Everyone wants all the latest tech. Not everyone has enough money to throw at all the latest tech, so most of us spend our time leaving drool marks on display cases and then going home sad to read specifications and product leaks until we feel better. Just me? Okay then… forget I mentioned anything. This never happened.
It’s a fact that dropping R12,000 on a tablet is an event that is only possible for a small fraction of the technology-loving population and if you do happen to splash out, that tab needs to last until a sizeable section of cash has been stockpiled for the next purchase over a few years. So it’s refreshing to see a full-featured 8-inch slate that is within reach of the average user – more or less. That’d be the Mecer A801 tablet, in case you weren’t paying attention to the headline.
Taking It Lightly
The Mecer A801 is all screen in front, the 8-inch 1,280 x 800 display dominating the whole but surrounded by a pretty wide bezel that hosts the front-facing 2MP camera. The dimensions overall are rather odd, the A801 is thinner width-wise than you’d expect. Still works though.
The rear panel is mostly lightweight metal, matching the rest of the A801 really, with a white plastic border that is thicker on the top and bottom of the tablet. All of the ports reside in the plastic section (mini-HDMI, microSD, headphone and power at the top, and a mic port at the bottom), as well as the rear 2MP camera. In the metal section can be found the SIM slot (3G, for the use of) as well as the prominent volume rocker and power button.
Cracking the hood, you’ll see that the A801 contains 1GB of RAM (954MB in actuality, according to Geekbench), an Intel Z3735G CPU (@1.34Ghz for the most part, rated up to 1.83GHz when you need it) and 16GB of storage. There’s not a whole lot left over after Windows 8.1 scoops up its allocation so making use of the microSD slot is going to be a good idea.
I ran this Windows 8.1 tablet (not Windows Phone 8.1 – big difference) through the PC version of Geekbench. A couple of times, actually, as the scores popping out were wonky. The first score for single-core performance came out at 650. The next, which was done by accident, reflected a result of 718, putting the performance of the Mecer A801 at just below the Exynos-sporting Galaxy S 4. But a variance of over 60 points could be cause for concern so I bumped the benchmark a couple more times, coming back with scores of 723 and, finally, 721. Around 715 seems like a fair Geekbench score, yes?
So it’s got enough chops to run like a two-generation-old smartphone, which probably isn’t ideal for power users. But everyday folks who watch their budgets like hawks will be pleased with the performance. You’ll be able to run most day-to-day tasks on the A801 quite easily, there’s little lag to speak of. But, based on past experience with Windows 8.1 tabs, that’s something that won’t last forever. Windows does love to get bogged down following enough updates.
You’re going to encounter the sort of stock software that you’d expect from a Windows 8.1 laptop or desktop machine, though not all of it will run effectively on the A801. It’s not going to be pleased with any 3D-intensive programs so all but the most basic gaming is out. But Facebook, Twitter and the likes of general browsing will work just fine.
The Mecer A801 also comes with a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, a license that is valid for the time period specified as well as for two devices. So signing up (and netting your 1TB of OneDrive space into the bargain) will let you use Office 365 Personal on another machine and sync between the two. That, as well as the enclosed protective tablet sleeve, make the Mecer A801 the ideal purchase for someone looking to get a tablet without having to buy all those aftermarket extras (aside from a Bluetooth keyboard, that is). And on a budget, to boot.
When your major complaint about a device is that there’s not enough storage space rather than the price or performance (though Stuff in general is inclined to complain about the latter, ‘cos we’re all spoiled horribly) then you’re probably onto a winner. The Mecer A801 is an Office-toting, 3G-sporting, lightweight and versatile slate that will fall into the budget range of just about any South Africa family. Sure, it has its issues but you’re not going to find many 8-inch combos like this at the R2,000 price point.