Huawei S7 Android Tablet
Review compliments of Shaun from PDA247
- Android 2.1 (Eclair) Operating Sytem
- Mobile network technology: GSM/WCDMA/Wi-Fi
- 7 inch touchscreen
- 2 Megapixel Camera
- WiFi & Bluetooth
- MicroSD expansion (up to 32GB)
- Gravity Sensor
- HD Video Playback
- 3.5 mm Audio jack
The world of Android tablets is about to expand at an exponential rate. We will soon be able to buy tablets powered by Google for between £180 and £600 and choosing which to buy will be somewhat tricky. The market is following the same pricing path as Android smartphones which now range from £79 upwards of £500 so we can’t really criticise Android for a lack of choice. The Huawei S7 is price right at the bottom of the market, just about the dreadful Next Tablet, and so it would be easy to presume that this is another budget product that does not merit consideration. Well, I can start off by saying that my first 30 minutes with the S7 were immeasurably better than with the Next Tablet and that I was pleasantly surprised by the look and feel of the device.
The debate continues to rage concerning tablet sizes and there are two camps arguing the point; those who have an iPad and cannot see anything wrong with it and who thus presume a 7” tablet to be too small. On the other side are those who feel that a 7” tablet is a better, more portable, fit and in my experience these seem to be high in number. After using an iPad for some time I was in the camp that felt that the iPad size is much more practical and offers a better all round experience, but a day with the S7 has made me question that view.
In the box
I received what is supposed to be the retail version of the S7 and the box suggests that this is the case. Beside a 2-pin charger (plus a 3 pin UK charger) there is a USB sync cable in the box and that is it. To be fair this is understandable because of the price and what more could you need? Headphones are the obvious answer, but who doesn’t already own a pair, a pair that is probably much better than the sets that are bundled with smartphones and tablets.
Build Quality / Design
I was initially very surprised by the build quality of the S7. It feels sturdy and has a reassuring weight about it that brings a sense of some care taken with the design. It is slightly quirky for a tablet, but on the whole succeeds in providing a natural enough experience for most people to get up and running straight away.
It does look like a very big iPhone 3GS and even has the silver surround with a home button at the bottom, or the right depending on how you hold it. The inclusion of call start and end buttons caused some amusement in the office and you could technically use this as a normal phone, as our office clown demonstrates below-
Including voice capability in a device this size may seem odd, but think about it. You get 3G (HSDPA actually) and quad band voice with no contract and the ability to use your existing SIM card which just happens to be accessible by opening the metal backing. This also holds the replaceable 2,200mAh battery which gives you options for flexibility in the future.
On the front are the standard home, return and menu buttons which are flush to the housing. They do, however, require a proper press to activate and are not lit up when you are not touching them. This makes sense, but will require a small amount of time to get used to their positioning. They are placed well though and feel right to click with your thumb when holding the S7 in landscape position.
There is a 2 Megapixel camera in the top right which also acts as a camcorder. You will not be using it for taking serious photos, but as a web cam it has some potential and is a worthy inclusion. You can capture video and stills, but this would mean having to face the screen away from you which gives you no perception of what you are aiming at. Having said that, the claim is of 720p video capture at 30 fps.
The power key is also on the top right (logical to me) and the 3.5mm headphone jack is top left which again makes perfect sense. The volume keys are small (on the left side) but do crank up the noise when you are not using headphones. Indeed I was pleasantly surprised by the loudness and quality of the external speakers. The microUSB and power ports are placed on the right hand side with the microSD and another port (trying to work out what that one is) on the bottom.
Finally, there is a kickstand on the back for viewing the device at a more practical angle. This may feel like a gimmick, but the uses are plentiful. Sit it on a coffee table to show the time or a slideshow of photos or even on your lap to do some web browsing. I was surprised at how well it worked on my chubby thighs and allowed me to browse in much more comfort than I expected.
The S7 is an important product, at least for me it is.
The iPad showed me what is possible on a tablet in 2010, but I didn’t keep it past a few weeks. The price point and my potential usage didn’t quite work for me, but I would be lying if I didn’t judge it as a complete and seriously capable piece of technology.
The Next Tablet was a pile of junk that, at £180, was just so poor that no budget price tag could retrieve it from its fate of a mere replica of what a tablet should be. Products like that damage the reputation of Android and potentially the tablet market as a whole.
