There are countless Android tablets available today and this makes life difficult for new entrants to the market to stand out. The ZTE V9A is not going to stand out by looks alone because it looks very much like the original Galaxy Tab at first glance. The materials used, the shape and the size mean that most people would not be able to tell the two apart. This is not necessarily a bad thing because the Galaxy Tab is one of the best Android tablets available.
The £235 asking price is likely to raise eyebrows and will cause some to presume that it is a budget tablet with few advanced features, poor battery life and an unusable screen. This has happened in the past with Android tablets available from non-technical companies where cheap devices are branded with the sellers name and then sold at a profit. This tablet, however, is a genuine product and very much branded and made by ‘ZTE’.
A quick look at the specifications shows the following with my thought on each in brackets-
Processor: 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (not too bad)
OS: 2.3 Gingerbread (OK- as expected)
RAM: 512MB (would like to see 1GB)
Display: 7” @ 1024 x 600 pixels (pretty good)
Communication: Wi-Fi and 3G (oh yes!)
Camera: 3 megapixels (not bad)
The specifications look about right for the price, but the inclusion of 3G is a huge advantage and almost unheard of at this price point. That alone pushes the V9A way up in my estimation and actually makes it a challenger in the Android tablet space. The ability to use internet connectivity anywhere on a tablet usually entails paying a lot more money for the tablet itself or setting up a separate mobile broadband contract and using a Mi-Fi style device.
Now for the difficult bit. Android tablets are often difficult to separate, particularly when writing reviews about them, and this makes the review task quite tricky. After 3 days with the V9A I am quite impressed with the speed and the consistency at which it runs. It feels smooth, the screen is sensitive enough to cope with all touches, but not to the level that I feel as if I have to think about what I am doing. There are some signs of jagged scrolling from time to time, but this is almost impossible to remove with this version of Android on a tablet.
The battery life seems to hold up to the claims of ZTE, but it would be nice to see battery performance on all tablets that reaches the level where you do not have to consider charging them for days at a time. It seems that extensive use of 3G on the V9A will seriously drop the battery, but this is to be expected and overall I would profess the battery performance to be acceptable.
The camera is not great which is no problem for me because I have never ever used a camera on any tablet anyway and the lack of internal memory will only be problematic to serious power users. The expansion card capability means that memory will provide no restrictions to most people anyway and the target market for this device is unlikely to be pushing the device too hard in terms of resource hungry apps.
I see this tablet as one that sits firmly in the middle of the market, but with some care taken in the component build and that 3G capability lifting it higher up the Android ladder. The name is dreadful and I presumed that the days of letters and numbers as names had gone, but that is a minor quibble.
For a £250 tablet, the V9A is a surprisingly adept piece of kit and with no technical thoughts behind my reasoning, I found that it grew on my over time. It is built solidly and just seems to do what I ask of it with a minimum of fuss. This should be the goal of all tablets, to do normal things and make them feel easier and smoother than doing the same things on a desktop computer. And for that it largely succeeds.