When manufacturers compete on price, the only winners are the customers.
Just over a decade ago, when Android was still in its infancy and Apple had just launched the iPhone, Asus debuted the Eee PC 701, a tiny computer that gave rise to the first true wave of affordable mobile computers.
Compact, portable, hackable and cheap, it was like almost nothing else before it and triggered a voracious appetite for light and then thin-and-light laptops.
Fast forward to 2017 and we have the Teclast Tbook 10 S, a 2-in-1 convertible tablet PC which is, in some fashion, the spiritual child of the first Eee PC.
The Tbook 10 S is part of a new generation of devices which have been designed, built and sold by Chinese manufacturers like Teclast, cutting out any middlemen and delivering outstanding value-for-money to the end user – although this comes at a (hidden) price.
The model that we reviewed is supplied with a soft cover keyboard, Teclast’s own take on Microsoft’s Type Cover that comes with the Surface 2-in-1 tablets. It costs £21.75 ($ 28) and has a foldable stand.
The better fit, though, has to be the TL-T10S which is an accompanying metal keyboard dock that matches the colour scheme of the Tbook 10 S. At £41.66 ($ 56), it is more expensive but you’re guaranteed a better typing experience and it has a full-size USB port as well.
The tablet itself is beautiful constructed with a champagne gold finish that’s a far cry from the days of poorly glued together parts commonly seen in early tablets. It is made of milled CNC metal (aluminum) as well which makes it far sturdier than a lot of its rivals.
With a footprint of 245 x 166mm, a thickness of only 8mm and a weight of 565g, the Teclast Tbook 10 S is surprisingly portable thanks to a thinner-than-usual bezel (only 13mm) that surrounds the 10.1-inch display. Indeed, the bezel is so thin that the Windows home button can barely fit in.
There’s a front-facing camera (2-megapixel model to match the screen) on the bezel and along the edges you’ll find one POGO connector (for hooking up the keyboard), two speakers, a microphone, a proprietary power connector, a mini-HDMI connector, a microUSB – which can be used to charge the laptop – and a microSD card reader, a power switch and volume buttons.
The back is adorned with a white Teclast logo and there’s no rear camera, which may come as a surprise for some.
In terms of tech spec, the Tbook 10 S is miles ahead of the 10-year-old Eee PC 701, naturally. It has as much system memory as the 701 had on-board storage (4GB) and everything else is several orders of magnitude better.
The tablet runs Windows 10 and Android 5.1 (which is not upgradable); you can choose between the two operating systems at startup using a simple point and click interface.
Teclast’s tablet is powered by an Intel x5-Z8350 CPU, which is the absolute cheapest x86 CPU available on the market. This Cherry Trail model has four cores, four threads, runs at 1.44GHz, has 2MB cache and a TDP of only 2W.
Oddly enough, Intel’s documentation suggests that it supports only 2GB of system memory although the TBook 10 S has twice that amount. The Intel HD Graphics 400 GPU that comes on this system-on-a-chip has 12 execution units and a frequency of 200MHz.
As expected, it uses slower eMMC storage (Sandisk SEM64G) to cut corners and offer as much capacity as possible. However, don’t expect miracles as the presence of two operating systems eats into the free storage allocation.
Inside are the necessary RF components for 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, as well as a 6.02Wh/5.8Ah battery.
The star of the show has to be the 10.1-inch IPS display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution that translates into a near Retina Display pixel density of 224 PPI, and a level of sharpness usually only found on more expensive devices.
Although the display delivers some punchy colors and great viewing angles, it’s hampered by a relatively low level of brightness, as well as the fact that it is a glossy screen which is a magnet for greasy fingerprints.
The detachable keyboard we tested was basically okay for the price. We had low expectations given said budget pricing, along with the fact that it is a soft cover, and the small size of the tablet – the latter means small keys, with the sort of typing issues associated with these.
The touchpad surface area is minuscule as well so touch-typers beware! This is clearly a peripheral that’s only suitable for light edits and/or short typing sessions, otherwise you might find yourself pulling your hair out over typing mistakes.
As for battery life, it is relatively poor at 5 hours 28 minutes. That’s to be expected since its battery has a low capacity and Windows 10 is not particularly known for being frugal with power (compared to Android or iOS, that is).
When it comes to performance, don’t expect miracles – this is the absolute bottom of the barrel. Using the cheapest CPU with 4GB of RAM and slow eMMC storage produced miserably low numbers which effectively resigns this machine to a range of niche scenarios.
A bit of YouTube, browsing, checking your emails or playing Android games should be fine. But anything taxing – including recent games – is likely to be painfully slow.
In all honesty, there’s not really any competition at this price range. Yes, that’s right – no rivals (well, almost). You will find tablets that cost the same but only deliver a fraction of what the Teclast Tbook 10 S has to offer, or you’ll find tablets with the same hardware spec but they’ll cost more than twice the price.
The Linx 10.1 10 v64 scores poorly against Teclast’s effort despite costing significantly more – around £220 ($ 290) at the time of writing. It has a slower processor and an HD display but claims to have a higher battery life at seven hours, and does include a keyboard cover and a standard USB port.
The Onda oBook11 Plus is another potential rival. It costs around the same but has a slower CPU and half the storage. It has a larger display though (albeit with a lower resolution) which may attract some prospective buyers.
The Jumper EZpad 4S Pro is the closest to the Tbook 10S in terms of features and price. It has a bigger screen (with a lower resolution) and exactly the same hardware components inside. The only thing missing is the dual-booting OS aspect.
The Tbook 10 S is the budget tablet to beat if you can live with its shortcomings, some of which are intrinsic (like the poor battery life and the absence of a rear camera), with other drawbacks due to the nature of the retailer.
Regardless, more and more people are jumping ship and it comes as no surprise that UK traffic to some of the big Chinese retail players – like AliExpress – have surpassed established names like John Lewis or Debenhams, a clear indication that there are thousands ready to take risks in order to get a bargain.
And what a bargain the Tbook 10 S is. Its gorgeous screen, dual-booting operating systems, and reasonably decent specs combined with a killer price means that you will be hard pressed to get anything as capable as this wallet-friendly offering anytime soon.
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