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Something interesting happens when technology starts to become so ubiquitous that we can’t imagine living without it: the ability for manufacturers to differentiate themselves from the competition starts to slowly diminish. If you’re one of the big Android manufacturers especially, then you’re starting to see it in the smartphone and tablet space in the same way as notebook manufacturers did a few years back.
You can try innovating, but someone, somewhere out there can simply copy said innovation at a much lower cost. And let’s be honest, your average member of the public is going to care a lot more about price, especially once those companies that started out copying the innovations of others begin improving their build quality and pulling out a few tricks of their own.
A great example of this is Hisense, which has just launched the H6 smartphone and Sero 8 Pro tablet in the South African market.
The Chinese mega-corp is probably best known for its TVs and fridges — it holds sizable market share in both those segments — but it’s pretty damn serious about taking on the mobile space and these two devices, while not perfect, are evidence of that.
While the time we had with both the tablet and the smartphone was limited, it was enough to get a fairly decent impression of their potential to take on a very crowded market.
The Sero 8 Pro
It’s pretty interesting that Hisense is touting a brand new tablet at a time when Apple, the company that kickstarted the tablet revolution, is seeing a massive downturn in iPad sales. Then again, it’s not going after your typical iPad buyer.
Bearing in mind that it’s made of aircraft-grade aluminium, is 6.35mm thin, and is available in a variety of colours, it is entirely possible though that it’s going after the kind of person who wants the people around them to believe that they could afford an iPad if they wanted one.
While the 8.0-inch device promises much on the looks front and packs some fairly competitive internal specs — including a 1.6GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB internal memory — we did experience noticeable lag when switching between apps.
The 2048×1536 screen meanwhile is pretty impressive to look at (as it should be with a resolution of 326ppi), but feels like it could be a little smoother to the touch.
One thing that was impressive though was the amount of effort Hisense has put into the Sero 8 Pro‘s cameras. Both the 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera are more than up to their respective tasks.
We didn’t get to play with Anyview Cast, the feature that allows you to stream content from your tablet onto a smart TV, but it seemed to work fairly well during a presentation at the launch event.
It’s too early to call how well it would hold up under sustained use, but if you’re looking for a tablet in the R3000 range, it probably wouldn’t be a bad option.
The H6 smartphone
The design influences on the H6 are pretty obvious but given that it’s not playing in the same range as those devices, their makers probably won’t be too concerned.
Customers in the market for a mid-range Android device meanwhile will probably be pretty happy that they too can own a device made of aircraft-grade aluminium.
The H6 rests solidly in the hand, but its sharp edges do feel a little dated especially given the aspirational feel that’s clearly so important to Hisense as a brand.
Its 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor has similar lag issues to those experienced by its tablet cousin, even when taking on the simplest task. It’s entirely possible of course that this is a software rather than a hardware issue and could be resolved with a cleaner Android install.
Its 8MP rear camera isn’t bad, although it does have some issues with capturing objects in motion. Like many of its competitors, Hisense has decided to leap aboard the selfie train and pump up the proverbial volume on the H6’s 5MP front-facing camera.
Aside from giving the device higher specs than many of its competitors, it’s also introduced a neat little gimmick that allows you to take a selfie using a hand gesture.
Similar features, albeit for different functions on the phone have been around on other devices for a while now, but certainly not on anything within the same price range as the H6.