As the tablet market continues shrinking, many Chinese tablet manufacturers are now focused on finding new business opportunities, marketing other digital stuffs such as wearable gadgets, mini PCs and TV boxes. Brands such as ifive and Beneve haven’t even released any new products for months. However, as the leading brand in the Chinese tablet market, Cube still manages to release new slates every month, including budget tablets such as the iWork 8 Dual OS Edition and high-end business-focused slate such as the Cube i7. The Cube i6 Air 3G Dual OS we are reviewing here is a revised version of the original Cube i6 Air 3G, which was released in the end of last year. Besides the added capability of running and switching between two operating systems, there is no other noticeable difference from the original model.
Cube i6 main specs:
- OS: Android 4.4 & Windows 8.1 with bing
- Display: 9.7-inch IPS, 10-point multi-touch, IGZO
- Screen Resolution: 2048 x 1536 (4:3)
- CPU: Intel Atom Baytrail-T Z3735F Quad-core Processor
- CPU Frequency: 1.8GHz
- GPU: Intel HD Graphic
- RAM / Storage: 2GB / 32GB
- Function: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS, OTG, Miracast
- WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi hotspot
- 3G: WCDMA 900MHz, WCDMA 2100MHz
- 2G: Network Frequency: 900MHz, 1800MHz
- Camera: 5MP back camera, 2MP front camera
- Battery: 8000mAh
- Extend Port: TF Card Slot, SIM Card Slot, Micro USB Port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack
- Weight & Size: 500 g / 237 x 170 x 8.8 mm
Design & build
The Cube i6 Air 3G Dual OS has the exact same design as the original i6 Air 3G: built upon premium looking metal materials, the feel of the tablet is very solid in hand and there are no obvious gaps or noises when handling where the front and rear panels meet.
The front is dominated by a 9.7-inch IPS capacitive screen, with a 2MP camera above (in portrait), there is a speaker gate, a rear-facing camera and some branding on the Aluminium back.
Physical keys, ports and slots are all on the sides of the tablet body. A Micro USB port (for charging and data transmission) and a 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top side, while a power button, a volume rocker, a Micro SIM card slot and a Micro SD card slot are located on the right side.
The Micro SIM tray can be easily pulled out with our own fingers, no need of an awkward ejection tool some of the tablets and smartphones require.
The tablet isn’t the lightest 9.7-incher I have picked up, but it’s still what I would consider an okay weight for this category at 500 grams, especially considering that it has a metallic rear. At 8.8mm thin it’s not chunky, nor is it super slim.
Screen and sound
The i6 Air 3G Dual OS sports a 9.7-inch IPS display at the resolution of 2048*1536, by Apple’s standards, this is a Retina display. The screen is extremely sharp and clear, the colors are rich and vivid.
Viewing angles are good, generally as what you would expect from an IPS screen. And the brightness is decent, as well, but due to the reflectiveness of the screen it would be nice if it could go a few notches higher, especially when used outdoors.
I encountered no fixed or dead pixels on my unit, unlike the Teclast P98 Air I reviewed which had two fixed/stuck pixels. I noticed no light bleed on the i6 Air 3G Dual OS’ display, either.
With that said, this is still far from being the best tablet display we have laid our eyes on. Already spoiled by the Quad HD PLS displays on the SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 and the super vibrant AMOLED displays on the SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab S series, the i6’s display could only be rated “good” by our standards now, even though it is better than most of the displays on tablets priced under $200.
The 5-point capacitive touch screen was highly sensitive to our gestures, allowing us to pinch-zoom, swipe with ease and draw with all the fingers on one hand in Windows Paint.
The T100’s speakers delivered audio that was loud enough to fill a large room. Whether we were playing Ed Sheeran’s bass-heavy “Sing” or the Toni Braxton’ guitar-centric “Spanish Guitar”, the sound was fairly accurate, though a bit hollow and tinny. The 3.5mm audio jack has a good loud volume output with plenty of bass and clarity. However I heard a buzz of electrical interference every now and then over my headphones when not playing music or videos. When there was active audio output, the issue was not as noticeable.
The i6 Air 3G Dual OS only comes with a 32GB eMMC storage option at this stage and this is unlikely to change. Our unit has an eMMC flash chip, which produced some good speed and very nice 4K random write scores for an eMMC drive. But here also comes a sign of oddity if you look at the default partition scheme. The 32GB of eMMc storage integrated is split up into two partitions: Windows is on one (24GB), Android 4.4.4 is on another (8GB). There’s no direct, automatic sharing of photos, documents, or other app data between the two operating systems. The explanation by Cube makes sense – it is to prevent users from deleting important system files of one OS while they are running on the other OS. Fortunately, the Micro SD card slot supports cards up to 64GB, and is the only mean for the two operating systems to share files.
