by | December 1, 2015 | Reviews


It would be fair to say that Cube was one of the pioneers in the convertible Windows tablet lineup in China. At the very beginning of last year, they created the iWork Line with the introduction of the Cube iWork 10, which comes with an Intel Atom Bay-trail Z3740D processor, a 10.1-inch IPS display at the resolution of 1280*800, and a foldable keyboard cover. And then since the beginning of 2015, they went a little bit further by introducing the Cube i7 series, an enhanced lineup of ultrabook & tablet hybrids powered by the much beefier Core-M 5Y10c processor. Although the Cube i7, the Cube i7-CM and the Cube i7 Stylus received positive feedback from their users, their price tags can be a little uninviting for customers with a tighter budget. And the relatively shorter battery life of those Core-M powered systems (compared to tablets running on Atom SoC) is also proven to be unacceptable for some.

Here comes the all new Intel Cherry-trail SoC lineup, Intel’s very first Atom chips built on the 14nm process. With a stronger CPU setup and an upgraded Intel Graphics HD Gen8 GPU, they are promised to boost the performance by up to 50% compared to the Bay-trail series SoCs with even less power consumption.

We reviewed the Cube i7 Stylus (Core-M 5Y10c, HD Graphics 5300) a few weeks ago — now all we have left is its 10.6-inch sister model, the Cube iWork 11 Stylus. Both devices are complete Windows tablets, and each can be paired up with an optional keyboard dock and an optional Wacom pen. Externally, the two devices look the same. But when it comes to their technological inner workings, there are a few big differences: the i7 Stylus runs on a Core-M processor, whereas the iWork 11 Stylus is equipped with an Atom processor. The i7 Stylus has a Solid State Drive, whereas the iWork 11 Stylus comes with eMMC storage. Also, the iWork 11 Stylus runs the 32-bit version of Windows 10 instead of the 64bit we’ve seen on the i7 Stylus.

 

 

Cube iWork 11 Stylus Specs

OS: Windows 10 (32-bit)
Screen: 10.6-inch IPS, 10-point multi-touch, IGZO
Display Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
CPU: Intel Atom Cherry-trail X5-Z8300
CPU Frequency: 1.44GHz (Base clock) – 1.8GHZ (Turbo clock)
GPU: Intel Graphics HD Gen8
RAM / Storage: 4GB DDR3L / 64GB eMMc Storage
Function: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB Host, HDMI
WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi direct
Camera: 5MP back camera, 2MP front camera
Battery: 3.7V – 8,600mAh
Ports: Micro SD Card Slot, Micro USB 3.0 Port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack, DC Charging Port, Mini HDMI Port
Size: 273.77*172.03*10.5mm, Weight: 673g
Color: Black front and blue rear

 

 

Design and build

If you’ve seen the Cube i7 Stylus in the flesh, the iWork 11 Stylus looks exactly the same. It has a sturdy but sleek metal body, gently curved corners and wide black bezel, and a subtle Windows logo on the front. It consistently feels great in hand, and shrugs off smudges well. With the proper screen protection, it could easily survive the day-to-day rigors of a traveling professional, and even the occasional drop.

Like always, the front is dominated by a 10.6-inch IPS display, and you can find a front-facing camera above and a Windows Home key under that display.

There are two physical buttons on board, a power/standby key and a volume rocker, both sitting on the top side of the tablet.

All the ports and slots are hosted on the left side. You can find a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Micro USB 3.0 port, a mini HDMI port, a Micro SD card slot and a DC charging port on board.

There is a 5-contact magnetic port on the bottom side, and it is designed to connect with the keyboard base.

The rear side of the tablet is coated in blue, which makes the tablet look more interesting than just another piece of cold, black technology. Unfortunately, the blue coating proves to be easy to scratch. As a matter of fact, the Cube i7 series tablets also have the same issue, maybe it’s time Cube should find another approach to coat the metallic back of their tablets.

Build quality of the tablet is nice and solid, but still not altogether as epic as the Surface 3, which includes a flexible kickstand and a full USB 3.0 port.