The S7 is £100 more expensive than the Next Tablet. It is £250 cheaper than the 16GB 3G iPad. If we consign the Next Tablet to the bucket of ‘sh*t products that should never have been made’ we are left with a direct comparison to the iPad. That may sound illogical because the iPad is bigger and is running a completely different operating system, but until the Galaxy Tab and others reach the public I have to judge it against what is already on the market.
Curiously, colleagues at work were less than positive about the S7. The die was cast for some before they even held it with comments like “Who the hell are Huawei?” and “It’s too big to be a phone” still ringing in my ears. When I took my iPad into work shortly after it was released there was much excitement, and a small queue at my desk, waiting to play with it. This tells me a lot about how people judge products like this- Apple has done a remarkable job of defining what its products do and it will probably take more time for Android tablets to do the same, if they are given the chance at all. I could put it down to ignorance when I witness people view a product like this and dismiss it, yet when they see the Apple logo they will give it every opportunity to prove itself. This is how the world works though, but it doesn’t mean that the S7 isn’t a product worthy of attention, lots of attention.
The Dell Streak was, in my opinion, not credible at only 5” and was nearer a large smartphone than a small tablet, but the addition of 2” makes the experience so much better. As I said at the start I didn’t believe that 7” tablets would offer a good enough experience, but I was wrong. In part two I will cover the various features of the device such as battery, screen etc., but for now I can sum up by saying that the S7 has shown me that the Android tablet idea is not a bad thing at all and that Apple will not have the market to itself long term. My first thought is that the iPhone feels more complete and cultured than most of the Android phones on the market. The iPad is not as far ahead of the S7 in the tablet world, and it costs less than £300.
My first day with the S7 was enlightening in many ways; a good quality Android tablet can be built for under £300, Android does work on a tablet and the 7” form factor is much more useable than I ever expected.
Lazyboy and I had a discussion on 247 last week which went like this-
LB- “I can’t imagine how having a screen which is only half the size of the iPad’s would make any of those tasks easier.”
Me- “It doesn’t make any of the tasks easier, but from what I have been experiencing with the S7 it doesn’t make much difference either which was a surprise. Throw in the extra portability and I think I am sold on the 7″ tablet format- I never expected that for a moment.”
LB- “Fair enough, but I’m wondering how may lines of text you can see when you fire up the keyboard – how many lines of text can you see when you are editing a document? Or how easy it is to create and edit a spreadsheet. Tried any of those things out yet? I see from the screenshot you provide that all I can see of the PDA-247 site is the banner and three lines of text. How do ebooks look in the somewhat unnatural widescreen format? (There are both psychological and physiological reasons why a 4:3 aspect ratio is better suited for reading.)
To me, it looks like anything associated with productivity is going to be significantly harder on that small screen, and I can’t see how any of the more sophisticated apps available for the iPad would work.
Extra portability? The S7 doesn’t look remotely pocketable, so you’re going to have to carry it around just like the iPad – either in a bag or tucked under your arm – so I fail to see how that is any advantage.”
Me- “I will detail my thoughts in the S7 review on Monday, but I was carrying it around in my suit pocket yesterday (no joke).
eBooks look great in portrait and browsing is not too bad- will try to grab some screenies from it to demonstrate.”
LB- “You were carrying around something that weighs half a kilo in your jacket pocket? Lol. Sorry, I’m not buying the “extra portability” thing.”
Me- “One of us has used both devices.”
LB- “True. But I don’t think it’s that hard to image what the equivalent of 4 iPhones weighs in a jacket pocket.”
I can fully understand where he is coming from and the appeal of the iPad is obvious on so many levels. From iTunes through to the great battery to the large use anywhere screen, it is peerless. So why did I get rid of mine? Well, I found that I just wasn’t using it enough and I think that a lot of that came down to the size. I didn’t realise at the time, but it was a factor and it quickly became a product I used at home and nowhere else, a home that also puts a roof over a Mac Mini and a laptop.
Call me crazy all you like, but the appeal of the 7” tablet form has smacked me between the eyes in a way I never expected. It offers a superior browsing experience to a smartphone, a superior video watching experience and a superior game playing experience. The iPad does all of the above better, but you pay with the size of the unit which quickly squeezes away a huge amount of practicality.
