Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that they had given up on Windows Phone. HP, HTC and many other OEMs also cancelled their plans to release phones running Windows 10 Mobile Operating System.
However, Cube, a Shenzhen based Chinese company, wouldn’t let Windows Mobile go so easily. They recently released a new 7-inch phablet called WP10, which ships with the already doomed operating system.
OS: Windows 10 Home
Screen: 6.98-inch IPS, multi-touch capacitive panel
Display Resolution: 1280 x 720 (16:9)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 220 (1.3GHz)
RAM / Storage: 2GB / 16GB
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
WiFi: 2.4Ghz, WiFi hotspot
Mobile Network: GSM+WCDMA+FDD LTE
Camera: 5MP back camera, 5MP front camera
Battery: 4.35V, 2,850mAh
Ports: Micro SD Card Slot, Micro USB 2.0 Port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack, Dual SIM card slot
Size: 187.7 x 97.7 x 7.6 mm, Weight: 248g, Color: white
Design and build
The WP10 looks more like a big phone than a small tablet.
A 6.98-inch IPS panel dominates the front side, with a front-facing 5MP camera, a light sensor and an earpiece sitting above. The bezel is extremely small so the slate is not much bigger than some of the old 6-inch phones such as the SONY Xperia Z Ultra (6.44-inch) and Samsung Galaxy Mega (6.3-inch) when it comes to overall footprint.
A 5MP main camera and an LED flash can be found on the rear side of the tablet, along with some of Cube’s marketing.
All the physical keys and ports are hosted on the sides of the slate. You can find a power/standby key and a volume rocker on the right side of the late.
The left side plays host to a SIM card slot. The user can install a couple of nano SIM cards and a Micro SD card by using an SIM Tray tool.
The top side of the tablet sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom side hosts a Micro USB port for charging and data transmission.
The WP10 is only 7.6mm thick, making it one of the thinnest tablets Cube has ever chopped out. It weighs only 248g, not much heavier than some of today’s super large phones. Thanks to its small bezel, the tablet can be hold in one hand comfortably.
Display and sound
The WP10 sports a 6.98-inch IPS display at the resolution of 1280*720px. The pixel density of the screen is 211PPI. These are not impressive numbers as we are already quite used to the 2K and 4K displays seen on today’s smartphones. But in everyday use, it is still not easy to pick out single pixels on the WP10’s display.
The color saturation and contrast are quite good, so is the clarity.
The brightness of the panel is generally okay for indoor use, but the visibility is not very good outdoors.
There are no dedicated speakers on the tablet, all sound is coming from the earpiece on the front side. The sound is tinny and small, and lacks soundstage and details, headphones or external speakers are highly recommended.
System and Apps
The Cube WP10 comes with Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile, an operating system already doomed by its developer. The Windows 10 Mobile was Microsoft’s last attempt to address the shortage of apps being developed for its smartphones and ignite consumer interest in its platform. It aimed to unify the desktop and mobile versions of Microsoft’s OS. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Windows 10 Mobile failed to help them achieve the success they wanted in the smartphone market.
At first glance, the user interface looks fairly similar to Windows 10. It retains the vibrant Live Tile homescreen of its predecessor, which is no bad thing. Live Tiles are a nifty alternative to iOS and Android’s widget and icon-heavy UIs. They make it easier to keep on top of things by offering peek views to incoming messages and alerts.
The native Outlook email tile will display the sender and subject line of the last message to enter your inbox, for example, while the Facebook app offers a peek view of your latest alert.
For those who prefer a more traditional mobile experience, the Action Center offers similar quick notification shortcuts to Google’s Android OS. It’s accessed by scrolling down from the top of the phone’s UI and features shortcuts to key options, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and screen brightness, as well as notifications from linked social media and email accounts. As an added perk it also lets you directly respond to alerts without launching the applications.
Cortana makes a welcome a reappearance too. Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now voice command services, Cortana can be activated using a Live Tile on the phone’s menu screen, or directly from within certain applications. When launched you can either type or speak commands.
As well as enacting basic tasks, such as mounting web searches and opening applications, Cortana can contextually answer questions and take specific actions within apps. We regularly used her to get directions, estimate travel times and find good eateries in my area using Windows 10’s reworked Maps app. I also used her to take notes in OneNote, add entries to my calendar and draft emails while on the move.
