Makers of Android tablets have it tough. In addition to competing with each other, they need to keep a wary eye on the ever-ticking bomb in their midst: Apple, and its dominating grip on the tablet market. It’s a given that to succeed, any new Android slate must stack up favorably against the iPad in one way or another, whether that’s on features, on price, or on both. To that end, every now and then, we see Android slates that resemble iPads so closely in their feature sets and design that they come close to being clones.
Case in point: the subject of this review, the $198-list Mini Studio 8 by Idolian, a tablet maker based in Southern California. In this case, though, rather than aping the full-size iPad, the Mini Studio 8 takes its cues from theApple iPad Mini. Idolian’s well-built, attractive little slate not only looks like the iPad Mini from the front, but it’s also encased in a similar-looking aluminum-alloy case, has the same screen resolution (1,024×768), and boasts several other features in common. Where these two slates differ greatly, though, is in price: that $198 list price for the Mini Studio 8, versus the $329 at which we typically see the entry-level 16GB iPad Mini. (Plus, at the time of this writing, the Mini Studio 8 was on sale via Idolian’s Web site for $158—just about dead-on half the price of Apple’s Mini.)
In addition, the Idolian Mini comes with several features unavailable on Apple’s miniature tablet. These include an SD-card slot (for expanding the onboard storage) and two ports: a USB connector and an HDMI out. And these features, in our opinion, significantly increase the overall value of Idolian’s offering.
On paper, at least, it may seem that feature for feature, the Mini Studio 8 is something of a bargain, and, depending on what you want to do with your tablet, it may well be. But simply cross-checking feature lists between two similar products doesn’t always tell the whole story. Make no mistake: The Mini Studio 8 is decidedly a budget tablet, and where economy models often pale compared to premium tablets is in the quality of their displays. And that’s the case here. Despite the identical pixel resolution of these two slates, the Apple iPad Mini’s display panel is noticeably brighter and more colorful.
You may be thinking that this is a classic example of you-get-what-you-pay-for, but not necessarily. Several under-$200 tablets, such as the 16GB versions of both the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD (7″), have great-looking, bright, and colorful displays. Still, the comparison is simply a matter of how fussy you are. The Mini Studio 8’s screen is not in any way poor or unacceptable; it’s just not as good as what we’ve seen on these other models.
Our point is that this Idolian tablet and the iPad Mini don’t exist in a vacuum—several other low-cost slates out there compare favorably to the downsized iPad, too. Still, we liked the Mini Studio 8 overall, especially as an entry-level tablet for children and first-time buyers who aren’t sure how much they will actually use their tablet. But we like it much better priced in the $100-to-$150 range. At its list price of $198, it bumps heads with some other compact 7-inch slates that are very strong contenders indeed, even if their screens are an inch smaller. If the Mini Studio 8 piques your interest, definitely try to land it on sale—and look at the screen first.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.