A small startup from Hyderabad called Smartron started operations in 2014 with ambitious plans. The company came into limelight after the announcement that Sachin Tendulkar was an investor in the company and would act as its brand ambassador. Soon after the announcement, Smartron pivoted to promoting itself as an Indian IoT (Internet of Things) company. Aiming to differentiate itself from the crowd of generic device makers, Smartron decided to launch a 2-in-1 device - the Smartron t.book.
This is the first device from the company as part of its plans to create an exhaustive ecosystem of devices leveraging IoT. Despite the aim, the company, for now, is concentrating on conventional computing devices that will target the general consumer market. Soon after the launch of t.book, Smartron sent us one of the devices, and we have been using and testing it extensively. Let us see how the first device from this relatively new startup performs in the real world.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The first thing you notice when you open the Smartron t.book is the fact that the device is premium. It doesn't look like any other 2-in-1 which may seem flimsy and barely worth investing money in. The magnesium-alloy body feels sturdy and has a good finish, though the orange colour may be distracting for some. Despite the premium quality the device feels significantly heavy and not suitable for prolonged usage in tablet mode, though you get accustomed to the weight. But the entire concept of 2-in-1 devices is to be portable and lightweight to use in the tablet configuration.
The keyboard feels great and keys are built for extended usage. The kickstand at the back is useful but does not provide that much flexibility as compared to the Surface Pro 4. Beyond a point, the kickstand looks slightly delicate, but there is nothing to worry on that front. One thing to mention specifically is that the charging cable is good; it does not look delicate like the Surface Pro 3 charging cable.
The design of the device with the speaker grill on top with the front camera in the middle give it a retro look. The capacitive button on the right side of the display works as intended and you can use the tablet in landscape mode. Landscape mode works well for reading, making notes or general word processing. Overall, there isn't much to complain in terms of the build quality of the tablet portion, at least.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 6/10
Smartron t.book offers a detachable 6-row chiclet keyboard. Typing is a breeze with the keys giving an excellent tactile feedback. I was surprised with the quality of the material used for making the keyboard and the trackpad. But one must beware of the fact that the keyboard has a proclivity to flex a slight bit when you're typing really fast around the periphery and the t.book is on a flat surface. Lappability is not its strongest feature and the keyboard tends to wobble when typing. It is preferable to have the t.book on a flat surface while typing.
The magnetic connector to connect the keyboard with the t.book was not up to the mark. Sometimes you had to attach the keyboard manually instead of the automatic lock on at some occasions. The area between the magnetic connector and the actual keyboard was a bit delicate. It is worth mentioning that when the keyboard is closed, it latched on to the t.book securing the screen in any orientation.
Coming to the trackpad on the keyboard that comes with the t.book, there's only one thing to say, it is poorly implemented. Out of the box, settings make it seem sluggish and after tweaking the mouse pointer speed, there is still no improvement. The size of the trackpad is really small and it is oversensitive in terms of applied pressure. During the review, it continued to register ghost touches and made usage a pain. Scrolling down a webpage for instance would end up minimising it, selecting text would at times end up moving around the browser window and so on. You are better off using a dedicated wireless mouse while using it.
Smartron t.book comes packed with an Intel Core M-5Y10c processor based on Broadwell architecture with 14nm manufacturing technology. The processor can turbo boost up to 2GHz, up from the base clock of 1.2GHz. It is coupled with a 4GB LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB solid state hard drive. The device screen is 12.1 inches with an effective resolution of 2560x1600. Windows 10 scales everything at 200 percent to provide a good experience. However, you need to zoom web pages to 200 percent to get a proper web browsing experience. The device as mentioned is considerably heavy at 2.7 kg. The weight can be attributed to 10000mAh battery, which provides 1000 charging cycles according to Smartron.
