So the Apple iPad is the best example of a a true tablet PC, but that is not for everyone. Samsung have announced their Galaxy Tab which will rival the iPad in features and price, but there is a lesser known product, the Huawei S7 tablet which could steal the limelight.
Huawei, who are they you may ask?
There are a Chinese communications company, and there is no debate they are huge. It is likely you have not heard of them as most of their business is done with other businesses. Basically the worlds communication networks is hugely influenced by Huawei, especially mobile communications.
They have now decided to come to market with their own products, one of the first being their Android Tablet, the S7.
The Huawei S7 is a Google Android Tablet. It may not have the same brand recognition or press coverage as the iPad or Galaxy Tab but it hopes to compete with them. Can it?
Check the review after the break.
- Android 2.1 (Eclair) Operating Sytem (OS)
- Mobile network technology: GSM/WCDMA/Wi-Fi
- 7" touchscreen
- 2 Megapixel Camera
- WiFi & Bluetooth
- MicroSD expansion (up to 32GB)
- Gravity Sensor
- HD Video Playback
- 3.5 mm Audio jack
Price – US$385 / 275 euros (may slightly vary according to market)
So lets get down to the important bits.
Build Quality – Very good. At under US$400 you might be thinking it would be plasticy, it really is not. The device feels solid and the battery cover on the rear is a solid metal as is the kickstand.
We were impressed by this, it looks quality. The machine is edged with a sliver trim which too looks smart and not tacky.
The black front fascia is the cheapest looking part, but it is not in our opinion. We have handled much more expensive products which have felt a lot worse in the hand. So it is a good start for the S7.
Round the device – On the front of the device there is on the left side a home, menu and back button and on the right side a camera, green call, red end call buttons and an optical trackpad for page and menu navigation.
On the back there is a metal battery cover that can be removed to access the battery slot and SIM slot.
On the base there is a MicroSD memory card slot and a proprietary connector.
On the top there is a 3.5mm headphone jack.
On the left side a speaker and volume control buttons.
On the right side speaker, MicroUSB connector and power connector port. (Yes the S7 we had did not charged from MicroUSB).
Size – With a 7” screen this is not small, but it is not a chunky item either. It is not something you would be able to carry round in your pocket all day, but it sat comfortably in our back jean pocket (did stick out a little) but tucked inside a pouch case the device is easily portable.
Weighing 500g it is a little heavier than one might like and you will probably use two hands when using it (although one could be used) it is not too heavy to be a burden.
We found the weight issue became most apparent when in bed for example reading an eBook. If lying on your back, holding it in the air, after a few minutes, you will soon notice it.
Screen – 7” is much bigger than most smartphones and smaller than a lot of netbooks. We would have to argue that 7” is almost perfect in size for a tablet. Whilst we are sure 10” tablets will exist in the near future, we do not think these bridge the portability issue so well, but certainly have their place.
The device has a resistive touch screen which to be honest is probably what lets the device down most and is where the cost is saved.
You need to be quite firm with the screen when carrying out all activities. We would have liked a bit more sensitivity in the screen, there was no way to adjust this. It is not a make or break element to the device but it is certainly a thing you need to get used to. After a couple of hours we were used to it but you just need to be a bit firm.
We found a few issues when scrolling down a list with this but generally ok. The inclusion of a stylus (in a silo on the back of the device) is beneficial and some may prefer to use this. Point to note on the stylus – it took us 24 hours to realise it was there…and when we did, it was slotted back after 2 minutes. Its a nasty stylus, does the job, but does not match the quality of the rest of the device.
Applications from Google Market place rendered well on the screen as did web pages (more on this in the general use section).
The screen could be adjusted in terms of brightness, which is necessary to save battery life.
It did too pick up a few fingerprints as was expected, but the screen has a matt finish so its not too big an issue.
In sunlight it was a similar story to most other mobile devices so we won't go into too much detail here, but it was just about usable as it was in bright light indoors, there was not too much glare.
Battery – We are not going to lie, battery life is a bit of a shocker. At best with WiFi on, 3G connected and screen at full brightness we got an hour and a half max before needing to charge up. This is with a 2200mAh battery.
This might sound bad, but we thought long and hard about this and came to the conclusion whilst its not great, its about enough usage time for most as we would imagine most people would do general web browsing, emails and such like from it and do not need to use it for more than this time.
If you do need to use it for longer, your likely to be in a fixed location so you can connect power too it, or you are likely to jump or a netbook or desktop.
This could change come the final shipping date and with accessories such as car chargers, additional mains supplies and batteries to come what could be an issue really shouldn’t be.
We would imagine with a bit of tweaking and turning down the screen resolution you could potentially eek out over 2 hours, we did not get time to fully test this.
Connectivity – WiFi b/g/n and 3G are included in the package and we found them to work well. We do not know if we were just lucky but the 3G seemed to work exceptionally fast, faster than it does on our HTC Desire.
Both happily connected to the internet and worked well side by side.
Both can be switched off. WiFi and Bluetooth can be switched on or off by a icon on the home screen.
Bluetooth worked fine and file transfer speeds were as expected.
