Mercury hasn’t really hit their stride in the tablet arena and their previous two offerings – the mTab and mTab NEO really failed badly where it mattered most and that’s the display quality. Fitting a bad display in a tablet is like ruining the steering of a car, it’s never going to feel good no matter how many features it may have. Hopefully they have learned their lesson with the mTab NEO 2. Let’s see if it’s any better.
Design and Build
The design and build of the tablet hasn’t changed much except that now it sports a full black colour scheme from back to front. The glossy finish leads to terrible finger prints all over the tablet which is a nightmare to get rid of. The build quality is not too bad and there aren’t many creaking parts. The plastics used also seem to be quite decent with very little flex when pressed. It’s still a chunky tablet but thankfully is lighter than the previous offerings. There’s a physical button in the front like the iPad which takes you a step back instead of taking you to the home screen directly. We also have a front facing VGA camera.
Not a bad looker
For connectivity we have a charging port, miniUSB port for data and another one for OTG support. There’s microHDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card slot and a SIM card slot. Round the back we also have a primary camera for shooting stills and video. We also have a small group of physical buttons on the right for power, back and home. There isn’t any volume toggle button, which will be missed. Overall, the mTab NEO 2 gets off to a good start by offering a decent design, good set of connectivity options and above average build quality.
For some reason, Mercury has decided to bundle the NEO 2 with Honeycomb instead of ICS. While it’s functionally better than Gingerbread on a tablet, it’s nowhere as quick and smooth as ICS. Mercury has made some changes to the interface like the lockscreen and a few of the icons and the theme but for the most part, it’s stock ICS. Unfortunately, Mercury has fallen into the same trap they did with the previous two tablets by adding a very poor quality display. The 7-inch screen, even at the maximum brightness levels, is not very bright and the responsiveness is not great either. You can forget about using the tablet while charging as the screen goes haywire.
Plenty of connectivity
The one thing that we hate is the fact that Mercury is terribly misleading the consumer by calling the NEO 2 a dual-core tablet, when it actually has a single-core ARMv7 based CPU. The Linpack scores clearly point to a single-core 1GHz CPU and a very slow one at that. We got a single threaded score of just 12MFLOPS and a multi-thread score of 11MFLOPS. The tablet does however have the ARM NEON video decoder onboard so despite it being a single-core, 1080p video does play.
Mercury has used a custom-skinned stock music player so you get the standard set of options for sorting your music. You also get the option to download lyrics of the song. The weird thing about this player is that it also picks up audio from apps for some reason so in your library, you’ll have Metallica along sound effects from Angry Birds! The audio quality itself is pretty average even with a decent pair of headphones. You get 8GB of internal storage which you can expand via microSD card.
Audio quality is strictly average
The NEO 2 comes with the stock video player which is useless as it only plays MP4 but the other one called UTPlayer will play all possible formats you can throw at it and it does it well. We did have trouble playing back 1080p video files as there was noticeable stutter in the frame rate and some of the files refused to play properly.
The mTab NEO 2 supports 3G SIM cads for voice and data. The tablet features a dialer as well, but for audio you’ll have to either switch to speaker or wear the provided headset. You also get Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth onboard. Browsing the web is not the best on this due to a unresponsive and dull screen. The tablet is not very fast so rendering a image heavy page takes time. Typing using the onscreen keyboard is manageable as long as you hold the tablet in portrait mode. In landscape mode, the keys are stretched which makes it very awkward to use. USB OTG works with pen drives but not with portable hard drives.
Web browsing is a pretty poor experience
Mercury bundles the NEO 2 with some Internet apps like Yahoo Mail, Hi MSN along with a whole bunch of Google apps that come with Honeycomb.
Extra apps that come built-in include OfficeSuite and Advanced Task Manger.
The rear camera is a 2MP sensor which is understandably quite poor and manages passable pictures only outdoors. There is no auto-focus either so forget about getting any sort of detail in the picture. The front camera is no different since it’s a VGA camera. The interface is stock Honeycomb and the options that you get with it are also the standard fare.
The camera is just for show
This was taken in a lightbox, so yeah…
The NEO 2 comes with a 3400 mAh battery which gave us a decent 6hrs battery life in our video drain test. The only reason the tablet managed this number is due to the low resolution display and the fact that the brightness is not much.
Verdict and Price in India
The Mercury mTab NEO 2 is priced at Rs.14,999 which makes it expensive compared to other 3G 7-inch tablets. But the price is the least of their concerns, the tablet itself is quite a disappointment and it seems like they learnt nothing from their past models. The display continues to be the weakest link and in a device like a tablet, that’s a complete deal breaker. We’d recommend you stay as far away as possible from Mercury tablets for now till they get their act together.
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