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Review: UbiSlate 7Ci tablet

- February 20th, 2014

Have you been thinking about getting a tablet but wasn’t really sure if it was worth it? Most tablets can’t measure up to laptops and the few that do cost a pretty penny. But even the cheaper ones can put a bit of a dent in your wallet. That is, until now.

I recently had a chance to test out the UbiSlate 7Ci, which has the distinction of being the world’s cheapest tablet. As the Canadian-based DataWind as a low-cost alternative to mobile devices for people in developing world, the device retails here for only $37.99.

Datawind's UbiSlate 7Ci

DataWind’s UbiSlate 7Ci. (HO)

The UbiSlate 7Ci is actually part of a family of low-cost 7-inch tablets, which includes the $79.99 7C+ and the $129.99 3G7. The main difference between them is that while the 7Ci is Wi-Fi only, the 7C+ and 3G7 run on the Edge and 3G networks, respectively. Other than that, the specs are roughly the same.

All three tablets have 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage, with a MicroSD slot to allow the memory to be expanded by up to 32 GB. The 7Ci and 7C+ each have a single-core  processor, which runs at 1 GHz. Meanwhile,  the 3G7 is somewhat faster as it uses a 1.2 GHz processor with two cores.

Granted, this is a little low by today’s standards, even in regards to smartphones. (Most of those have a least dual-core processor with faster clockspeeds, 1-2 GB of RAM and 16-32 GB of internal storage.)

But bear in mind, North America was not the original market for these devices. They were aimed at people whose incomes are around $200 a month, such as India, according to the company’s CEO Suneet Tulli. “(The company’s purpose) was products that would make Internet devices affordable for… the masses,” he explained.

In fact, in that country, DataWind has partnered with the government to provide the tablets as an educational tool for university students. And on the commercial side, Tulli said the UbiSlate 7Ci is generally one of the top-selling tablets in that country because of the price.

But how does it operate as a tablet? It’s decent for basic use. It’s fine for surfing the Internet, running simple apps and mobile games, though occasionally with more intensive programs the devices tend to hang a bit. All running a clean install of Android 4.0 or higher, the devices would have benefited from slightly more RAM and/or a dual-core processor.

Video playback is okay. The sound is a little quiet, but clean. And the visuals are only a little pixellated. But the 800×480 resolution TFT LCD display on the 7Ci and 7C+ (which DataWind manufactures in Montreal) only really works at a direct-on viewing angle. (The 3G7 uses a slightly higher resolution 1024×600 screen and has less degradation than the other two when viewed off-angle.)

That being said, the devices are reasonably light so it’s not incredibly hard to hold one for an extended period of time.

All three devices come with 0.3 MP front-facing camera for video chats and the 3G7 also has a 2 MP rear camera. And the battery life is around three hours.

As the specs are a little lower than comparable devices, I don’t see much of a market for the 7C+ and 3G7.  If price is a consideration, $79.99 and $129.99 isn’t really that cheap.

You can probably get a mid-range to high-end smartphone or phablet running on the LTE network for less. That is, if you are willing to sign up for a two-year contract with a wireless provider.

But there is a lot of potential for the 7Ci – as many here could take advantage of it as a secondary wireless device. At $37.99, it’s cheaper than an e-reader. And while it may not have the crisp screen of, say a Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Aura, it is a full-fledged Android tablet with access to the Google Play Store and its 1 million or so apps, including ones for Kindle and Kobo.

All in all, the UbiSlate 7Ci is a useful little tablet, for the cost of a dinner at a reasonably inexpensive restaurant. For more information about the UbiSlate devices, check out DataWind’s website.

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10 comments

  1. Aviva | February 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    good price, good quality!

  2. saanvi | February 21, 2014 at 1:02 am

    value for hard-earned money

  3. Mr. Bawkbagawk | February 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Can you explain how signing up for a two year contract is cheaper? if you are buying the WiFi only model, obviously you are not concerned with using the tablet outside of a WiFi hotspot. Please stop shilling for Rogers.

