Zoostorm PlayTab Q6010 £149.99
6th Mar 2014 | 14:17
Sometimes a low price tag is a warning flag
Introduction and design
Zoostorm is most well known for its ranges of budget PCs and netbooks, but in the last couple of years it has produced some tablets that sit comfortably at budget end of the spectrum.
There's some serious competition for entry-level tablets, so the Zoostorm's PlayTab Q6010 needs to perform well to grab even a scrap of attention, despite the bargain-basement price of £140.
There's not many tablets at this end of the price spectrum with a 10.1-inch screen, which sets the Zoostorm PlayTab apart from rivals occupying the same price territory such as the Archos 80 Xenon and Tesco Hudl.
For £140 the specs haven't entirely been dialled back to 2010 like a lot of budget efforts, with the key specs being a decent 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, N-grade Wi-Fi, 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 screen and running the slightly dated, but still usable, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
On paper that's enough power to run pretty much everything, with the 2GB of RAM being an unexpected surprise in such a cheap tablet.
There's been little to break manufacturers away from producing a generic black slab when designing their budget tablets, and it's unfortunate to say that there's not much in the way of design flare on the Zoostorm PlayTab Q6010.
There are hints of a larger Hudl about the PlayTab, with rounded corners of generic polycarbonate and a rubberised rear making the whole thing feel soft and easy to hold - if a little uninspired.
The 10.1-inch screen has a reasonable-sized bezel surrounding it, making it easy to hold without any unwanted touchscreen interactions.
At points there was a good couple of millimetres between where my finger was and the actual screen, which made me feel a little more detached from the touch experience than normal.
On the front of the PlayTab there's a lack of any physical buttons to get in the way, with Zoostorm instead opting to keep all the buttons and ports on the right edge of the tablet.
There is of course the power/wake button near the top right edge which protrudes just enough to make it easy to find, while at the bottom there's a single volume rocker bar that has a crease in the middle to help your fingers fumble the volume direction.
There's also a microUSB socket for computer connection, though it doesn't charge the tablet - this job is disappointingly left to a tiny DC jack socket, so you won't be relying on a universal USB charger.
This means you'll have to keep the proprietary charger to hand if you're going away with the PlayTab for more than a couple of days.
Also to hand is a mini-HDMI connector for mirroring output to an HDTV, a microSD card slot for extra storage expansion (up to 32GB) as well as a 3.5mm audio socket and a microphone. The only thing missing here would be a full-sized USB socket, though this can be added to the micro-USB socket via a USB host cable.
On the left edge of the tablet there's nothing but a wide slot, behind which the speaker lies, while every other side of the tablet is devoid of any features.
Finally, flip the tablet around and you're presented with a rear-facing camera (with no accompanying LED flash), that's centred towards the top of the tablet - a suitable position for those insisting that tablet photography has a place in civilised society.
There's also a stuck-on logo, emblazoning the catchy name of the Zoostorm PlayTab Q6010. Either side of the rear I found the most thoughtful part of the design, two bezels which make holding the tablet one-handed that little bit more comfortable and grippy.
Key features and interface
I wasn't expecting anything particularly groundbreaking from the Zoostorm PlayTab Q6010, and while the tablet can do all the things you'd expect of an Android tablet, there are no exciting hidden extras to highlight.
The obvious justification for this? The price - £140. However, recent offerings such as the Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 prove that little extras such as a stylus can go a long way to make a tablet stand out in such a crowded market.
The 10.1-inch IPS screen is of HD resolution, though at 149ppi everything looks considerably more pixellated than I'm used to, thanks to the high resolution HD screens gracing most modern smartphones.
Viewing angles remain good thanks to the IPS technology, though as I previously mentioned, the separation between the screen and overlying glass is far more than any other modern tablet or smartphone I've seen of late.
Sound comes from a single speaker. Zoostorm claims it's a 2W unit, though I was disappointed at how quiet it was when trying to watch a video on YouTube, or listen to tracks on Google Music.
Due to its side positioning rather than front or rear, sound always feels like it's coming from the left which I found quite annoying.
Android 4.2.2 being the heart of this tablet means there's a familiar interface at hand, that hasn't been unnecessarily adulterated by any bloated extras.
The Play store is pre-loaded to give access to many thousands of applications and Google Now is available with a swipe up from the Home button, as well as all the other major Google Experience apps (although I did have to download YouTube).
The most obvious addition is welcome and isn't intrusive, and that's the on-screen volume controls that sit either side of the back, home and multi-tasking icons at the bottom of the screen.
I found I would sometimes hit the volume down key rather than the back button, but this is a habit you'd likely learn to avoid over time.
If you take a closer look and delve in to the settings menu you'll find a couple of little additions.