On paper, Siri and Google Now offer similar services, but I found Cortana works better on almost every level. Her voice-recognition software is stronger and proved capable of understanding accents that have rendered Siri useless – tested with an Afrikaans-accented friend on the Lumia 950 XL. To existing Windows Phone fans, this may sound a little too much like business as usual. But, when you dive into the phone’s submenus, you realize Microsoft has made some small, but positive changes to Windows 10 Mobile’s design. The majority of the changes work to unify the look of Windows 10’s desktop and mobile versions.
The two menu screens are now identical. The Store has also been updated to resemble the desktop and Xbox Live versions. It adds a new vertical submenu with shortcuts to the app, games, music and film sections, and an enhanced spotlight feature for recommended content.
The changes may sound insignificant, but for me they’re a real positive. The move to make Windows 10 Mobile’s UI consistent with Microsoft’s desktop and Xbox software makes the OS one of the most intuitive to use on the market. However, the lack of significant change is a two-edged sword when you starting diving into most third-party applications – which haven’t benefited from the same spruce-up.
Thanks to the regulations of the Windows Store, you won’t be bothered by the advertisement inside of the applications.
When it comes to the number and quality of applications, Windows 10 Mobile is still secondary to Android and iOS. There are quite a number of popular apps you won’t find in the Microsoft App Store, and the apps which you can find on the Windows 10 mobile platform are of lower quality. These apps also lack the cool new features offered by their Android and iOS counterparts because of the woefully worse update cycles. Despite Microsoft’s earlier promise of “Universal Apps”, the situation will only get worse as they are stepping away from the Mobile Phone market.
The Cube WP10 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 220 processor clocked at 1.3GHz and 2GB RAM. It is definitely no powerhouse in a world full of Snapdragon 8XX powered Android smartphones. Although Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t necessarily need as much horse power as Android, the WP10 still lacks the kind of smoothness we normally find on top Android phones and iPhones.
Antutu Benchmark returned a score of 29,510, which ranks the W10 below most entry-level Android smartphones.
Generally speaking, the slate is smooth and responsive most of the time. But you will notice lags and stutters launching big applications or doing heavy multi-tasking. For instance, smaller games such as Plants vs Zombie and Dragon Mania Legend were extremely smooth on the WP10. But Asphalt 8 took a really long time to launch, and the frame rates were unacceptable while we were playing it. Installing several apps from Windows store with music playing in the background also caused the WP10 to go idle for a couple of times.
The WP10 is a large phone which offers many connectivity options. There’s 4G Phone functionalities, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS are also on board. There’s 16GB built-in eMMc drive, but the tablet also supports storage expansion with a Micro SD card.
Wi-Fi connection is solid and stable. A few meters away from the router and a wall in between I could still stream HD videos without any buffering in the middle. Bluetooth works as expected as well. Not only can I receive photos from my phone, I can also connect the WP10 to a variety of external audio systems such as my Ausdom headphones and B&O speakers.
The WP10 comes with a 5MP selfie camera on the front and a 5MP main camera on its rear. Both cameras are quite bad.
The front-facing camera can handle the job of occasional video-chatting, but you wouldn’t really use it for selfies.
The rear camera does have features such as HDR and auto-focus, but the photos taken by it are of extremely poor quality, and it takes seconds to produce an image.
Most of us won’t use the cameras on our tablets very often as even budget smartphones can do a decent job taking photos nowadays. However, when we do use them occasionally, we would want them to work a little bit better than the ones on the WP10.
The WP10 is powered by a 4.35V – 2850mAh Li-Po battery, which doesn’t seem impressive but can still last the device through a whole day of moderate use. In our battery run-down test (looping a 720P video), the device lasted 4 hours and 43 minutes.
Releasing a tablet running an operating system abandoned by its developer takes guts. It is certain that the Cube WP10 will receive no future firmware update, and the eco-system built around the OS will surely wither, too.
Priced at $119.99, the WP10 is quite affordable and offers many useful features such as Cortanna, Outlook, One Drive and Microsoft Office Mobile. But despite the brilliance of Cortanna and the many ads-free applications from the Windows Store, the WP10 is still no match for Android tablets in terms of overall functionalities, and is only appealing to those die-hard Windows fans and those who want to try something different. But the problem is: are those die-hard Windows fans really going to buy a phablet from a secondary brand they have barely heard of?
If you want a budget tablet with phone functions and individuality is on the top of your list, the WP10 might be the device for you. But if you care more about the number and quality of applications, functionalities and future upgrades, an Android tablet is still a more solid choice.