by | April 30, 2016 | Reviews

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The good

  • 12.2-inch display with an aspect ratio of 16:10 greatly enhances experiences
  • Redesigned keyboard cover makes the i9 even more portable than its smaller predecessors
  • Cube i9 is reasonably priced, much more affordable than the Microsoft Surface Pro4

The bad

  • Battery life is only slightly better than the Cube i7, but still mediocre among high-end Windows tablets
  • Compared to last year’s i7, the i9 doesn’t offer a lot of improvement in overall performance
  • Cube i9 doesn’t support Wacom pen like the i7 Stylus does
  • Rear side of the tablet offers little resistance to scratches

The bottom line

The Cube i9 squares up to the Surface Pro with great versatility, and a stunning screen, and it’s just as good value when bought with its best peripherals. The Surface Pro 4 might look more premium and offer more options, but the i9 has enough power to get the job done – if you need a tablet for work, you won’t be disappointed with this.
Tablets for work are almost as popular as tablets for play, so it’s no surprise to see Cube at the forefront of this growing market. Last year, Cube enjoyed an enormous amount of success with the Cube i7 Series tablets, all of which were powered by the Intel Core M 5Y10c processors and could even rival the Surface Pro 3 in terms of performance and productivity. With prices even lower than the basic model of the Cherry Trail powered Surface 3 (2GB, 64GB), the Cube i7, Cube i7 Stylus and Cube i7 CM became very popular among younger consumers in China.

Striving to keep its dominance over fellow Chinese brands such as Teclast and Onda, Cube released a new flagship corporate machine – the Cube i9, and even held a grand launch event in Beijing earlier this year to promote it. The Cube i9 comes with a Skylake Core M 5-6Y30 dual core processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, dual-band 802.11n wireless and a stunning 12.2-inch IPS display at the resolution of 1920*1200. With specs which could even rival the Surface Pro 4, the Cube i9 is only priced at RMB2,999 ($463) in the domestic market, prices in other part of the world may vary as a result of taxation and exchange rate.

 

 

Cube i9 main specs:

• OS: Windows 10 Home Edition (64-bit)
• Screen: 12.2-inch IPS, 10-point multi-touch, IGZO
• Display Resolution: 1920 x 1200 (16:10)
• CPU: Intel Skylake Core M3-6Y30
• CPU Frequency: 0.9GHz (Base clock) – 2.2GHZ (Turbo clock)
• GPU: Intel HD 515
• RAM / Storage: 4GB DDR3L / 128GB SSD
• Connection: Dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
• Camera: 5MP back camera, 2MP front camera
• Battery: 8.7V – 5,000mAh
• Ports: Micro SD Card Slot, USB 3.0 Port, USB Type C Port, 3.5mm Headset Jack, DC Charging Port
• Size: 302.9*194.9*10.5mm, Weight: 978g

 


Design

 

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The i9 is very different in appearance and design to last year’s Cube i7 series tablets. As a matter of fact, it looks more like a clone of the market-leading Surface Pro 4. It even has similar overall shape and footprint, from its adjustable kickstand to its 12.2-inch screen panel. Only the finish in the back truly tells you that it is not a Surface.

 

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The front of the tablet is dominated by a 12.2-inch IPS display. The bezel around it is much smaller compared to last year’s Cube i7. Like the Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4, the touch-sensitive Windows key are now sitting on the right edge of the display, making it easier to reach while you are holding your tablet in horizontal mode.

 

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All the ports are hosted on the left side of the tablet. You can find a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB Type-C port, which could support HDMI output as well as USB on the go, a full USB 3.0 port, a Micro SD card slot which supports cards up to 128GB, and a 3.5mm DC charging port. The inclusion of a USB Type C port is interesting, and Cube claims that it costs much more than ordinary USB or Micro USB ports. As for me, I would still prefer another full USB 3.0 port and a separate Micro HDMI port than this as I don’t really want to travel with too many adapters.

 

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There is also a 5-contact magnetic keyboard port on the bottom side of the slate.

 

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As always, the power/standby key and the volume rocker are hosted on the top side. Both buttons feel very solid and durable.

 

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The blue coating on the rear is the same used on the Cube i7 series tablets, which we hate as it doesn’t offer much resistance to scratches. Also, compared to the likes of iPad Pro and Surface 3, the rear side of the i9 doesn’t really give the tablet a premium feel.

 

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The biggest difference of the i9, compared to the i7 series tablets, is the inclusion of a kickstand. I personally believe that this is a huge improvement as the tablet can now stand on your table even without the keyboard base. The kickstand can open to two different angles, the first setting (40 degrees) is ideal for typing and productivity work when the tablet is on a table, the second (80 degrees) is better for watching videos while the tablet is sitting on your lap.

 

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Measures at 302.9*194.9*10.5mm and weighs 980g, the Cube i9 is neither a thin nor a light tablet. It is porkier than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45mm, 766g/786g), but still more compact compared to most of the ultrabooks. As always with Cube’s high-end tablet, the build quality of the i9 is excellent. No matter how much you twist or squeeze the tablet’s chassis, there’s barely any flex to be found.
Keyboard

 

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Another noticeable change is the redesigned keyboard cover. Unlike the heavy and solid keyboard bases for the i7 series tablets, the keyboard tailor-made for the i9 is more like the Surface Type Cover.

 

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Once attached magnetically to the i9, the keyboard cover instantly turns the tablet into an ultrabook.

