Though I bought the Mercury mTAB streaQ tab for my wife, I have pretty much annexed it. The tab is not so great at multimedia (slow performance, unremarkable screen, poor sound) but terrific for ebook reading, browsing websites, email checking etc.
I was looking for a economical multimedia tab that my wife could use to browse Youtube to her heart’s content. The tab should have a reasonably large display, be light-weight, have decent sound and most of all – be able to decode and play 720p FLV, MKV and MP4 videos.
I thought I found my solution when I came across the Karbonn Velox ST8 tab. It was available at Indiatimes for just Rs.5500/- and seemed like terrific value. The few reviews available online sounded good. My only reservation was the performance of the touch screen while the tab was being charged. Karbonn devices have a well-known malady where the capacitive touch-screen becomes unusable while the device is being charged. This is due to accumulation of charge on top of the screen and the device’s failure to drain the charge.
Karbonn Mobile’s Website lists the tab’s features in a very sketchy manner. I actually had to glean tab specifications from 3rd party websites. The tab features:
- 8″ TFT screen
- 1024 x 768 resolution
- Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean) OS
- 1.5 GHz Dual Core Processor
- Dual Core Mali-400 GPU
- 4500 mAH Battery
- WiFi-BGN, Bluetooth
- Rear camera of 2MP & Front Camera of 0.3MP
- 1 GB RAM
- 1.5 GB ROM (Internal Storage)
- 32GB SD Card Support
- USB On-The-Go (OTG) support for USB Pendrives and 3G Dongles
- Mini HDMI Out supporting 1920 x 1080 @ 60hz
Cosmetically, the tab has a generic Chinese feel. It’s attractive but not a stunner. The front of the tab is black, while the back of the tab is white. The back of the tab features groove lines, branding, port labels and speaker grills (twin speakers). The tab is not heavy and can be held by single-hand for extended durations. In fact, the weight came as a pleasant surprise when compared to the weight of Lenovo A2107 tab and Samsung Tab3 7″ that I have been dabbling with off-late.
- The tab features an average display. The panel has a narrow display angle and brightness of the display falls sharply as you angle your eyes against the surface of the tab. However, the display is bright and I had to turn the brightness down to 10 – 25% for ebook reading. The color reproduction is vivid, free of color bias and gradients are smooth and banding free (tested using Display Tester). The tab ships with brightness set to maximum and the colors on the display literally pop-out. I reduced the brightness to Zero and yet the tab remained perfectly usable for web-browsing and eBook reading.
- The touchscreen supports 5-point touch and it is responsive. Attempting to draw diagonal lines results in relatively smooth lines. The touchscreen does not exhibit any issues while the tab is charging. I could use the tab without facing random cursor jumps. This I was very afraid of, but my fears have proven to be unfounded.
- The tab comes with Mini HDMI port. Karbonn does not supply a Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable with the box and users must run to the market to acquire a compatible cable. While such cables are pretty cheap in USA (at Amazon), in India, retailers charge whatever they feel like. It would have been an admirable effort if Karbonn bundled a cable. Karbonn claims that it can drive a 1920 x 1080 display over HDMI. I connected it to my Panasonic VT50 (50″ Plasma TV) to test this claim and was pleasantly surprised to find it to be true. The tab features an option where the tab’s display can be turned off if HDMI cable is connected. This makes it easy to use the tab to watch movies on the TV without burning tab battery to run the tab LCD screen too. The tab outputs audio over HDMI. Currently I do not have the equipment to test for 5.1/Dolby/DTS audio etc.
- On the Tab’s LCD, the tab played 1080p FLV files with ease using the built-in video players. However, the display is limited to 1024 pixels width, so the software obviously re-sizes the video and much of the detail is lost. Since the tab also mirrors the same display to the TV, playing videos that are wider than 1024 pixels is pointless and a drain on the battery. Interestingly, “BS Player” was not able to play the 1080p FLV video (frame-rate between 4 – 10fps) while the pre-installed “ES Player” software was able to play this file without a hitch. Alarmingly, “ES Player” is not available on Google Play Store.
- The tab’s battery may not be the highest capacity (among tabs currently in the market), but it can pull it’s weight. A fully charged battery lasts up-to 5 hours during continuous usage and up-to 8 – 12 hours during sporadic usage. A fully discharged battery takes up-to 4 hours for full capacity recharge. In fact, I left the tab (50% battery remaining) ON all-night and was pleasantly surprised to see the battery at 25% level in the morning.
- It appears that the back-cover can be pried open. Though it does not seem to be a user-serviceable part, a removable back-plate will certainly make it easy for any repair-man to fix it.
- The tab supports USB OTG. I connected a Sandisk 4GB Pendrive using a micro USB OTG cable and it worked perfectly. The pen-drive showed up in File Manager on the tab and I was able to access files from it. Karbonn supplies a USB OTG cable along with the tab. It also supplies a USB cable to facilitate connection of the tab to a computer.
