Looks: All in white HCL’s latest seven inch tablet comes with an all-while plastic body and the front panel too has a broad white plastic strip around the capacitive touch screen, which is even broader on one side where the camera has been placed.
While we are all for white coloured devices, we still think that the border strip could have been avoided or at least made slimmer. The plasticky felling is another thing that we would have liked to avoid. Apart from that the tab is slim, acceptably heavy with a nice and shiny finish.
The tab comes with a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen that gives a good touch experience. It runs on a 1 GHz processor, and performs at a brisk rate while handling multi-tasking well.
The itsy bitsy thing that left us a bit confused was the placement of the volume and power keys – the rocker-type keys are actually the volume increase and the power on off key, while the seemingly stand-alone key is the volume decrease key. There is no primary camera on the tablet, just a front facing VGA one. It has an internal memory of 4 GB which can be expanded further using a microSD card. It also comes with full USB connectivity, allowing you to add a 3G USB dongle or a peripheral like a mouse to work with the tablet. The tablet supports Wi-Fi connectivity. Overall, it has a decent set of specs for its price range.
The U1 runs on Android 4.0 (Ice-cream Sandwich). A few changes have been made to the interface. The lock screen now has two options: you can either unlock the homescreen or access the camera through it. The homescreens have been simplified and there are five of them which can be customised. There is a colourful button on the top that takes you to the skip view and you can see all the five panels in a cool 3D interface. You can now also create folders on the homescreen by simply stacking once app icon over another. The touch buttons of back, home and recent apps stay on the bottom right and the system bar is on the right, with a number of functions including date and time, Wi-Fi connectivity and settings. The settings menu has been divided into four sections, wireless and networks, device, personal and system. Options like data usage have also been added. All of which would be familiar to anyone who has used Honeycomb (Android 3). There are three browser apps, the default, iBrowser and ICS Browser+. The default one doesn’t have Flash support but the iBrowser does. The tablet comes with support for MS Exchange on the e-mail front, and has Thinkfree Office for creating and editing MS Office files. There are a number of apps on the tab like Naukri.com, ibibo Rummy, Saavn, Twitter and LinkedIn, although Facebook is missing. Surprisingly, HCL has kept Google Play, off the tablet. Instead, there is HCL Me Apps which offers some apps for the tablet. There is also a HCL Touch app which lets you access a helpline straight from the tablet.
There is no primary camera in the tablet, only a front one of VGA resolution, which totally limits its use to video calls. So one can safely say that on the imaging side there is not much that you can expect from the tab. When it comes to video playback, the tablet comes with a default video player as well as a Vortex Video app, and played 1080p videos with ease. There is a music player in the tablet that comes with sound enhancements like equaliser presets and customization along with bass boost and 3D effects. While the sound experience didn’t impress us much through the loudspeaker, it was much better through the headphones. There is no FM radio in the tablet.
Considering its price, the experience with the tab is something that a first time user will appreciate. If it had SIM connectivity and had used the front panel better, we would have called it the perfect entry-level tablet. But even without them, it turns in a decent show on the browsing, mail and video fronts, with acceptable battery backup – it lasted us a day with an hour and a half of videos and day long browsing it easily lasted for a day.
It is one of the cheapest ICS tabs with an acceptable performance. You can also opt for Micromax Funbook costing Rs 6,499 and comes preloaded with educational content.