Alldocube M5S Tablet Review - Unexpected Quality For Under $250

2018/10/Daniel-Golightly-2018-New.jpg
By Daniel Golightly November 06, 2018, 1:09am
Share This Article:
2018/11/Alldocube-M5S-Review-Title-AH.jpg

Alldocube's M5S tablet is a much better value than the brand's relative obscurity and price would suggest.

Alldocube's M5S is a relatively new tablet, that starts at a cost ranging from just under $150 to around $210 depending on sales. While the brand may not be well-known in some regions, however, it can be said that its price point should not be taken at face value. Marketed as a gaming device at the company's site, the Alldocube M5S may be one of the best tablets on the market in terms of usability, functionality, overall quality, and value. Moreover, there are really only one or two noteworthy caveats and tradeoffs that hold it back and those don't stray too far from the drawbacks seen in even the most expensive Android slates. All of that makes this tablet worth a look for just about anybody who happens to be in the market for a new gadget in the category.

Specs

For specs, the Alldocube M5S is built around a 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS ten-point capacitive multi-touch display panel with a 16:10 ratio. That’s embedded in a dark gray, all-metal body with dual stereo speakers and an individual dedicated IC audio chip to back those up. Just above the screen, the company has included a serviceable 2-megapixel selfie and video chat camera while a slightly higher-resolution 5-megapixel sensor with autofocus adorns the back. The panel surrounding that rear shooter can be removed to reveal a microSD card slot with support for up to 128GB and two micro SIM slots to enable the tablet’s dual 4G LTE capabilities. Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n allows for off-mobile connectivity while Bluetooth 4.2 provides wireless connections between other devices and accessories. Location services center around the included GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou satellite compatibility. Wrapping up the exterior and connectivity options, a 3.5mm headphone jack is part of the package as well, built into the edge of the 241.3 x 171.7 x 8.7mm frame - which tips the scales at 510 grams.

Under the hood and driving Android 8.0 Oreo, is a deca-core 64-bit MediaTek X20 (MT6797) SoC backed by a Mali T880-MP4 graphics chip clocked at 780 MHz. The primary CPU is comprised of two ARM Cortex-A72 clocked at 2.3 GHz, in addition to two Cortex-A53 cores at 1.83 GHz and four more Cortex-A53 cores at 1.4 GHz. Behind that, Alldocube includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. That’s all powered by a 6,600mAh battery that has a claimed battery life of around 30 days on standby, 18 hours of music playback, or 5 hours of video consumption.

In The Box

Taking this device out of the box involves first removing the tablet and then the foam encasing that to get at two boxes containing the wall adapter, charging cable, and a quick start guide. The box-style adapter, in our case, was a Type A plug but that would likely be swapped out for the appropriate type depending on where this tablet is meant to be used. In any case, the Alldocube M5S tablet comes with a protective skin already installed on both the metal rear panel and the glass display. That's not necessarily uncommon but it is a nice touch. However, those did get scratched up fairly quickly and without any effort whatsoever. So buyers will want to factor in a higher-quality screen protector at very least before buying this tablet.

Hardware and Design

The hardware is comprised of an all-metal backing and frame, with the exception of a top-panel that covers the SIM and microSD card slots. That’s relatively easy to remove but is plastic and the clips underneath are too. Although those felt sturdy enough over the duration of our test, they could represent one of the only real weak points in the overall design of the M5S. Meanwhile, all of the corners and edges are rounded with a slightly sharper edge for a very nice in-hand feel. Combined with the somewhat hefty weight of this Android tablet, the entire thing simply feels premium. Ports seem to be equally high in quality, with no jostle or wiggle and a satisfying ‘click’ when either headphones or a micro USB plug is connected. Each of the slots for various cards fits those snuggly, ensuring they won’t wiggle loose either. Buttons are solidly embedded too and match the ports in terms of clickiness, embedded within easy reach along the right-hand side. Each of the ports is situated along the top edge.

