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Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: The cheapest 4G tablet

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review – So you thought tablets were dead? Did ya? did ya? Well I did too, until this summer rolled around. Not only have we seen Apple release one new tablet and revamp another, but we’ve also had Samsung release Galaxy Book and Tab S3 devices, Microsoft overhaul the Surface Pro and Amazon unleash new versions of its budget slates. And it’s not over, either: the latest to join the new-tablet party is the Vodafone Smart Tab N8.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: What you need to know

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is a 10.in tablet that runs Android 7 Nougat. But it’s hardly the last word in high performance, top-end hardware. With a pixel-tastic 800 x 1,280 resolution, poor display colour accuracy and sluggish performance, it’s hard to see its target audience – even if it does have 4G connectivity.

If you’re looking to get something for the kids, get the smaller, cheaper Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet. If you want something for yourself, consider the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 10.1in for £170 or the Acer Iconia A3-A40 for £180.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Price and competition

At £129 on PAYG from the Vodafone store, the tablet isn’t as cheap as some of its competitors, although none of them offer 4G connectivity or a pay monthly contract. You can get the Smart Tab N8 with a 24-month 4G plan starting at £12 a month (£80 upfront) for 2GB a month, rising to £31 a month with no upfront costs for 50GB of 4G data.

The 8in £80 Amazon Fire HD 8 and the 7in £50 Fire are its cheapest competitors. Up the screen size and the price and you’ll find the 10.1in Amazon Fire HD 10 that starts from £180. Then we have the 8in Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 costing £170, the 10.1in Acer Iconia A3-A40 at £180 and the incredibly hard-to-find, yet impressive Nvidia Shield Tablet K1.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Design and build quality

The Smart N8 has two forward-firing speakers, which is somewhat of a rarity on a budget tablet. Vodafone has also included a front-facing 2-megapixel camera and a rear-facing 5-megapixel shooter. I don’t expect many to use the tablet to take photos, but having the option to do so, albeit at a low resolution is still handy.

Turn the tablet over, and you’ll notice a textured black plastic finish. This makes it easy to grip and prevents the tablet from sliding around on surfaces you put it down on. Around the back you’ll find a latch that gives access to the 128GB microSD expansion and micro-SIM slot. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port at the top of the device.

At 465g and 9mm thick, the Vodafone N8 is easy to hold, although it is a touch thicker than the 7.8mm Amazon HD 10.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Display

The Tab N8’s display is large (10.1in) and pretty low in low resolution, which means a pretty low pixel density of 149ppi. Reading text on the tablet is a little blurred and when compared with the Nvidia Shield K1’s 1,920 x 1,200 display, the difference is noticeable.

When tested with a colorimeter the Tab N8 achieved a 75.7% sRGB gamut coverage, which results in colours appearing a little dull and ditch-watery. Its colour accuracy isn’t great either, with an average Delta E of 4.82 (lower is better, 0 is perfect and 1 is very good), and some colours, especially red, purple and dark green shades are completely off-piste. Its viewing angles aren’t great, either with the screen changing tint noticeably if you look at it away from the vertical.

At 366.6cd/m2 maximum brightness, it’s bright enough for indoor viewing, but you’ll struggle to watch the football in the garden. Its 1,156:1 contrast ratio (0.3cd/m2 black level) is good for a budget device, though.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Software

Vodafone ships its tablet with Android 7 Nougat out the box. As with its smartphone range, the mobile operator hasn’t tinkered with the Android experience; it’s the pure, unadulterated Android Google wants its users to experience, with only a handful of Vodafone apps pre-installed.

In comparison with the Amazon tablet range that run FireOS (based on Android), the Tab N8 has a clear advantage. It’s likely to receive quicker updates, offers a lot more customisation and has access to Google Play and the full range of core Google apps, including Google Maps.

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Performance

The Tab N8 is sluggish. With a 1.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 Mediatek processor and 2GB of RAM inside, it struggles with multitasking and is slow to respond to input. Opening up Google Maps and swiping around is a painful experience.

Put through the multi-platform Geekbench 4 benchmark, the Tab N8 managed a measly single-core score of 461 and 1,319 in the multi-core benchmark. This is one of the lowest scores I’ve seen in recent times, narrowly beating Vodafone’s own £50 Smart E8 and £85 N8 smartphones.

Playing very basic games like Candy Crush won’t be a problem on the tablet, but it’ll struggle with fast-moving games such as Temple Run. With only 3.1fps in the onscreen GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 benchmark, you won’t be doing much gaming on this tablet.

A 4,600mAh battery is housed within the Tab N8’s shell and this achieves a decent 9hrs 44mins in the Expert Reviews battery test. It’s far better than the 6hrs 26mins achieved by the Acer Iconia Tab 10, but not as good as the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3’s 14hrs 49mins.

^ Vodafone Smart Tab N8 battery life

READ NEXT: Acer Iconia Tab 10 (A3-A40) review: A great Android tablet for under £200

Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review: Verdict

The Smart Tab N8 is a mixed bag. On one hand it offers the cheapest 4G tablet you can buy at only £129. On the other hand, if you’re not interested in connecting to the internet on the go, then other tablets offer more for your money.

The cheaper and more portable Amazon Fire HD 8 or Fire tablets lead the way, but there’s also the 8in Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 at £170, which has better performance and the 10.1in Acer Iconia A3-A40 at £180, which has a far better screen.

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