As the model name indicates, this is a cellular tablet which has access to 3G network (WCDMA and GSM). The reason why Cube doesn’t give a 2015 tablet 4G support is probably due to the cost of making this device. Still, it does offer enough data speed for most tasks such as web browsing, social network feeds and online chatting. The i6 can even make phone calls in Android, but we would not suggest anyone to do that unless their smartphones run out of juice.
Besides 3G and Wi-Fi, the i6 Air 3G Dual OS also offers a lot of other connectivity options: the built-in Bluetooth 4.0 makes it easy for us to connect the tablet with headphones or input devices, the GPS can be used to precisely tell your location.
The Micro USB port on board supports USB on the go, and connect USB storage or input devices via an adapter.
With most of the dual boot tablets, you get a boot screen selector with a choice of Android or Windows when you boot them, but with the i6 Air 3G Dual OS, you don’t. The tablet will automatically enter the operating system from which you shut the tablet down.
Switching between the two operating systems is conveniently accomplished by tapping a software icon on the screen. The switch isn’t instantaneous, the tablet need to perform a full reboot to enter the other operating system, but fortunately it only takes less than half a minute.
Cube has done zero customizations to both operating systems, so you get a clean Windows 8.1 and a stock Android 4.4, which is not a bad thing, especially for people driven insane by the poorly designed UIs on some of the Chinese budget smartphones.
Powered by an Intel Bay-trail Z3735F with a clock speed of 1.3GHZ and a maximum boost speed of 1.8GHz and coupled with 2GB of RAM, this dual boot tablet can tackle basic office and web tasks with ease. It can even play 4k video, but the screen doesn’t match the full 4K resolution, and there isn’t HDMI port on board to output the graphics to a larger display.
Intel’s integrated graphics pale in comparison to high-end cards from AMD and Nvidia, but they’re still a lot quicker than even the best-of-the-best integrated GPUs from the ARM chipmakers. In the 3D Mark Ice Storm test, the i6 Air 3G Dual OS returned a score of “maxed out”. In other benchmarks’ 2D and 3D segment, the i6 also got relatively high marks.
Benchmarks aside, in the real world use, the i6 performed like a boss in Android, handling even the heaviest Android tasks with ease. In Windows, things are a little different, all the apps installed from the Windows 8 app store ran smoothly on the i6, with no lag or stutters at all; the i6 did struggle a little bit with some of the demanding Windows desktop applications such as graphic-intense 3D games as well as image and video editing software. Fortunately, the most important productivity tool – the Microsoft Office, which was perfectly compatible with touchscreen operations, ran smoothly on this slate. Even better, the retail version of the i6 Air 3G Dual Boot includes 1 year subscription of Microsoft Office 365, making the tablet an even better bargain.
Cube claims the i6 Air 3G Dual OS can get 6 hours of battery life in video playback, and that’s almost exactly what we got during our time with this slate. The tablet packs an 8,000mAh irremovable Li-Po battery, which is the standard for a Chinese tablet this size. With 30% brightness (which is more than sufficient for indoor use) and Wi-Fi on surfing the internet and dong a few light tasks, I was able to get around 6 hours from the i6 Air in Windows or around 5.5 hours in Android. In our standard cngadget battery rundown test, the tablet lasted 6 hours and 19 minutes looping a 1080P MP4 video in Android before shutdown due to battery drain.
The i6 Air 3G Dual OS has two cameras on board, one on the front and one on the rear. You don’t need anything better than the front-facing 2MP camera for video chatting, and the rear-facing 5MP camera also takes decent photos for Facebook and Instagram updates, and the shots even better those taken by some budget smartphones in overall image quality. But we would still not recommend anyone use a tablet this big as their main camera device.
Above are some photos taken by the rear camera.
The Cube i6 Air 3G Dual OS is one of the better bargains in Chinese tech today. For only RMB999 ($161), you get a full licensed Windows 8.1 running on a 9.7-inch Retina IPS display, one year of Microsoft Office 365, 3G connectivity and access to all your favorite applications in Android Google Play. That’s not to say this tablet is perfect. The 24GB storage partition for Windows 8.1 is too small, the battery life isn’t all that satisfactory, you cannot actively choose the OS you want to enter in boot screen and there isn’t a hardware Windows Key on board.
If you want a more premium Windows slate today, you’ll need to go for a much more expensive Intel Core-powered tablet, such as the $581 Cube i7 or the $403 PIPO Work-W8. However, if you want a 9.7-inch Windows 8.1 tablet that’s good enough for most everyday tasks or a power Android slate, the i6 Air 3G Dual OS is an extremely compelling choice.
- Nice design and solid build.
- Amazing display.
- Licensed Windows 8.1 and one year subscription of Office 365.
- Powerful performance in Android and decent performance in Windows 8.1.
- Cellular network access and phone functions.
- Audible buzz of electrical interference with headphones.
- Below-average battery life.
- No physical Windows key.
- No OS selector in bootscreen.
- No HDMI output.