Cheap initial outlay, integrated 3G, well-made and lightweight, sharp, refined screen
Expensive total cost of ownership, performance stutters in more demanding situations, poor battery life
Apple shocked the market when its iPad tablet didn't cost as much as a small car, and now consumers expect to get good prices when shopping for slates. As such Orange has surprised everyone by releasing the Orange Tahiti tablet – the cheapest and yet most expensive tablet on the market.
This confusion comes because the Orange Tahiti (aka Huawei MediaPad) pushes a concept that remains relatively new in the UK: tablets on contract. It is cheap because for £69 this dual-core, seven-inch, 3G-equipped Android tablet can be yours. It's expensive because it requires the signing of a two-year, £25 per month data contract that provides 2GB of data per month and brings the total cost of ownership to £669. That is £10 more than a 64GB iPad 2 with 3G.
So is the Tahiti a bargain? Yes and no.
Fighting for a yes verdict are the build quality, features and specification. On the outside the Tahiti is very well made. The design may not be inspiring, but the metal sides and rounded rear hark back to the original iPhone while the drilled speaker, power and mini HDMI ports could have come straight off an iPhone 4S (if Apple supported HDMI). Inside the Tahiti impresses too with a dual core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of native storage that can be enlarged by a further 32GB thanks to a microSD card slot.
Switch the Tahiti on and the positive impressions continue. For once Orange hasn't burdened a product with its gaudy themes and bloatware apps and the Android 3.0-based Tahiti is far better off for it, especially with Hauwei promising an upgrade to Android 4.0 in February.
Performance doesn't compare to premium tablets like the iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but core applications work quickly and the screen is extremely responsive. Furthermore the screen is a joy to look at it. With a native 1280 x 800 pixel resolution it has a higher density than the iPad 2 and while colours are not as impressive as an AMOLED display, they are nevertheless rich and text is razor sharp.
So what suggests the Tahiti might not be worth the two year commitment? Look closely and its budget roots start to appear. Graphics performance is lacking: playing the latest Android Market games exposes that as does zooming in and out of more complex websites and Flash video stutters. In addition, though the Tahiti is equipped with two cameras (five-megapixel on the back, VGA on the front), image quality is mediocre.
Two shots taken with the Orange Tahiti's camera
Then there is the size issue. Seven-inch tablets are reasonably rare despite their portability (the Tahiti weighs just 390g and measures 190x124x10.5mm) because the screen does feel cramped compared to their more common 10in siblings. Meanwhile battery life is a big disappointment lasting under six hours, though standby is reasonable at up to 200 hours.
So is the Orange Tahiti worth the investment? Again the answer is yes and no. If you can afford to buy a premium tablet outright then no, it isn't worth tying yourself into a product that will look aged two years down the line when you can afford something better now. Importantly, however, to that majority who can't spend a lot of money up front the answer is yes. The Tahiti is a quality product and the baked-in 3G and data contract make for excellent bedfellows. Expect this trend to flourish.