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If you want a cheap 10-inch tablet you should buy an Amazon Fire HD 10, shouldn't you? Informed opinion holds that it's one of the very few sub-£200 10-inch tablets that's not irredeemably awful. For the money it is actually a decent package offering excellent battery life, an FHD IPS display and a competent 8-core processor.
But cool your heels for a moment, because for a lot less you can now get your hands on Alldocube's new iPlay20, a 10-inch slate that looks like it can give the Amazon Fire HD 10 a serious run for its money.
At the time of writing the iPlay20 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage can be bought from the official Alldocube store on AliExpress for £110 (inc. VAT). Amazon's Fire HD 10 starts at £150, but that's for the 32GB version with lock-screen adverts. The 64GB model without ads will set you back £189.99.
Despite packing a Fire HD 10-matching 10.1-inch screen, the iPlay20 is -- at 245mm by 150mm by 9mm -- thinner, narrower and shorter. That means narrower and more aesthetically pleasing, bezels: 8mm at the sides, 14mm top and bottom. At 416g it weighs less than the Fire HD 10 too, to the tune of 54g.
Despite being lighter, the rear of the iPlay20 is made from metal rather than the plastic Amazon uses. This helps make the iPlay20 feel surprisingly solid for a budget tablet.
The plastic power and volume controls are mounted top left when held in landscape. They are well damped with a positive action, if a little too close together. There's a 3.5mm audio jack on the left and a Type-C USB port for charging and data transfer, but not video output, on the right.
Running the show is a near-vanilla version of Android 10. The Fire HD 10 meanwhile runs Fire OS 7, a mutant version of Android 9 designed primarily to promote Amazon content. I doubt Alldocube will push any major system updates to the iPlay20, so you will likely be stuck on 10 until you replace, lose or break it. At the price it's a small price to pay.
The most unexpected feature of the iPlay20 is the unlocked 4G modem. Now, you may not really be bothered about having cellular connectivity in your tablet, but I suspect you'll soon find it a useful feature with pay-as-you-go 4G data as cheap as it is nowadays.
To start with, it means you can make regular cellular phone calls and send text messages on the iPlay20 or, when combined with the GPS receiver, use Google Maps' navigation features while on the move.
The iPlay20 can take two 4G nano-SIMs, although using both slots precludes the use of a MicroSD card to expand the internal storage. All of the important LTE bands are accommodated. Other wireless communications are taken care of by Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) radios.
If you need both SIM slots and storage is an issue, Alldocube has just released a Pro version of the iPlay20, identical except for 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM and a higher price tag of £133.
Since media consumption is the main reason for owning a 10-inch tablet, the quality of the screen and speakers is of paramount importance.
While the displays of both tablets are technically very similar -- 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200, 224dpi IPS LCD -- the iPlay20's screen has the Fire 10 beaten in three important metrics: it's brighter, topping out at 420 nits to the Fire 10's 398 nits; the sRGB coverage is better, at 94% compared to 87%; and the contrast ratio is superior, at 1250:1 compared to 890:1.
SEE: Top 10 iPad tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The presence of a fully laminated Gorilla Glass screen is a pleasant surprise at this price. Real glass, rather than hard plastic, with an oleophobic coating works wonders for the quality of the user experience and will keep your tablet looking like new for longer. The only blot on the iPlay20 screen's copybook is that it's rather reflective.
The technical quality of the screen makes it rather annoying that the iPlay20 only supports L3 Widevine DRM, which rules out HD streaming from Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video.
The stereo speakers are buried in the bottom corners of the tablet, assuming you're holding it in portrait. That's a slightly odd arrangement as I expect more use will be had holding it in portrait orientation. Still, the speakers pump out a decent quality sound with plenty of volume available.
On paper the Fire 10's octa-core MediaTek MT8183 SoC has the legs on the iPlay20's UNISOC SC9863A. Both are octa-core chipsets, but Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark returned scores of 832 (single-core) and 3473 (multi-core) for the iPlay20, while Amazon's tablet does better, scoring 1350 and 5010 respectively.
But the Alldocube tablet has twice as much RAM as the Amazon slate (4GB vs 2GB), so there's actually little to choose between the two in terms of everyday performance.
The iPlay20 proved more capable than I expected when it came to gaming. Titles like Real Racing 3 and Modern Combat 5 ran pretty smoothly, albeit with the graphics detail dialled down.
When it comes to battery life, the iPlay20's 6,000mAh battery managed to just get the tablet over the 8-hour line in mixed use before the lights went out. That's where the 28nm UNISOC chip falls down: it's just not as efficient as 14nm or 12nm designs like the MT8183. The Amazon Fire HD 10 can do better thanks to its larger-capacity 6,600mAh battery.
The cameras -- 5MP at the back, 2MP at the front -- are pretty poor, but I expected little else. The Fire 10 HD's cameras are no better.
A 10.1-inch FHD 4G Android 10 tablet for only a little over £100? That would be pretty outstanding if the iPlay20 was a cheap-feeling, thick, heavy, plastic lump with a mediocre quad-core processor. But it's not. It's slender, light, metal-backed, well-made and runs on a half-decent octa-core SoC with 4GB of RAM. It's all the Android tablet most people will ever need.
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