Review: HCL ME U1 Android Tablet

There has been a sudden splurge of sub 10 k tablets in the market in the last few months. From Funbook tablet, to the Mercury tab to the much hyped Aakash, the market has seen all and left customers confused. While a lot has been written (actually written–off) about Aakash, judgements on other tabs are still taking shape. We were able to lay our hands on the HCL ME U1 and juggle with it. Read on.

clip_image019One can say that the HCL ME U1 has killer looks. The moment you un-box the device you can feel you are laying your hands on a classy device, unlike most tablets in this range. Its glossy white shell looks elegant but is an absolute fingerprint magnet (wherever you touch you are bound to leave your imprint).

The tab sports a brilliant 7 inch 800×400 Capacitive touch screen display and runs on Android 4.0 ice-cream sandwich OS. What makes its looks even more enticing is the absence of any physical buttons on the front and back of the device. There are only 3 buttons on the side – one for power ON and the other two for volume controls. Basically since it is an ICS device, that gives all functions of home, running apps, recently closed tabs and applications on the home screen itself, it doesn’t need to have physical buttons. This makes the appearance even more sleek and clean.

The shell has a front facing 0.3 megapixel camera but it would have been great if HCL had also provided for one at the rear. But that’s high hopes because none of the tabs in this category has it.

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The only problem the tab possesses in looks is that the display looks too integrated in the shell. For example if you want to check for internet settings your touch tends to get too close to the shell and at times the response turns sluggish. It is also too irritating if it keeps happening all the time.

Features & Performance

The HCL ME U1 is powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor backed by 512MB DDR3 RAM. The in-built Wi-Fi power device sports a 4GB internal storage that can be expanded up to 32GB with a MicroSD.

When it comes to features the tab has similar or more features than what is offered by competitors. For music lovers the tab provides for a multi-format music player with internal mic, built in high quality speakers and a 3.5mm audio jack. Watching videos, movies and pictures on this HD quality tab is a pleasure. Well, well, well, the tab comes built-in with the Saavn application that makes listening to music and creating playlists easier. And for movie buffs there are the apps like ‘Watch free movies’ or ‘YouTube Videos’ that you could download from MESmart Apps. We loaded a few movies to the tab and it worked well. The only problem was volume…it was low even on high levels. Infact HCL has partnered with Hungama.com for wherein all you need to do is to enter a 12 digit e-coupon code that comes with the tab and watch unlimited movies.

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For those who think this tab is only suited for personal use, think again! The U1 comes pre-loaded with professional apps like LinkedIn, Push mail and ThinkFree Office, to keep you connected. You could also download productivity apps from MESmart.

The biggest disadvantage of HCL ME U1 is that it does not have Google Play. Though one can download Google Play from the internet but it is a pretty tedious process.

As social networking is an integral part of every individual now, the tab comes pre-loaded with Twitter. But the missing link is that there is no pre-loaded Facebook that most others provide for. And the one available on MESmart is old and sluggish. Word of caution – Do not download Opera Mini on the tab. It hangs midway and slows down the device.

Talking of connectivity options the HCL U1 tab is at par with its competitors. It sports a universal USB port and a mini USB port. Apart from Wi-Fi you can connect to the net on-the-go via a 3G dongle. It would have been great if the tab allowed for a video calling facility. Also missing is a HDMI port which is provided by Attitude Daksh and BSNL Penta. All-in-all it would have been great if HCL was a little more thoughtful.

It’s interesting to note that some of the apps, like Saavn, Cleartrip etc that open on this tab are upside down. As in if you flip it from landscape to portrait it opens upside down. Once flipped it takes a little time to load in but thereafter performs pretty smoothly. We played some games like Ninja that comes pre-loaded on the tab, Tic-Tac-Toe, Solitaire and Angry Birds, downloaded from MESmart and those worked well too.

Battery life of the tab is at par with competition. It is powered by a 3600mAH Li battery that lasts for 5-6 hours depending on the usage.

Alternatives

The HCL ME U1 seems a good deal for Rs 7,999. Other tabs with similar features are Micromax Funbook, Karbonn Smart Tab, Auxus AX02 and Zync Z990 priced at Rs 6,499, Rs 6,990, Rs 9,990 and Rs 6,490 respectively.

Technical Specifications

  • Dimensions – 192.8×117.28×12.53 MM
  • Screen size – 7 inch
  • Touchscreen – Capacitive
  • Operating system – Android 4.0.3
  • RAM – 512 DDR RAM
  • Processor – 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU
  • Storage internal/external – 4GB/32GB
  • Front facing camera- 0.3MP
  • HDMI/USB port – No/Yes
  • Battery – 3600mAh
  • App store – MESmart
  • 3G- Yes via dongle
  • Network – Wi-Fi
  • Phonecall – No
  • Audio playback – Yes, Multi Format Video Player
  • Video playback/ Recording – Yes/ 720p and 1080p capable
  • Weight – 350gms

Price – Rs 7,999

Verdict

  • Looks: 4/5
  • Features: 3/5
  • Ease of use: 3/5
  • Performance: 3/5
  • Value for Money: 3.5/5

Pros:

  • Good built/ Sleek design
  • 1GHz processor
  • Full USB port
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Absence of Google Play
  • Soft speakers/ Volume
  • Absence of HDMI