Handson Review – Safaricom Neon Smart Tab
Safaricom has two devices on sale under its name – actually three. The Safaricom Neon Smartphone, The Safaricom Big Box and this one, the Safaricom Neon Smart Tab. It is a tab, and tabs are smart, so I don’t know why they included the word smart in the naming – given that in the level of smartness, it is somewhere near the dumb side of the scale – but for Shs 8,999 ONLY (herein after referred to as Shs 9K). Safaricom Neon Smart Tab is not the cheapest mini tab out there, there are others that can be bought for as less as Shs 6,500 but most of those are Wi-Fi only mini tabs – implying you can’t use them in places without Wi-Fi hotspot.
We want to dissect the Safaricom Neon Smart Tab as much as time will allow under the following sub headings –
- First impressions
- Core Specs
- Last Impressions
I received the Safaricom Neon Smart Tab when it was already unboxed so the first impressions are those that have nothing to do with unboxing. For the unboxing related impressions, watch the video below. When I received the device and held it, I was impressed. By looking at the Safaricom Neon Smart Tab one would think that it’s heavy, uncomfortable and totally unusable – too small to be a tablet and too big to be a phone. But after holding it for a few seconds and running my fingers across the screen, I realized that one can actually use it with one hand – amazing! And it weights a mere 275 grams.
Safaricom Neon Smart Tab actually reminded me of a Samsung Mini Tab (can’t recall the model) that a friend had turned to be his ordinary phone. When I first saw him put that gigantic device on his ear and I thought, “holy crap, is he mad?” But after working closely with him for three months that sight became normal. The Safaricom Neon Smart Tab is almost the same size (both are 7 inches in screen size but slightly differ in physical dimensions) but the good thing about the Neon Smart Tab, it is way thinner – thinner than some smartphones. The dimensions of Safaricom Neon Smart Tab are 189 mm long, 106mm wide and 9.2 mm thick.
Is the smart tab beautiful? Not really. Ugly? Not exactly. It is basically a Tab that you don’t buy for aesthetic purposes.
If you watch the video above, from 1:00 to around 1:40, Stefan highlights some of the core specs printed on the smart tab box. These include 7″ QHD screen, Powerful 1.3 GHz Dual core processor, 2 MP rear camera and 0.3 MP front facing camera, Android 4.4 KitKat, Google Mobile Services, and Expandable Memory (micro SD up to 32 GB).
The screen size is indeed 7 inches but it is not QHD. What the person who did the printing ought to have realized is that there is a qHD screen and QHD. qHD is the acronym for a display resolution of 960 by 540 pixels, which is exactly one quarter of a Full HD (1080p). That is, a qHD screen is a quarter (small Q) of High Definition resolution. On the other hand, QHD is a display resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels and is four times bigger than 720p HDTV video standard. The Big Q in QHD means Quad but the small Q in qHD means quarter.
The screen is a TFT technology – a capacitive touch screen capable of multi-touch up to 5 points. The low resolution (qHD) on a big screen size distort low resolution pictures. But reading on the screen is great. It has good brightness (no auto brightness option) and can be used outdoor to read web pages and documents without straining. You just have to ensure that the brightness is set to maximum when outdoors.
The Smart Tab is powered by a powerful 1.3 GHz Dual Core processor. Forget the powerful part – a 1.3 GHz dual core cannot be considered powerful in modern day processing. With a 1.3 GHz dual core on board, what you need to do is to avoid heavy multi-tasking with the device. I tried to play chess (Chess.com App) with a number of Apps running in the background but I couldn’t move pieces easily. The pieces dragged so slowly I could feel their weight – but when I closed all Apps, the chess experience was wow – nice – but not forever. After a while the freezing creeps in. The good thing with the tab is that it has a dedicated recent apps button on the bottom right of the screen that allows you to close apps easily.
The other feature you need to keep in mind when multi-tasking is that the tab has a 512 MB RAM. That’s small, very small. It has been long since I reviewed a smart gadget with less than 1 GB RAM. The consolation you may get is that Safaricom Neon Smart Tab runs on Android KitKat and as we all know, Google optimized KitKat to run smoothly even on gadgets with low specs like 512 MB RAM and 1.3 GHz dual core processors. Actually, when you don’t over task the Safaricom neon smart tab, you won’t ever experience lags, hangs and freezes.
The smart tab has two cameras, a rear 2 MP Camera that you should use only in broad day light (see the image it took below). The images taken in dark areas or late in the evening using artificial light are shameful – don’t even try (you should know that from experience with your 2 MP selfie cameras). Now, if 2 MP camera is that bad, how bad do you think the 0.3 MP front facing camera is? My colleague Winnie took a selfie with that camera but I can’t include it in this review – it won’t do her justice. I am just imagining how affordable the smart tab could have been if Vodafone (the tab is originally called Vodafone smart tab 3G) did not include the useless cameras with the device.
The pictures like the one above will be saved in the available 1.75 GB memory out of a total 4 GB storage capacity – so the idea of including an expandable memory slot is a plus for the smart tab. But again the 1.75 GB storage should be adequate for a good number of low pixel photos, a few songs and a number of favorite Apps downloads. As the Smart tab is basically meant for light to medium use, most of the time you won’t have a need to add a memory card.
The battery that powers the phone is not bad. With light to medium use you can achieve up to 10 hours of use but if you put in video viewing, game playing and heavy browsing, four hours might be your typical use time before recharge. If you want to be on the move to places without power, you can’t rely on the smart tab as the battery is not removable. There is one thing that device manufacturers fail to understand; people in developing world like Kenya prefer removable batteries so that they can always carry a spare or two to serve them in places without electricity. Safaricom smart tab is ideally meant for such a market but the battery is fixed.
Let’s jump to the next page for functionality and last impressions