Apr 06 2015

Review: Cube Talk 9X

Cube Talk 9X

There is a huge demand for high-quality and affordable tablets in a market dominated by over-priced Apple and Samsung ones. The Chinese market is so saturated with a plethora of brands never heard of in the West that it is very difficult to know which ones are really good and which ones should be avoided. The Cube Talk 9X is one promising Chinese tablet with monster hardware and a moderate price tag. But how does it perform in real life?

What is Cube?

From the Alldocube Technology Limited website1:

“CUBE” is a digital brand owned by Shenzhen Alldo Cube Technology and Science Co., Ltd. Created in 2004, CUBE’s product line now stretches from Android tablet PCs, MP3 and MP4 players to E-Books and other advanced high-tech gadgets. Ever since its very beginning, Cube has been building up a great reputation with its outstanding customer experience, it is also one of the three leading android tablet brands in China.
[…]
And in recent years, CUBE is intensely focused on user experience enhancement, constantly striving for excellence in its product design and development. Not only have stringent factory inspection rules been laid out to improve the reputation of its products, but also a huge sales and after-sale service team has been assembled to help the customers experience CUBE’s professional and attentive services.

It is said in the advertisement material that the Talk 9X is manufactured by Foxconn.

Specs

Cube Talk 9X

Priced at $210/200 € (spring 2015):

  • 9.7″ 2048×1536 display
  • MediaTek MTK8392 Octa-core Cortex A7 1.66 GHz
  • 2GB RAM + 32GB ROM
  • Mali-450MP4 Quad-core 700 MHz GPU
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G WCDMA 900/2100 MHz
  • 8 MP back camera(f/2.0 aperture) + 2 MP front camera
  • 10,000 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 237 x 170 x 7.0 mm
  • Weight: 560 g (with battery)

That is pretty powerful hardware for the price!

Unboxing

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In the box besides the tablet are included: a user manual (in English and in Chinese), a SIM ejector tool, a 2.0 A charger, a USB On-The-Go cable, a warranty card and a V.I.P. card. The warranty card and the “V.I.P.” card are pretty much useless outside China but others are very well needed. There was a pre-installed protective film on the screen. I am not sure if it was applied by the seller of the manufacturer.

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It is interesting that the brand “Cube” is nowhere to be found on the carton box nor on the device itself. However, there is a large text “ACUBE” printed at the center of the box and a slogan “No Acube, no fun!” and a URL www.51cube.com. The Cube brand itself seems to be written with highly stylized Chinese characters.

Chassis

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The metal chassis is one thing I absolutely love about the Talk 9X. It gives the tablet a premium look and feel. Although it adds to the tablet weight, the added weight is not necessarily a bad thing at all as it makes the device sturdier and gives an excellent feel to it.

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As with all Chinese devices, you need to be a bit sceptic about the official weight and dimensions. The official thickness is 7.0 mm but my measurement revealed that in reality it is 7.6 mm. The official weight is 560 g and my scale gave it 561 g so it really weighs what it suppose to.

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The side bezels are rather thin at 9.76 mm. The upper and lower bezels are thicker at 18.3 mm.

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Here the Talk 9X is sitting in the middle of an iPad 2 (9.7″ on the left) and a Xiaomi MiPad (7.9″ on the right).

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On the right side there are volume rocker, power switch and a SIM card slot. The top side has a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a SD card slot. The bottom side has a micro-USB charger and stereo speakers. Notice that there are no regular three Android touch buttons on the chin: options, home and back as Google recommends that they are now on-screen.

Display

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The display has excellent brightness, vivid colors and wide viewing angles. However, I don’t see any additional value of the super large resolution. When I view the display with the naked eye I could not tell that the resolution is as high as it is. In other words, it is not as sharp nor crisp as the pure resolution would suggest.

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Now here comes my only complain about the Talk 9X: touch sensitivity. My test device came with a pre-installed protective film and it might have something to do with it but I found it hard to type properly with the display.

Speakers

There are two speaker grills on the bottom side but you may know that some times the other grill is empty or the other speaker just plays the same sound as the other so they are two mono speakers but my stereo audio test revealed that the Talk 9X has genuine stereo speakers! I only wish they had placed the speakers around the display so that when viewing video in landscape mode, the speakers would be located in their natural places on the left and right in relation to the screen.

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Because of the small size of the speakers, don’t expect any deep bass but the maximum volume is pretty good without any noticeable distortion. Overall I was really satisfied with the sound quality.

Android OS

At the time of testing, the Talk 9X had KitKat 4.4.2 version of Android. MediaTek is working on a Lollipop 5.0 update for its chipsets and are expected to release it during spring/summer 2015. After they release the Lollipop update, the manufacturers may or may not provide the update for their devices.

Languages/Locale

The ROM supports a plethora of languages right out of the box.

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Mediatek and GPS

Cube Talk 9X GPS

MediaTek chipsets have been notorious for taking their time to get GPS fix in the past. It is the time that it takes to get a proper location set based on different GPS satellites’ positions. Luckily these times are over and the newer MediaTek chipsets find their location rather promptly. Based on my tests the Talk 9X found its rough position (accuracy ca. 50 meters) in 20 seconds and the exact location in 30 seconds. This was the very first time I tried it, the next tests were faster because it already knew the continent and the country it was in.

Software

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The test device came with Google Play pre-installed, I am sure the seller had installed it because Google services are banned in China. There were also some Chinese apps but you are free to uninstall/disable them.

Previously I have had some issues with app incompatibility with Chinese tablets and TV set-top boxes but all apps that I tried with the Talk 9X worked like a charm.

