NATPC M009S Review – Cheap Android Tablet

 Posted by on February 11, 2012  Reviews
Feb 112012
 

NATPC M009S Review – very cheap capacitive 7 Inch Android tablet. A couple of weeks ago I got my hands on the M009S Capacitive 7 Inch Android tablet from the UK – despite the branding it is actually the MID A710 tablet (the A10 also appears to be an unbranded match).

Reviews of cheap Android tablets are often skewed by tedious comparisons with the iPad or Galaxy Tab – about as useful as comparing a basic Ford with a Ferrari. Yes, they are both beautifully designed tablets that overflow with quality features but they cost 3 to 5 times the price of the M009S.

They also have a 10 inch screen which makes them less portable, almost twice as heavy, less easy to hold and less suitable as an ebook reader – so they’re not always the best option for everyone… If you’re more interested in whether a cheap 7 inch Android tablet can be an excellent buy and, most importantly, provide the usability and features expected of a worthwhile tablet, read on.

NATPC M009S Review - A quick summary is at the bottom of this article.

Price: The Ultimate 8GB version costs £90 in the UK ($98 in US for the 7″ Android 4.0 Tablet which appears to be the closest model currently available – less RAM/storage though). This is about the lowest price point for an Android tablet with a capacitive screen and with good storage/system RAM.

Operating System: UK versions of this tablet now come with the up to date Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which is better designed for tablets than the previous Gingerbread (Android 2.3) mobile operating system.

CPU and Graphics Processor: CPU – Allwinner A10 Cortex-A8 1.2 GHz and  Graphics – Mali 400 MHz. The CPU is considerably faster than bargain basement tablets which often run at 800 MHz.

The graphics processor has been super smooth at everything I have tried to date – video quality and playback is spot on. Full HD video, Angry Birds, YouTube, Skype video etc are all very responsive with no lag. Apps start very quickly and I really have been hard pushed to tell any difference from more expensive tablets.

Screen: Touch screen, 7 inch, 5 point multi touch capacitive, resolution 800 x 480. The capacitive screen is very responsive and the multi touch works well. Viewing angles and picture quality are good (not up to iPad standard but fine). It doesn’t have an anti-fingerprint coating on the screen (or casing) so be prepared to clean it every now and again.

On any 7 inch tablet the onscreen keyboard is small and a bit fiddly to use in portrait mode but much easier in landscape mode – an external case/USB keyboard combo can be added cheaply for protection and easy typing if required.

The screen resolution is on the low side (e.g. the 7 inch Nexus 7 is 1280 x 800) – this limits the detail that fits on screen and can result in a lot of finger-scrolling around when browsing websites. On the other hand it arguably makes it easier to read with less need to zoom in when reading a webpage. Personally I find it reasonable but if you are used to a higher resolution on a phone you may be slightly disappointed by the lower resolution on a larger screen.

However, the 7 inch screen size (and light weight) does make it excel as an ebook reader – the Kindle app works well, text is clear and page turning is ultra smooth. Like any tablet, use outside can be problematic compared to an actual Kindle but it is possible if you avoid direct sunlight – even the shadow from your own body is enough to make reading a more pleasant experience.

M009S

Overall Build Quality: Excellent – for the price. I was expecting a tablet this cheap to be poorly finished but the quality of the plastics and overall build quality on the M009S are actually very good – the casing feels nice and solid with no flimsiness or unfinished bits. It looks and feels like a polished product twice the price – not iPad quality but not cheap rubbish either.

Memory: RTB UK versions of this tablet come with 1GB DDR II RAM system memory – the cheapest LITE version has 512MB.

RTB Ultimate UK versions of this tablet come with 16GB NAND Flash internal storage – the other versions have 8GB. Storage is further upgradeable by adding a Micro SD memory card (max 32GB). This compares well to the 16GB+ internal storage available in very expensive tablets e.g. the cheapest new wifi iPad (£399) has 16GB of storage.

WiFi: Yes – 802.11 b/g/n. Easy to connect via wireless – I had no issues connecting to 2 wireless routers (wireless G and N) and gained a good wireless signal over distance/through walls, just as good as the integrated wireless in my laptop.

Connectivity: 1 x Micro SD slot, 1 x AC Jack, 1 x 3.5mm Earphone Jack, 1 x Mini USB, 1 x mini HDMI out.

The mini HDMI socket lets you quickly connect to an HDTV allowing pictures and HD video to be displayed on a large screen – this works very well and could even make the tablet a cheap media center computer.

Skype calls resulted in huge echoing feedback at the other end – presumably because the speaker and microphone are so close together (or poorly shielded) so earphones are a must for making calls – sound is then very good quality and the microphone works well.

The integrated speakers are not up to much – volume is low so if you want to listen to music the earphone jack is recommended. Sound quality and volume through earphones is then very good. The mini USB socket is used for connecting to a computer (or for charging – see below) and can also be used to plug in external devices e.g. a keyboard or flash drive etc. – a USB hub can be added if you need more than 1 USB device at a time.

