From its base in Cyprus, Prestigio has produced a somewhat schizophrenic tablet in the Multipad 9.7 Ultra.
On paper, this has all the features demanded of a decent mid-range tablet, but in practice, what we’re left with is a messy, ill-thought-out contradiction of a product.
Starting with first impressions, the box is cheaply designed, with a bright green flash proudly boasting Ice Cream Sandwich. It doesn’t exactly scream ‘quality’, and looks rather like a cheap tablet you’d come across at a market in Runcorn, alongside nylon tracksuits and a bloke selling meat.
What's in the box?
But then on opening the box, you are confronted with a very, very nice slimline black leather pouch that seals with sturdy Velcro and is lined with soft leather. Sliding the tablet out for the first time, the quality continues. The Multipad 9.7 Ultra is a lovely looking device. The big screen is offset by a burgundy frame, with a subtely rubberised ridge that is both attractive and practical. It feels solid and there are a wealth of ports on the top side, including two micro USB slots, HDMI out, microSD support and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
But then you turn the tablet over and… oh dear.
The classy design goes out the window, with all manner of text and graphics being splattered across the rear. It’s almost as if Prestigio hired some top-rate designers to handle this tablet, but ran out of budget half way through the process. The labels identifying the ports are one thing, and the logo is just about acceptable, but the rest is unforgiveable.
Along with unnecessary livery, on the rear, you’ll also see the 2 megapixel camera and neatly tucked away speakers, which deliver perfectly adequate sound – exactly what you’d expect from a sub £200 tablet.
And so to the screen - probably the Multipad’s best point. Bold colours, full HD, viewing angles up to 170 degrees – many top line tablets would be envious of the display. Which begs the question: what the hell is it doing on this device? Especially when the processor allowing you to take advantage of the gorgeous screen is so very poor.
A 1Ghz processor is by no means stingy, so it’s shocking how even the simplest of commands can take four or five taps or swipes to register. Try to open the camera and you may be in for a wait of up to 10 seconds, but that’s nothing compared to the 20 seconds it takes for the keyboard to make an appearance when attempting to type a URL. Meanwhile the accelerometer is really, really slow to react. Sometimes it won’t work at all without tipping the whole tablet back and forth until it finally realizes ‘Ah ha! I'm meant to be doing something here’.
Ice Cream Sandwich’s ability to install a non-bloatware version of itself is much appreciated, but even that makes little difference. Like a Mercedes with a Lada engine, emptying the boot isn’t going to change a great deal.
Crash and burn
This model has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of memory, however multiple times a day, you will encounter an ‘X is not responding, would you like to close it?’ dialog box. As we enter 2013, that’s just not acceptable. Nor is the patchy approach to USB connectivity. Will the tablet link up with your desktop or laptop? Well, that all depends on what colour socks you're wearing. As for the 'ultra long battery life' advertised - just over four hours of video streaming with brightness turned up full will have you running on empty.
Next year a dual-core version of this tablet will make an appearance. There’s so much wasted potential here, we can only hope the problems endemic in this version have been stamped out by then.