In terms of aesthetics, the Alldocube M5S looks relatively modern. That’s especially true when compared to some of the boxier designs many OEMs go with irrespective of whether they’re in the flagship or budget categories. The silvery-gray coloration has bright flecks in it that serve to amplify the metallic look and the plastic panel is well-matched to that but isn’t nearly as shiny, although and does stand out. In the center of that is a square-shaped camera next to an LED flash. The speakers sit under a grilled-off series of round holes along the left and right-hand edges - when held properly in landscape orientation - in an offset orientation that helps avoid accidentally covering them when watching a movie or using an app. A single microphone resides just below the physical hardware buttons.

Display

The display here is a slightly taller-than-usual 1920 x 1200 FullHD screen that is completely flat and surrounded by somewhat larger bezels than many Android users might expect from a new device. Bearing that in mind, and as anybody who has used a tablet can attest, larger bezels are actually not a negative aspect for tablets since they provide space to hold the device without unintended touches on the screen. With regard to brightness, the Alldocube M5S should be usable under almost any lighting conditions. It certainly isn’t the most impressive panel on the market but even the brightest sunshine seemed to have a hard time washing things out. Color recreation also seems to be very accurate and, similarly, the responsiveness of the display is very good. Taps and swipes initiate without delay and multi-touch operations don’t seem to have any trouble registering at all.

Performance and Battery Life

On the benchmarks front, as shown below, the Alldocube M5S performs about as well as expected. In summary, it performs in a fashion that similar to almost any other new budget-friendly tablet or smartphone that leans more toward the mid-range. That’s true in terms of both battery and day-to-day use. On the battery front, the 6,600mAh power supply is seen getting around 6.5-hours of substantial use with the hardware performing at over 70-percent capacity. Performance falls in at just over 100 points lower than a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for single-core use and a couple of hundred for multi-core operations.

That’s not bad but it’s important to note how that translates to the real world. With the exception of a couple of more intensive Android games, which tend to serve as a good baseline for how any device will perform, we really didn’t notice any lag in performance. A lot of that is likely down to the use of LPDDR4 RAM instead of the more typically used LPDDR3 variety. That equates to a higher bandwidth and speed as data is moved in and out of processing, which compliments the processor in use here very well. But this is also marketed as a 'gaming tablet' and the optimizations underlying that show. Regardless, unless a user is attempting to play a title such as Into The Dead 2 - set to the maximum settings - this tablet should play most apps and games without a struggle. On the battery front, our test usage saw a higher than expected lifespan due to the fact that our test didn’t utilize screen dimming and most use cases won’t ever max out the hardware. On average, we were able to accomplish over 7-hours of screen-on time playing games, watching movies, listening to music, and browsing the web. Charging up the tablet, meanwhile, takes between 2-3 hours due mostly to the size of the battery itself.

Connectivity and Audio

Audio can be a difficult metric to measure and there really aren’t any mobile devices, regardless of how much such features are touted, that actually offer a truly great experience. Bearing that in mind, our experience with the Alldocube M5S proved to be a good one. We were actually able to all but fill a small apartment with audio, playing on a standard quality service, with music. What’s more, there didn’t appear to be any crackle, anomalies, or other major changes regardless of how low or high the volume was set. The audio was also well-balanced and, although bass tones are a bit subdued, that's likely to get better with high-quality streaming or downloads. Similarly, users who are more accustomed to listening to music on a soundbar, high-end Bluetooth speaker, or home smart speaker aren't necessarily going to be impressed and audiophiles will have plenty to pick on. However, the tones don't get washed out and the experience isn't going to be annoying for the average user. That’s a definite plus for a device in any price range.

On the connectivity front, we were only able to gain access to 3G service with our T-Mobile-based MVNO in the US. That is almost certainly the result of our individual service area, in combination with the bands on offer, but also isn’t a huge dealbreaker. Inserting a micro-SIM - or SD card - is straightforward and our tablet picked up service within moments. Jumping to Wi-Fi offered a similar experience, without noticeable latency. So moving between networks should at least be a smooth process. Media streaming should be on par at the speeds in question and most downloads didn’t take too long either with the exception of large games. Having said that, 4G would have been nice but it obviously isn’t going to be supported everywhere with this particular tablet. Consumers will want to double check their carries bands before buying just in to be sure they know what they're in for. Meanwhile, call quality was also good, although there isn’t an earpiece here and the connection itself seemed extremely stable.