Battery: 4000 mAh. This is good enough to last about 3 to 5 hours depending on your usage – not too shabby for a cheap tablet. The tablet is best charged by the power supply but it can also be charged via USB from a computer, albeit very slowly.

One major drawback is that the screen is remarkably unresponsive during charging – so much so that it makes the tablet almost impossible to use. This could be annoying if you wanted to use it whilst charging but the battery life is good enough that it shouldn’t be a major problem if you are organized and charge in advance if required.

Newer chargers and Android 4.0 ICS software appear to have sorted out these charging problems – they affected early Gingerbread models.

Camera: 0.3 Megapixel Front facing. Necessary skimping in a cheap tablet like the M009S – no rear facing camera so the front one is mainly for Skype video or taking pictures/videos of yourself. The quality is ok for those purposes but not great – similar to a cheap and old webcam i.e. a bit grainy and needs good lighting but better than nothing.

Official Google Play (Android Market): Yes. Full official Google Play (Android Market) – a failing of many cheaper tablets is that they don’t offer the official Market and use a poor imitation with few apps and lots of problems. Happily, the M009S provides the official market so it is easy to download all the common apps like Kindle, Angry Birds, YouTube etc.

Flash Player: Yes. Came with the latest Adobe Flash Player 11.1 installed – needed for viewing many video streaming websites and other multimedia content. iPads of course can’t have Flash because Apple say we don’t need it – well in my opinion we do (certainly for the moment).

G Sensor: Yes. This is the sensor that changes orientation from portrait to landscape automatically as you turn the tablet round – has worked remarkably well for me, very smooth and rarely needs ‘jiggling’ to prompt the change. I have had more trouble on an iPad although it does have a larger screen to rotate…

3G Internet: Can’t really expect 3G internet connection on a cheap tablet – it can be optional on expensive ones. According to the specs it should be possible to use a HUAWEI E1750 (UK) or similar US external 3G USB dongle but I haven’t been able to test this.

A new 3G model has now been released – includes 3G and wi-fi plus audio over bluetooth. Use your own SIM card to surf the net, email, use Twitter etc or make phone calls.

Weight:

365g. Excellent weight – lighter than more expensive 7 inch tablets like the Kindle Fire (413g) and Playbook (425g). Just for comparison, the 10 inch iPad2 (601g) and Galaxy Tab (565g) are obviously a lot heavier again.

Tip: I use the free app No Lock as a simple way to disable the ‘slide to unlock’ screen on resuming from standby which makes it resume instantly.

Summary

Good

Cheap price
Very responsive capacitive touchscreen
5 point multi touch, good quality screen
Quick processor and graphics chip, HD video, very smooth
0.5 to 1GB system RAM – same as many expensive tablets
8 – 16GB storage compares well to many expensive tablets – cheap to add up to 16GB more via a micro SD card
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) well suited to the tablet
Full official Google Play (Android Market)
Flash Player 11.1
Solid build quality
Light weight
Good wireless
Good connectivity
Good for reading ebooks
Reasonable battery life (for the price)

Bad

Not a great camera (and front facing only) – ok for Skype video
Speakers poor – but sound via earphones is very good quality
No integrated 3G – but may be able to add a 3G dongle
Low screen resolution

RTB Ultimate 16GB Version:

RTB Ultimate 8GB Version:

The standard 8GB Storage version is readily available in the UK.

LITE Version:

There is a new 8GB LITE version costing just £60 – see here for details.

3G Version:

There is also a new 3G version costing £100 – see here for details.

Conclusion

The NATPC M009S is a cheap but incredibly cheerful 7 inch tablet. Whilst it lacks some quality and features that expensive rivals offer, it is a very usable Android tablet with official Market, Android 4.0 (ICS), a responsive touchscreen and quick/smooth operation.

It does have bad points but these are more a reflection of price than quality – many can be easily/cheaply resolved but to solve them all would result in a much more expensive tablet e.g. new iPad nearly four times the price…

I have tried even cheaper tablets before and they suffered more serious flaws which made them unusable for me e.g. stylus needed for resistive screens, no official Android Market, sluggish performance, stuttering video playback, poor battery life, poor build quality.

It’s obviously not an iPad or Nexus 7 killer but it does a great job in its own right as a very usable little Android tablet – with a lot of cash left over.

5th Aug: note that this review is of my original tablet which had 0.5GB RAM and only 4GB storage. The original also used Android 2.3 rather than the newer 4.0 ICS, however the other specifications are the same.

  60 Responses to “NATPC M009S Review – Cheap Android Tablet”

  1. Note: A reader asked if you can drag and drop a 700MB AVI movie file onto this tablet without running it through a conversion program first.

    Yes, I have dragged and dropped (via the USB cable) AVI files (films) larger than 700MB direct to the internal memory and they played ok – no conversion necessary.

    Most other common formats should play directly e.g. MPEG4 etc (except very unusual or DRM/protected files). Obviously no guarantees for every possible file but, from my experience, files that played on a PC without needing extra codecs played ok on the tablet.

  2. Just returned from Bangkok buying this exact model from Pantip Mall Electronics Market. Price 3500 baht – approx 115 USD.

    Very precise review matching my experience 100%.

  3. Will this tablet with ICS 4.0 play bbc iplayer please?
    Thanks
    Richard

    • Hi Richard, it’s only just moved to ICS. From very early reports, videos launched from iplayer website don’t work.

      The iplayer app appears to work about the same as on other Android tablets i.e. some people think it’s fine whilst others find it lags/is badly out of sync – the iplayer app isn’t great…

      I’d suggest waiting a few days for more user feedback on Amazon about this new version. (Mine had Gingerbread on when I bought it and I don’t know which source code of ICS they’re selling the new ones with – it may be different to the upgrade ROMs from 2.3)

      • Thanks Roy,

        I have an android smartphone and a 3g version of iplayer that works okay.
        For tv I use my phone’s web browser and http://m.tvcatchup.com/ which works well.

        I really would like a tablet and for the money this one looks the business regardless of iplayer.

        I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use this for ebooks, courses I have in pdf format, email, browsing the net, music and films. Having looked at some ‘expensive’ tablets today in shops 7″ looks to be large enought to do the lot.

        I’d appreciate any more feedback you or anyone else has on this item.

        Best wishes
        Richard

      • For viewing ebooks/PDF etc a 7 inch screen is perfect compared to 10 inch ones which are twice as heavy and imho too big to read comfortably without arms like Popeye…

        The screen resolution is low but usable. I like tvcatchup too – can use a mini HDMI cable to display it on a large tv direct from the tablet – cheaper than a media center pc or video streamer and works well ;-)

        Most visitors to this review haven’t bought one yet so for feedback on ICS from people who have just bought one (rather than upgraded from Gingerbread) probably best to look at the new comments on the Amazon page.

  4. Cheers Roy

    :)

  5. Delivery is up to 3wks for this!

  6. Just bought one of these off eBay for £72 inc delivery. The low price is partly down to the CPU. The allwinner a10 is produced in china and sold for £5 each. Id love to see the benchmarks for this thing, potentially outperforming the big boys on single thread apps. And the Mali is in the s2. Looking forward to getting it!

    Just to clarify is iplayer struggling on all ics devices?

    • Initially it had problems with the Flash on ICS. Now it works on some ICS devices but others still have a few problems with it, including the NATPC (although again, some reckon it’s ok whilst it doesn’t work for others – may depend which ROM people used to upgrade…)

  7. Is it possible to buy a back up battery for this tablet?

  8. I haven’t found a custom one that fits snuggle but there are plenty of USB power packs out there that can be used on this. £72 quid from eBay is genuine but I ordered it during their public holiday, should get one in time for Xmas!!

    By the way thanks for the reply Roy, much appreciated! My wife has already said she’s having it if it’s “nice and shiny”

    By the way guys is there much pixelation on this, what’s the screen quality like? Thanks in advance

    • @Bluedog, see Paul’s reply – generic external pack via micro USB or even an in car charger (via USB may be slow though)

      @Paul, funny how better halves are never interested – until you buy one, then they want it ;-)

      Screen quality depends what you’re used to, it’s no iPad 3 but I find it good quality overall, albeit a lowish resolution. No complaints so far – over 90% of Amazon reviews are 4 or 5 stars which says it all, especially for Android which often gets bad reviews from newbies just because it’s different to Windows…

  9. I bought one of these from Ebay for £83, including delivery. Sold as a “NATPC M009S” but the device shows up as an “Unknown A710″. Just search for natpc on Ebay – seller was “bigtoyou”. I am very impressed with it during the short time I have had it. ICS seems to work very well and is very smooth. Screen quality is absolutely fine for a tablet in this price bracket and is nice and responsive. Build quality is much better than other tablets I have tried at this price. BBC iplayer works OK on the version of ICS that it was shipped with, although it doesn’t seem to like YouTube for some reason…

    The only problem I have had is that Google Play website says that some of the apps I already had on my HTC phone (Android 2.2) are incompatible with the device when I try to install and send them to the tablet (although most have installed OK when done directly from the market).
    Excellent value for money from what I can see so far

    • Thanks for your comments Robert and good price! The NATPC is a MID branded A710 but there are several other or unbranded versions using the same hardware and ROMs as it is quite common.

      The Google Play issue may be due to ICS or the the fact it’s a tablet, not a phone. I’ve heard of a few apps affected but, like you say, installing from the market usually sorts it out

  10. great thread, really useful as I am looking for a budget tablet and getting very confused with all the options! This one does sound good, but I am stuggling to find this spec on ebay or on other sites for similar price as above. Has anyone seen got web links to it at above price? Thanks in advance