Posted by Jim Martin 30 August 2013
Medion LifeTab E10310 review: a 10.1-inch Android tablet for only £167
£167 inc VAT
With PC sales on the wane, it isn’t too surprising to see manufacturers such as Medion dipping their toes in the water that is the tablet market. But can the LifeTab compete with the scores of other budget Android tablets?
The E10310 costs £167 from Asda and you’d be rightly suspicious of spending this much money on a ‘supermarket’ tablet when rivals from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other big names cost a similar amount. See also: Nook HD+ review
Medion, however, is quick to point out that the LifeTab is better specified than any other 10-inch tablet at this price. There’s a dual-core 1.6GHz processor, 16GB of storage (expandable by microSD card), front and rear cameras, USB input and HDMI output plus an IPS screen for great viewing angles. Specifications rarely tell you if a tablet is any good though...
Medion LifeTab E10310 review: design and build
Aside from the silver strip across the bottom, the LifeTab looks plain in black. The back is a lighter grey and the soft-feel plastic makes the E10310 nice to hold. It weighs a little under 600g and measures 261x172x12mm
Build quality is decent, and all the ports and buttons are on the right-hand side to keep things simple. The sole speaker fires out of the back panel, which isn’t ideal, but it’s reasonably loud.
The screen has a resolution of 1280x800 which is just enough to avoid looking blocky, but it’s a far cry from the Full HD 9-inch display on the Nook HD+ (which costs £149 at the moment).
During our testing, we found the capacitive touchscreen was always responsive, unlike some budget slates.
A minor point, although a big deal for some, is that you get a micro USB to full-size USB cable in the box. To this you can attach a USB flash drive or hard drive and transfer (or play directly) media files. The bundled LifeTab Media player played all our test files with no problems. It’s a no-frills player, but does the job if you have video files in many formats.
There's the obligatory orientation sensor, but you get only Bluetooth 2.1 (not the latest low-energy version) and no GPS.
Medion LifeTab E10310 review: performance
The LifeTab runs the stock version of Android 4.1.1, also known as Jelly Bean. This isn’t the latest version but Medion has already promised regular updates, including 4.2 which is scheduled for the end of September 2013.
In general use, the LifeTab feels fairly zippy. Swiping between home screens and launching apps isn’t the slickest experience you can get on an Android tablet, but it’s more than acceptable at this price. Plus, whether browsing the web, watching iPlayer videos or zooming and panning around Google Maps (and Street View), we couldn’t really fault the E10310’s performance.
If numbers are important to you, the LifeTab scored 1430 in Geekbench 2 and 12fps in GLBenchmark 2.5.1. These are nothing special these days, and only casual games will be playable on the E10310. It’s worth noting that the brand new, second-gen Google Nexus 7, reviewed, scored 2651 and 41fps respectively, and costs £199. Of course, it has a 7-inch screen which might rule it out if you specifically want a 10-inch tablet. (The original Nexus 7 scored roughly the same as the LifeTab).
In SunSpider 1.0, the Medion completed the synthetic web-based test in 1512ms, compared to the 1136ms of the new Nexus 7. It’s still a reasonable score though.
Medion LifeTab E10310 review: software and cameras
Since the LifeTab comes with plain Android, you get all the Google apps and access to Google Play. Medion also pre-loads several useful apps such as AccuWeather, ES File Explorer, Skype and Ebay. Kids will love the excellent Drawing Pad, while anyone wanting to create and edit documents can use DocsToGo. Finally, there’s a 30-day trial of Kaspersky Tablet Security.
While the software is good, the same can’t be said about the cameras. Neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble’s tablets have rear-facing cameras, so the LifeTab should have capitalised here. However, the 2Mp camera on the E10310 takes awful photos, and even worse video. See also: Kindle Fire HD versus Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review
Below is resized photo of St Pancras, which doesn't look too bad...
...until you look at the image at full size. Here's a 100 percent crop of the photo showing the ridiculous level of compression and noise reduction which zaps all detail:
The few people who need their tablet to have a good rear-facing camera should pay extra and get an iPad mini. The front camera is also poor, but it should do for the odd Skype chat.
Medion claims the battery will last up to six hours, but our video playback test ran for less that four hours before the LifeTab's battery gave up. That's a poor result these days.
Medion LifeTab E10310 review: verdict
With tough competition from the new Nexus 7 and Nook HD+, which have higher-resolution screens, the LifeTab E10310 struggles to compete. However, if nothing but a 10-inch screen will do, it’s certainly not a bad choice if you don’t want to play 3D games and your budget is limited to under £200. It’s just a shame that the battery life isn't great.