The iWork 11 Stylus weighs 673 grams and measures 10.5mm thick, a little heavier and thicker than the Microsoft Surface 3. But it still ranks as one of the more compact convertible Windows tablets in the market. And you could hold it in your hands for a relatively long time before actually feeling the burden.

 

 

Display and sound

The Cube iWork 11 Stylus has a 10.6-inch IPS display, with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio. In terms of pixel density, the iWork 11 Stylus has about 208 pixels per inch. It definitely pales in comparison with those high-end Android tablets and flagship smartphones, but is still one of the front-runners in the laptop or convertible Windows tablet category.

As can be expected from a Full HD IPS panel, the iWork 11 Stylus’ screen looks stunning. Viewing angles are wide, colors accurate, and it shrugs off glare quite well, definitely much better than the TN panels on average laptops.

If there is a complaint, it’s that things can feel a bit tinnier on the desktop side compared to bigger convertibles such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, owing to the slightly smaller screen. Though it supports touch, users will likely turn to a mouse, touchpad, or pen for navigation here, as the desktop requires a good amount of precision.

The speakers are very well placed on the right side of the tablet. The sound is flat, but it’s balanced well enough with little to no distortion, and the volume is acceptable for watching videos in a quiet room. If you plug in a pair of high-end headphones or nice speakers, you will notice that the iWork 11 Stylus actually beats most of the Android tablets and smartphones in terms of sound quality.

 

 

Pen and touchscreen

The stylus is a big point of differentiation from ordinary Windows 8 tablets. The good news is that the pen paired with the Cube iWork Stylus is based on Wacom technology, which means it is snappy and super responsive, and a genuine pleasure to use on the tablet’s high-resolution screen, the bad news is that you won’t find it in the retail package of the iWork 11 Stylus because the pen is sold separately for $32.

Unlike the tiny pen hidden in the back of the Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro, the pen that’s paired with the i7 Stylus is the size of a normal ink pen, with an eraser button on one end and a large button placed comfortably on the side. Click it and you have a right-mouse button with a beautifully positive action.

Writing with the pen in applications such as OneNote, Microsoft Office programs or in the handwriting recognition panel of the on-screen keyboard is smooth and accurate.

Certain applications can even make use of the pen’s 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. For example, it makes the pen very much of a joy for working in Photoshop or in natural media painting tools such as ArtRage or Fresh Paint.

The pen is also very accurate for selecting small icons in a complex interface such as Photoshop, or opening a link on an heavily loaded web page (much easier than the small touchpad on the Keyboard base, or your finger on the screen).

The combination of pen and touchscreen makes i7 Stylus extraordinarily versatile for drawing, sketching, painting, image editing and note taking.

The keyboard base designed for the i7 Stylus and iWork 11 Stylus features a slot for the Wacom pen, so when you are not using it, you can just push it into the keyboard. But in an ideal world, we’d prefer to have a permanent place to keep the pen on the tablet itself, instead of on the keyboard base. As we do often use the i7 Stylus as a standalone tablet, and only need to connect it to the keyboard base when we need to do a lot of typing.

 

 

Keyboard base

The keyboard base can easily be attached to the iWork 11 Stylus via the 5-contact magnetic connectors, instantly turning the tablet into a full notebook computer. Sadly, the keyboard base can only make the iWork 11 Stylus stand with a fixed angle, which can be uncomfortable to use sometimes.

Here, the keys aren’t as squished as the ones on the Microsoft Surface Type Cover. The keyboard for the iWork 11 Stylus is more expansive, with no shrunken or undersized keys. It didn’t take me long before I was typing at my usual brisk pace.

The keys offer decent travel, with every keystroke, I make a loud “clack,” letting anyone around me know I’m getting stuff done. It isn’t my favorite keyboard, but I do feel comfortable enough. Also, the Cube keyboard base is not as flimsy as the Surface Type Cover, Instead it is as sturdy and comfortable as most laptop keyboards.

The Cube keyboard base brings a touchpad as well, and that’s a good thing, because the latest Windows 10 update made the OS much more mouse-and-keyboard friendly. Even though the touchpad is pretty precise and responsive, it’s still many steps behind the sort of glass touchpad you’d find on the MacBook Air. It sometimes takes multiple tries to get two-finger scrolling to work. Ditto for clicking and dragging windows and other objects around the screen. Other times, I accidentally navigated backward out of a web page when I was really trying to do some other sort of gesture. If you intend the iWork 11 Stylus to be your daily driver, you are better off with a mouse.

The Keyboard base also features 2 Full USB 2.0 ports, making it easier for the tablet to connect to a mouse or external storage devices.

 

 

Software and interface

The iWork 11 Stylus runs licensed Windows 10 Home Edition (32-bit) out of the box. Like the convertible tablet, the Windows 10 itself is also something of a hybrid, with both desktop and the Windows Store apps, touch and keyboard, the control panel and the finger-friendly PC Settings app.

On the iWork 11 Stylus, as long as you’re comfortable with gestures such as swiping to open the charms bar, switching apps and closing an app you don’t want, the two fit together almost seamlessly.

Below are major improvements we found in Windows 10:

 

1. Customized placement of the start menu.

Microsoft brought back the dearly missed Start Menu, and it is stronger and more inclusive than ever.

 

2. Enhanced screen split function.

Not only can users have more Windows store apps running in split screen mode, they can even run those titles like traditional PC programs on desktop.

 

3. Virtual desktop.

The highly appreciated virtual desktop has also been brought to Windows 10.

 

4. Cortana

Cortana brings plenty of notable features to Windows 10. While setting it up, you can choose to have Cortana always listening to your commands (enabled by saying “Hey Cortana!”). You can ask her about basic things like the current weather or what’s on your schedule, or you could have her search the web using Bing. Cortana can answer some queries without even launching a web browser. If you’re not a fan of voice commands, you can also type in queries into the Cortana search box on the taskbar, and you can choose to have her only activate voice commands when you hit a button.

 

5. Edge

Edge may be the most elegant piece of software to come from Microsoft. Its interface is simple: tabs on the top; back, forward and refresh buttons below; and an address bar. The latter is smarter than other browsers as it also features Cortana (without the voice commands). You can type in questions and often get them answered right within Edge’s location bar — no need to hit Enter to complete your search. That’s something Google has been dabbling with in Chrome, but Edge takes it to another level.

You can manage your Favorites, Reading List entries (articles you save to read later), History and Downloads from Edge’s Hub, which mostly stays out of the way until you need it. Microsoft also gave Edge annotating capabilities: You can highlight and mark up web pages any way you like (the Surface’s stylus comes in handy for this) and send them off to Evernote with just a few clicks. Those marked-up pages also retain your notes when you visit them again.

Unfortunately, the iWork 11 Stylus comes with only Office Mobile, which can be used to do some basic editing to the Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets.

If you need the more productive desktop version of Microsoft Office, the most important productive tools for any device that runs Windows OS, you will need to pony up.

 

 

Performance

The fundamental difference between the iWork 11 Stylus and the i7 Stylus is the internal setup. The iWork 11 Stylus runs on an Intel Atom X5-Z8300 processor and 4GB RAM. This Cherry-trail generation CPU is outfitted with four cores and has a clock frequency from 1.44 GHz – 1.8GHz. With a more entry-level Atom processor and a slower eMMc drive, it is easy for us to expect a significant drop in performance with the iWork 11 Stylus compared to its pricier sister tablet. But fortunately, that’s not often the case.

As you could expect, when compared to the i7 Stylus, it takes a few seconds longer for the iWork 11 Stylus to boot into Windows 10 and approximately half a second more to resume from hibernation.

In the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the iWork 11 Stylus got relatively good score for a device with eMMc drive, although still no match for those high-end systems with SSD storage

You could also notice the slowdown in starting heavy desktop applications and rendering multiple image-heavy web pages. But for the basic office tasks, it is difficult to tell the difference in speed.

Compared to those earlier Bay-trail powered Windows tablets, the iWork 11 Stylus is indeed a lot faster. Thanks both to the upgraded SoC and more RAM. The system always runs sturdily and fluidly, and there is obviously less struggle in handling several desktop programs at the same time. I can edit some of my excel sheets with some video playback on top, and several social networking applications in the background, and still the system remains pretty responsive.

