Monday, 6 February 2012

TabPlus Rio Review

Yet another tablet maker has joined the ranks of the budget device segment and this one, too is from the Bangalore sector of our country. Enter the TabPlus Rio that certainly made an impression on us when we saw the press pictures, but anything can be photoshopped to look good. We called it in and put it through its paces and here are our findings.

Form Factor 
Where the Rio stands out amongst the rest of the budget tablets is in its overall design. In no way does it look or feel like a “cheap” device. Its rounded edges, white detail and light weight body makes it easy to manage and is quite portable. It features a 7-inch capacitive display, which is not easy to come by in this price range, with an 800 x 480 pixel resolution. It’s not the easiest of displays to use, when you’re outdoors in bright daylight, as it proved to be quite reflective making legibility a bit of an issue. Indoors however, it’s crisp and clear for any and all purposes.
No micro USB for cahrging but USB dongle support makes up for it
No micro USB for charging but USB dongle support makes up for it

It’s not altogether a bulky device, either at 13mm in depth. The singular square button at the bottom (or side) of the 16:9 display is not set to “Home” but the Return key. The Home and Menu buttons are placed on one side (or on top), followed by the Power/Screen lock button and a volume rocker. On a bit of a low note, the Rio can only be charged via DC cable and input that is provided, it does not support charging via micro USB (Ethernet). In fact, it doesn’t even have a Micro USB port. What it does have though is a mini HDMI port, a standard mini USB and regular USB socket (for reading thumb drives and using Data Dongles) and a micro SD card slot for further expanding storage. On board it has about 3GB of user data available.

On the whole, the TabPlus Rio comes off as a well constructed tablet for its price, but performance is where it all counts.

Features and Performance 
Running on a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor with Android Gingerbread (2.3.4), the company has done little to customize the UI. As it is, the interface was a bit sluggish and not as speedy as we had hoped. On replacing the stock UI with Go Launcher, things got a little better, but not by a whole lot. There’s nothing new in the overall functioning of the tablet and although it did have a ‘Phone section’, it does not support calling, since it has no SIM slot. A rather strange occurrence was the inability of the device to sync with a Google account properly. Although emails came in without an issue after registering in the Android Market, there was no option whatsoever for syncing Contacts or the Calendar, just Picasa and emails. In the contacts section, we were asked to revisit the Accounts and Sync section, but were prompted to add an Exchange account for getting contacts to show.
Decent specs for the price
Decent specs for the price

What really threw us was the lack of a Facebook app and what made it worse was that the Facebook for Android App was not supported by the device, along with quite a few other simple apps from the Market, some of which we couldn’t even find. is your only reprieve. The same goes for Twitter. Another feature that did not meet with our approval was the squashed on-screen QWERTY keypad. Although there seemed like there was plenty of space to have designed a larger more comfortable keypad, the stock option was just inconvenient in most cases, even in landscape.

Linpak scores came at 25.89 in a Single Thread run and 25.46 on Multi Thread. That’s not altogether impressive.

This is where the handset performed quite well. The on board video player is quite well-equipped to handle large amounts of video formats, including DivX and XviD encoded options. The Rio also played 1080p MP4 files without a hitch. It supports MP4 (H.264, H.263), WMV, RMVB, RM, 3GP, AVI, MKV and MOV formats. The Rio also comes with only the stock audio player that’s devoid of any preferences to personalize the audio. It seemed more like a FroYo offering, rather than Gingerbread. Nevertheless, with a good set of earphones, the overall audio quality was not too bad with a just a little more concentration on the higher levels, though.
Full HD video playback is a bonus
Full HD video playback is a bonus

There’s no FM radio and the few installation files of the games that showed up in the App Installer option failed to reveal just where the launcher icons were. The apps showed up in the Manage Applications section under the Settings menu, but were nowhere to be found anywhere else on the device.

The Rio is also equipped with a front facing 2MP camera that can obviously be used only for pictures of yourself or with someone else. It should also come in quite handy for Skype video calls. Image quality, however is not too shabby. The camera also records video in 3GConnectivity
Using a USB Dongle you can access 3G networks on the Rio for speedy data connections. Other options for web access, include just Wi-Fi. Bluetooth with A2DP and USB 2.0 connectivity options are also available. Other than the native Android browser (with Flash 11 Support) and Google’s host of Android apps – Maps, Places, Latitude, Gmail, YouTube and the Android Market, there are no other preloaded goodies to enjoy.
No support????
No support????

Misc. Features
The scant extras thrown in, include a Calendar, Alarm, File explorer and a File Browser (one of which is quite redundant), Task Manager, HDMI Switch and a Sound Recorder. Office Suite for reading and creating new Officer Document files is also provided.
Just a few extras, no big deal
Just a few extras, no big deal

The 3200mAh battery is hardly capable of more than 4 and half hours of usage. On a single charge via USB drive, microSD card or internal memory, the Rio ran non-stop video for just 4 hours and 15 minutes. In our Loop test, it made it through with 2 hours of video and just about an hour of audio before shutting down completely. Needless to say, the battery was certainly not impressive at all.
Slim at just 13mm in depth
Slim at just 13mm in depth

The Bottom Line
The price tag on the TabPlus Rio is Rs. 9,990 and that’s not saying much. It fails to perform well enough to meet that price. We experienced just too many glitches with the UI from the lack of otherwise supported apps, to the inability to sync contacts and other details. There are plenty of options in this range and for a far more wholesome experience on the tablet front under Rs.10,000, so far, the Beetel Magiq is your best bet, resistive touchscreen and all. The Rio is no one’s competition.

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