Nvidia went bullish last year with its Tegra 4 mobile processor and graphics prowess with the Nvidia Shield handheld gaming console. Even Nvidia Tegra 4 (codenamed Wayne) based devices are yet to hustle in the smartphones and tablet market. While everyone was waiting for new Tegra 4 based product from mobile device makers, Nvidia introduced its own Tegra 4 reference tablet – Tegra Note with Directstylus technology. Nvidia will partner with the different mobile device makers to co-brand the Tegra Note for selling it in different countries across the globe. For India, Nvidia has partnered with Xolo to introduce the package as Xolo Play Tegra Note.
While Google Nexus 7 is slowly sweeping away the competing tablets in the sub Rs 20,000, the Xolo Play Tegra Note arrives to challenge it. Key differentiator between the two tablet is the bundled stylus with the Xolo Play Tegra Note that promises great experience through the software-based Directstylus technology. Nvidia has also implemented features in the camera which, as per claims, offer better imaging experience than other tablets in similar range.
Out of the tablets launched in last six months, hardly any particular tablet managed to differentiate itself in terms of design. One may argue that all 7-inch tablets look the same which is quite a lame shot across the court. Like many other companies, Nvidia has tried its best to strike a balance between a good design and keeping the cost of the device low at the same time. Amidst the glossy and matte finish back panel bearing tablets, the Tegra Note stands out with the deep dotted pattern at the back panel. This seems to be constructed using the rubberised material with plastic.
The twin strips of plastic on the top and bottom of the screen (when held in portrait mode) are the identifiers for the design not being a unibody one. The textured back has a Tegra Note stamped in the center and the plastic strip areas in the front poise the tablet to be ideally used in a landscape mode. The plastic strip areas in the front basically carry the speaker mesh holes for better sound output.
The power/sleep button is located on the curves of the edge at the back and just below it lies the camera lens. Several times we ended up smearing over the camera lens while searching for the power key. Next to the power button is the standard audio port with micro USB and micro HDMI ports. On the right of the power button is the micro SD card slot which is open and keeps the slot constantly exposed. Now that could be an issue for the port may end up collecting lot of dust and cause improper functioning of the card or the card slot. At the bottom of the tabet, there is a Bass Reflex port for the loudspeaker and on the side is the stylus docking slot.
Weighing about 320 grams, the Xolo Play Tegra Note appears decently light enough for single hand usage. The Tegra Note certainly steps out the same old design barrier with dotted pattern texture at the back and makes it interesting change from the usual tablet. Hope Nvidia takes the cues from the Nexus 7 (2013) to come with a tablet that is slimmer, lighter and packs more punch in terms of hardware.
We must not forget that the Xolo Play Tegra Note is a budget device and hence the materials as well as design may not be like that of the top of the line tablets. The materials comprising of rubberised plastic and finger magnet touchscreen are decent enough to top over the other budget tablets. While the tablet can be used with one hand, it is meant for two hand usage – for gaming or with stylus. The overall build quality and design can be rated at a modest 6.5 out of 10 points.
The Xolo Play Tegra Note in the box comes pre-loaded with the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean update without any custom skin layer. Nvidia has recently pushed the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update packing several stylus improvements for the tablet. The tablet boasts of the Directstylus technology that has been integrated on the low-cost tablet. The intention was to offer a natural ease of writing, drawing and sketching input experience like that on a paper. We shall elaborate about the same in the dedicated section for stylus later.
Nvidia has powered the Xolo Play Tegra Note with a quad-core 1.8 GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 system-on-chip based on the ARM Cortex-A15 processor cores. This mobile chipset couples up with the Ultra Low Power GeForce GPU to offer rich quality graphics and smoothness while playing heavy 3D games on the tablet. The tablet packs 1 GB RAM which is decent enough to drive the user interface and would work fine if, and when the Android 4.4 KitKat update is pushed for it. The Tegra Note offers a 16 GB on-board storage out of which about 11 GB is available to the user. Thankfully the micro SD slot exists at the side for adding more storage.
The Tegra Note has a 7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen display for decent viewing angles with native resolution of 1280×800 pixels. Pushing about 216 pixels per inch pixel density, the display is obviously no match against that of the Nexus 7 (2013) supporting full HD resolution natively. For wireless connectivity, the Tegra Note offers WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) support and Bluetooth 4.0 for files transfer. The lack of the 5 GHz band support for the WiFi might hurt the hardcore games for the Game Streaming might take a hit over the WiFi network.
Surprisingly, there is an Infrared support and it is indeed handy while using the TV Remote apps. Location based services are powered by the GPS chip with A-GPS support. The bunch of sensors include accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor and compass. Though the tablet packs native Android experience, the stock camera app has been replaced with the Camera Awesome app along with the 5 megapixel camera at the back. There is no LED flash at the back for the camera. In the front lies VGA camera which is certainly a downer when compared to other budget tablets.
Nvidia has added a special menu option in the Power Saving option in the Settings app. The Power Saving option further branches out to three different options. First is the Tegra PRISM (Pixel Rendering Intensity and Saturation Management) Dynamic Backlight mode that basically enhances the pixel colour to make up for the power reduction in the backlight usage in order to deliver same visual quality when the option is disabled. Second is the Processor option that offers a slider to optimise the processor for three basic modes – Maximum performance (using all cores without any limits), Balance (CPU Frequency clocked at 1.8 GHz and 60 FPS limit for apps) and Save Battery (Only one core used with companion core and 30 FPS limit for the apps). Use the Balance most of the time and switching to Maximum performance while gaming certainly gives an extra boost.