This isn’t a case of me comparing the S7 to the iPad- I am comparing the 7” tablet to the 9.7” tablet and that small dimensional change makes a world of difference. There were rumours of a 7” iPad a couple of months ago which never came to fruition. Mr Jobs- you missed out.
To me the 7” tablet is the sweet spot of mobile computing that works on both the portable and desktop experience level. I can’t explain why it works so well, but it does and I can see keyboards being attached to devices this size and a whole new breed of laptops being born as the miniaturisation of technology gathers pace. I realise that I sound almost giddy with excitement, but this form is near perfect for me. For content creation the 800 x 480 pixel screen is not ideal because the keyboard dominates the screen once activated. It needs to dominate to be (almost) as usable as the iPads, but does leave you short on viewable real estate- it didn’t prove to be a big problem for me because I would rarely be using any tablet with an on screen keyboard for large amounts of data input. As I said earlier, stick a keyboard on this thing and it all changes again. I don’t expect the majority to agree with me here, but I won’t complain because this form just feels right for me- I’m not saying it will fit your life as well.
I think I am trying to say that if you expect to create lots of content on a tablet a 7” model may be too small. If you want to view videos, browse the web, read eBooks and play games it could be a better fit because it is more portable.
The resistive TFT screen is not the best on paper, but it is easy to use and I had no problems with accuracy or sunlight viewing. It does get slightly washed out in bright conditions, but not ad badly as some other models. The landscaped nature will be seen as a problem to some and I can understand that when viewing web pages in that mode. However, turning it to portrait form offers a pleasing eBook experience which fits the hand much more naturally than most other tablets. All in all, I am more impressed with the screen than I expected.
I am not convinced on the battery performance. It is better than others perceive it to be, but heavy use will mean more than one charge a day. The upside is that you can buy a spare and chuck that one in if you need to so at least options are available. I would still prefer to see a longer default battery life built in.
The processor is rated at 768Mhz which seems hard to believe because 1) I have read elsewhere that it is 1Ghz and 2) it feels much quicker. Performance has been stellar so far and I have not experienced any slow downs at all even on processor heavy tasks. With multiple apps open it still chugs along and so I have few complaints.
Not bad at all. Video playback is smooth and the screen size is good for watching long movies and TV shows. The exterior sound quality is very loud, but it keeps the quality going even at the top level. The inclusion of a kickstand is a much bigger benefit than I expected and brings more flexibility to its use. Music playback through decent headphones is also good- it doesn’t rival the iPhone or the better BlackBerry’s, but it is good enough. I don’t personally see tablets as being devices you will often listen to music on so can excuse it not being the best in the market.
Web browsing on the S7 is a difficult one because in landscape you have to scroll a bit and in portrait you have to zoom a bit. However, the experience still feels quite ‘desktop like’ to me and I enjoyed the experience. The fact that the Android browser is so good helps a lot and the bigger screen nudged it to a desktop feel more than a smartphone feel for me.
It has a phone app which you would use with headphones normally. It offers 3G / HSDPA from any SIM card and of course Wi-Fi is built in. Bluetooth 2.1 and A-GPS round off the communications and so I have to score it highly, particularly because it all works so well. I have had problems with some Android devices and Wi-Fi in the past, but so far the S7 has been faultless in this regard.
It is hard to conclude my thoughts on the S7 without mentioning the price. I am left with a feeling that Samsung will have to do something very special with the Galaxy Tab to justify the fact it is twice the price of the S7. The Tab has 4 times the internal memory, a higher resolution screen, better battery, Android 2.2 and a faster processor which after using the S7 leads me to believe that the Tab will be a killer device.
The S7 is way better than I expected and way better than the price point it sits at. It does almost everything well and is a good quality piece of kit that will serve you well for a variety of uses. The battery could be better, but the purchase of a spare will help to resolve that issue somewhat. The S7 has opened my eyes to Android on a tablet and proved that it is a viable platform for the future. It may not be at the high-end in terms of quality materials or specification, but it is way up there in terms of value. This is a quality product which will be accepted positively by those who don’t want to spend £500 on a tablet that will not be used as often as a smartphone, and that could be a sizeable chunk of the population.