The device runs on an Intel HD 5300 graphics processor for lightweight gaming on the go and photo editing. t.book provides connectivity through Wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth, micro-HDMI display out slot and microSD card for expandable storage. The device has a 3.5mm headphone jack at the lower right side of the device for music and twin speakers on the top for multimedia. There is a volume rocker on the top left-hand side of the device with a power button on the top left-hand side. One thing to note about the power button is the fact that you have to press and hold to turn on the device, which is a bit weird. There is a 5 MP autofocusing camera at the back and a 720p capable front-facing webcam that is sufficient for video calling. Smartron packs the device with Windows 10 Home edition out of the box.
t.book comes bundled with the Smartron ecosystem 'tronx'. This app is a portal to access all the services offered by Smartron. The app includes tstore, tcloud, tcare, Services, Forum and My Account sections. tstore is an in-house store to buy Smartron devices while tcloud is a cloud platform to backup your data when you start running out of storage in the t.book. tcare is a customer support portal where users can directly contact the support service. Services section mentioned 'Coming Soon' which did not give us any indication of the nature of services to be provided. Forum section would give the users, access to the user forums to exchange tips and tricks along with development and update schedule, right from the Smartron staff with My Account section being self-explanatory. I tried logging in but despite repeated tries I could not log in or sign up for the ecosystem. The story will be updated when this issue is resolved, as this is an added feature which Smartron offers.
The display of the t.book is generally good but what kills the display 12.1 is highly reflective screen. The kickstand does help in mitigating that to some extent. The LCD panel is good and provides decent viewing angles. It's a pain to use the display in the office with multiple light sources behind you, and you have to adjust your position of the kickstand to use the device. During our testing the display benchmarks were average. Sunlight usability and readability was just barely enough, making it difficult to use the device in bright outdoors.
The performance by t.book ranges from borderline acceptable to a bit frustrating at some times. A typical work day for me involved heavy web browsing, writing 5-6 articles, watching videos on YouTube and very light photo editing. The device struggled while using Google Chrome but using Microsoft Edge wasn't so bad. The experience while using the device with browsing limited to 12-14 tabs, Microsoft Word and Irfan viewer was good. Using anything heavy like Adobe Photoshop CC 2016 for detailed photo edits was a pain. So I limited my Photoshop usage to light editing with adjusting size, adding text and cropping.
The overall specs resulted in a passable experience for me while using the device. The SSD in the t.book performed well in comparison to rest of the device and gave us 482.1MB/s read speeds along with 189.6MB/s as the write speeds for a 1GB file. The device scored an extremely average score of 1733 in the PCMark 8 benchmark test. In comparison, the Acer Aspire Switch 12, running the same Core M 5Y10c as t.book, scored 1791 in the same test.
During the review, I noticed that the t.book gets moderately heated up during normal usage. Extended usage resulted in the device heating up on the left-hand side from the back. The device got sufficiently hot to make uncomfortable to hold the device. So I had to keep the device on a table and continue my work. I would have liked a little more flexibility on the kickstand though. This observation was resonated in the dedicated thermal test during the testing, where idle temperatures stood around 43-degree celsius while the stress temperatures went up to a flaming 90 degree celsius.
The audio playback by the device was acceptable but not great. I found no difficulty in hearing the audio in a moderately noisy environment but heavy noise was a bit of a problem. Speakers worked perfectly in isolated environments but still earphones/headphones gave better audio performance. The position of the 3.5mm audio jack is ideal but does introduce the risk of dragging your device from the table if you forget to take the earphones or headphones off.
Battery life: 6/10
Battery life for the t.book is average with the device providing a backup of 4-4.5 hours on usage ranging from moderate to heavy. The 10000mAh battery in the device gave me enough to go through a light work day. During our standard PCMark battery test, the device lasted for 3 hours and 37 minutes. An important thing to note is that the device can be used to charge other mobile devices.
Verdict and Price in India
With its first 2-in-1 device in the market, Smartron gets it right in a lot of areas ranging from the build quality, design to the price-point. There are some issues with the device that need immediate fixes to improve the user experience, most notably the trackpad. But apart from that, the device ends up as a good budget device for people who don't want to break the bank while buying a new 2-in-1 laptop such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or Pro 3.
Smartron t.book can't compete with the Surface Pro series as the t.book has a comparatively sub-par performance. Despite that, Smartron is successful in providing and catering to the segment of consumers who require this form factor. It is ideal for those looking at an entry level laptop which can also be used as a tablet for entertainment purposes. Priced at Rs 42,999 and exclusively available on Amazon, the device has potential to pick up momentum in the Indian market.
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