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The Cube iWork 7 hands-on review – the smallest Windows tablet to date

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    The Cube iWork 7 hands-on review – the smallest Windows tablet to date



    2014 is the year of Windows tablets, as we have seen all sizes of Windows 8 tablets taking over the market that has been dominated by Android and iOS for years. While people are still debating whether 8-inch tablets are too small for running Windows 8, certain manufacturers try to push things even further. That is exactly what has happened here, the Cube iWork 7 is the very first 7-inch Windows 8 tablets on the market.




    Key Features


    7 inch IPS display at 1280*800 pixels
    Weighs 280g, 190.8*111*8.8mm in size.
    Intel Atom Bay-trail Z3735G Quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM
    Windows 8.1
    Office 365 with one year free subscription
    16GB of built-in-storage, expandable by TF card
    2MP front-facing camera & 2MP rear-facing camera
    AAC speaker
    Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
    USB host
    Micro SD card slot
    3500mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery, 4-5 hours battery life




    Design and Build




    The iWork 7 is not going to win any beauty contests. It is very much the plane Jane of small tablets. There is nothing on this tablet that you wouldn’t have seen before; a plastic rear, black front bezel, and rounded corners. But it feels reasonably well-made., at only 8.8mm it is slimmer than most Windows tablets on the market, and at 280g it’s as light as any 7-inch Android tablet.




    The iWork 7 is designed for portrait use. The front is dominated by a 7-inch IPS display at 1280*800px. The bezel on the left and right side of the display is quite small, making the tablet easy to be held in one hand. The relatively bigger bezel up and down makes sure that you have a place to rest your fingers while using the tablet in horizontal mode.




    Along the side you will find all the physical controls, ports and slots. There are a 3.5mm audio jack, a Micro SD card slot, a Micro USB port for both data transmission and charging, a Mini HDMI port, and a Power/standby Key on the left side, a volume rocker and a Windows Home button on the top side.




    The front-facing camera sits above the display, while the 2MP rear-facing camera sits in the upper left corner of the rear side.




    Display




    The iWork 7's display is certainly not going to set the world alight. It has a 1,280*800-pixel resolution, which is pretty standard for an inexpensive Windows tablet and enough for the Windows Desktop and for web browsing.




    Everything looks perfectly fine if you stay in the Windows 8 interface and the applications installed from the Windows store. If you enter into the traditional Windows desktop, icons, letters, and even dialogs sometimes look too small.




    Usability




    7-inches, 280 grams, 8.8mm thick is, with respect to Windows PCs, very impressive. In terms of consumer tablets it’s average though and the obvious comparison is the iPad Mini2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, both of which are slimmer than 7mm. Still, it’s good enough for a long-term reading session and absolutely fine as a sofa companion and with 7-inches of screen you get much more usability in landscape mode as a mini PC with a Bluetooth keyboard.




    One thing that does expose itself more than on any other recent Windows 8 PC is the presence of the desktop. Regular reboots to install patches are awkward. Pop-ups from security software and the occasional feeling that you might have left something running on the desktop constantly remind you that this isn’t a simple tablet. Also obvious is the immature Store. You can find almost everything you need, but the quality is poor. YouTube takes so long to start streaming for example. Some apps just seem to re-start occasionally and there’s poor use of screen space in many cases. This will surely improve over time with more Windows tablets sold day by day, but for now, it is no match for the Apple app store or Google Play.


    Portrait mode use is best for thumb-typing and auto-correct in Windows 8 applications is very good. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn on haptics when typing, if that’s something you like.




    As the tablet runs the full version of Windows, you have the luxury of choosing from tablet-specific apps from the Store, or using any traditional Windows application that takes your fancy. This means that, for example, you could forget about Office 365 and use MPS Office, or use the full version of Xunlei Kankan instead of the more limited tablet-specific version.




    Because none of the applications above are designed for a touchscreen, they can be fiddly to use. You have to be careful with your prodding to make sure you hit the option you need.




    If you do wish to use it as a PC, plugging in a keyboard or mouse should be the right first move, yet it is also tricky as the tablet has no full-size USB port, so you have to make do with Bluetooth peripherals designed for tablets or connect the slate to an OTG adapter. If you feel that the 7-inch display is too small for mouse operations, you can always take advantage of the HDMI port and view things on a bigger Screen. With everything said, unlike the Surface Pro or Acer Iconia W700, the iWork 7 isn’t the tablet that can replace your laptop.

