Nvidia might be better known for its graphics cards and processors, but it’s stepping out into the hardware world with its first tablet, the Tegra Note. Nvidia is working with different partners over the world who’ll be bringing its slate to stores -- in the UK, it’s bearing the Advent Vega name and will be sold in Currys.
The 7-inch slate packs in the latest Nvidia Tegra 4 processor for demanding games, a 1,280x800-pixel display, a stylus for handwriting notes and a 5-megapixel camera. It’s not a bad lineup of specs and it’s made even better by the extremely affordable £100 price tag.
Does it do enough to make it a worthy purchase over the excellent new Google Nexus 7?
Should I buy the Advent Vega Tegra Note?
If you crave a portable Android slate with plenty of power for games like Real Racing 3 and Asphalt 8, and you don’t want to spend a lot, it’s worth checking out. Its Tegra 4 processor is astonishingly powerful and easily outstrips anything else at even twice this price. The Tesco Hudl is slightly more expensive, but its lesser processor gives a much more sluggish experience.
Its display, however, is neither high resolution nor has brilliant colours. That’s something of a disappointment for a tablet designed to tackle the latest, most cinematic high-definition games. If display quality is important, check out the new £199 Full HD Nexus 7 or the £319 iPad mini with retina display -- it’s vastly more expensive, but its pin-sharp screen might be worth it.
It's got some software bugs too that can quickly become frustrating -- its insistence that a gamepad controller is connected stops you playing some games. The Nexus 7 is the tablet to go for if you want a more hassle-free experience. Neither the Nexus nor the iPad mini come with a proper stylus though, so if hand-writing notes or doodling is paramount, then the Tegra Note is the one to opt for.
Design and build quality
With its chunky black plastic casing, multi-textured back panel and wide bezels, the Note isn’t the prettiest of tablets around. Its design is far removed from the minimalist, plain panels found on both the new Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. If you like the sort of modern, aggressive designs found on Alienware laptops, you’ll probably quite like the Note.
Still, it’s hardly an offensive design and it’s at least small enough to hide away in a bag if you’re going anywhere posh. It measures 120mm long, 190mm wide and is 9.4mm thick -- small enough to pop into your pocket, although you might find its 320g weight could pull your jeans a little low. It has roughly the same dimensions as the original Nexus 7, although it manages to shave a little off the thickness.
Although made entirely from plastic, it still feels quite well put together. The casing has no flex to it, there are no noticeable gaps around the joins and the volume and power buttons all have a satisfying click to them. It certainly feels hardy enough to put up with a few drops from the sofa.
Around the edges you’ll find a microSD card slot for expanding the 16GB of internal storage. There’s also the usual micro-USB port for charging and data transfer and a micro-HDMI port for hooking it up to a big TV -- ideal for properly enjoying shows on Netflix.
Hidden in the bottom corner is a stylus, allowing you to sketch some doodles when you’re bored or hand write notes in meetings. Like the Samsung Galaxy Note range, the stylus on the Tegra Note is specifically designed to work with the tablet, instead of just being one of the third-party pens that will work with any tablet and generally don’t offer the same level of accuracy.
The Tegra Note’s stylus has a slightly spongey tip, unlike the Galaxy Note’s fine, plastic tip. It does narrow to a small point though, which manages to be reasonably accurate. It’s at least good enough for quick notes, although for fine detail on drawings, the hard tip of the Galaxy Note’s stylus -- as well as its ability to show a crosshair on screen when the tip gets near -- makes it better for very fine details.
Nvidia reckons that the stylus only needs to make use of one of the lower-powered cores of the tablet, so is therefore less demanding. I can’t say I ever found using the stylus to be a massive drain on the Galaxy Notes, but anything to increase battery life is definitely a good thing.
The 7-inch display has a 1,280x800-pixel resolution, which is the same resolution you’d find on the original Nexus. It’s a perfectly acceptable amount of pixels, given the very cheap price. It's reasonably sharp, but it doesn’t have the same crispness around icon edges or on small text that you’d see on higher resolution slates.
If you really want your photo collection to look brilliantly sharp, you should consider the £200 Nexus 7. If you’ve got even more cash to throw around, the new iPad mini has a whopping 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution that makes even tiny details look crystal clear.
The display doesn’t make up for it in its quality either. It’s not particularly bright, resulting in a lot of reflections and its colours are much less bold and vibrant than you’d find on the Nexus. It also has quite a cold colour cast to it, which I wasn’t keen on. For everyday tasks like Facebooking or even watching a bit of YouTube, it’ll do fine.