos online. You won’t seriously game with it, and even streaming videos can be a bit jerky, but with built-in 4G, it’s easily suited to reading and browsing on the go.
Alcatel’s Essential 8″ tablet is also designed with families in mind. It features Family Mode, a dedicated mode for kids with pre-loaded popular games, cartoons and books. Within Family Mode, parental controls can be easily enabled to set parameters around app accessibility and usage time. For those with young kids, this is a great idea.
Performance and Android Go
Rather fortunately, this is an Android Go powered tablet, so it’s optimised for the low-power internals and comes with heavily optimised Google apps. Out of the box, there’s Maps, Chrome, Gmail and all the other usual Google apps, with Go equivalents for some lighter resource use. They all work perfectly well, though you may notice they’re a bit slow to react compared to their full-powered cousins on powerful hardware.
That said, I rarely noticed much of an issue with this tablet using it as it’s obviously intended. Web browsing is fine, reading email is fine, even watching video on Plex is fine – albeit a bit slow to get started. If you run something too demanding, you might find keyboard input becomes a bit slow, but beyond that, it’s pretty decent.
Multi-tasking you might as well forget about but switching from an email to Chrome and back worked well enough. Switching while viewing media caused a few delays; this is a tablet best suited to doing one thing at a time.
Battery use, sound and camera
Alcatel have opted to stick a reasonably sized 4,000 mAh battery in the Essential 8″ tablet, and though this is middle of the road by tablet standards, it’s quite decent by low-end tablet standards. This means the Essential 8″ Tablet lasts for days and days on end on the shelf (it consumes virtually no power when it’s sitting idle), and even with decent use, it’ll last quite a while.
Streaming video over WiFi, I was able to get through a couple of movies before it ran flat; think somewhere around the 6-7 hour mark. If you’re viewing local media, with WiFi, 4G and Bluetooth turned off, you might stretch that out to 9 hours or so.
The supplied charger is pretty weak at just 10W, and you’ll find while it charges just fine with the screen off sitting idle, it charges much more slowly when it’s running or doing something. Without fast charging, your best bet is to charge the tablet overnight when time doesn’t really matter.
While the built-in speaker is just fine for a bit of casual viewing/listening, you’ll really want to adopt some headphones for anything more than a brief video clip; the built-in speakers really aren’t great. There’s little clarity or range in sound, making it fine for a quick video call, but useless for watching a movie.
Equally, the camera is fine for the quick social media snap, but it just isn’t designed to be top-shelf. Consider it fine for taking photos for Facebook (think of your parents with the grandkids), and probably for a Hangouts call or Google Duo. For taking serious photos, use something else.
Should you buy an Alcatel 8″ Essential tablet?
You’re probably expecting I’d say no, and you’d be wrong.
For $129, you get a 4G capable tablet with three years of guaranteed Android security updates. You get something that can browse the web on the go, read your email, use the social medias, and even watch a couple of movies. It’ll last a few hours of sustained use, and its light and small enough to just chuck in your bag and get on with your day.
While there’s some downsides – fairly average performance, unremarkable built-in speakers and a fairly average camera – ultimately these don’t matter. This is a tablet to leave on your nightstand, to stick in the car for your kids, or to give to your parents so they can keep up with your Facebook posts about their grand-kids.
If you’re a road warrior looking for the top-end, go buy a Samsung Tab S4 or similar. However, if you’re looking for something cheap, cheerful and ultimately not too bad for the money (you can definitely get worse for this price, and forget 4G), Alcatel have nailed it.
If it were for myself, yes I’d spend a little more and get something better. I’ve still got a Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact that runs rings around this one from Alcatel, but it’s easily three times the cost (if you can even buy one anymore). However, for someone who’s not looking for too much, and who wants to read and browse on a slightly larger screen, this is a no brainer.
Alcatel has allowed Ausdroid to hang on to the Essential Tab 8.