I am a huge fan of tablets. They allow me the luxury of device hopping, which is something I love. A decent device experience allows me to hop from writing on my computer, to texting on my mobile, to reading on my tablet.
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There is a symphony of things that make this happen; the right devices and the right ecosystem. I use a Mac, and an iPhone. When I still had my iPad my ecosystem sang. Then my iPad waved farewell and my ecosystem became middling. Things have changed however, thanks to the Mecer Xpress Smartlife Tablet.
Mecer is quite the nostalgia brand and lacks in the same personality or bravado that Apple, Samsung, Nokia and Microsoft has in the consumer electronics market. When I think of Mecer, the phrase that comes to mind is “things we left in the nineties,” but now, not any more.
The introduction of the Xpress Smartlife Tablet shows a renewed thinking with the brand. It shows excitement and a readiness to play in the space that consumers are flocking to, those who are desperate for great deals and the better experiences that mobile devices can deliver. For me, it signals a resurgence to relevance for Mecer.
Is it an iPad Mini, a Nexus? No, it the Xpress Smartlife
Okay let’s get this out of the way: design-wise, the 7-inch tab looks a little like an iPad. It’s white and slick and has a sophisticated finish. That being said, this device holds its own. Mecer has indeed learnt lessons in design from the masters and given consumers a device that meets design aspirations.
The Xpress Smartlife tablet is little, thin and light, and fits snugly in one hand for readers. There are very few buttons around the device, just your basics and the home button. As someone constantly on the move, I found this device easy to move around with. It fits nicely in my laptop sleeve without making it bulky and could easily slide into my handbag — always a plus.
Android all the way baby
This little beauty runs on a MediaTek MTK8389 Quad Core 1.2GHz CPU, and it is pretty dynamo. If you want a full spec-sheet, Mecer has it all here. I have always been partial to Android tablets, so I was happy to see the Xpress Smartlife sporting the sugary Jelly Bean operating system. The tablet runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2, with minor alterations from Mecer. Though the manufacturer hasn’t really given you room to play, you can force-stop some of the pre-installed apps and completely disable others but not much after that.
The Android experience is very Google and Mecer has kept things clean and simple. Users can customise the basics such as the homepage and play around with folders for their organisational benefits. Though touted as an entry level device by Mecer, it does fulfil some established device qualities.
Display: let’s just Gorilla, okay
Rocking a 7.85-inch gorilla glass HD (1024 x 768) capacitive multi-touch screen, Mecer wants you to know that it’s not kidding around with this device. This screen resolution turned out immeasurably better than my expectations, after all I was on a Samsung Tab 3 and a third-generation iPad before that, so I am used to good resolution. I was able to watch an episode of Game Thrones comfortably and not want for a better quality screen.
The most important thing for me around display is being able to read, as well as listen to music. While reading, the screen adjusted to the room’s lighting and was never too harsh on the eyes. Also, you can easily change the brightness of the screen and it will automatically adjust in brighter or lower light.
What I really liked
The Xpress Smartlife is super fast, it loads up very quickly and the battery lasts for a good while. I spent ten hours reading and listening to music simultaneously while on a flight to New York — without the music I made it another five hours before the battery finally gave in. That’s pretty good. The audio quality with headphones is ace and makes for decent train and plane ride distractions.
What I am not loving
The camera is pretty average, I would suggest not bothering with hectic snaps. You can snap simple things for tweets but I’m not sure this camera is for the shutter-happy Instagramers. It also has some storage issues, with only 8GB in-built storage. Though Mecer does try to make up for this with a built-in MicroSD card reader (for extended memory up to 32GB).
Mecer’s foray into the tablet market is a breath of fresh air. It’s cost-effective and the device plays with the big boys, is super quick and a pleasure to use. For just over R2000 (US$180) this device is a snug companion to add to your daily device collection. It is worth every penny and more. If you are shopping for a small tab get this, no matter your budget.