A31 Quad Core + Retina : the Onda V973 Hands-on Review

Discussion in 'Android Tablet Reviews' started by fashionluo, May 28, 2013.

  1. fashionluo

    fashionluo Senior Member

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    [​IMG]

    For:

    Fantastic display
    Superb Build
    Decent battery Life
    Capable Cameras
    Reasonable Price (USD229)


    Against:

    Recurrent lags & delays
    Poor Wi-Fi reception
    So-so internal speakers


    I know Onda way before this tablet for its wonderful reputation in making high quality PC motherboards. In fact, the very first computer of mine featured an Onda motherboard, and it worked so fine that the computer stayed with me for quite a few years without having any issues. The V973 is the very first Onda tablet I laid my hands on, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Let’s start by learning the key features of this slate.


    Key Features

    ◇9.7 inch 16M-color super IPS display at RETINA resolution (2048X1536 pixels), 264PPI
    ◇Allwinner A31 SoC., quad core 1.0GHZ Cortex-A7 processor, PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU, 2GB memory
    ◇Stock Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Already upgraded to Android 4.2)
    ◇16GB of built-in-storage
    ◇2MP front facing camera, 5.0MP rear-facing AF camera
    ◇Stereo speakers
    ◇HDMI TV-out
    ◇USB host
    ◇MicroSD card slot
    ◇2160p video playback
    ◇8500mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery


    Design

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    All 9.7 inch tablets look like the iPad to some extent, and the Onda V973 is not an exception. It is slightly larger than the iPad4, measuring 242.5*187.5mm across compared to the iPad4's 241.2 x185.7mm. But it's much thinner, just 8.5mm vs. 9.4mm for the Apple product. It’s also a lot lighter, at just 597grams compared to iPad4’s 652grams.

    The front of the tablet is dominated by a 9.7 inch screen with relatively wide bezel. Inside the upper bezel of the display is a 2-megapixel camera.

    There are very few physical connectors along the V973's edges. With that said, the ones Onda chooses to expose are both valuable and standardized, which I certainly appreciate.

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    The top of the tablet hosts almost all the hardware keys and connectors, including a Power/Standby button, a Home button, a Type-D Micro HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro USB port for both charging and data transmission.

    [​IMG]

    The left side plays host to a MicroSD card slot, which supports cards up to 32GB.

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    The rear-facing camera can be found on the top left of the aluminum back, while the speaker gates are located in the transition area between the back and the bottom edge, so it won’t be obstructed when you put it on a flat surface.

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    As exquisite as those speakers look, the sound they produce is of relatively low volume and poor quality.


    Display

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    This 9.7-inch panel the V973 sports has an eye-watering 2,048 x 1,536 resolution -- the very same as the iPad4. It's one of the most impressive display I've seen on a tablet to date. And, indeed, things look fantastically sharp here. Text is rendered incredibly crisply and the UI looks better than ever. The first-party icons are all crisp and clean, though many third-party app icons do look like they could use a new, higher-resolution rendering. Thankfully, the apps themselves overwhelmingly look fine.

    Remember when the new iPad shipped and everyone was scrambling to update their apps to support it? There's no need here. The way Android is structured, apps just natively support the higher resolution. I tried dozens of apps, including third-party browsers like UCWEB HD and lots of different random utilities and games, and I didn't spot a hint of blurry text.

    [​IMG]

    The brightness of the display is fair, though not quite as searingly bright as the 500 nits the PIPO M9 can pump out. Colors are well-rendered and viewing angles are very good, but I was a bit disappointed by the contrast.

    The color reproduction will also appeal to many, as it's pretty close to reality - it lacks the punch of the Super AMOLED Plus screens seen on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 for instance, but it will depend on personal preference as to whether that's a good thing.

    As I have mentioned many times in the other reviews I wrote, I am a huge fan of the vivid colors of AMOLED screens, but I know plenty of people that loathe them too. On the contrary, IPS displays are much more widely accepted.


    System & Interface

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    Onda hasn’t as drastic changes to Android in the V973 as, say, Beneve has with its Miracle OS, but it has managed to leave its own mark with some customized widgets and applications.
     
  2. fashionluo

    fashionluo Senior Member

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    Performance

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    The V973 centers on Allwinner's A31 Quad Core SoC. The chip quadruples four Cortex-A7 cores running at 1.0GHz with Imagination Technologies’ SGX544MP2 GPU.

