Monday, 18 June 2018

Teclast F7 Review: A lot of laptop for an attractive price

The Teclast F7 is the first laptop that I have used that is not manufactured by an established vendor (HP, Acer, Asus etc.). The device is priced below $250 (on sale it can be purchased closer to $200) and for that price you get a lot of laptop. The device is configured with a quad core N3450 Pentium processor, 64 GB eMMC hard drive, 6 GB memory and a full HD IPS display. In comparison, the Acer Swift One, with similar specifications, is priced closer to £300. To put things in perspective, the Teclast F7's pricing is comparable to mainstream entry-level laptops, e.g. the HP Stream series.

The display is very good and the full HD resolution is relatively sharp. The IPS screen means colours do not shift when viewed from different angles. The screen is vastly superior to the 1366 X 768 TN panels you get on entry-level laptops. The laptop I received came with a matte display, but other users report a glossy screen with their devices. Light distribution is not the best with some light bleeding viewable at the edges of the screen. However, this is common issue even with more expensive laptops, and it is only noticeable with lighter backgrounds.  

The laptop weighs close to 1.3 KG which is lightweight for a 14-inch laptop. Many 11.6 inch laptops, e.g., ruggedised Chromebooks, are of similar weight.

The F7’s processor is an Intel Pentium Apollo Lake N3450 - a processor that has enough power for everyday tasks, e.g. word-processing, browsing the internet and streaming multimedia content. Overall, in comparison to lower-end fanless processors that you see in entry-level laptops (Intel Celeron N3060 or the Intel Celeron N3350), performance is a significant step-up. Further, with 6GB RAM multi-tasking is smooth. The 64GB eMMC hard drive generates speeds between a SSD and a spinning hard drive; however, eMMC speeds are closer to a SSD than to a spinning hard drive (as a rule of thumb avoid all laptops that are configured with large storage spinning hard drives).

The precision touchpad is large, smooth and accurate. The quality is so good that there is no need to carry a mouse (an issue I had with poor touchpads that are common with entry-level laptops). Also, the 720P HD front facing camera is very good for Skype calls.

Of course, there are drawbacks. First, brightness could be higher at its maximum settings. In direct sunlight, with the matte display, the screen is just about legible at maximum brightness. Second, battery life could be better - with mixed usage expect between 6 to 7 hours at medium brightness. In comparison, the similar EZBook 3 Pro gets an extra hour of use. TECHTablets states the EZBook 3 Pro’s extra hour is due to the power limit in the bios being set higher in theTeclast F7:
Later testing Chrome with 6 tabs, streaming and some general multitasking like using Photoshop, transferring files to and from USB pen drives. It’s down to around 6 hours of runtime. So it varies on use of course. But I think most would be able to manage 6 hours to 7 hours. This is an hour less than the EZBook 3 Pro under similar use. But using a 6W TDP, the F7 is set to 9W out of the box. So lowering the power limit in the bios under CPU advance settings from 9W to say 6W should increase the battery life.
Third, the audio output isn’t the best. It is passable for the price category but it is advisable to use headphones.

I wouldn’t say the drawbacks are deal breakers. The biggest issue is battery life but lowering the power limit setting in the bios might help. However, even with an extra hour, this isn’t a full day laptop.  

Pros

A lot of laptop for the price.
Good Trackpad.
Relatively lightweight for a 14-inch laptop.
Capable processor.
Very good IPS screen.

Cons

Battery life could be better.
Audio is mediocre.
Maximum brightness could be higher.

Update: Teclast released a more expensive version of the Teclast F7 with a larger 128 GB SSD storage.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Firmware 5.9.6 & Arabic e-books

I stated in the previous post that I will provide an overview of firmware 5.9.6's support for Arabic e-books. Below are my impressions after testing the feature:
  1. E-books purchased from Amazon worked well. I sent two sample e-books from the Kindle store and the text aligned right to left. By default, two fonts were supported and even side-loaded fonts worked too. It is also possible to look-up definitions and use an Arabic keyboard to write annotations. Font bolding, however, is not supported in Arabic e-books. 
  2. I wirelessly sent two MOBI e-books and had significant problems. The major issue was the time it took to open an e-book - in both documents tested the Kindle completely froze. Further, even basic functions, e.g. turning pages, stalled the device. I further tested a side-loaded e-book and had the same issues. 
I am not sure if this is a problem with the Kindle firmware, as I didn’t have these issues when I opened the same e-books using an Amazon Fire tablet. I think there is something wrong with firmware 5.9.6 and Amazon could be working on a further update to resolve these problems.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Amazon's Kindle e-readers now support side loaded fonts

Amazon released a firmware update for their Kindle e-readers (5.9.6). The highlight of the update is the support for side-loaded fonts. Unfortunately, similar to the bolding feature, side-loaded fonts do not work in MOBI e-books. I found that converting an e-book, in Calibre, to both new and old formats of MOBI sometimes resolves this problem. The other option is to convert the e-book to an AZW3 e-book but this works only through directly side loading the document via USB, as Amazon doesn’t allow users to send AZW3 e-books wirelessly to their Kindle device. A major issue with side loading an e-book is that it will not be archived online in personal documents and synced across devices.

Another new feature with the firmware update is support for Arabic e-books. I’ll the test the feature and provide an overview in a further post.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Is Amazon phasing-out the entry-level Kindle?

It appears Amazon removed the entry-level Kindle from their main Kindle listing page. Of course, this is speculation, but it seems Amazon are re-working their e-reader line-up. I expect the entry-level Kindle to be phased-out; instead, the line-up will be restricted to the Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Voyage and Kindle Oasis. With the Kindle Paperwhite being the new entry-level e-reader, I also expect an updated Paperwhite model priced below $100. If the speculation is correct then I also expect the Kindle Voyage to be updated too. An 800 X 600 E-Ink Pearl screen entry-level e-reader is now out-dated, and no major vendor offers the technology (even the low resolution Tolino Page has an E-Ink Carta display).

Thursday, 31 May 2018

An incoming Kindle Paperwhite update?

A link for a new model of the Paperwhite was spotted. The link leads to a test product page with an image of the previous generation Kindle Basic. Amazon often intentionally leaks information, gradually, of a new device before its release. In addition, Amazon usually releases devices late Spring/early summer or late autumn. Considering the timing, a new Paperwhite should be appearing soon. The updated device might keep the six-inch form factor but add waterproofing and Audible support. We might also see a re-design of the Paperwhite (the Paperwhite hasn’t significantly changed since its first release late 2012).

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Acer Chromebook Tab 10 hands-on

Finally, a hands-on look at the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. Below is Brad Linder's (Liliputing) quick review of the device: