THE GOOD: the Cube iWork 8 3G has mobile network connectivity, and a much larger battery than the original iWork 8 Dual Boot Edition, which we reviewed last month.
THE BAD: Only 24GB was allocated to Windows 8.1 OS, making it almost impossible not to insert a Micro SD card into the slate.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Cube iWork 8 3G is a wonderful tablet with lots of functions, delivering decent data speeds and other improvements, and arguably the best tablet below the $100 price point.
Though it hasn’t even been a quarter since the Cube iWork 8 Dual Boot Edition was released, a successor has already come along to take its place. The Cube iWork 8 3G is nearly identical in design, but don’t let its looks fool you, as the new tablet brings a number of changes under the hood. It contains a much larger 5,000mAh Li-Po battery and you get 3G connectivity, which could come in handy if you need to do a lot of traveling.
If you already own a Windows tablet, we wouldn’t say this is a necessary upgrade, especially since the Android side occupies 8GB of the precious internal storage, leaving only 24GB to Windows 8.1 and less than 12GB at your free disposal. However, if you’re in the market for a new tablet, you won’t go wrong with the iWork 8 3G, instead, I believe it should be one of your top picks.
Cube iWork 8 Dual Boot Edition specs:
• OS: Android 4.4.4 & Windows 8.1 dual boot
• Display: 8-inch IPS, 5-point multi-touch, IGZO
• Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800 (16:10)
• CPU: Intel Atom Baytrail-T Z3735F Quad-core Processor
• CPU Frequency: 1.33GHz – 1.8GHZ
• GPU:Intel HD Graphic Gen7
• RAM / Storage: 2GB / 32GB
• Function: 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, OTG
• 3G: WCDMA 900MHz, WCDMA 2100MHz
• 2G: Network Frequency: 900MHz, 1800MHz
• WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
• Camera: 2MP back camera, 2MP front camera
• Battery: 5,000mAh
• Extend Port: TF Card Slot, Micro SIM Card Slot, Micro USB Port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack
• Weight & Size: 360g / 214 x 133 x 10.3mm
The Cube iWork 8 3G isn’t remarkably different from the original iWork 8 Dual Boot Edition in design. In fact, if you were to put the two side by side, it would be extremely difficult to tell one from the other. They’re the same size at 214mm by 133mm wide (in portrait), The only noticeable difference is that the iWork 8 3G measures a little bit thicker and heavier and has a Micro SIM card slot on the left side (in landscape mode).
There are a lot of ports and slots on the left side of the slate, including a 3.5mm audio jack, a Micro USB port for hosting the USB devices, a Mini HDMI port, a Micro SD card slot and a 2.5mm DC charging port.
Also on the left side is a Power/Standby button, the volume rocker and Home Button are on the top.
The right side of the device features the aforementioned Micro SIM card slot, which is compatible with WCDMA/GSM networks.
There are also cameras on both the front and the rear of the tablet.
The Cube iWork 8 3G comes packaged with a charging cable, a USB cable, a warranty card and reference material. Unfortunately the AC adapter and the OTG adapter needs to be purchased separately.
You still get the 8-inch IPS screen, which is clearly no match for those 2K displays seen on some high-end Android tablets.
But it is still eye-catching and gorgeous, with rich colors and wonderful viewing angles.
The touch screen is responsive. It registered all our taps and swipes in both Android 4.4 and the Windows 8 interface, although we did struggle a little in the Windows 8.1 desktop as some of the apps were less touchscreen friendly.
The display’s one real weakness is the brightness adjustment in Android, you will hardly notice any change when you drag the brightness bar from 0% to 30%, which means the screen can be too bright for your eyes if you are using it in a dark room, but in Windows 8.1, it doesn’t have the same issue.
No LCD performs perfectly well in bright daylight or direct sun, but luckily the Cube iWork 8 3G is a lot better at it than normal, the 8-inch IPS panel is still quite readable outdoors except against direct mid-day sunlight.
System and Apps
The ability to run both Windows 8.1 and Android OS gives the iWork 8 3G natural advantages over its competitors on either the Android and Windows 8.1 side. The nice thing is, Cube didn’t mess with the stock user interface, so we get a clean Windows 8.1 as well as a clean Android 4.4.4. The not so good thing is, the 32GB eMMc internal storage is divided into 2 parts. 24GB is allocated to Windows and 8GB is allocated to Android. The reason why those two systems don’t have shared storage is that it prevents the users to accidentally delete important files of an OS while running the other.
Fortunately, the Windows 8.1 is licensed and the there is even an activation code which offers the users free Office 365 suite subscription for one year, which means you can really get some serious business work done after you connect the tablet to a monitor or TV. Even better, the Microsoft Office 365 works pretty well with a touchscreen, so you can modify your presentations or excel sheets during your business trip.
You have 10 seconds to choose which system you would like to enter after booting the device. Simply by touching one of the two icons which respectively represent Windows and Android and you are good to go. If you fail to choose a system in the limited 10 seconds, the tablet will automatically boot into the OS you ran last time.
Switching between the two operating systems is easy. If you need to switch from Android to Windows, simply press and hold the power button, and then tap “Boot to Windows”, and the tablet will do that.
If you are running Windows 8.1, you simply need to open the “Win to Android” app on the desktop, and choose to “Switch to Android”.
Like most of the latest Android tablets released by Cube, the iWork 8 3G supports OTA in both Android and Windows 8.1, making firmware upgrades much easier.
As the model name indicates, the biggest change that the Cube iWork 8 3G brings over its predecessor is 3G support, which could come in handy for people who need to do a lot of travelling. However, in our one month experience with the iWork 8 3G, we wouldn’t say we were all that happy with its 3G functions.
