Review of Mercury mTab StreaQ


Mercury mTab StreaQ Android Tablet - Packing Box
Mercury mTab StreaQ Android Tablet – Packing Box

I do this massive amount of research online, trying to determine which Android Tablet will give the best bang for my buck. Which Tablet is the right penny-pinching performance alternative for me. And then, I land up at my Friend’s computer peripherals shop, take a look at what’s on offer and pick up something based purely on what the box says on the outside.

Tens of hours wasted and risk of throwing away money. But then, I might have wasted more time roaming between malls trying to glean what is available in the brick-mortar shops or thrown away even more money in buying untested electronics over the Internet.

Except websites like LensKart & WatchKart, no one provides a hassle-free Satisfaction Guarantee (aka Goods Return). I figured, if it came down to risking hard-earned cash, I am better off doing it with the expectation of local support.

Of all the tablets present on the shelves, I decided to purchase the Mercury mTab StreaQ Android Tablet. Will an impulsive purchase like this prove to be wise?

Specifications:

The Tab is a pretty standard affair with MediaTek MTK 6575 Processor, 1GB DDR3 RAM, 512MB ROM, 8GB Internal Storage, 2.0 MP Rear Camera and 0.3 MP Front Camera. The installed OS is Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich version). The tablet supports Micro-SD card based external storage (up-to 32 GB) and External USB Pen-drive support.

 Mercury’s own website erroneously lists the tab as having 512MB DDR3 RAM while the actual RAM available on the tablet is indeed 1 GB. The 8GB Internal storage is effectively 5.7 GB.

The Good:

  • 7" Capacitive Touch Screen
    7″ Capacitive Touch Screen

    The Tab has a 5-point 7″ capacitive touch-screen with 1024 x 600 pixels resolution. The effective DPI works out to 160 dpi. Most tablets featuring 7″ screens only have a 800 x 600 display, so to see a tablet offering ‘Normal’ browsing experience is nice. Websites that are not yet ‘Responsive’ or offer a Mobile-phone version, work perfectly well with the 1024 resolution. The 160 dpi display results in excellent text quality in Google Books & Amazon Kindle App.

  • The Tablet features 2 SIM Slots and can make Phone Calls! Though this ability makes it a ‘Phablet’ and it is probably the biggest Phablet available in India, I will continue to think of it as a MID (Mobile Internet Device). The SIMs are also used for accessing the Internet over 3G. I added my Gmail account to the Gmail app on the tablet and instantly all my contacts in Gmail showed up on the tablet and I was able to place calls to them normally. The tablet comes with a Head-set and I prefer to call using the Wired Headset or my Bluetooth headset. Holding up 7″ piece of electronics to my ear is just not my cup of tea.
  • The Tablet has USB On-The-Go (OTG) support and even came with an USB OTG adapter. USB OTG allows you to connect USB Pen Drives and USB HDDs (Not Bus Powered) to the tablet and access their content. It worked flawlessly with my collection of HP & SanDisk pendrives. The Pen-drive contents became available at “/mnt/usbotg” mount location and even the built-in Android file-manager was able to access it. A note of caution: If you mount a USB Drive, do not just plug-it out. Unmount it first. To unmount the USB drive, goto Settings > Storage (Device) > Unmount USB Storage.
  • Fully array of Input / Output Ports
    Fully array of Input / Output Ports

    The Tablet has HDMI support. Though the tablet did not come with the required cable, I had one (Amazon Basics – HDMI to HDMI Mini cable) and I was able to connect the tablet to my Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV as well as Panasonic 32″ LCD TV without any issues. The tablet supports a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels over HDMI, hence image sharpness was noticeably missing on my Panasonic 50″ Plasma with Full-HD display.

  • The tablet body is coated in Non-slip black-rubber coating. In addition, the rear of the tablet has deep-groove pattern that further aids tablet grip. While the rubber coating does pick up oil-prints, it is relatively easy to wipe off and there is only a slim chance that it will fall from sweaty paws.
  • The tablet features both Front and Rear cameras. predictably, the rear camera is of relatively higher resolution (2 Megapixels) while the front camera is VGA resolution (0.3 MP). Both the cameras work well. They are neither quality nor speed champs but they work pretty well in Skype / Google Hangout. The camera app features basic scene modes and ability to record continuous stills, video-clips and panorama images (automatically stitched). Note that the tablet is missing a Flash. While the LED Flashes on phones and tablet is as powerful as a single matchstick, it’s complete omission is odd but not sorely missed.
  • The tablet features FM Radio. It requires that you connect the wired headset because it acts as the FM Antenna. At Hyderabad, the tablet quickly detected FM Radio-stations and added them to the Channels List. Audio reception was loud and clear and recording from FM is supported.
  • The tablet also features a FM Transmitter. Apparently, the tablet can transmit it’s audio over the FM transmitter to your Car Radio and you can enjoy music without having to upgrade to a Head-unit that features either Auxiliary input or Bluetooth input. {I am yet to test this feature}
  • Colour rendition on the tablet’s display is very good. I tested it with DroidSail Display Expert (Lite) and not only the tablet was able to show graduated gray shades, the grays themselves were perfectly neutral with no colour casts. Rendition of spectrum colours was rich and true. Defects such as Dead Pixels, Stuck Pixels, Back-light Defects, Geometric defects etc. were completely absent.
  • The laptop packs numerous networking / connectivity options such as WiFi-N, Bluetooth, 3G, GPRS, USB etc. It also came with a USB Cable to connect the tablet to the PC for File-transfers or USB Debugging. The supplied Charger delivers 5V DC – 1A. The tablet can take up-to 4 hours to charge fully from completely discharged state.
  • Green LED indicator for Missed Calls, new SMS and Email Messages
    Green LED indicator for Missed Calls, new SMS and Email Messages

