Hoo, boy, Samsung, LG and the rest of the bigger players might actually get annoyed at HiSense for this one. The Sero 8 Pro tablet is actually a really decent piece of handheld tech – a tad more heft than we’d like as a general rule but it’s packing enough performance and features to get up the noses of the big boys. Just a little bit.
I was sent the HiSense Sero 8 Pro, which is an 8-inch tab in case the name didn’t give it away (7.9, actually but we all exaggerate), last week but it has languished in the Stuff offices while we all screamed and ran around (metaphorically) in order to get our monthly deadline out of the way. But we’ve finally had enough time to get a good look at it and what we’ve seen is largely impressive. Come on, they’re not going to have things all their own way.
Go for gold
The tablet looks the part, featuring a clean front-end and mostly clear side. Everything that you’re used to using, like the power button and ports, have been relegated to the top edge. Strangely, they’ve opted to do without a volume rocker so we’ve got a power button, charging and headphone port and there’s also a gap begging to be filled with a 32GB microSD card along the top. It takes some getting used to, we’re used to that upper-right-hand screen lock/unlock motion. Stupid muscle memory…
The gold-ish edging as well as the similarly-tinted rear panel, which is bordered above and below by a glass strip at the back, are made from aluminium, accounting for some of the weight of the Sero 8 Pro. The impression is one of durability and the gold colour tempted me to swing a pickaxe at it to test it out. Obviously I wasn’t going to do that, since HiSense wants the tablet back and our Bluetooth-enabled pickaxe was out on another test but the point is: it looks as though it can take a knock or two. The edging managed to make some impressive marks on my desk though (sorry HiSense).
All screen, baby
The main reason you’re going to be looking for the Sero 8 Pro isn’t the solid build but its looks are what are important here. And by looks, I mean the display. But before we get into that, there’s the rest of the features to consider.
Take storage. HiSense gave me 16GB of storage on the side of the box but there was only 11GB actually available. Part of this was due to someone else from HiSense being signed in when the tab arrived (I didn’t touch anything or read any emails, promise) but part of that was also the collection of – I think – pointless apps that are installed from the outset. It’s enough enough to get rid of most of the bloatware though.
There’s the 2MP/8MP camera combo, though the camera won’t take spectacular snaps. It’s no Xperia camera so expect images to be grainy close up. The rear camera is serviceable enough for social media and images of what you had for breakfast for the last week.
But onto that screen. HiSense have jumped on the 2K screen bus, if that’s a thing, and released a 2,048 x 1,536. It’s not quite full 2K but it’s larger than HD and it shows. If we were going to go hunting for a low-cost media consumption tab that didn’t have a price of fruit on the back, the Sero 8 Pro’s brightness and pixel density, which is 326ppi last I checked, makes it a contender. Pity it’s not up to the task elsewhere.
Through its paces
I put the Sero 8 Pro though GeekBench 3 and a couple of specs popped out. Okay, that was a terrible pun. Still, this tablet – designated HiSense F5281 by the benching software – runs Android 4.4.4, sports an ARM Rockchip processor (quad-core, 1.61GHz) and 2GB of RAM (1.97 actual). Single-core performance came to 690, putting this tablet’s Rockchip braincase between the Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, which scored lower, and the Snapdragon 800, which tops its score by about 150 points. Multi-core performance, which registered as 1879 in the GeekBench run, puts the processor in about the same place. Oh yeah, for some reason the benching programs I tested keep thinking the Sero 8 Pro is a phone. The 8-inch screen disagrees though.
That’s not a bad collection of scores and hardware, for the price you’re going to be paying for this WiFi-only 8-incher (I’ll get to the price in the Verdict). But in practise you’re going to be seeing some lag when launching apps or running multiple bits of software at the same time. It’s not heinous, but the stutter is definitely noticeable by the untrained eye. The processor hardware isn’t exactly matched with the latest and greatest but that’s not why you’re buying this. The RAM helps, anyway. The screen definitely helps.
You’re getting a 2K-ish screen with the Sero Pro 8. It’s all metal, where it isn’t glass, which is what folks have been asking Samsung for for ages. The hardware performance isn’t great but the ability to switch views between this slate and a HiSense TV, as well as the display res and the inclusion of 4K-content decoding software (yeah, that’s in here too) points towards a media-consumption device rather than a high-powered workhorse. And it’ll set you back around R3,000. If you’re mostly after pixels, this is quite a cheap way to get them.