Recently, BSNL entered the tablet race by launching three different offerings at various price brackets. To be honest, I wasn’t really keen on reviewing this in the first place because by now, I was quite familiar with the drill – cheap tablet with plenty of connectivity coupled with a bad screen and sluggish UI, I was all set to expect the worst. However, the Penta T-Pad was a pleasant surprise and doesn’t fit the budget Android stereotype at all.
Design and Build
BSNL has tied up with Pantel for their tablets and the T-Pad WS802C is BSNL’s highest-end offering. The tablet is a bit on the heavier side so it’s not the most comfortable to hold it single-handed for a long time. Available in white only, the tablet features an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen with dual cameras for the front and back. There is a column of capacitive buttons along the edge making it easy to use in landscape mode. The aspect ratio is more 4:3 than 16:9 so it’s comfortable to use in either orientation. There are some physical buttons on the top for power and the volume rocker.
Very good connectivity options
As is the case with most budget tablets, there’s no shortage of connectivity options here. We have 3G (with voice calls), microSD card slot, HDMI, USB On-the-go, 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a standard USB port for connecting a mouse and keyboard. Other than the fact that it’s slightly on the heavier side, the Pantel designed tablet is built quite well and feels really sturdy.
The Penta T-Pad is powered by a 1GHz CPU and a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. It also has the ARM NEON video decoding engine so it is capable of handling Full HD content as well. The 800 x 552 resolution screen is a little low but text and icons don’t look too bad. The display itself is quite bright although the viewing angles could be better. The tablet comes loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and thanks to the good specs, the interface is extremely smooth and slick and is by far one of the best Android experiences we’ve had on a budget tablet.
Interface is slick and speedy, just the way it should be
Pantel haven’t left the UI as stock as possible except for a couple of apps that come bundled with it. The capacitive buttons on the side are very responsive too and while they are convenient, they do tend to get in the way when holding the tablet in landscape mode.
The stock Android music player does a good enough job of playing back your music library. Since this is ICS, the stock player will also playback FLAC files too so you don’t have to download a third party player. The audio quality is good through in-ear headphones or you could also use the speaker which does a decent enough job.
Music player supports FLAC as well
The stock video player also managed to playback some of our 720p AVI files but without audio so it’s recommended you install a third party player. 1080p files will play as well thanks to the ARM NEON video decoder. Videos looks good although the picture quality is just about average due to the low resolution of the screen. It'[s still decent enough for watching a quick TV show while commuting though. The viewing angles could have been better but if you’re watching a video by yourself, then it shouldn’t be a problem. There’s also a second video player called UTPlayer but that only reads files of SD cards. The tablet has 4GB of built-in storage that’s expandable to 32GB via microSD card.
The Penta T-Pad is a 3G tablet that also supports voice calls. We tried this and it works just fine. Other than that, you also get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity options. USB On-the-go is also present that works well with pen drives but not so much with hard drives. Pantel has also included a miniHDMI port so you can connect it directly to an HDTV and view your content. As a bonus, we also get a full-sized USB port for connecting peripheral devices like a keyboard, mouse, etc.
Browsing is pretty good
The stock ICS browser does a very good job of rendering web pages and it's quite quick. Image heavy sites still have a little lag when scrolling through them but other than that, it’s business as usual.
BSNL have also bundled some pre-installed apps that my come in handy like ES File Explorer and Task Manager, Facebook, FreeNote, Photo and Video editor, Polaris Office, Radee PDF Reader, and MobiVision.
Stock ICS camera interface
The Penta T-Pad comes with a 2MP rear camera and a 0.3MP front facing one. The quality of both are surprisingly good. Even in low, ambient light, the picture quality is very passable and you could actually think of doing a video call with the front camera. The rear camera does not have auto-focus so don’t expect miracles from it. The interface once again, is stock ICS, which means you get all the standard tweaking options as well as panorama mode.
Not bad for a 2MP shooter
In our video drain test, the BSNL Penta T-Pad lasted for about 7-hours, which is not too bad. This means you can easily watch a couple of movies back to back when travelling. In our loop tests, with an hour of calling added into the mix, the tablet managed a respectable 6-hours and 10-minutes.
Verdict and Price in India
Just when I was about to swear off these el’cheapo Android tablets, BSNL’s Penta T-Pad has renewed new faith in me, proving that perhaps there is still hope for the segment to survive. This is hands down, the best ICS-based tablet in this price range that I’ve come across and offers good value for money without compromising too much on performance. Inevitably, you are going to compare this to the Nexus 7 and yes, Google’s tablet does have a better screen, a faster SoC and is lighter but other than that, the BSNL tablet can do everything the Nexus 7 can and more. It has 3G support, expandable memory, HDMI, USB (standard port and On-the-go) and dual cameras – all for a cheaper price.
You can buy the Penta T-Pad directly through Pantel's site right here. They've also appointed distributors in all major states across the country to sell the tablet in the retail market as well, so you might want to check your nearest distributor if you don't want to buy it online.
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Oct 25, 2016