    I have discussed this quad core Cortex-A7 Soc. superficially in the review of the Ployer MOMO19 and the ICOO ICOU7GT, Benchmarked. Briefly, though, the A7 employs the ARMv7 instruction set, just like ARM's Cortex-A9 design. Technically, a cluster of four Cortex-A7 cores supports up to 2MB of L2 cache. But Allwinner only arms its A31 with 1MB.

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    The increase in display pixels does have taken a toll on the V973’s benchmark scores. On the Antutu Benchmark, the V973 scored 10401, much lower than the category average of quad core slates.

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    On the graphics-focused Nenamark2 test, the V973 only scored 40.8 FPS, much lower than the 59.1FPS reached by the ICOU7GT, which uses the same Allwinner A31 SoC. but a display at standard WXGA resolution.

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    Vellamo Benchmark is never friends with any of the A31 powered slates, an HTML5 score of 1035 and a METAL score of 348 is far below quad core average.

    [​IMG]

    The Onda V973’s benchmark scores compared to those of some other quad core tablets


    Unfortunately, the V973’s real world performance is more or less in accord with its Benchmark scores, depending on how you use it. While I was navigating the home screens, or browsing some image-heavy web pages, I did experience noticeable lags and delays every now and then. And sometimes the delays became so annoying that I would rather go back to my singular cored Samsung P1000 than spending one more minute with the V973.

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    Gaming on the V973 is a bitter sweet experience. Thanks to the incredibly powerful PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU, even the most graphically intense games such as the “NFS: the Most Wanted” and “Grand the Auto” ran smoothly on the V973, although with less frame rate than running on standardized resolutions.

    [​IMG]

    Yet, I did encounter some compatibility issues with games such as “Asphalt 7” and “Ironman 3”.

    [​IMG]

    Video playback is quite a different story. In fact, most Chinese tablets are incredibly capable video players. And the V973 belongs to the best of the best. Even high bit-rate 2160P videos of different formats can be played smoothly on it, and you can also stream 4 clips of 1080P videos simultaneously by using the 4K player app developed specifically for A31 powered slates. And watching a 1080P video in its full pixels on this retina display is really a joyful experience.


    Cameras

    Onda has installed two cameras on the V973. The first is a front-facing 2MP camera that can be used with Skype or similar apps for video chatting with friends and family.

    The second is a rear-facing 5MP camera that does a good job of matching typical smartphone snappers, although I still feel it looks slightly odd standing up and taking pictures with a 9.7 inch tablet.

    [​IMG]

    Photo snapped by the front-facing camera

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    Photo snapped by the rear-facing camera

    Nevertheless, I braved the puzzled stares of onlookers and tested out the functionality of the V973's lens, and the results were pleasantly surprising, much better than what I’ve got when testing other tablets with 5MP cameras.

    [​IMG]

    Onda has given its users a large amount of options to use, the exposure and the white balance can also be adjusted to reach the perfect setting. There are also more universal shooting options, such as switching the ISO and focus mode. However, the absence of LED Flash is quite a shame.


    Wi-Fi Reception

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    The Wi-Fi reception of this slate is really not good at all. I believe it’s due to the metal chassis it uses. In my actual test, transfer speed was crippled and unreliable while I was some meters and a wall away from the Wi-Fi router.

    [​IMG]

    And while I compared the V973’s Wi-Fi reception to that of the PIPO M9, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the Ainol NOVO8 Dream by the reading of the Wi-Fi analyzer app, V973 did have the poorest performance among the 4!


    Battery Life

    [​IMG]

    The V973 is powered by a non-removable 8500mAh Lithium polymer battery. During my time testing the tablet I found that it offers excellent performance. Indeed, in between testing various apps, capturing screen grabs, watching HD movie content, loading and re-loading dozens (if not hundreds) of websites, playing games, using the camera and all other manner of applications I was easily able to get a full day’s use of the tablet on a single charge. Given the power that’s required to light up all those pixels on the V973’s high-resolution screen this is really quite an achievement on Onda’s behalf. And according to my actual test, the Onda lasted more than 8 hours single-looping a 720P video and 6 hand a half hours streaming an online tv sitcom.