    The Android OS is the stock android. The manufacturer has not modified in any way except for changing the Start-up screen. In fact, the Application Menu even provides the option to disable an App! This should make it relatively easy to ‘root’ the tablet. In fact, I went ahead and rooted the tablet without any hassle using Bin4Ry’s Many Android Rooting Tool.

  • Unlike many tablets (particularly ones from Karbonn Mobiles), this tablet does not display any touch-screen issues while the tablet is charging. I could continue using the tablet while the tablet was connected to the charger and being charged. I was also able to charge the tablet by connecting it to my Laptop over USB.
  • A nice touch on the tablet is the presence of a Green LED indicator inside the USB port. Upon receipt of email / SMS, this indicator blinks till you acknowledge the notice. This port also has a Red LED indicator that blinks to indicate low-battery condition.
  • The tablet can connect to your computer in 3 modes: 1) USB Storage – This mode is compatible with all Operating Systems but you must remember to Safely Eject the tablet or you will face data corruption. 2) Media Device – This mode works seamlessly with Windows 7 and above. Windows XP requires installation of drivers (not provided). This mode makes it easy to copy files to the tablet and the tablet may be unplugged without worries. 3) Camera Mode – In this mode, the device connects to the computer using Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) and you must use a compatible software (for ex: Google Picasa) to download the photos taken by the tablet.

The Bad:

  • The tablet features a MediaTek MTK 6575 CPU (ARM v7) at 1 GHz and PowerVR SGX 531 Graphics Accelerator. These processors are pretty old and definitely no speed champs. In fact the CPU + GPU combination on my Karbonn A21 phone beat the tablet in Quadrant benchmarks. The tab has difficulty playing 720p videos. Playing 720p videos using “MX Player Pro” that was pre-installed on the tab, resulted in dropped frames. Attempting to play in updated version of “BS Player” was worse with the video literally proceeding in Slideshow mode.
  • It appears that Mercury has installed only One speaker on the tablet at the back. The speaker is not particularly loud, does not have any bass and it is also placed very awkwardly at the back (redirecting sound towards your bed rather than your ears)
  • The placement of Speakers and Camera at the rear of the tablet has been done without much thought. Both are placed centrally in such a manner that when you hold the tablet, you are quite likely obstructing the devices. The dedicated Volume Control buttons work well, but the lack of dedicated Camera button is another issue that Mercury could have easily avoided.
  • The Tablet came pre-installed with Skype Ver. 2.5.4.1.161. This application was co-branded as Skype | tom.com Support email ID was listed as [email protected]. Telephone Support was listed as 010-67888180. Not only is this app not the actual app from Skype Inc. (now owned by Microsoft), it also appeared to be a phishing app. Thankfully, I was able to Disable this app in App Info.
  • Dual SIM (full size) and Micro SD slots.
    Dual SIM (full size) and Micro SD slots.

    While the SIM Cards slots are covered by a rubber flap, the Micro SD Card slot is completely exposed. This is a design oversight.

  • The tablet did not come with a Screen Guard; neither in the box nor installed. It had a transparent plastic cover on the display (which peeled off on it’s own). The tablet did not come with a pouch / wallet / soft-cover either. Considering the rip-off prices that manufacturers of Screen-Guards and Pouches charge, surely I must add this extraneous cost to the eventual cost of the tablet.
  • The tablet features comprehensive GPS ability. GPS EPO Assistance and A-GPS are also available to speed up location. However, in my tests, the GPS performed poorly while indoors and placed me considerably off from my actual location. The Karbonn A9+ phone did a better job. The GPS worked very well when the tablet had access to Sky. My location was determine more or less accurately as I stood in my 3rd floor balcony.