  4. MartyB | February 24, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    If you run into problems, it is hard to find a working firmware to reflash.
    After weeks of looking, I finally found one. It flashes 4.2.0

    Google…

    ET Q8 V1.2 A13Q8 GSL1680 605322 RTL8188 2Cam(MID-756 4.2.0)

    and use PhoenixCardV306 to burn the image file to sd card.

    Place sd card in the tablet and turn on. Don’t touch any
    buttons or touch screen until flash finishes. You have to
    change the language from Thai to your pref.

    I could never get other flashing software to recognize the tablet
    in XP even using generic drivers.

    Good luck

  5. darren | March 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    will they work with wind mobile sim card

  6. Lloyd | March 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Mine came with a screen imperfection-minor. The screen scratches with just finger swipes-again minor. It seemed to really slow down after a couple of weeks. Pretty good for quickly checking email. Very slow for web surfing. A few weeks after I got it (took a month after ordering) the volume up/down buttons no longer move or respond. You can still change the volume through android. I complained and asked for a partial refund or a new tablet. They told me I had to mail it at my own expense without any damage en-route. They accused me of breaking it. It would cost about $20+ to mail with insurance, so it wouldn’t be worth it, especially as another one would likely break too.

    Summary: buy one if you won’t buy another tablet and want to play with a tablet. When (not if) it breaks, take it apart, play with it, root it, have fun with it. You will have paid Can $55 (with S&H) for a cheap plastic bauble that will work Ok for about a month. Just be glad you can afford the loss of $55.

  7. shohankabir | March 29, 2014 at 1:29 am

    This tablet is going to set a new standard in entry level tablet market. Go ahead…

  8. Yuprules | May 31, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Any UbiSlate 7Ci tablets that was shipped to stores AFTER MAY 2014 NO LONGER has the Google Play store!

  9. Neeraj Bajaj | June 24, 2014 at 3:07 am

    Hi ! I have purchased an product Datawind Tablet 7CZ.

    I have made a very big mistake by purchasing this.

    Actually, I wanted to buy a Samsung Tab, but continuasly phone calls from Datawind Customer Care, I had to buy this cheap product…

    There are many problems and deficiencies in Datawind Product.

    No one is picking up the Datawind Customer Care No.

    No resolution from Datawind Service Center…

    I have bought this Datawind Tab 7CZ on 23.05.2014 and today’s date, its not working..

    I request to all, please don’t buy any of the product from Datawind…

    Thanks

  10. Kiran | November 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

    This was a complete mistake of a purchase. And I made the mistake of wasting my time with their costumer support trying to either fix the issue or get a refund. Their customer support line is filled with rude people that don’t answer a single question and interrupt me while I am asking the questions. I called them within my rightful 28 days for a return but they didn’t receive that call according to them. I left a voicemail but they say they don’t have records. I dealt with customer support for 3-4 months. Wasting HOURS of my time. There was no communication between them and every single person that I talked to was rude to me and talked over me as I tried to explain the situation or ask questions. I admit that I haven’t been the kindest person on the phone the last handful of times but that is after 20+ calls of being nice. I gave up trying six months ago and just received a call FROM THEM. The man I spoke to talked over me once again and interrupted me at every turn. I was trying to make it clear that I have no interest in trying to resolve the issue and that I want to either get a refund or just leave things as they are. Perhaps the worst part of this entire ordeal, I have a faulty device. It restores and clears itself every week or randomly turns off and won’t turn back on. I made it clear on the phone today that I don’t want to put more time into a device that may break down two days from now. The man just kept interrupting me as I was trying to tell him that I didn’t want to fix the problem and that I had quit at this point.

    Whoever developed these tablets had a good idea but VERY poor execution. I admired their desire to build cheap tablets to make tablets more accessible but this experience has caused me to lose faith in any of this company’s devices and customer service.

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