 

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The keyboard itself is very well designed, with ideal space between different keys, it also offers decent key travel, which gives you tactile feedback when you type. And we really love the ability to set it flat against the desk or at a more keyboard-like angle. We’d always rather use a full-sized laptop keyboard, but in the absence of that the i9 Keyboard Cover is the very next best thing.

 

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The trackpad is reasonably sized, and it has distinct left and right click zones, and supports gesture control as you would expect. Fold the keyboard cover around the back of the i9 and the keys are no longer active, a nice touch that allows you to use the keyboard cover as a cover even when you are in tablet mode.
Display

 

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The Cube i9 is built around a 12.2-inch full-HD IPS display. It is noticeably sharper than ordinary laptops, most of which only have a display resolution of 1366*768. A native resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels makes for a decent pixel density of 186ppi.

 

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The extra size makes the Cube i9 a feasible laptop. It’s a big difference from a 10in tablet with a keyboard attached. And that isn’t the only upgrade. Whereas the aspect ratio was previously 16:9, the i9 is a 16:10 device. It is more suitable for business tasks, but still quite good for media consumption.

 

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Everything looks good on the i9’s IPS display. Photos are bright and clear, full of color and detail. Texts on the webpages are extremely crisp and unlike the PLS and AMOLED displays, colors here are very true to life. Also, the multi-touch screen is fairly responsive, too.
Windows 10

 

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The Cube i9 runs Windows 10 Home Edition (64-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.

 

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On the Cube i9, 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.

 

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Also, features such as Microsoft Edge, Cortana, Virtual Desktop and the customized placement of the start menu on the Windows 10 make the Cube i9 very convenient to use both in tablet mode and laptop mode.

 

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Like most tablets and ultrabooks, the i9 doesn’t come with preinstalled Microsoft Office, you have to either spend money on subscribing it or you will have to use other free alternatives such as WPS Office and the Microsoft Office Mobile, which you could install from the Windows Store.
Performance

 

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The Cube i9’s specifications are truly impressive. It comes with a sixth-generation Intel Skylake Core M3-6Y30 processor, paired with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD.

Sensors include ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. There’s also a digital compass.

 

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In use the i9 is zippy and fast. Big applications such as Photoshop and Corel Draw run without issue, switching between image-heavy webpages is extremely smooth. Even under load and attempting multiple processes it feels exactly as fast and capable as should a PC with this powerful specification. And the benchmarks bear this out.

 

Benchmark

 

In the PCMark 8 benchmark the i9 managed a healthy score of 2,650, and in the Fritz Chess Benchmark test, the i9 was returned a score of 4,018. Other benchmark scores can be found in the chart above. It is obvious that, although the i9 doesn’t match most of those powerhouse laptops or desktop PCs in terms of performance, it is way above what the Atom-based tablets or netbooks when it comes to processing power. With that said, we didn’t see much improvement over last year’s i7 in most of the benchmarks. In Ludashi, Cinebench R10 CPU test and AS SSD benchmark test, the i9 even scored lower marks than the i7.

When it comes to more intense tasks such as gaming, the i9 can run all the games in the Windows Store smoothly and most of the desktop games in acceptable frame rates, but we would still not recommend anyone to buy this tablet for gaming, it is just not what this slate is designed for. Laptops with discrete graphics are still much better suited for running intense games.
Connectivity

 

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Connectivity options abound. There is a full-size USB 3.0 port, as well as a microSD card slot that allows you to expand the i9’s storage by 128GB. A USB Type C Port which can be transformed into different ports with different adapters. For instance, you can turn it into a full USB port to host other devices, or you can turn it into a HDMI port to use a larger display. With this function, the i9 could be a laptop, tablet and desktop PC.

If you wanted to use Bluetooth peripherals you could, as the Cube i9 comes with Bluetooth 4.0. You also get dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi to surface the internet.

 

 

Battery Life

 

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Battery life in normal use has been on par with the Cube i7, lasting me about 5 hours or so between charges. The i9 went for 7 hours and 25 minutes in our battery rundown test, where we played a 720P video with 50% display brightness and 50% volume through the speakers.

It normally takes around 5 hours to fully charge the Cube i9 with the stock 12V-2.5A charger, which is quite disappointing given that we don’t always get several hours to charge our i9. During the lunch time of a full day meeting, I charged the i9 for approximately one hour, the battery only grew around 20 percent.
Cameras

The i9 comes with two cameras – a front-facing 2MP camera and a 5MP rear camera, hardly high-end, but about what you’d expect from a laptop rather than a smartphone or tablet. The front camera is perfectly feasible to use for conference calling and Skype. But it is not going to replace a DSLR or even a low-end smartphone when it comes to capturing photos.
Summary

 

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Like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the Cube i9 is a perfectly serviceable laptop, and a pretty Okay tablet. It is sufficiently thin-and-light to work as a tablet, but the large screen size – critical for laptop use – means I’d always reach for a smaller tablet for consumption purposes such as reading an e-book or watching a video. And leaving aside occasions when I am required to work without a desk, I’d always choose a full-size laptop for work purposes where possible. It’s just that little bit better.

With that said, whenever I have to go on a business trip, or vacation during which I still have to work every now and then, I would prefer bringing the Cube i9. It is almost as portable as an iPad, but offers much more productivity for business tasks. For those who need a single device to do everything but find the prices of the Surface Pro series unacceptably high, the Cube i9 could be a very well-rounded alternative.

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