Nvidia has tried to pack a stellar hardware in the tablet. Our gripes show up easily when talked about the front facing camera, lack of LED flash and exposed micro SD card slot at the back. We would rate this tablet 7 points out of 10 for hardware. Meanwhile for software, we considered the Directstylus optimisations, Camera Awesome app and dedicated TegraZone app for gaming to offer about 7 points out of 10. The lack of music, ebooks or other apps makes this tablet look bland and a moniker to compete with the Nexus 7.
For the hardware as well as software front, we would rate the Tegra Note at 8 out of 10. We have included extra points of the stylus in this rating.
Nvidia has included a nice capacitive stylus with trotting Directstylus technology to mimic every possible function of an active digitizer. However, there is one thing you will find missing – the stylus bundled with Tegra Note will not be able to do the “hover to open menu optionâ€ function. Apparently, Nvidia is heavily stressing on the stylus aspect to point out that the Tegra Note is a budget tablet with decent stylus support.
The stylus is capacitive by nature and has chisel tip in the front with rubber material. The body of the stylus seems to be made using stainless steel while the front part is given anodized matte texture treatment for better grip. The stylus comfortably rests in the slot and when pulled out brings up two software buttons next to the usual three buttons on the bottom bar of the Android user interface. Also it brings up a small window carrying applications meant to be used with the stylus – Tegra Draw and Write.
The software button on the left with a palm icon lets the user to select it and enable all input functions using stylus only. This helps in avoiding any ill timed accidental input by the palm or anyone simply probing the display. While the one on the right is basically meant for selecting any area on the display or to simply write a note on it.
One interesting function the stylus can do is that it allows the user to draw thin or thick lines based on the pressure applied. So more pressure means thicker line. We played around with the stylus using the documents, merely taking screen shots and terrible sketching attempts. The stylus was absolutely fine and comfortable to use. In our viewpoint, this stylus is a value for money solution instead of spending up to three times on a smartphone with stylus. Of course, it will not offer the different S Pen features, functionality and integration in the TouchWiz but the Tegra Note’s stylus does a remarkable job.
Nvidia boasted about the powerful quad-core Tegra 4 SoC based on the ARM Cortex-A15 processor cores. With the processor settings ticked at Balance in Power Savings option, the tablet would perform smoothly. However, we noticed some erratic performance with the display when the tablet was plugged in for charging. Display acted wonky when trying to interact with the user interface and lack of physical buttons makes it non-usable at times. Our advice to users is to avoid using the tablet while it is being charged. .
The Tegra Note performed well in the popular benchmarks. The tablet scored 1240 in Vellamo Metal. In the Quadrant benchmark, the tablet scored 16159 and finally in the AnTuTu benchmark it scored 34956. During benchmarking, we kept the processor settings in Balance mode. The PRISM option was also enabled. On the Benchmarks front, it competes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC mostly found in high-end smartphones and tablets. Thus, the Tegra 4 does a fantastic job in this budget tablet. We would like to point out that the app usage experience is bit ambiguous.
In the performance, we would rate the Xolo Play Tegra Note 9 out of 10.
In the sound department, the front facing speakers of the Tegra Note were fairly audible but not one of the loudest ones out in the market. It offers a dynamic audio output when the volume is adjusted somewhere around 60 percent or slightly higher. Considering a budget package, the speakers will simply do the job with better quality of audio even if it is not that loud. Else simply plug in a headphones pair to enjoy without disturbing others. A full 1080p HD video plays smoothly on the tablet and when tried with select apps like Dice Player, scrolling through the seek bar is easy.
Keeping the benchmarks figures aside for a while, gaming was absolute bliss on the tablet and we had no hiccups while playing Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour and even the pre-loaded Zen Pinball HD. Basically if you load any game or full 1080p HD quality videos, it will work like a breeze on the tablet. However, we found some hiccups while using the applications. That basically means, developers need to tweak them. In a nutshell, the Xolo Play Tegra Note is simply amazing for watching videos and gaming.
When it comes to the Camera Awesome App, Nvidia has added some tweaks that may look like the camera is almost some Pilot’s console with corsair. The full resolution burst imaging and always-on HDR does make the final images much better than the cameras found in other budget tablets. It would be a rookie mistake to compare it with cameras found in the modern day smartphones, of course the latter would deliver better quality. Video recording can be performed at full 1080p HD resolution at 30 frames per second. However, the video is surprisingly recording in .3GP format and not MP4 or other format. Even after update, there is hardly any improvement in the autofocus for the video recording option. Our word would be, just deal with the existing quality and have no high hopes.
For multimedia, we would rate the Tegra Note 8 out of 10.
Nvidia has packed a non-removable 4100 mAh battery inside the Xolo Play Tegra Note that promises multimedia usage time of about 10 hours. However, when we used the tablet to enjoy multimedia, it managed to last for just above 8 hours roughly. Do note that this was tested after the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean was installed on the Xolo Play Tegra Note. Also, the Tegra PRISM Dynamic Backlight was disabled and the processor performance was tweaked to deliver maximum performance – thereby using all 4-plus-1 cores. We are quite sure that the nSaver mode can be used along with Tegra PRISM and Save Battery Settings in the “Power Savingâ€ option to achieve the 10 hours of battery life. Following that path did disrupt the overall performance of the tablet and we believe would defeat the purpose of using it as a multimedia consumption device.
For battery life, we rate it 7.5 out of 10.