Benchmarks also tell the story, as you can see that the iWork 11 Stylus handily beats the Bay-trail powered ASUS T100A tablet in all benchmark tests, especially in the more graphics-focused tests.

 

 

Temperature

The iWork 11 Stylus did not warm up excessively in our tests. During our stress test, the internal temperature barely crossed the 60 °C line (from readings of the Ludashi benchmark), and I never feel too much heat on its case. For a fanless system, it is pretty amazing.

 

 

Connectivity

Besides the tailor-made keyboard base and the Wacom pen, the Cube iWork 11 Stylus offers a lot of other connectivity options. The Wi-Fi 802.11n/b/g takes good care of internet surfing, while the Bluetooth 4.0 makes it possible for the iWork 11 Stylus to connect with external input devices and audio systems without occupying the ports. The Micro USB 3.0, when connected to a mobile drive with a standard OTG cable, can still manage high-speed data transfer.

You can add a Micro SD card (up to 128GB) on top of the 64GB internal storage.

The Mini HDMI port makes it possible to connect to larger displays such as monitors, HDTVs and projectors. Every time I came back from a business trip, I would like to connect my laptop to the 24-inch desktop monitor in my bedroom, and that’s when the HDMI port could come in handy.

 

 

Battery life

The iWork 11 Stylus packs an 8,600mAh Li-Po battery under its hood, which is the same amount of battery capacity used in the i7 Stylus. With a less power-hungry SoC, we were definitely expecting an outstanding battery life from this tablet.

Fortunately, in idle mode, the energy consumption rate is very low — as per usual with devices outfitted with Atom CPUs. Under load as well, the convertible’s energy use is also reasonable. In our standard cngadget battery rundown test, where we set the display brightness at a fixed 50%, and loops a 1080P video with Wi-Fi on, the iWork 11 Stylus lasted 7 hours and 17 minutes, which is 2 hours longer than the result the Cube i7 Stylus scored in the same test.

In the real world use, the iWork 11 Stylus’ battery performance is equally impressive. Working on office documents, and streaming YouTube videos for 3 to 4 hours on a daily basis, I will only have to charge the tablet every 2 days. During my business trip, where I had to use the iWork 11 Stylus checking emails, signing papers with the Wacom pen, and working on some business documents and presentations. I can leave the tablet unplugged for an entire day.

 

 

Cameras

Like other Windows tablets we’ve tested before, the iWork 11 Stylus doesn’t have impressive cameras. The nice thing is, the front-facing camera, actually the only useful camera, is decent enough for video-chatting when there is nice lighting. The rear camera is merely just there for the sake of being there, I don’t think you would want to use it for Instagram and Facebook updates, while even the cheapest smartphone could do the job a million times better.

 

 

Verdict

Fundamentally, the Cube iWork 11 Stylus makes a reasonably good impression. At a price of about $219, the buyer gets a complete Windows tablet. And for $63 more, they can get a connectable keyboard and a Wacom Pen to enhance the productivity. The keyboard is absolutely sufficient for practical, everyday use. We have typed on lots of considerably worse tablet keyboards, including the newest Surface Type Cover. Alongside two USB 2.0 ports, the keyboard dock also has a touchpad. The tablet is outfitted with a stunning Full HD IPS panel and a pressure-sensitive touchscreen which is compatible with the Wacom pen. Although only powered by an Atom processor, the tablet’s performance is absolutely sufficient for all the everyday tasks it was created for, and the 4GB working memory even enables it to take care of some serious multitasking. The 9,000mAh non-removable battery under the hood can keep the system working for an entire day, unplugged.

There are some minor cons – the 64GB eMMc drive is much slower than the SSD used in the i7 series tablets, and the blue coating of the tablet’s rear side is very easy to scratch. But none of them really matters when you take the price into consideration. The iWork 11 Stylus won’t fully replace your desktop PC or high-end laptop for demanding 3D gaming and heavy productivity work, but it serves very well as a travelling companion which helps you take care of your daily office tasks, web-browsing and social networking.

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