2G: Bands 2, 3, 5, 8

3G: Bands 1, 2, 5, 8

4G: Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 40

Software

The software included with the M5S is almost entirely stock with AOSP apps stacked on Google's software running a clean Android 8.0 Oreo build. For clarity, there are one or two extra apps install but that’s limited to the AOSP browser - in addition to Chrome - and a handful of others such as an FM Radio app, File Manager, SIM toolkit, a Contacts app, and Voice Recorder. That's in addition to the usual Google applications. Conversely, all of that appears to be heavily weighted toward Android phone software rather than being optimized for a tablet experience. While that’s bound to be bothersome for plenty of users, it also brings with it an easy way for Alldocube to include phone calls, SMS, and similar functions. That means that with the exception of an earpiece, leaving just the speakers and a mic or accessories as a means to communicate, this tablet is more than capable of filling in for a smartphone in a pinch.

All of that also means that users don’t have to deal with a whole lot of extra space being taken up by pre-installed stuff and more of the communications apps on the Google Play Store should function well - although maybe not optimized for such a large screen. Setting that aside, the software experience is also very smooth but there is at least one caveat to heavy dependence on AOSP. Namely, application software found in some system level apps - like the Camera, for example - has not been updated in some time and can feel dated compared to the software found in modern flagships. That’s not all too different from any other tablet but it’s worth noting that the detail does feel like it takes away from the overall experience when contrasted to how well the rest of this device has been done.

Camera

As alluded to above, the camera software itself feels a little outdated in terms of aesthetics but finding all of the various AOSP stock features is easy enough. An HDR mode is included alongside the standard functionality but the entire experience is marred by several issues that we ran into almost immediately. Namely, the software itself is slow and that covers the gamut from navigating the software and menus to autofocusing and snapping an image. In all likeliness, that’s something that could be optimized in a future update. Furthermore, Android tablets at any point in the price spectrum suffer similar issues in terms of features and usability but it is a bit disappointing since everything else about this tablet seems very well done. Having said that, the decision to base everything on the smartphone flavor of Android means that features ranging from filters and overlays to panorama mode are embedded within the software. So it is a bit more functional than a standard tablet. Resolution is also good despite the relatively low megapixel count and the sensors capture colors accurately in images. The cameras are, overall, usable. But they leave a lot to be desired in terms of low-light performance, bokeh-style focusing, handling intense backlighting, and the above-mentioned areas as well.

The Good

Modern sleek design

Speaker placement prevents accidental covering

10.1-inch Full HD display panel

Solid build quality

6,600mAh battery

Well-proportioned bezels

Audio is very loud, clear, and comparatively well-balanced

LPDDR4 RAM is considerably faster than the LPDDR3 found in most devices

Responsive display and software

4G mobile data, SMS, and calling

7+ hours of screen-on time

The Bad

No advertised ruggedization

3-year-old MediaTek SoC

Camera is not great

Autofocus and shutter speed both feel low

AOSP-heavy UI feels somewhat dated, although not missing features

UI is much more phone-like than tablet optimized

Conclusion

The Alldocube M5S is going to be a great value for those who want a budget-friendly Android 8.0 Oreo tablet that also offers a smooth experience and doesn't bring a lot of caveats to the table. That's true whether prospective buyers are looking for a sub-$250 tablet to start out in the ecosystem or a new device to replace one that's aging. Although there are definitely one or two areas where improvements could be made, none of those are areas where the overwhelming majority of tablets perform much better. In fact, a direct comparison between this tablet and others in real-world use, up to the top-end of the spectrum, would likely reveal that the more "premium" aspects for more expensive devices are mostly to be found in ruggedization and features added on top of Android. Any differences in performance are effectively negligible with only a few exceptions that are more likely to impact dedicated mobile gamers and enthusiasts than the average user.

You May Like These
More Like This:
November 06, 2018, 1:09am
Share This Article:
Android HeadlinesWe Are HiringApply Now