The Ugly:

  • While the MSRP of the tablet in India is approximately Rs.11500/-, it’s street price is around Rs.9700/-. Though I purchased it for Rs.9000/-, it still feels pricey for a 7″ tablet with low-end CPU. I wish the tablet was priced around 7500/-
  • The Android Market requires the use of Google Wallet to purchase books, apps, movies etc.  The first time you attempt to buy anything on the market, Google charges Rs.50/- as authentication charges. This happens even if the book you are trying to buy is free. It appears that Google does refund this amount after about 1 month. I am surprised that not only Google cannot figure out how to authenticate a Credit / Debit card without charging it, even the processing banks do not prompt you for Verfied by Visa (VBV) passwords or any other password mechanism you have opted for as additional security. Update: Google refunded Rs.50/- the next day.
  • Rubberised but Non-removable back cover.
    Rubberised but Non-removable back cover.

    The tablet’s screen brightness is quite low. Compared to the blinding brightness of Karbonn and Samsung mobiles / tablets, this tablets display has trouble keeping up with daylight even if turned to maximum. Quite predictably, the battery drained really fast and I had to put the tablet to charge after about 4 hours of low usage. In shaded / indoor conditions, keeping the display brightness at 50% is sufficient and comfortable.

  • The tablet does not feature an apparently removable back-cover. Quite possibly, service technicians will have to tear through the rubber grips to reach the hidden screws (if any) to replace battery or perform other maintenance. Since tablet makes do not use standard battery packs either, when the tablet battery reaches end-of-life, I will have to quite likely throw the tablet out into trash too.
  • The tablet’s stand-by time is relatively poor. I left the tablet fully charged but relatively unused through the day and I found at late-evening that the battery was exhausted. It took a 5 minute charge to get the tablet booted up again and I used it thereafter while leaving it connected to the charger. In active use, the tablet will probably not work beyond 3 – 4 hours. It appeared that the greatest drain on the battery were the Cellphone Radio and the WiFi radio, hence keeping them turned off when not in use should help too.
  • The tablet came pre-installed with a pirated version of “MX Player Pro”. Since this was installed as a vendor software, it is not possible for users to remove it. As long as the pirated version is installed, it is not even possible for users to update it. In fact, I succeeded in removing the app forcibly (Rooting required) but I am still unable to install the free version of MX Player from Google Play store.

Rooting Guide:

Rooting the tablet using Bin4ry’s tool turned out to be a simple affair.

The tablet uses Mediatek chipset. I turned ON USB Debugging in Tablet settings and connected it to the computer. The computer detected it as a MT-65XX device and proceeded to add it to the Device Manager using the HTC Phone Drivers that I already had installed. You can download the drivers from here: http://www.4shared.com/get/0MvyztbR/usb_driver_MT65xx_Android_ZTE_.html

Once you unzip Bin4ry’s tool, Start Command Prompt with Administrator privileges. Change Directory to the folder where you unzipped the rooting tool and execute RunMe.bat. Select Normal mode when the tool prompts and the tool should pretty much automatically root the phone in the next 3 minutes.

After rooting, I was able to configure apps like ClockSync to automatically synchronize the tablet’s clock with Atomic clock over the Internet. Apps like File Manager by Rhythm Software also get permission to access the entire File-system of the tablet without any restrictions.

On a negative note, the Spyware app Tom.com-Skype that came pre-installed on the tablet could not be removed using Titanium Backup citing error ‘Cannot find APK’. Perhaps this is the result of Chinese govt. mandated spyware installation. I was however able to disable it.

Performance Benchmark (Quadrant Ver. 2.1.1):

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Network File Copy Performance:

[table “” not found /]

USB File Copy Performance:

Operation was performed by connecting tablet to ACER 5755 (2nd Gen Core i5, 8GB RAM) Laptop using supplied USB cable. Though the cable is only USB 2.0, it was connected to the USB 3.0 port on the laptop as that port is unused entirely. TeraCopy was used to Copy the files.
[table “” not found /]

Camera Image Quality:

The tablet’s camera performance is fair. Though it is only a 2 MP shooter, it handled the extremely challenging ‘Dense Green Cover’ scene quite well. Detail is visible where I did not expect it at all. The Snapshots and the Panorama both have embedded GPS info too! (something the Karbonn Phones fail to do).

Rear Camera Snapshot Rear Camera Panorama Front Camera Snapshot
Mercury mTab StreaQ Rear Camera Snapshot Mercury mTab StreaQ Rear Camera Panorama Mercury mTab StreaQ Front Camera Snapshot

Verdict:

If you have been looking for a Tablet for book-reading and casual web-browsing, look no further. Priced way lower than Amazon’s Kindle, this product satisfies on both counts. What it does not have in terms of raw processing power for gaming, it makes up with array of additional features for the business oriented user.

In USA, the product nearest to this product seems to be the Coby 7″ Android MID. [amazonproduct=B00B2HCLL6]


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