Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Mercury mTab Neo Review

Our first encounter with Mercury’s mTab Neo wasn’t the best experience we’ve had with tablets. It was bulky and didn’t really feel well built for the asking price. Now, we have the mTab Neo with us, which is a slightly speedier version with (hopefully) better build and performance, as it’s quite a bit more expensive as well.

On video: Mercury mTab Neo

Design and Build
The entire tablet has a glossy coating, right from the screen to the rear panel, which makes it a nightmare for fingerprints. It’s a bit slimmer this time, but it seems to have gotten quite a bit heavier in the process. The buttons and the way the ports line up gives it a cheap and tacky look and the extra helping of gloss isn’t really helping.
Screen still suffers from poor viewing angles
Screen still suffers from poor viewing angles

You do get quite a lot in terms of connectivity, though. There’s a miniUSB for charging and data as well as a dedicated thin pin charging point. We also have a miniHDMI port for HDTV connectivity, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card slot and SIM card slot. The volume control buttons and power button look more like an after thought and we preferred the ones on the earlier mTab.
HDMI-out is a nice addition
HDMI-out is a nice addition

The stereo speakers have been placed at the rear, facing outwards. The volume of the speakers is quite loud for watching a movie by yourself. Around the back, we just have the camera without any LED flash. Overall, the build and finish of the tablet isn’t what we expected, especially, as it’s priced over Rs.10,000.

This part is a bit puzzling. The first mTab came with Gingerbread 2.3, but for some odd reason, Mercury decided to ship the mTab Neo with Froyo. Despite this, it’s not too sluggish, since it’s powered by a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and NEON media decoding engine from ARM. It packs in a decent PowerVR SGX 530 graphics chip, which is how it can easily handle 1080p videos without breaking a sweat. Mercury haven’t really made any changes to the UI and have left it as stock as possible. The overall feel could be better, but then that’s just Froyo and sadly, we won’t see any updates for it, either. Linpack returned a single threaded score of 19.5 whereas we got a multi-thread score of 36.9. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 3054, which is not too bad.
Exposed 3G SIM bay
Exposed 3G SIM bay

The 7-inch screen is otherwise comfortable to hold and with a resolution of 800 x 480, it’s pretty sharp as well. The front facing camera is not the best and won’t exactly help in video calling. Flash 10.3 support is present out-of-the-box and USB On-the-go is supported as well, although you don’t get the cable in the box. MSI has done away with the physical button. Instead, we have capacitive buttons, which unfortunately are not backlit.

Media support is pretty much bog standard, Froyo, so we have support for MP3 audio files and MP4 video files. The stock music player isn’t much to shout about and without any customizations; the audio quality isn’t terribly great. This can be improved with PowerAmp and a good pair of in-ear phones.
Nothing new in terms of media
Nothing new in terms of media

Video playback is restricted to MP4 files through the stock player, but it will playback 1080p without a hitch. Skipping back and forth is really not much of a problem and the Neo can handle it very well. The colours are not very accurate and there is some banding noticeable, but it’s slightly better than their first attempt. The viewing angles aren’t pretty, either, so if you plan on watching this, while sleeping or in some other position, then you’ll run into some trouble. With a good third party player, the Tab Neo becomes a very good portable media player and with expandable memory up to 32GB, it’s even better. You also get about 3GB of onboard storage as well, which we don’t see everyday.Connectivity
The mTab Neo supports GSM and 3G radios and for those who care, you can do voice calls as well. You’ll need the bundled headset or a Bluetooth one, since there’s no earpiece. Other options include, Wi-Fi ‘n’ connectivity and Bluetooth. DLNA support isn’t available right away, though.
Cpacitive screen is not too bad when browsing
Capacitive screen is not too bad when browsing

Browsing the Internet is not too bad with the stock browser and the capacitive screen lets you easily zoom in and out of web pages. The dual-core CPU and 512MB RAM ensure pages load quickly and scrolling through them is quick and painless.

Misc. Apps
In terms of extra apps, we have Advanced Task Manager and Skype. There’s also ES File Explorer and a slightly tweaked video player.

The camera sensor is just a 2MP, but the quality is really bad. The lack of auto-focus makes it even worse. The interface is possibly the worst that we’ve come across in any Android device. You barely get any options for tinkering around with. Only things you can change are the megapixel count, the video quality and the picture quality.
Extremely barren
Extremely barren with no options to tweak the picture

The is the best we could get
The is the best we could get

Video recording is present, but it’s only upto VGA and the frame rate is very choppy as well. The quality of the video is very grainy with plenty of noise creeping in. Suffice to say, this is not one of its strong suits.

Battery Life
The same 4000mAh battery is fitted in the Tab Neo as well, but this time we managed to get slightly more mileage in our video drain tests. We managed to get a good 5hrs and 30min and our loop tests revealed a battery life of 5hrs and 10min. This is not too shabby, considering the tablet is sporting a dual-core CPU this time.

At Rs.16,000, we can’t help, but feel it’s quite an expensive proposition for a 7-inch tablet. The Tab Neo does improve a bit from the older version by adding a dual-core CPU and 3G SIM card support, but the jump in price isn’t justified. They’ve also gone one step back by adding Froyo, instead of Gingerbread, which really puzzles us. In the end, the Mercury Tab Neo brings back most of the issues we faced with the first one and leaves us disappointed.

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