Firstly there's a menu that gives you control over the output from the PlayTab's mini-HDMI port. You can adjust the resolution from 480p all the way up to 1080p at 60hz, as well as adjusting the zoom level to ensure the picture fits nicely within the confines of the attached TV.
After testing the HDMI output I can report it worked well and full HD video was smooth.
A second extra menu gives control over screenshots, including adjustable delay time, a choice of storage locations and whether to display the screenshot icon in the status bar.
Nothing earth shattering, but all very handy extras that could easily have been left out.
Additional pre-installed apps include a file explorer app, Twitter, Skype and an app called Wi-Fi Display that allows you to connect the tablet wirelessly to Miracast enabled devices. A useful feature - if you can find a TV or display that supports it.
Performance and battery life
As there are no extra major bells or indeed whistles on the Zoostorm Playtab Q6010, the Android Jelly Bean interface operates smoothly.
Considering it's packing a 1.5GHz quad-core processor the PlayTab Q6010 should be able to handle Google's later versions of Android without issue, which on the whole it does.
I could swipe between home screens without a hesitation, even with a bunch of widgets filling up the pages, though frustratingly there were moments when it seemed to grind to a halt with even the most basic of interactions or task switching.
One such example of this is when pulling down the notifications bar. On a number of occasions the PlayTab seemed to hang at this point, and only became operable after pressing the power button to put the tablet to sleep, then waking it up again.
Of course this is just a software glitch, but one that should have clearly been picked up in pre-release testing.
There are also occasions when the time between pressing the power button and the tablet waking up can be a good couple of seconds, leaving you to sometimes put it back to sleep with a repeated press before the screen has even decided to come on.
I tried a few different games including Gravity and Dead Trigger to assess 3D performance of the PlayTab's Mapli 400 graphics processor, and found that most games worked well, though not at the most blistering frame-rates, and with occasional slow-down in intensive parts of graphically intensive games.
To get a fair understanding of the PlayTab's performance against competing devices I ran a few benchmarks. First up was Antutu Benchmark, which is designed to put processor, graphics and memory read / write speeds under scrutiny.
Geekbench 3 is the next test which again puts the tablet through its paces to come up with a summarised score at the end.
The PlayTab Q6010 scored an average of 507 in the single-core test, and 1461 in the multi-core test, putting it well below other quad-core tablets such as the LG G Pad 8.3.
The last benchmarks to run are browser-based to test performance of popular web scripts. Firstly, the SunSpider Java test came in with a score of 1340ms, to put it alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0.
The final benchmark came in the form of Futuremark's Peacekeeper, which tests a number of web technologies including WebGL and HTML5. To run all the tests available and give a fair score, I had to download Google Chrome, though once run the Playtab's score was a reasonable 714.
Overall the Zoostorm Playtab performs well most of the time, and could handle most of the apps I threw at it with only the occasional stutter. Hopefully Zoostorm will address the other aforementioned frustrations in a future software update.
After running the first two benchmark something cropped up which puzzled me a little. Despite being sold as having a 1.5GHz processor, both Antutu and Geekbench pleasantly surprised me by reported it as a 1.6GHz Rockchip Cortex RK3188, which is advertised as working at a higher clockspeed.
With quad-core processor in tow, the Zoomstorm PlayTab packs a reasonable 6600mAh Lithium Polymer battery which is recharged via a mains adaptor rather than the preferable microUSB.
After some initial issues with the tablet mis-reading the charge level and refusing to stay on, a full charge fixed these woes.
I'll put this down to the poor thing being mistreated in a former life, as after its top-off it started performing closer to the advertised life of lasting for 4 to 5 hours of HD video.
There are no special performance control options on the PlayTab, so I was left to toggle battery-hogging resources such as Wi-Fi and other settings manually.
There's also no automatic brightness sensor on the tablet, so I had to adapt the screen brightness to my surroundings.
I used the tablet as my main media consumption device to see how well the PlayTab handled a real pattern of usage. I used it to watch five YouTube videos during the day, tried a couple of games for around 20 minutes each and did some web browsing and social media checking later on.
By this point the battery was wallowing down at around 30% battery life, not quite enough for me to happily run the 90 minute HD video test.
I decided to charge the tablet back up to 50% and ran the test full screen and with the brightness up to its maximum level. Once the video has finished, the PlayTab was at just 16%, a drop of 34%, not quite the performance achieved by the Nexus 7 2013 which dropped just 20%
My biggest concern with the PlayTab was its ability to drop battery life oddly fast when supposedly sleeping and inactive. I left the tablet off charge over night with over 80% battery life left, and after returning home 20 hours later, it was pleading to be charged with just 11% of its juice remaining.
I also found the tablet relatively slow to charge, considering it charges at nine volts rather than the five USB is limited to.