- The tab can be charged over the USB port. The tab was able to successfully charge itself by drawing power from the USB 3.0 port on my Acer 5755G Laptop.
The tab does not feature any sensors except an Accelerometer (Sensortek STK831x) and a 2Axis orientation sensaor (Amlogic). While these two sensors are enough to play most games, the tab is sorely missing sensors such as “Ambient Light Sensor” (to auto-control LCD brightness), Magnetometer etc.
- The tab does not feature a GPS sensor. While, Google Maps works (by approximating your location based on your IP address), any real-time GPS application will fail. Also, Google Maps does not feature high-quality Offline Maps feature, this tab is all but useless for navigation applications.
- The tab does not feature a SIM slot. Forget the fact that this tab does not feature Voice-calls / SMS option, the absence of a SIM slot means that the tab does not support GRPS / 3G either. This can be a severe downer for those who would like to use the tab to access email and websites during travels. The tab does support a limited number of 3G capable dongles and their list is clearly advertised by Karbonn on the product page. Additional cost will be incurred by user in purchasing such dongles and 3G subscriptions.
- The tab does not feature AM / FM Radio tuner or FM Transmitter function. Your only option for radio on the tab seems to be ShoutCast stations (Internet Radio).
- The USB data transfer speeds of the tab are nothing to write home about. The tab supports USB 2.0. Read speeds max. out at 14 MB/sec and Write speeds max. out at 4.2 MB/sec.
- The tab features two cameras. The cameras feature fixed focus lenses and lack auto-focus. The tab does not feature Flash light either. Compared to the 2MP camera on Videocon, the 2MP camera on Karbonn distinctly takes lower quality images. Color reproduction is ok with no massive color shifts. Dynamic range is poor and in the presence of strong light source looking into the camera, the foreground is reduced to black. The camera app lacks basic facilities such as Scene Modes, Self-timer, Continuous Shot etc. GPS embedding will not work either due to lack of GPS processor.
- The JPEG compression algorithm in use by the camera app seems to be targeting a file-size. Images that have extremely high-detail are saved in under 1 MB file size and detail is lost beyond acceptable levels.
- To reach 8″ display size, Karbonn chose to make a tab with a screen that features 4:3 ratio instead of the more popular (and useful) 16:9 ratio. The 4:3 ratio results in good web-browsing, book reading experience but results in black bars on top and bottom when playing wide-screen movies. The display size is only 1024 pixels wide and forms a squished inelegant display on my 50″ Widescreen Plasma TV. The tab also reports 160 dpi as the display resolution. While this resolution results in perfectly readable text, those wanting higher pixel density will be disappointed.
- The tab does not come bundled with Screen Guard, Pouch, Headphones or Memory card. The tab does feature a plastic guard installed on the screen but it is not a proper screen-guard.
- The tab is supplied with a charger that has a small round pin (like Nokia Chargers) and not a Micro / Mini USB port (as standardized by International Union of Telephony). It is sure to make life difficult for those who appreciate a device that can be charged using the the standard USB charger. I was able to charge the tab using my laptop and I think connecting a USB charger to the tab will also work.
- The tab features a measly 1.5 GB ROM to store user applications and files. Though the tab storage can be increased easily by using Micro SD Cards, I feel that Karbonn has cut way too many corners to keep the tab price down.
- The tab does not feature SIM slots or telephony features. Yet a service called “Cell Standby” was reportedly responsible for 80% of the battery usage!
- The tab has come pre-loaded with a lot of crapware. All of it is impossible to remove without rooting the tab. The list includes: Angry Birds Seasons, Google Currents, Google Drive, Google Earth (on a tab that does not feature GPS!), Ereader, ES File Explorer, Economic imes, Facebook, FileBrowser, Flipboard, Foxit PDF Reader, Justdial, Kingsoft Office, Yahoo Messenger, Movie Studio, Movie Player, nexGTvb, Paytm, Google Play Music, popi, Saavn, Times of India, TurboFly HD Demo, Google Voice Search, WeChat & Youtube. It would have been nice if Karbonn had left the installation of such apps to the user.
Karbonn has revised the ST8 tab and the current model being sold is clearly labelled as Version 2 (on the back panel). While v1 tablet was getting rooted easily using Bin4ry’s tool, v2 tab is not getting rooted using that tool and it will possibly require some other tool to root it. On xda-developers forum, users have reported success with a few tools including custom ROMs that are pre-rooted. I will try the least invasive one and report my success here.
Performance Benchmark:[table “” not found /]
WiFi File Copy Performance:[table “” not found /]
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Camera Image Quality:
|Rear Camera Snapshot||Rear Camera Panorama||Front Camera Snapshot|
For a device that is required to play music and videos, browse the web and read ebooks – this tab is a terrific option. At it’s current street-price, there does not exist another device in the market at this price-point with the same feature-set. On the other hand, Karbonn has cut quite a few corners to keep the cost low and this may be counter-productive for a section of the users who expect the tab to do a lot more.