The fact that Cube chose to include 3G instead of 4G in this new iWork 8 Dual Boot is already quite disappointing. During our review period, we could only get access to 3G network in Android OS. After we switch to Windows 8.1 the SIM card didn’t work at all. It is a shame because Windows 8 is a more business oriented operating system and offers much more productivity than Android OS. But Cube claims that this is the bug of the first batch of iWork 8 3G, and they have already fixed this issue in the second batch, The slate also has mobile hot-spot capabilities, though only when you are running Android OS on it.
Fortunately, the slate has a Mini HDMI port on it, which means you could easily output the screen to a much larger display, which turns the slate into a full PC and thus offers much more productivity. Also, when paired up with a wireless gamepad, we could play our favorite 3D Android games on our HDTV, and the experience was simply amazing.
The Cube iWork 8 3G also has Bluetooth, which makes connecting to input and audio devices much easier, saving us from those bothering cables and transceivers.
We paired the iWork 8 3G with the Bluetooth keyboard sent by Cube, and the two worked brilliantly together. After connecting the slate to a monitor, it won’t have any problem replacing your PC for lightweight tasks like modifying a presentation or doing some calculations in Excel.
Wi-Fi works brilliantly in both Android and Windows, we could easily establish a solid connection at almost every corner in the house, even the places where my LG G2 lost reception.
The iWork 8 3G is running the same quad-core, Atom Bay-trail Z3735F as the iWork 8 Dual Boot Edition and most of the latest budget Windows and dual-boot slabs are. The processor has a base clock of 1.33GHz and a turbo clock of 1.8GHZ. There is 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM on board, enough to handle all Android apps and lightweight Windows desktop apps you’re likely to be running.
We ran a few benchmarks respectively on Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4.4, and we wouldn’t say that we were surprised with what we got. The scores were pretty typical for Intel Bay-trail powered tablets, both on the Android side and on the Windows side. And those scores translated well into real world performance, as the iWork 8 3G was extremely zippy running any Android application, including some of the most graphic-intense 3D games. It felt even more responsive than my Snapdragon 800 powered Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, probably because of the lower display resolution. Navigating through the Windows 8 OS and playing media were also quite smooth, and the slate had no problem opening dozens of image-heavy webpages at the same time. Only when faced with heavy-weight Windows desktop applications did the iWork 8 3G begin to struggle.
Featuring a 2 MP rear camera and fixed-focus 2MP front sensor, the camera situation is simply bad. There’s no other way to describe it and stay honest. It might be adequate for an occasional snap or video chatting on Skype, but it’s definitely not a selling point.
Above are some snaps by the rear-facing camera.
You would probably assume that the iWork 8 3G has the same 3,500mAh battery as the iWork 8 Dual Boot, of which the battery life we lamented in its review. Well, Cube learnt well from its mistake and gave the iWork 8 3G a 5,000mAh battery, which is more capacity than most of the tablets this size.
Cube rates this device for up to 6 hours, but with average use and web browsing, it exceeds that, hitting more like 7 hours. Frequently punching up that 1.8 GHz burst mode would probably drain your tank quite a bit sooner, but that’s to be expected.
In our standard cngadget battery test, we loop a 1080P video on the slate with brightness and volume both fixed at 50%, the tablet lasted 6 hours and 36 minutes in Android until battery drain. Surprisingly, in the more loaded Windows 8.1 OS, it lasted 50 minutes longer (7 hours, 24 minutes) in the same test.
If the regular battery life isn’t enough, it also has a “smart saving” feature which allows you to automatically adjust your power profile depending on what you’re doing in Android. For instance, turning off Wi-Fi when the device is asleep (which shuts off push notifications) or adjusts the brightness down when you’re listening to music. But in Windows 8.1 you will need to install a third-party app if you want to “smart save” your battery.
Like the original iWork 8 Dual Boot, the Cube iWork 8 3G is not purely a consumer tablet due to the presence of a Windows desktop mode which brings capability that far exceeds tablets with mobile-first operating systems. Security, networking features, user accounts, media subsystem, storage flexibility, a huge range of applications and language support allow scenarios that are not possible on other devices. Although the desktop is hard to navigate with a finger, the Windows 8 interface elements can be adjusted for size. And do not forget you can boot into Android whenever you want and get access to the tons of touchscreen-friendly applications in Google Play.
Priced at RMB599 ($96), the iWork 8 3G is still just an entry-level tablet. The screen resolution is too low for power Android users, who may have already been accustomed to the 1080P or even 2K screens seen on high-end Android tablets and smartphones. The Z3735F processor, although very powerful by tablet standards, still struggles with heavy-weight Windows desktop applications. The ideal customers are those who require mobile flexibility in a home and office scenario where Windows is established, and occasionally switch to Android for gaming and media consumption. Also, the slate has a few defining advantages over its competitions such as the Chuwi Vi8 Super Edition and many other recently released dual-boot tablets: the much improved battery life and 3G support.
It’s rare that I can give a relatively unqualified recommendation for something, but this is one of those times. Simply put, the Cube iWork 8 3G is the best budget tablet I’ve tested. For less than $100, you get a tablet that has very few noticeable compromises. It’s fast and responsive, the screen is beautiful, the design is nice, and it even has a decent amount of built-in storage capacity — although the 24GB internal storage is clearly not enough for the heavy Windows 8.1, the availability of a Micro SD card slot makes that less of an issue. The iWork 8 3G’s ability to access unlimited numbers of Android and Windows apps makes it the nearly perfect choice for almost anyone.
Great performance brought by the beefy Intel CPU.
Amazing productivity brought by Windows 8.1 and Office 365.
Various connectivity options.
Decent battery life.
Only 24GB internal storage for Windows 8.1.
Cube iWork 8 3G can be purchased on Cube’s official English website: http://www.51cube.com/en/