    #2
    Performance




    Inside the Cube iWork 7 is a quad-core "Bay Trail" Intel Atom processor, coupled with 1GB RAM. This is a powerful mobile processor, as shown by its score of 19 in peacekeeper benchmark test - as much as we see from some laptops. The iWork 7 has no problem running Windows 8.1 smoothly and dealing with complicated web pages, or playing HD video from the BBC iPlayer website.


    There is no problem in video playback, either, as all sorts of decoders can be installed to make sure that 1080P videos flow smoothly.


    The tablet's small 1GB RAM could prove to be a sticking point, however. Office 365, for example - a free 1-year subscription comes with the tablet - was occasionally laggy, if easy to use with the touchscreen. And with several bigger applications running at the same time you will constantly receive the notification of insufficient RAM.




    Cameras




    The iWork 7 has dual cameras. The front-facing 2MP camera can be used for Skype video-chatting, and the rear-facing 2MP camera can take photos for Instagram updates, but don’t expect any quality here as even daylight snaps can be quite noisy.




    Battery Life



    The iWork 7 only has a 3,500mAh Li-Po battery, which is small even by Android standards. Battery life is covered in detail below but worth mentioning is that screen-on time is disappointing. 4hrs 30m is the average so far over two weeks, and that can be considered poor compared to the 6-7 hours the iWork 8 was able to offer.




    Verdict


    The new, cheaper Windows license has helped Chinese manufacturers bring Windows 8.1 tablets to the market for very affordable prices. The lack of USB ports limits the usefulness of having the full version of Windows, so if you're after a tablet mainly for surfing the web and sending emails we'd still recommend an Android model such as the Google Nexus 7, or its cheaper Chinese counterparts. If for whatever reason you'd like a tablet with access to the full range of Windows applications, the iWork 7 is impressive value, but we prefer the Cube iWork 8, which is around $33 more expensive, but has twice the RAM and storage and better battery life.

    Comment


      #3
      Great honest review. Exciting times ahead on the Windows tablet scene with some nice tablets getting released
      Please consider donating to purchase tablets for Finless Bob to continue his work. This will help in the creation of custom roms and build an even stronger development base for our community. Thank you for you support!

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      Comment


        #4
        I received mine in the mail yesterday. Initial impressions are that it feels slightly thinner than my 2012 Nexus 7, and slightly lighter. Seems to be same physical size though which is great.

        Upon receiving it, being the paranoid person that i am and given that it is a chinese tablet, i immediately proceeded to restore from recovery. Big mistake. The recovery image is completely in chinese. I sat around for a few hours last night with the google translate app to try and choose english language and keyboards during the install and even after this, everything remains in chinese.

        Getting frustrated by the whole process, i decided to just to an install of Windows 8.1 from usb media. This works, however you cannot use the key the tablet came with as it comes bundled with "windows 8.1 with Bing", the free version of windows provided to OEMs. I cant find a copy of this online.

        So i used a key i already had purchased previously and the install went smoothly from the UEFI shell.
        Next problem. Upon initial setup, there are no touchscreen drivers, the screen doesnt rotate, the windows button on the top/side doesnt work etc etc. Wifi doesnt work so i have no mechanism to download the required drivers automatically.

        I've now got to the point that it's essentially useless to me in the current form.
        So i downloaded the stock image from needroms.com. Unfortunately the instructions are all in chinese as well and i cant figure out what is actually required. it seems to point to needing 2 separate USB sticks, but not sure.

        When i get home from work i'll plug a mouse back into it and see if i can find which drivers i need, put them on a usb stick and try load them in that way, atleast enough for the wifi to work and then update the rest.

        Comment


          #5
          Oh great. i like it
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            #6
            A real pain restoring, presuming my settings would be the same, did the same on my Onda 102w, than had to return it all back to English, that included downloading the language pack.
            Please consider donating to purchase tablets for Finless Bob to continue his work. This will help in the creation of custom roms and build an even stronger development base for our community. Thank you for you support!

            PLEASE CLICK THE DONATE BUTTON BELOW

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            Comment


              #7
              Good Ideal!
              Thank so much
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              Comment

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