The essentials and camera
Being a near-stock Android tablet, the Zoostorm Playtab Q6010 has all the core features you'd expect from Android, but nothing else particularly special.
There are no tweaks to the notifications bar or lock-screens, and you won't find any extra widgets or wallpapers to get you started. The keyboard is Google's original with no additions, though you can of course download something different if you prefer. I found the input to be reasonably accurate, despite the previously mentioned chasm between glass and screen.
For listening to your favourite music there's a music app pre-installed on the PlayTab, but it feels thoroughly like something that should have been left behind on Android 1.6 devices.
The interface is ugly and relatively basic, and there's no control of your music from the notification bar or the lock screen. For those kind of features, and for pretty much every other reason you could possibly think of, you're far better off with an alternative such as Google Music or PowerAmp.
Video is handled either through the stock Gallery app, or via a separate app imaginatively called 'Video'.
Once I'd stored some video locally on the PlayTab, this app picked them up straight away and, once playing, presented me with a variety of options of playback mode, re-sizing, shuffle and repeat modes, as well as being able to adjust brightness without having to go into the settings.
It's not especially pretty, and doesn't do anything fancy like pulling in video from other sources, but it at least affords more options than playing video through the Gallery. I tried playing MP4 and MKV files, both of which played fine without any audio sync issues.
Web browsing capabilities are left to the stock Android browser - there's no Chrome pre-installed here. The browser allows for multiple tabs, incognito browsing and has Flash pre-installed to make all those little adverts and self-playing videos come to life on whatever website you happen to be visiting. I checked out the content-heavy TechRadar site a number of times to give me a comparison of whether that quad-core processor and N-grade Wi-FI could make for a responsive browsing experience. The site was ready to browse just under 10 seconds and fully loaded within 18 - not exactly the speed I would have hoped for from a quad-core tablet .
Some tablets might convince you to laugh off the mocking glances a tablet-wielding photographer attracts, though Zoostorm would manage to make anyone re-think this bizarre behaviour with what has to be the worst pair of cameras you'll find on a tablet this side of the £50 unbranded Ebay tablets.
The front-facing camera throws up colourless, soft photos and video at 640 x 480 resolution that would only just pass as usable for a Skype call or Google Hangout. I changed to the back camera, expecting the 2MP sensor to throw up something of more acceptable quality - but how wrong I was.
The rear camera has fixed focal length, narrow aperture and no focus control, making taking a picture of any real quality nigh-on impossible. In low light there's also obvious interference with banding making things even more awful.
There's of course no flash for the rear camera, and generally I wish Zoostorm hadn't even bothered with it and spent an extra couple of pounds on a better front-facing sensor.
The camera app is Google's app, but with most of the features stripped out. All you're left with is white-balance adjustment and a choice of two scene modes - automatic or night.
Hands on gallery
For the alluring price of £140, the Zoostorm Playtab Q6010 has plenty to like if all you're after is a simple media consumption device to browse the web or check social media.
The spec sheet reads with an approving nod for such a low price, though unfortunately most of the PlayTab's features can at best be described as mediocre. I struggled to find anything that sets the Zoostorm apart from other tablets of a similar price or specification.
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Let me say it again - the price. £140 is difficult to beat for a 10.1-inch quad-core tablet with a reasonable stock version of Android Jelly Bean pre-loaded. Games and apps that I tried worked well, and were mostly fast enough not to detract from the experience.
The PlayTab feels good in the hand and the slightly rubberised rear makes it easy to keep-a-hold of.
Despite the lower resolution, the IPS screen gives good viewing angles while microSD storage and HDMI output are ports we'd happily have on any tablet.
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Some of the PlayTab's preinstalled apps are questionable in their quality such as the music and video apps, while the omission of other key apps such as YouTube and Chrome seems a little bewildering.
The design is utilitarian and difficult to discern from many other budget tablets. Having all the ports and buttons on one side while the quiet single speaker resides on the other is a bizarre choice of positioning and doesn't particularly lend itself to a good ergonomic experience.
I found the resolution of the screen a little off-putting at this screen size, with a chasm between glass and screen, while including the front- and rear-facing cameras was almost a complete waste of time.
The Zoostorm PlayTab has a design somewhat reminiscent of the appealing and largely successful Tesco Hudl, and specifications to rival some more expensive tablets, but there's been far too many corners cut in getting the PlayTab to such a competitive price.
There's clearly room for a good budget tablet, but when such high benchmarks have been set by others, the PlayTab only just about manages to be considered good value thanks to its smooth operation, good app compatibility and connectivity.
If you're looking for an iPad competitor or a cheaper Android alternative to the Google Nexus 10, you'd best carry on saving for something with a bit more substance, or otherwise down-size your expectations to one of the better seven-inch tablets that can be had for a similar price, such as the Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD.