Google's fetish for naming its Android OS versions after desserts had got us yearning to taste the Ice Cream Sandwich on a tablet. After getting a scoop of it in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, little did we imagine that the nifty operating system would reach us integrated in the Zync Z990 tablet. Yes, India’s supposed first ICS tablet launched a week ago for a price under 10k. With a price tag that appears so attractive, all we need to know is – Is the OS used to the best of its abilities? Has the tablet compromised to achieve such a price tag? Read on for the review of the Zync Z990 to get all these questions answered. 

India's first ICS tablet

India's first ICS tablet

Design and Build quality
Zync managed to pull out an average 7-inch, affordably priced tablet. By the looks of it, however, the company didn’t seemingly put in a lot of thinking for the build quality. The design is simple and the tablet is dipped in a jet black hue and completely crafted out of plastic. Some may find black to be quite sophisticated, but the plastic looks cheap and if you take a closer look at the bezel area, the screen doesn’t look securely fitted into the bezel. The back flap near the ports is loosely fit and the device all in all lacks a good finish.

This all black, all plastic device has about a 1cm bezel on the left, above and below the screen, while the right side has more than 2cm bezel. The right side equips all the ports and the company has even named them on the back to assist users further. You’ll find a microSD card slot, HDMI, 3.5mm jack, main power port, microUSB and a standard 2.0 USB port running along the right side. Similarly marked on the right upper edge, you will find mic, power, menu and surprisingly an Esc button. The Esc button is to close an application instantly. Disappointingly, there are no physical volume controls, while the speakers are placed on the backside.  It has given the rear camera a miss like some of the affordable tablets we’ve seen lately, but again managed to get a front facing camera.

Imprinted with port names

Imprinted with port names

It’s a tad heavy for a 7-incher at 380 grams, and equips a WVGA 480 x 800 pixel capacitive touchscreen, which responds fairly well. We are always glad to see a capacitive screen on a sub-10k tablet. Again, we’ve seen most of the tablets in this price range not go past this screen resolution, which is disappointing. Zync also offers a dockable USB keyboard that can be bought separately for Rs.999.

Features
User Interface
This latest Zync tablet is powered by a 1.2GHz (Graphics processor – Vivante GC460) with 1GB RAM and runs on Android ICS 4.0.3 operating system. Inspite of the nifty software and hardware combo, the user interface did appear sluggish at several instances. The company decided to not add much customization to the UI, and you will find the apps icon on the right upper corner. The icon will take you to the page where you can switch between apps and widgets. In apps the company has preloaded Astro file manager to sort out all the content saved in the internal memory, SD card or while using a flash drive. Under widgets you will see Analog clock, bookmark and more. The homescreen has three touch buttons – Back, Home and Apps on the lower  left corner.  Unlike other tablets which come with a host of preloaded apps, the company has just the Astro file manager, Play store, calculator, calendar, vortex player and also a stock video player.

Applications

Applications

On downloading a couple of applications, we were surprised to see that the screen hasn’t been optimized. Basically, the downloaded applications, which appeared on the upper side of the screen had half of the icons chopped off due to the optimizing error. The optimizing has gone bad to the extent that on switching to the horizontal mode, a few apps don’t appear on the screen at all. Inspite of getting a scoop of the ICS OS, Zync hasn’t been able to implement it to the best of its abilities.

Ice Cream Sandwich is here

Ice Cream Sandwich is here

In the AnTuTu test, the Zync Z990 scored 2047 points. Although lower than the recently reviewed iBerry tablet, it is way higher than the Swingtel Hello Tab which is priced almost double. In the Linpack tests, on running single thread it showed 7.152 MFLOPS and multi thread score is 6.88.
 
Media
It emits some decent tunes, but the speaker on the backside is decent, but not the best we have seen. It supports MP3 and WMA music formats. The music interface is simple and the screen hasn't been utilized to the fullest. One will see a small album art, name of the album, song and the artist, along with touch buttons to shuffle and repeat songs. Using Vortex player, the interface is simple, you see the small touch volume bar on the right and screen maximize and connect to TV on the left side. Several times while pressing the maximize button, we accidently pressed the back button. The volume icon, too is terribly small to control. Moreover, the missing volume buttons make it all the more tedious. It managed to play 720p and 1080p videos quite well. The viewing angles are fine, and besides it also supports file formats like MP4, XVid AVI and more.

Supports 1080p videos

Supports 1080p videos


Connectivity
The tablet has been loaded on the connectivity front. To begin with it supports 3G via USB dongle and we could connect to the Wi-Fi smoothly within seconds. It also has a standard USB 2.0 port that enables copy-pasting data. The inclusion of this feature is appreciated while you will also find micro-HDMI port and micro-USB port. The device has built-in 4GB of space that can be expanded up to 32GB. Surfing the web was fine, the pages loaded quickly and zooming was swift too.

ports

Ports running along the right edge

The tablet doesn't equip a rear camera, but there is a VGA front facing one for video conferencing. Something, again, most of the tablets of this range have been following.

Battery
The tablet equips a 3600 mAh battery. In our video drain tests, we ran a low resolution video in a loop that ran continuously for a little over 2 and half hours. It let us watch HD content for about an hour, followed by about 20 minutes of the latest Angry Birds space and some 20 minutes of standby before the battery died.
 
Verdict
Compared to the Zync Z909 that we’d tested lately, this is a much better attempt by the company. Bringing in the latest ICS version of the Android operating system to an average 7-inch tablet priced at Rs.8,990 is commendable and within the reach of masses. However, the tablet leaves a lot of room for improvement, like the screen resolution alignment, better battery, robust build and more customization from Zync. We did like the connectivity options, its affordable price tag, the capacitive touchscreen, and support for 1080p videos. So far, it is the only ICS tablet in this price bracket, but we'd suggest you wait for some more models in a similar range to emerge.

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