In 2007, Apple claimed that that iPhone changed everything. An hyperbolic claim from Steve Jobs was par for the course at every product launch, but in this case might have actually had a grain of truth to it. The iPhone didn't invent the touch screen, or even the smart phone. Touchscreen devices, before the iPhone, had generally required the use of a stylus or had pretty slow performance or were prohibitively expensive. The iPhone changed two of those things, but the iPhone was expensive to buy.
The rest of the industry was shaken awake and had to play catch up. A few years later, Apple again shook things up with the iPad - a tablet-size device that could easily browse the internet, read your e-mails and be used for entertainment
Handheld devices with physical keyboards suddenly looked dated. But again, the iPad was expensive.
Many tablet devices came to market to try to emulate the success of the iPad, but initially these devices could not match the hardware and software of Apple's market leader. However, as time has passed, the prices of quality components have come down and many manufacturers could make a device that on paper would beat the iPad.
Argos have made a great deal of producing affordable technology like TV's, DVD players, Microwaves, and so on, under their in-house brands: Alba, Bush, ViewSonic and so on. When buying one of these devices you know from the offset that you are not getting the features of the top of the line products, but you are also not paying the over the top prices that those products.
It is one of these devices that we have been taking for a test drive for the last few weeks: the Alba 10-inch Tablet, from Argos.
First Impressions: Out of the Box
From the get-go, this device lets you know that it wants to help you protect it - a Screen protector is installed and it is already housed in one of the two silicone covers that come in the box. If you have young kids or are prone to being clumsy, then Argos want to help you try to keep your device safe ... Or at least safer.
While you might interpret these safety add-ons as a warning sign about quality, we took them to be helpful: You're likely going to buy a case anyway, so why not include two in the box at no extra cost; You might plan to buy a screen protector, but we've never managed to install one without bubbles forming - with it already installed, it's perfectly flat and there are no bubbles.
The design of the device itself is simple and functional. Argos may be targeting the affordable or budget end of the tablet market with this device
The Alba 10-inch tablet is pretty easy to set up, if you have ever bought an Android-powered phone, then the process will be very familiar to you. A few simple wizard, linking your Google account and leaving the tablet to do it's thing installing updates and sample apps, game demos and an Argos app.
Once the update is complete, you get to see how bright and colourful the 1200x800 screen is. The garish default wallpaper is an explosion for the senses and actually hides some of the icons - so the first thing you will likely do is tone that down for a more muted or personalised wallpaper.
Just to show in another way that the Alba 10-inch tablet is designed for first time tablet owners or perhaps as a secondary tablet for a family with young children or teenagers, Argos have pre-installed a parental control app. This can be used to limit or control the screen time for the younger members of the family so they do more than bury themselves in the screen or a world of app entertainment.
How is it to use?
As a tablet, the Alba 10-inch tablet is a very comfortable device. It sits easily in the hand and the weight of the device makes it easy to use for watching a video or browsing the internet. The bright, colourful screen can display your pictures, videos, movies and websites beautifully.
Generally, the best experience with the tablet is once an app, movie or game has loaded. The performance of the application in the foreground is really responsive: Games are quick and react to your input, applications are fluid and smooth.
However, the multi tasking performance of the device - switching between apps or games - or even launching an initial application leaves something to be desired. You might click on an app icon and there is no acknowledgement that the button press has registered. You wait and click again. Eventually, the app launches and works responsively, but this uncertainty when launching the application causes momentary concern that you should not experience with a new piece of technology.
The device is perhaps more targeted at parents for their children than the tech guru in the family and as such this performance could be acceptable.
A front facing 0.3 megapixel camera and a 2 megapixel rear camera mean that is perfunctory. Yes, you can use them for taking photos or Skype calling, but that is not going to be the primary reason for this device.
Also, the positioning of the front-facing camera at the bottom of the screen means that you will only really be able to use Skype or video calling in landscape mode.
The Alba 10-inch tablet comes with a hefty 6,000 mAh battery. This means that you should easily get at least 10 hours of average usage out of a single charge, plenty for keeping the kids entertained for that road-trip or just for flicking around Facebook for a while without constantly looking for the charger.
Connectivity and Expansion
The Alba 10-inch tablet comes with 1GB of RAM, which possibly explains the performance issues. 16GB of in-built storage can be expanded using a MicroSD card.
A nice touch is a mini-HDMI port on the device, allowing you to easily hook the tablet up to any modern TV.
The Alba 10-inch tablet has a good screen and excellent battery life. Pre-installed parental controls and safety apps, along with the included bumpers and screen protector (without bubbles!) make it a contender for parents looking for an entertainment device for the children or a first tablet for their teens.
When apps are running they work well and are quick, but that moment of hesitation from the initial tapping of an app to it loading can be unsettling. As long as you are aware of this shortcoming, you will not be disappointed by this bargain device.
Light, Comfortable to Hold
Screen - bright, clear (800p)
Good performance (once the apps start)
Screen Protector and Cases provided
HDMI Mini - straight to TV
Expandable Storage (MicroSD)
Slippy, especially with cover
Lag when launching apps
Accelerometer (not good)
Multi-Tasking (App Switching)
Specs at a glance
10 inch screen.
Resolution 1280 x 800 pixels.
LED backlit display.
1.3GHz MediaTek mtk 8163 quad core processor.
Internal storage capacity 16GB.
microSD memory card slot.
Front facing camera 2MP.
Rear facing camera 2MP.
Android 7 operating system.
Bluetooth – enabling you to easily and wirelessly connect with other Bluetooth enabled devices.