Android Headlines recently received a Dragon Touch Max 10 tablet for review. And the results of the thorough test really showcase why users are flocking to high-end hardware instead of budget devices. Although there are plenty of things to love about this tablet, especially at its $149.99 price tag, there's a lot not to love too.
At this bracket of the market, not only are users typically more likely to see white-label devices. They also are going to see a lot of trade-offs. That's not just with Dragon Touch either. That's with just about every OEM. Whether on battery life, screen technology, cameras, build quality, or audio, tablets in this segment just haven't matured as well as Android phones.
Conversely, these devices do serve as a great entry point for those who might be curious about Android itself. Or for those who need a tablet that will be well-suited for their children or as a secondary device. It's also no slouch when it comes to overall performance.
While imperfect, there are plenty of redeeming factors that have saved this gadget from receiving a lower rating. The decision to ultimately award the Dragon Touch Max 10 tablet with 2-stars instead of three comes down to the fact that there are many users who this tablet simply won't work for. The gaps between what it can and cannot do are wide enough that the Dragon Touch Max 10 tablet really is deserving of a deeper review.
The hardware here doesn't stand out a lot compared to others in its segment
Two words can summarize the build of just about any Android tablet in the sub $300 segment. Those are, of course, 'plastic' and 'glass'. Here, the former material is used effectively everywhere except the screen. And that brings both negative and positive characteristics with it.
Starting with positive aspects, the Dragon Touch Max 10 was a comfortable tablet to use under review. A rounded curve at each corner and along each edge helps offset the weight of its 10-inch design. The plastics are smooth and decidedly not a soft-touch material. The only accents are the ports and buttons as well as the textured lip along the top and bottom.
To the left of the camera, part of that can be peeled away to reveal a microSD card slot, for adding up to 128GB of storage. That's sturdy and well held in place. The 3.5mm and USB-C ports and buttons are too. Each has a satisfying click and almost no wiggle.
But not everything here is perfect and those who want to give this tablet to younger users will want to be aware that it isn't the most solid build on the market. Not only did I notice a gap begin to appear between the front and rear panels and the edge after just a week of daily use. That's represented in the gallery above along the button-less edge.
I also heard quite a lot of creaking from this gadget during use. Such as when picking the tablet up or pressing the screen.
All of that dilutes the level of confidence it's possible to have in the overall build or the longevity of this tablet.
The display could be brighter but it doesn't disappoint
Carrying forward to the 'glass' side of this tablet is the 10.1-inch FullHD+ display panel. And that's going to be a highlight for this device with one major caveat. Namely, this tablet really isn't well-suited for outdoor use. In fact, brightness couldn't be turned down by much, even indoors, if I wanted to maintain an enjoyable experience. But where it is bright enough for use, the screen is more than good enough for a tablet in its price bracket.
To begin with, the screen was responsive and smooth. Despite having a screen protector installed out-of-the-box, I didn't notice any latency in touch interactions at all.
The colors are also vivid across each of the 1200 x 1920 pixels with only minimal light-bleed to speak of. Instead, what it offered was an enjoyable experience whether I was playing Doom Eternal via Google Stadia or watching a movie.
Of course, this tablet's display doesn't have the best refresh rate either but, at under $150, that's not unexpected. It seems to run fairly close on that front to a display running 60Hz. Or at least the experience is similar. The company's listings for this tablet don't betray the details. So I couldn't know for sure.
Regardless, this display makes for a great indoor experience, even if it can't be used properly outdoors on a particularly sunny day. And that's aided in part by the fact that the bezel is wide enough for comfortable holding. And by the fact that the ratio is such that any letterboxing is kept to a bare minimum.
Performance from Dragon Touch Max 10 is much better than expected
Now, the Dragon Touch Max 10 review unit sent to me was the 3GB RAM, 32GB storage variant. It can also be purchased with just 2GB RAM and 16GB storage. And I can't attest to the viability of that other variant. This tablet already skirts the lower reaches of what's really acceptable in a modern tablet or phone running Android.
With that said, its 64-bit octa-core processor in this version proved more than capable of handling day-to-day use. From web-browsing to email and video calls, there wasn't any latency or lag except under the most strenuous multi-tasking circumstances. Even gaming apps such as Call of Duty didn't cause too many glitches or hang-ups unless the in-game settings were adjusted from the optimized default.
Lighter multitasking also goes off without a hitch with the Dragon Touch Max 10.
One area where I did notice big slow-downs was in video editing and photo editing apps. That's hardly surprising since some tasks in those types of apps are enough to slow down even flagships. But it is worth being aware of. Those are absolutely not going to be brilliant experiences with this gadget.
Battery life with Dragon Touch Max 10 is not great
Battery life is, without exception, subjective. What I saw during my battery test, putting the Dragon Touch Max 10 tablet through a review, is not going to be 'typical'. But testing does provide some insight into how long a device will last. And how long it will take to charge.
Unfortunately, battery life is likely the second-most-obnoxious aspect of this tablet too. Just behind the audio experience and the camera. And that became immediately apparent after it took over three hours to charge up from dead. Despite utilizing USB-C, in fact, it took 3-hours and 15-minutes to go from zero-percent to full.
On the draining side of things, I wasn't actually able to conduct as intensive a test as I would ordinarily either. That's because the total screen-on time only rang in at 3-hours and 23-minutes. For the battery test segment of my review, I set the screen brightness at its maximum and turned off all battery-saving features. So it may be possible to get a bit more than that.