Phone Calls

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Because of the hardware and software, the Talk 9X is basically a super-sized phone, I had to test making phone calls with it as well. The tables does not have a regular phone call speaker so you need to either use the speaker mode of use a hands-free headphones to be able to hear the recipient speak. Making phone calls worked just like with any other Android phone so it can even be used as a phone if needed.

Benchmarks

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AnTuTu places the Talk 9X below Google Nexus 5 (Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800, quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400, Adreno 330, 2 GB RAM) and LG G3 (Qualcomm MSM8975AC Snapdragon 801, quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400, Adreno 330, 2 GB RAM) and above HTC One (Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600, quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300, 2 GB RAM). Right where it should be with MediaTek MTK8392 Octa-core Cortex A7 1.66 GHz, Mali-450MP4 Quad-core 700 MHz GPU and 2 GB RAM.

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3DMark places the Talk 9X in the company of the likes of Elephone P5000 (MT6592 octa-core 1.7 GHz and Mali-450 GPU) and Thl 5000 (MT6592 octa-core 1.7 GHz and Mali-450 GPU). So it performs like it should.

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GFX Bench has the Talk 9X with the likes of Huawei Ascend G7 (Qualcomm Snapdragon, Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53, 2 GB RAM) so nothing spectacular there.

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Vellamo’s Metal test is equivalent of the AnTuTu scores as the Talk 9X sits between HTC One and Google Nexus 5. The Multicore Chapter ranks the Talk 9X between LG Nexus 4 (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064, Quad core 1.5 GHz Krait) and Motorola Moto G (Qualcomm MSM8226 Snapdragon 400, Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7) so a little disappointment there but who cares about benchmark results anyway? :). The Browser Chapter with Chrome performs similarly as the HTC One so the performance is where it should be.

Cold boot takes about 30 seconds.

Mobile 3G Use

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I received HSDPA (3G H+) speeds using the Talk 9X in areas where my phones could only get Edge speeds. This led me to a conclusion that the antennas used are really good. Although I had bad experience with my hands-free, I did not experience any data connection breaks. I could watch Netflix and browse the Internet without any problems using only the 3G connection, perfect!

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Charging

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Please note that the whopping 10 Ah (that’s 10,000 mAh) battery takes a while to charge. Using the provided 2.0 Amp charger, it takes about 2.5 hours from 0% → 100%. That is not bad at all but if you lose your 2-Amp charger and try to charge it with a normal 1 A charger, be prepared for hours and hours as it takes about 10 hours with it based on my tests. So always use the provided powerful charger when possible.

Primary Camera

In this case I did not give the camera my normal thorough test for two simple reasons: I don’t think it is very convenient to shoot photos with a large-sized tablet and secondly I had to give the test unit away so I did not have the time to shoot videos or take photos under different environments.

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The primary (back) camera has an 8 MP sensor with a large 2.0 aperture so it should produce good shots in theory. The secondary camera is usually used for video calls and selfies and it has a 2 MP sensor (aperture is unknown).

Normal Shots

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Nothing special here, some normal noise can be seen where there aren’t sufficient amount of light.

Macro Mode

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In my opinion the macro shot is really pleasant, giving a nice soft blurry background.

HDR Mode

The High Dynamic Range can help when the lighting is challenging, there are bright and dark areas and if you adjust the shutter speed to the other, then the other will be over/under exposed. The HDR mode takes several photos (usually 2-3) with different shutter speeds and then combines the optimally exposured areas from each photos into one result photo. I love HDR and I use it personally really often. What it also usually does is that it saturates colors giving the photos more vivid and richer colors. Not all photographers like the color saturation but it is a matter of personal preference.

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Please click the comparison photo above to view the original where you can see the different level of detail between an HDR shot and a normal shot. Just take a look at the tree in front, there is a heck of a lot more detail in the HDR photo than in the normal photo.

Panorama Mode

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The panorama shot was very fast, thank’s to the powerful octa-core processor the Talk 9X has. It was basically “live” as there was no delay after shooting when the camera app stitches multiple photos into one. There are really noticeable geometric distortions but so do many other panorama modes have.

Secondary Camera

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The secondary or “selfie” camera seems to have good optics and a decent sensor. One curious detail is the “victory sign timer”. When you enable it the camera app will detect a “V sign” and after it sees one, it will set off the timer and takes a photo after three seconds. It is an awesome way to shoot photos when the tablet is too far away for you to be able to hit the shutter.

Battery Life

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During my test period, I was really satisfied with the battery life. I was able to install apps, browse the Internet, watch an NBA game (2 hours), Netflix (1 hour) and a movie (1.5 hours) and the battery level was still about 35% after the day. Also, many other Android tables (Samsung, I am looking at you) drain the battery during nights even when the device should “sleep”. This problem was not found with the Talk 9X as the battery percentage was in the mornings right where it was list night. Perfect!

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Very sturdy metal chassis with nice finish
  • Good (not great) display with vivid colors and wide viewing angles
  • Large 10,000 battery with excellent power saving in sleep mode
  • SIM card slot and great 3G reception
  • Fast GPS
  • Decent cameras
  • Built-in SD card slot
  • Moderately priced

Cons:

  • Insensitive touch display (digitizer)

Where to Buy?

Several Chinese resellers have it, including Merimobiles, Fastcardtech and many AliExpress sellers. The price is around $210/200 € for the 32 GB version (early 2015).

The Cube Talk 9X in this review came from an AliExpress seller Shenzhen Ele Technology Limited.

Summary

Cube Talk 9X is a great tablet with a premium build and excellent connectivity and its only flaw is the insensitive touch display.

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