Technophile

A good device marred by many minor issues

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 25, 2016

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The Smartron t.book could have been a homegrown challenger to the iPad Pro and Surface Pro but for its rough edges



The tablet form factor has been in the midst of an existential crisis recently. The largest smartphones are now as big as the smallest tablets and the largest tablets are equalled by the smallest ultrabooks in terms of portablity. No wonder then that manufacturers are now trying to repurpose what was originally supposed to be a media consumption slate as an all-purpose productivity tool by throwing in a keyboard, a trackpad and maybe even a pen.

Microsoft and Apple are the two most visible competitors in this segment with their Surface and iPad lines, but a newly-launched Indian startup, Smartron has entered the the fray with its t.book 2-in-1. The brand name doesn’t quite have the same prodigious recall value as its competitors’ products and there is no pen option, but the t.book is a compelling product with a very aggressive price tag that could quite easily take a massive bite out of the big two’s Indian sales.

Design

The t.book is a lot bulkier than the typical ultra-sleek tablet available in the market today. But it isn’t exactly ugly. The metallic construction feels quite solid and the orange and silver colour scheme is distinctive and unique if not instantly attractive.

While the larger proportions of the device do make it a bit unwieldy for typical tablet use such as handheld media consumption, the extra girth is justified, at least in part, by the number of ports on offer – three USB 3.0 inputs, a USB-C for charging, a microSD slot and a micro-HDMI for video out.

The kickstand offers a fairly limited radius of positioning which is only ever going to work on a hard, flat surface. Given a little practice – it is possible to get fairly proficient at using the device on your lap, even with the keyboard attached. But it is always going to be a delicate balancing act that will never come close to the ease of using an actual laptop.

Display

The 12.2-inch WQXGA display on the t.book has a 2K resolution, which is commendable, but it is also extremely reflective and more importantly an absolute glutton for fingerprints. Considering the fact that it is a touchscreen, the display almost constantly ends up clouded with fuzzy finger patterns. Despite this, the device is largely usable indoors where maximum brightness manages to paper over the cracks. But outdoors, the reflections and the fingerprints become a one-two punch that constantly threaten to knock your productivity out of gear.

Keyboard and trackpad

The detachable keyboard and trackpad combo that is bundled with the device is of decidedly lower quality than the tablet. The keyboard is the better of the two, featuring well-spaced out keys and a reasonable amount of travel.

The trackpad however, is woefully bad. It is rather small, constantly triggers special gestures during normal tracking, zooms when you’re trying to scroll and scrolls in a very jerky manner. Smartron has a software update available that is meant to fix it, and while installing it does improve the situation, the problems haven’t entirely disappeared.

Performance

Unlike a lot of budget ultrabooks and 2-in-1s, the t.book has a Core M processor instead of a unit from the much weaker Atom series. The Core M-5Y10C is paired with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128 GB SSD to provide a decent amount of processing power to the t.book. The device is capable of handling regular usage such as web browsing, office applications and multimedia quite easily and it can run the tablet-class games in the Windows Store as well. Full-blown PC games represent the proverbial line in the sand that this device cannot cross and frankly cannot be expected to considering its form factor and price.

One major issue with the t.book though is its WiFi performance. It worked fine within the confines of our office thanks to the presence of an industrial-strength WiFi network, but the device had real issues dealing with regular home WiFi networks. We tested it in multiple home network environments, and the t.book consistently struggled to connect or maintains sufficient bandwidth from a range at which other laptops and even smartphones were having no issues.

The built-in speakers are also rather useless since they’re only audible when faced with total silence. Speakers or headphones are mandatory if you want to use this device as for media playback.

The t.book automatically hibernates when the lid is brought down to the keyboard, however resuming from this state when pulled back up requires a touch or a key press more often than not. Battery life is adequate, typically lasting through about 6 hours when used exclusively for browsing and editing documents.

Verdict

Smartron – one of the rare Indian startups that has ventured into hardware instead of software – has gotten a lot right with the t.book. And the price – ₹39,999 – is unbeatable for all that this 2-in-1 offers.

However, it has a lot of rough edges and the trackpad and wireless performance are near fatal flaws that make it hard to recommend this device.

What is frustrating is that the company has excelled at the far more complicated task of design and construction, but lost out on introducing itself with a truly great debut device by including a couple of shoddy components. If the t.book is a sign of things to come though, Smartron could be a name to watch out for.

Price: ₹39,999

Love: Design, build quality, processing power

Hate: Trackpad, WiFi chip

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Published on May 25, 2016
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