But it's also worth noting that within the 2-hours and 36-minutes I first spent streaming music and then a video with the screen on, the battery fell from 100-percent to just 36-percent. I then spent some time with the device on standby, at 13-hours and 10-minutes, to be exact. 6-hours of screen-off time drained the battery by 3-percent. And just 47-minutes of gaming killed the battery entirely.
Put simply, Dragon Touch Max 10 absolutely requires headphones
The audio experience from this Dragon Touch Max 10 review can best and most simply be summed up as quiet. Now, audio from the mics and via the headphone jack is as expected. That is to say, the performance there is on par with just about any budget- or mid-range smartphone. The same holds true for Bluetooth audio. But the experience from the speakers is outright terrible.
Not only could I not turn down the volume from its maximum during my test. It was still almost inaudible even when just held at arm's length. The tablet was still very clearly making sounds and, for some frequencies, it was still easy enough to discern. But the overwhelming majority of sounds didn't come through clearly.
Making matters worse is the placement of the speakers. The Dragon Touch Max 10 houses larger-than-average-looking speaker grilles. The company placed two of them along the bottom edge. But both are both quiet and placed in such a way that it's difficult to cup the speaker ports to amplify the sound better. They're arranged along the bottom edge.
So the tablet would need to be held with both hands along the bottom edge to become clearly audible. And the results were just not great. Anybody buying this tablet will absolutely need headphones, whether Bluetooth or wired.
In fact, the audio is so bad in terms of volume that it's difficult to even ascertain how bad it is on quality.
Software is clean and admirably minimal
On the software front, Dragon Touch Max 10 offers a clean experience in a way that's wholly unlike almost any other device I've had to review. And that's a decidedly positive thing, given the low storage capacity and other factors.
Summarily, this tablet only comes with a total of 23 apps installed. Those are, as shown above, almost exclusively Google apps. Even Google's RCS chat-enhanced Messages is making an appearance. There are a couple of utilities too. Such as a Calculator, FM Radio, Sound Recorder, and Screen Capture Tool. But everything else about this tablet is pure stock.
That's down to the Settings app and the underlying capabilities too.
The sole caveat to that stock-experience goodness that everybody knows and loves, is in its execution. More specifically, this is an Android 9 stock experience instead of an Android 10 experience. And, unlike some high-end tablets, the Dragon Touch Max 10 isn't guaranteed, necessarily, to get any updates. Or at least not firmware updates.
There will be security updates, as a matter of course. That's required as part of Google Play Services, which are very prominently included here. But there's almost no way to know whether this will ever see Android 10, let alone the upcoming Android 11 update. So users who absolutely want to look elsewhere if they need that.
With that said, the low-maintenance and easy-to-use stock Android that is included, definitely earns Dragon Touch Max 10 some bonus points.
Connections are strong enough for a lag-free Stadia experience
Now, we've discussed performance with this tablet and you may have noticed that an image showcasing Google Stadia was used for that segment. That's not a mistake. While a streaming service like Stadia doesn't necessarily depend on internal processors, it is fairly intensive in another way. Namely, on the connectivity front. And I actually played a fair amount of games on the platform during my review of the Dragon Touch Max 10.
It's also worth pointing out that while this tablet includes dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it's not the latest iteration of either of those. So this won't offer the very best experience on that front. Similarly, the screen brightness issue and audio problems do reduce the enjoyment, at least out-of-the box.
With that said, stacking in accessories and getting online indoors changes things. The connections here across both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were stronger than expected. And that will, at the very least, make those kinds of use-cases viable. Specifically, the Dragon Touch Max 10 supports 802.11 a/b/g/n. And on the Bluetooth front, it's Bluetooth 4.2. So the latter offers solid audio quality, if not the latest audio features.
USB-C is also supported, just in case an accessory (or charger) needs to be plugged in.
Don't buy any Android tablet for its camera, at least not yet
If there's a single thing that can be proven by Dragon Touch Max 10 in this review, at least as far as the cameras, it's that there's still no 'great' tablet for cameras. With this tablet, they're downright "abysmal," as shown in our sample gallery via Flickr.
While that's not unusual for an Android tablet at any cost, not even exceptionally expensive tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy A-series, those gadgets do perform noticeably better than this one. That's across the board too, from clarity and color accuracy to versatility. In fact, this is the sole aspect of the Dragon Touch Max 10 that feels utterly pointless in practice.
Now, that statement likely comes across as harsh. But the truth is that even budget Android smartphones offer genuinely decent camera experiences. But the photos snapped with this tablet are either washed out or too dark. Or, in some cases, both. And that didn't necessarily improve when I went indoors.
The company includes a dual-array snapper in this device. But, even with some serious digging across the official website and retail listings, the megapixel-rating remained elusive. Amazon lists the primary rear snapper at 8-megapixels.
It's also not immediately clear why the cameras are so bad. There's a chance it's a simple software optimization problem since HDR mode does actually start to fix — though not nearly enough — the problems. It's equally possible the problem is with the hardware itself.
Should you buy this Dragon Touch tablet?
The short answer here is going to be a firm 'no', based on the battery life and the build quality alone. The problems with the camera are primarily down to the fact that cameras in Android tablets simply aren't great. But that assessment is going to come with some caveats of its own.
If all that's needed is a tablet that can last a few hours and provide a bit of entertainment, the Dragon Touch Max 10 could be perfect. Especially for younger users who don't necessarily need something that lasts all day long. On the performance front, the Dragon Touch Max 10 didn't disappoint at all during my review. And its screen, despite being surrounded by heavy bezels and comparatively dim, is more than serviceable.
And it does those things well for under $150, after all.
So, whether or not the tablet is ultimately worth the purchase price will be entirely dependent on whether or not it fits a buyer's needs. For at least some, that's going to be a firm "yes."