    Verdict

    If you're looking for a 9.7-inch Android tablet then you're likely to be looking at Chinese brands, perhaps with Archos in mind. There's certainly no question the V973 has the look and the display to woo a number of buyers, but the A31 & Retina marriage doesn’t exactly result in satisfactory experiences.

    The Good

    The V973 sports a truly excellent screen that brings high definition media content to life.

    The slate is only 8.5mm thick, making it one of the slimmest Chinese tablets in the market. Also, the metal chassis feels quite high-quality.

    Taking the number of pixels its screen carries into account, the V973 actually has a pretty decent battery life. An average of 6-8 hours of onscreen use on a charge wouldn’t save you from charging the device on a daily basis, it does spare most of us from multiple-charges within one day.


    The bad

    The UI on the V973 continues to push me back to the other tablets once I’m done testing. It is quite clunky and sluggish. I have also experienced serious lags during E-booking reading and web-browsing.

    The sound produced by the speakers is not ugly or distorted, but doesn't go loud enough and doesn't have much warmth or low-end presence - a bit thin.

    Wi-Fi reception is hardly satisfactory, whoever using this tablet should consider buying a much stronger router.


    Final Verdict

    At RMB 1,399 (USD229 ),it is one of the cheapest choice you could have for a tablet with retina display. And the great build quality accomplished by Onda’s exquisite workmanship is going to be attractive to many. If the sluggishness could be alleviated by firmware optimization, the V973 is still a decent choice. However, I am not really too positive about that.
     
  3. PAS1970

    PAS1970 Member

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    I'd agree with all of that. They really need to work on the stability, and quick. I love the screen. It's great for reading and watching videos but the overall stability, even with the new OS version, is really not good enough.
     
  4. PAS1970

    PAS1970 Member

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    Having read somewhere else on the internet how to disable the Chinese apps I thought I'd give it a shot. Nothing to lose.

    To my delight everything seems a lot more snappy. I'm running the latest 4.2.2

    I disabled AnZhi. Firereader, QQ, UC Browser HD, LETV, Green ? and the three with chinese names. No science behind it. I could go back and see which is making the difference but I don't want those apps anyway.

    Anybody else any experience with this?
     
  5. fashionluo

    fashionluo Senior Member

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    Yeah, the new firmware is much snappier than the 4.1.1 rom.

    Sent from my GT-P7300 using Tapatalk HD
     
  6. reversedr

    reversedr Member

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    Hello,


    I need your help!
    Last night i was trying to charge my tablet with the cable
    /charger that came with it and i notice that it was not
    charging and there was no indication on the tablet that it
    was charging.


    I then plug the tablet to my PC with the USB cable that
    came with it and the PC didn´t detected it! also on the
    table no information about USB connection as usual.

    Could it be a problem with the cable or the table?

    Can you tell me where can i online purchase a compatible
    cable/Charger for V973?


    Thanks !
     
  7. PAS1970

    PAS1970 Member

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    Can you charge anything else with that charger? Try charging something like a blackberry with it.
     
  8. Spider

    Spider Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi reversedr, congratulations on your new Onda tablet and welcome to the forum. Nice of you to become a member of Android Tablets. If you end up getting a new charger, you should be able to find one here: Amazon.com: chargers for android tablet: Electronics

    BTW When you get a chance, please go to your profile and fill in the Tablet / Device entry. That way folks will know which tablet you have without you having to tell them every time.
     
  9. reversedr

    reversedr Member

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    yes good point!
    But just tested the charger with another usb cable and is charging my samsung cell phone
    so i guess the problem is with the usb cable or tablet...

    the usb cable used (samsung)to charge my cell phone is short on the connector compared to the usb connector that came with the tablet... , so i cant use it for the test ...
     
  10. PAS1970

    PAS1970 Member

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    Yes. It seems chassis on the Onda is very poorly designed so they need a USB with extra length. However it does still work on normal USB devices. It's just you can't use most USB cables with it. A real pain in the ass. I've ended up ordering a new OTG cable from Hong Kong as I lost mine and I couldn't find one listed for the Onda devices in Europe.

    Likely to arrive in a few weeks though so can't recommend the firm yet.
     
  11. reversedr

    reversedr Member

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    Just cutted my samsung usb cable a bit , to make the connector bigger, and it worked!
     

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