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Tablets are everywhere these days as they are expected to surpass PCs in sales by 2015 according to C|Net. With some many numerous choices in terms of brands and sizes choosing between Apple, Android and Microsoft based versions can be daunting. Each brand has its strengths and weaknesses. Some brands such as the HP TouchPad have already fallen to the wayside. The current batch of Android tablets are matching and even surpassing Apple’s iOS in terms of features.
For today’s review we will look at the Idolian Mini Studio 8. Idolian, a company that makes tablets and tablet accessories have two versions of their Studio Series this 8” model and a 10.1” screen version. This high performance tablet features a dual core processor and runs the most recent version of Android 4.1 aka Jelly Bean.
Some of the specs include 16 GB of flash memory with the ability to expand storage up to 32 GB using a micro SD, a front and rear camera, built-in speakers, microphone, Bluetooth capability, 1024 x 768 pixel resolution and something not found in Apple iPads or most budget tablets – HDMI output
Product Name: Mini Studio 8
Author: Tom Ratas
Price: $148 (from Amazon at time of review)
The Mini Studio is part of the Idolian “Studio Series,” which consists of three high-performance tablet models including the seven-, eight- and 10.1-inch screens all with Dual Core processors. The Mini Studio specifically includes several features that rival similar tablets, including the iPad, with a multi-touch capacitive LCD screen, and a Cortex A9 processor with a speed of 1.6GHz that runs on Android 4.1 with 1 GB of RAM. Additionally, it is built with the same or better specs than rival devices, including:
• 16 GB of flash memory
• A front camera
• Extended micro SD up to 32 GB
• Built-in speakers and microphone
• Bluetooth capability
• HDMI double frequency output
• 1024 x 768 pixel resolution
Purchase of the Mini Studio includes the following standard accessories: charger, earphone, user manual, battery 4,500 mAh with a life of between seven and nine hours, USB cable and OTG cable.
Full specs, and a comparison to the iPad Mini can be found at this: http://www.idolian.com/OnlineCatalog/Mini_Studio-details.aspx
The Idolian Mini Studio arrives in a white cardboard box with an image of the device on top. On the back is a simple list of specifications. Overall the packaging is very generic looking. Of course looking at the box is not a way to measure the quality of the tablet but to some “appearance says a lot when making first impressions” that is why Apple makes such a fuss over their product packaging.
Inside the box we find the Mini Studio 8 tablet along with a charger, user manual, micro-USB and OTG cable.
At first glance the Idolian Mini Studio 8 can be mistaken for an early generation iPad with its uniform black bezel surrounding the 7.9-inch touch screen and machined aluminum back panel. Idolian uses an 8” LCD IPS multi-touch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768 as opposed to the 1280 x 800 screen on the Nexus 7. The tablet measures 20.9 x 16.3 x 1.0 cm and weighs 420 grams.
Immediately one notices the orientation of the front facing camera rests on the left side of the bezel when holding the Mini Studio in portrait view. My assumption is that Idolian believes the tablet will be held more in the landscape view thus orienting the camera towards the top bezel.
Looking at the back of the tablet in landscape position we see the Mini Studio logo embossed in the center with the storage capacity and serial number printed below this area.
A rear-facing camera is found on the left side of the tablet. Just above this camera are the volume controls. A speaker is found on the bottom right-hand side. I found this speaker positioning to be strange, as any form of protective case will invariably mute the sound coming from the Mini Studio. To the far left is a series of inputs and controls including the power button, AC input, headphone jack, micro USB input, HDMI output, micro SD card slot and a reset button.
For size comparison of tablet sizes here is an image of the iPad Mini next to the Idolian Mini Studio tablet. Absent from the Mini Studio is a physical home button which seems to be the standard on most Android tablets.
Inside the tablet is a 1.6 GHz A9 dual core processor with 1 GB of DDR 3 and 16 GB of flash memory. The Mini Studio comes preinstalled with Android 4.1 aka Jellybean. It offers 802.11B/G/N Wi-Fi connectivity. The front facing camera is 0.3 MB while the rear is 2.0 MB. Absent from the device are a GPS, ambient light sensor and mobile 3G/4G radio.
The Mini Studio features a 4500 mAh lithium ion battery designed to offer between 7 and 9 hours of use per charge.
The Idolian Mini Studio arrives with a stock Android 4.1 installation. There is no skinning of this version, which is good for Android purists and means no bloatware pre-installed.
When powering on the tablet one is greeted by a home screen with a few icons preinstalled and a control bar widget for enabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Sync button and Brightness control.
On the top left of the screen is a Google search bar and microphone icon. Towards the top right is the apps and widgets page icon.
The bottom of the home screen has five icons towards the left hand side – the Back icon which takes the user one step back in an active application, the Home icon which brings the user back to the main screen, two volume control icons (which seem redundant as there are physical buttons on the device itself) and the Multitasking icon that shows the most recently used apps and allows the user to jump directly into any active app or close them by swiping them to the right.
The preinstalled apps include a Browser, Calculator, Camera, Clock, Downloads, E-Mail, Explorer, Gallery, Music, Office Suite, Settings, Sound Recorder and Video. Since Android is a Google created OS, you may be wondering where the Google apps are located. For some strange reason those apps are hidden. To bring them into view a setting in the developer’s options needs to be unchecked to visualize them on the App and Home screen.
Scrolling past the apps to the next screen reveals included widgets – mini apps that can be shown on the home screen. As new apps are installed more widgets become available.
The bottom right has a clock, Wi-Fi strength and battery capacity indicator along with the notification center. Tapping on this area will bring up additional information and quick access to settings as well as the ability to clear notifications.
From the settings screen there are numerous options that can be adjusted. The first section relates to Wireless networks including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet. A USB connected Ethernet adapter can be purchased for this latter option but who physically connects a tablet to a network? Also found in the section is a VPN, Portable Hotspot and Mobile Networks options.
The next subsection is Device that allows control of sound, display, HDMI, storage, battery and apps.
The Personal subsection controls location services, security, language and input, backup and reset.
An Account subsection allows the addition of corporate, e-mail, Google and Yahoo accounts.
Finally the System subsection provides the ability to adjust date and time, accessibility developer options and about tablet. From the developer options is where you’ll find the hide Google applications setting. Another issue I had with the Idolian Mini Studio is that even with the Google apps enabled – the icons for Chrome and Google Talk were nowhere to be found. These apps could be opened from other apps but there was no stand-alone icon. Installing and uninstalling did not remedy this issue either. Downloading an app called QuickShortCut Maker did enable the creation of these missing icons.
The main focus of any tablet is the screen, if that is poor then the overall user experience will be severely diminished. I am happy to report that the Idolian Mini Studio has a good screen that is very touch responsive and has vivid color reproduction. For video and photo playback the whites appear white and the blacks are true black not dark grey. For a budget tablet the screen is very good. Compared to the Nexus 7 the Idolian Mini Studio is the lesser screen but this is probably due to the difference in resolutions.
On nice feature of Jelly Bean is the ability to watch video from the home screen in a smaller window.
The lesser resolution of the Idolian Mini Studio becomes noticeable when using the tablet for reading on the web, ebooks or other sources. As someone who primarily uses the iPad for my tablet reading, I found viewing text on the Mini Studio to cause more eye strain than on the Apple tablet or even the Nexus 7.
In terms of video playback the Idolian Mini Studio 8 can play 720P or 1080P video in various formats including avi, mkv, rm, rmvb, mp4, wmv and m4v among others. Playback using the stock video viewer was smooth and crisp. The tablet can play back from either the device’s internal memory or an external USB attached via the OTG USB cable.
We’ve all seen the people shooting pictures and video with their iPads; it looks silly and generally the pictures are fair at best. Idolian has included a front and rear-facing camera and let’s just say these lenses make the iPad look like a DSLR. If you want to shoot pictures with a tablet then the Mini Studio 8 is not the way to go. The rear-facing camera took blurry shots and if the light was low, forget about getting a usable shot. The front facing camera was slightly better in terms of focusing but still did not yield great results.
Usually sound playback on tablets is not very loud, this is not the case with the Idol mini studio is even at half volume the speaker is very loud and sometimes distorted that higher margins. The based on the audio is lacking given the overall sound a tinny quality. As I mentioned previously the speaker is on the backside of the device
The battery life of the Idolian Mini Studio was on par with the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini which is good as it provides anywhere from 5 to 7 hours of use. This time is obviously dependent on how much processing power is used by the tablet. The standby capacity is good as the Studio Mini holds most of its charge even when not used for a few days.
Like most tablets, the battery in the Mini Studio 8 is non-removable.
To Benchmark the Mini Studio 8 the following apps were used – AnTuTu, Vellamo, Quadrant, 3DMark for Android. Although these do not provide real world performance data, they are a good way to compare tablets against other versions.
AnTuTu produced this score with these results.
Vellamo was kind enough to offer some devices as a comparison.
Quadrant yielded this result
Finally 3DMark produced this for its regular and extreme tests.
PERFORMANCE AND NETWORKING:
Overall the using the Idolian Mini Studio 8 was a smooth as the OS was fairly responsive. There were occasions where certain apps would freeze for a few seconds but this may have been due to running too many apps at one time. Although the Mini Studio 8 is listed as 802.11N compatible, it did not seem to pick up my high speed Wi-Fi network despite other devices in my home finding that same SSID.
The mini-HDMI connector seems like a great way of hooking up the Mini Studio to a HDTV. Unfortunately I did not have this type of cable to test this feature.
One big drawback is that the Idolian Mini Studio 8 only charges off the included AC adapter as opposed to other Android tablets which use USB cables with AC adapters. This makes it critical that you pack the original cable when traveling or you will be stuck with a powerless tablet.
Comparing the Mini Studio to the Nexus 7 and the original Amazon Kindle Fire, I prefer using the Nexus 7 to the other two. However, in my opinion the Mini Studio 8 is much better than the Kindle Fire.
Idolian has created a budget Android tablet to compete against the seven-inch tablet market. While the specs on the Idolian Mini Studio 8 seem impressive the execution is not always on par with the components. The stock version of Android has some issues such as the inability to find Chrome on the apps or home screen. Also the screen resolution while on par with the iPad Mini, text still looks blurry in comparison when reading on the Mini Studio.
It has advantages over the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 by providing a micro SD card slot allowing for additional storage capacity. It can also read external USB thumb drives with the included OTG cable. Those who wish to connect their tablet to an HDTV the available mini HDMI port is a nice option.
It is the additional hardware features that may make users choose this tablet over the Amazon or Google Nexus brand. The ability to add additional storage capacity and HDMI output separates this model from those two and the iPad Mini.
Currently Idolian is running a Father’s Day sale offering the Studio Mini 8 for $158 almost $50 cheaper than the Nexus 7 16GB making it an excellent deal for those looking for a nice affordable tablet
|+Screen has crisp colors
+Can add additional storage capacity with microSD
+Has stock JellyBean (Android 4.1)
+HD playback capability
|-Speakers may be covered when housed in a case
-Hidden Google apps
-Can only charge with AC adapter
-Occasional Lockups and Freezes
|Scores::||8 out of 10|
|Value / Price:|
Disclosure:This product was given to Review the Tech for review by the company for review purposes only, and is not considered by us as payment for the review, we do not, and never will, accept payment from companies to review their products. This product may have also been bought by us for review purposes and does not influence the review.