GPS – A GPS receiver is built into this device and to be honest it makes for an epic navigation solution.
Used Google maps on a 3 hour long car journey and it was fantastic (whilst the battery lasted).
Camera - The Huawei S7 does not have a rear facing camera like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but a 2 megapixel front facing camera that records photos and videos. This worked well and was of reasonable quality.
A rear camera would be nice, but we can not see many occasions when this would be required. In a must use situation you could turn the device around and use the front camera, but you wont be able to tell accurately what you are capturing in the shot!
Multimedia – Accessed and controlled like any other Android device we were VERY impressed with the media capabilities.
We streamed HD video from YouTube over 3G and WiFi. Audio was louder and crisper than expected when sat back from the device and image quality was more than acceptable, in fact the HD movie we played on it from the memory card could in our opinion give the HTC Desire’s AMOLED screen a run for its money. Ok it’s not perfect and technically inferior, but if using this to watch a movie at home, on a plane or train then you would be very satisfied and we think a bit picky if you grumbled at it, especially when you consider the cost.
A headphone jack is included when using the on board speakers is not appropriate and again everything was ok here and more than acceptable.
Calls/Phone – The Huawei S7 is a phone all be it big one!
You can use it by holding it to your ear, but the stereo speakers are used so everyone else hears your conversation. We recommend a Bluetooth headset. When you do calls are made through the normal dialler screens and your contacts can be downloaded and synced from Google.
You have the usual call functions and because of the phone you also have messaging screen for text messages etc.
We don’t think many will use this as a phone, but it is there if you want it, perfect for a lot of business people.
At this point we will mention that some tablets which DO NOT HAVE phone function built in, we are led to believe do not have access to Google Android Marketplace as it does not support Google’s vision of Android. The S7 has phone capabilities which means it gets full Android Marketplace support.
General Usage – So we have covered the main points so in this section we will just cover general bits and pieces and our overall opinion of the device.
- The Huawei S7 has 10, yes 10 customisable home screen – this is amazing.
- The device we had did have 8GB of on board memory (an internal SD card). Final versions are believed to have only 4GB, but still great to store data on.
- Great to have a MicroSD card slot, gives lots of options for expandability.
- In built G-Sensor for Landscape and Portrait orientation
- The home screen and main menu only renders in landscape mode even when turned to portrait. This is a little annoying, especially when all other apps and web pages etc flip to portrait mode.
- When in portrait mode it’s a bit awkward to use the buttons, but rarely will you use it in this way in our opinion.
- The S7 has Android 2.1 pre-installed which is great. It would be nice to see Android 2.2 (code name Froyo) but this may come in time.
- Apps from Marketplace downloaded and installed fine – we ran into no rendering issues on the 8 or so apps we downloaded.
- The kickstand was great for media and even when putting in data as it put the device in an ideal position and viewing angle. The kickstand has 2 locking positions which again helps with this.
- We didn’t find ourself using this much but the optical trackpad was useful when scrolling web pages, application lists etc.
- The deivce has a good keyboard – ok you need to give it a bit of a firm tap and when on the stand it felt like you needed to aim slightly above the key you intended to press for it to register the tap.
- Various keyboard languages including English, French, Chinese, Russian and Greek.
- Handwriting recognition is too included – this is where the stylus comes into play.
- Volume controls on the side were handy but could accidently be pressed when typing on the device if using your left hand.
- MicroUSB is on the device, it did not charge through this, but you can connect to the S7 as a mass storage device which is handy.
- Google accounts synced fine, including contacts, calendar and Gmail.
- Top of the home screen is a back button (when applicable) and shortcuts to connectivity options and screen brightness and there is also a ‘i’ button in the top right corner where you can quickly access all notifications and running programmes as well as having the ability to close them.
- A big bare was the lack of LED notification light. Battery status and message notifications etc displayed on the home screen when in use. However when away from it for charging etc, a quick press on the power button would reveal the battery status. Would be nice to have had a green or red light to easily see if fully charged etc.
- On the odd occasion it took a while to respond but rarely did we suffer from lag.
- Web pages rendered well and double tap would zoom in. You could then further zoom in while the on screen zoom buttons and all text renders correctly so there is no scrolling – Excellent. Web browsing was a joy.
- Great for social networking.
Yes the Huawei S7 is not perfect, nor will it ever be, no device is.
However we think Huawei has done a fantastic job in producing a device that people will want to use on an everyday basis at a price point that doesn’t break the bank.
It offers a lot of flexibility for many people. We showed the S7 to a friend who is not fussed by technology and gets annoyed by us going on about new devices. He kept pestering to have a go and now wants one himself having played with it for a few hours. To us, this is an example of how good a job has been done with this product and how it can for people with little tech interest be desirable.
In summary –
+ Screen Size
+ Android 2.1
+ Flexibility in what it can do
- Battery Life
- Lack of LED notifications
- Portrait orientation of home screen and main menu
The Huawei S7 is a device that the high flying exec or the kids can use with ease and be left satisfied with the results.
Well done Huawei!
Check a hands-on video of the Huawei S7 below: