The Cube i7 Stylus is the second 2 in 1 Core M powered tablet from Cube, this time around the Chinese manufacturer opted for a smaller 10.6″ screen and the addition of a Wacom digitizer for digital stylus support. The starting price point of around $350 the i7 Stylus is also much lower than its 11.6-inch bigger brother. The i7 Stylus retains much of the i7’s design, the same style metal housing, blue matte finish, screen aspect ratio, micro-USB 3 port, and optional keyboard dock. Surely a Core M tablet at this price has to have it’s drawbacks? Let’s find out!
What’s in the Box:
1 x Cube i7 Stylus Tablet PC
1 x MicroUSB 3.0 to USB 3.0 adapter
1 x Screen protector (Already applied to the screen)
1 x Basic Windows instructions in English and Chinese
1 x DC Power adapter (US two prong) 12v – 2.5A
Bunch of warranty papers in Chinese
Hardware & build quality:
Like the i7, the Stylus is powered by the same Intel 5th generation Core M 5Y10, it’s a passively cooled dual core CPU with two threads per core and has Intel HD 5300 graphics on onboard. The RAM configuration is 2 x 2GB DDR3L 1600Mhz modules, giving a total of 4GB. The DIMMs are soldered to the mainboard, so there is no way of upgrading the ram on this tablet.
While the build of i7 Stylus isn’t the thinnest or lightest of tablets, at 10.5mm thick and weighing in at 703 grams, it has a solid feel to it and is well constructed. Its thickness and weight are very similar to the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 Core M tablet. The rear metal housing, like the Cube i6, i7, and i7 Remix it comes in a blue matte finish. It gives it a more premium look. It is however quite easy to scratch this paint job I quickly discovered. The finish where the front screen and the rear metal housing meet is a nice touch with a metal trim around the edges of the front. On the screen we have a Windows logo, which is our home button, when touched the haptic motor inside the i7 Stylus will vibrate giving you some feedback so you know the tablet has detected your push of the home button. Most tablets at this price point would have omitted the haptic vibration, but not Cube, even the $180 i7 Remix has it too.
The upper rear of the tablet is where you’ll find the 5-megapixel camera for video and photos (Photo samples can be found at the bottom of this). The surrounding area made of plastic is where Cube has located the WiFi/Bluetooth antenna, a common design choice that all modern tablets use to maximize signal performance.
Port placement on the i7 Stylus is all on the left side of the tablet and it has improved greatly over the cramped i7 port placement. Cube have allowed more room for the connections to all be used at once if need be. Something that was a little difficult on the i7 which cause me to have to trim the plastic of my micro HDMI plug in order to allow it to fit. Not here, thankfully there is plenty of space to connect up everything at once.
The ports from the bottom up, D/C power in, Micro USB 3.0, MircoSD card slot, Mini HDMI out and 3.5 mm headphone port.
Keyboard dock: (Optional)
The keyboard dock for the i7 Stylus is built exclusively for this tablet. On the right rear of the dock there is a slot on the back for the official stylus to be stowed away and two USB 2.0 ports on the right side. Docking the tablet at times can be a little tricky and you do have to be careful as to not tip the tablet forward in the dock as it would fall flat and out of the dock. So sitting and using the dock while possible can be risky as it’s just sitting in there with the magnets to help hold it in place. The base of the keyboard is metal with the same paint job as the tablet.
The trackpad has two left and right hardware mouse buttons and supports gestures.
The keyboard is a little cramped as expected for a 10.6″ one, but the quality of the keys, feedback and spacing is great making it a good typing experience for most unless you have huge hands. Overall the dock keyboard is excellent and well worth it’s price and recommended if you’re buying this tablet. Once you’re done with the tablet you can undock the keyboard and place it above the keys and it will even go to sleep when placed flat in the dock.
Cube clearly have this tablet aimed at users that need digital pen support. So the Cube i7 comes with Wacom stylus support. The same tech used in my Note 4, unlike the Surface 3 and Dell Venue 11 Pro’s stylus, the Wacom one doesn’t require a battery to function. The stylus has a whopping 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity while I have no way of testing all 1024 levels or how you would even register this. The pressure function seemed to work well in within OneNote as I was able to use very little pressure to draw a thin line and pushing down with more pressure resulted in a thicker line being drawn.
The CEP01 is the model number for the official Cube stylus and it has one button for selecting that doubles as right mouse button when held and tapping the desktop. Reversing the stylus gives you an eraser option which is handy for quickly removing things jotted down. The stylus I found to be very accurate, and it works best in applications like Microsofts’s OneNote. As soon as the tablet detects the stylus is close to the screen, touch recognition is turned off everywhere, so palm rejection takes over and you can’t use the touchscreen at all with the pen unless you move it away enough from the screen.
The official Cube stylus comes with 5 spare tips and a removal tool. The tips are a white plastic material which is hard, so writing on the screen does make a little bit of noise. A Note 4 stylus with its rubber tip would be an alternative if you’re after something a little more quite when tapping away at the screen. But you’ll lose the eraser functionality.
Screen and touch response:
The screen is a G+G type, so non-laminated and there is an obvious gap between the glass digitizer panel and the IPS panel below. The gap is approximately 1mm. This has its pros and cons, it will be cheaper and easier to replace. But, the glass panel is more reflective due to the gap. The glass used is temperated glass, I cannot tell you if it’s scratch resistant. It’s definitely not Gorilla Glass, which is maybe why it comes with a screen protector fitted from the factory. And If you want to see the difference between a laminated display and a non-laminated display in person, just get to an Apple or electronics store and compare the iPad Air (non-laminated) against the now laminated iPad Air 2.
The 10.6-inch screen is a Samsung 1920 x 1080p IPS panel, HWInfo reports the model as follows: Samsung LTN140W1-L01. This is the same panel Microsoft use in the Surface 2, so sourcing a replacement if needed shouldn’t be to hard. Colors and the sharpness of the panel are excellent. It’s not a “Retina” panel, but at 208 PPI it still looks sharp enough compared to my Surface 3 screen.
The brightness is decent at 359 cd/m2 and at its lowest setting of 13 cd/m2 makes it ideal for night use without being overly bright.
The touch sensitivity of the panel is excellent. I’ve found it to be both accurate and very responsive. I have no issues with touch on the edges or corners of the screen. I did encounter an issue when the screen is left to turn off to sleep for a while it takes a good 5 seconds or more to wake up and respond to touches. Setting the screen to never sleep seems to fix the issue.
Onboard storage is handled by a FORESEE brand SSD, it’s a M.2 2242 SATA3 drive with good speeds for a 64GB drive (64GB writes tend to be slower) Unfortunately at the time of release and this price point Cube only offer this one size. It would be good to see at least a 128GB option in the future. The drive is replaceable, but not user replaceable or accessible. It requires a bit of skill in opening the tablet up, which could result in damaging it. So it’s not recommended, unless you know what you’re doing. The CrystalDiskMark benchmarks results are below:
Ports & Connectivity:
The Micro USB 3.0 port was one of the first things I tested. These Core M tablets from china have had hardware issue with the USB 3.0 ports, thankfully, the i7 Stylus’s port runs at full USB 3.0 speeds and can power a 2.5″ 1TB external drive without any issues. Below is a video where I tested out the USB port to see just how fast it could operate. It had no issues reading over 300mb/s from an external SSD drive.
Bluetooth 4.0 and Wireless:
The all too common, Realtek RTL8723B chipset handles both Wireless B,G, N and Bluetooth 4.0. Up to 150mbps is supported by this card and it’s limited to 2.4Ghz. Sadly no 300mbps or dual band wireless A/C here. It would be great to see hopefully, one of the Chinese brands will one day use a wireless A/C card.
Signal strength and performance from the chipset has been grat around my house, both upstairs and down. Like all the 2.4ghz combo cards I’ve tested, using Bluetooth and WiFI can at times effect the performance of one another. Sometimes the mouse would lag when gaming or benchmarking. Just using my BT Logitech keyboard was fine, but both mouse and keyboard with heavy CPU use can result in some annoying BT mouse lag, so keep this in mind. It’s fine as long as your not pushing the CPU to 100% load.
MicroSD card slot:
The MicroSD card slot is a click in and out type, and when the card is pushed in will sit flush withing the tablet. No risk of it coming out and losing it.
It works just fine with my Samsung 64GB Evo MicroSD card. 128GB should run without any issues, but max speeds aren’t great. So there is no need in getting a Sandisk ultra as you can’t make use of the faster MicroSD cards.
Below is the benchmark result of my 64GB MicroSD card:
Mini HDMI output:
I had no issues plugging in my Asus 2560 x 1440 monitor, it output the full resolution at 60hz without any issues. The Intel HD 5300 graphics is able to go all the way up to 4k @ 30hz, but I didn’t have a 4K monitor or TV on hand to test this.
Windows & Performance:
My unit shipped with Windows 8.1 Bing , I had an issue activating it at first, that the key wouldn’t validate itself, but the Cube Store were quick to supply me with a new 8.1 Bing key that activated just fine. I have heard on the forums that some units were shipping with Windows 8.1 Pro on them, but they look to have been installed by the retailers seller them and could have activation issues or invalid keys. Cube have told me that all the first batch came with Windows 8.1 Pro Chinese and the latest ones out of the product line have Windows 8.1 Bing with mulit-language support, just like my one. I was able to install Spanish as a test without any issues. So any language would work just fine.
The system runs 8.1 Bing, and yes it will upgrade to Windows 10. I already have the dialog asking me to reverse my free upgrade to Windows 10.
The i7 Stylus is very fast when using IE, Chrome, moving about in Windows. The Core M under those circumstances, feels as fast as a Surface 3 Pro (Benchmarks prove it’s not far off). Often I run the tablet as a desktop driving my 2560 x 1440p monitor. I ran into no issues running Chrome windows side by side at 1440p, copying files, watching YouTube clips, editing images and writing this review. Not once did the system lag or low on me and it’s stable. No BSOD’s or anything of the sort. Overall, like the i7 the system is very fast and responsive as it should be with a Core M and full sata3 SSD drive.
Benchmarks show that the Cube i7 Stylus is one of the fastest Core M 5Y10 tablets tested to date here, I think it’s down to the thermal design of the tablet and the metal backing which helps dissipate heat better. Much better than the Onda v116 Core M and Pipo W8’s plastic backing (The W8 metal backing is on top of a plastic outer shell) . The tablet does get very hot in the process while benchmarking. And I recorded a very warm 44 degrees on the surface of the tablet.
You can review the scores in greater detail below on the official benchmark website:
Passmark 8.0: 1661
Further benchmarks run on the system:
More to come…
Can it game? Well yes it can. Thanks to its generation 8 graphics the Intel HD 5300 can handle some modern titles really well. Games like League of legends could be run at native 1080p with medium settings and a super smooth 60 fps. All of the Windows store titles and older games ran super smooth without any hiccups.
Even more demanding titles like Battlefield 3 was playable once I got the Intel GFX scaling issue fix with a driver update. At low settings scaled on the screen it still looked okay and I found it to be very playable. There were some frame dips, but it mostly keep to around 25-32 fps. I think that’s impressive if you consider this is a 4.5W SoC that’s fanless and it’s just a tablet!
The i7 Stylus is physically smaller than the larger 11.6″ i7 which has a 10,000mAH battery capacity. But the i7 Stylus manages to fit in a 9,000 mAH battery into the tablet. The PiPo W8 managed to better this with a 10,000mAH battery in a 10.6-inch form factor, but it’s more demanding 1600p screen took away that advantage.
With the battery at 100%, brightness set to 40% I set to use the tablet as I would normally. Wifi on, many Chrome tabs open, Youtube, and an episode of the 12 Monkeys. I managed only 5hours and 3 minutes. If this was an Atom powered tablet, I would be shocked. But even so, this isn’t the greatest of results. It’s not enough to make it through a full day, so remember to take the power adapter with you. But It isn’t just this Core M tablet either, I have found all the Core M’s to be a bit disappointing in terms of battery life.
Heat and throttling:
While benchmarking are gaming, I saw the Core M 5Y10 reach 79 degrees C, while gaming or going something intensive the CPU will attempt to turbo for as long as the heat permits. The hotter the system is in general, the less time it will turbo, the same applies to the GPU. Since there is no fan, the CPU down clocks itself by design to stop if from overheating. The rear left side of the tablet does get very hot to the touch when you have been pushing the system hard for some time for example, gaming for long periods. I recorded 43 degrees on the upper left side of the tablets rear with my thermal heat probe.
With a 12 volt and 2.5 amp D/C charger, the i7 Stylus took 4 hours to fully charge from when it powered off from a low battery. This is around about the same speed as the other Core M’s tested and much faster than the slower Atom based tablets that normally all charge via their micro USB 2 ports at a much slower rate.
The Sound is handled a high definition Realtek chipset and the speaker placement isn’t the great as Cube have both the left and right speakers on the left side of the tablet. It seems to be a design compromise? Perhaps the ports took up too much space on the right? I’m not sure, but it would have been great to have a couple of front facing speakers. Anyway, stereo separation is out the window. They sound very flat and tiny but have a decent enough volume level to still be adequate. I find them loud enough, better than most Chinese tablets. But not a patch on the Surface 3’s front facing speakers. Audio output via the 3.5mm jack is clear and without the all too common static and interference. 3.5mm volume output is reasonably loud and was enough to drive a large Sony headset.
Like most tablets, the cameras are very average at taking snapshots. They are fine for video chat apps like Skype and the like. But the rear 5MP auto focus camera doesn’t deliver the greatest of images. However, it might be useful for close-ups of text and if your mobile phone isn’t about. Below are some sample images I took with the rear facing camera.
The front 2MP camera is perfectly fine for video chat I fine, but I do wish it was a bit more widescreen and not so close cropped.
This one’s a keeper, I can safely say I’m enjoying the performance of this tablet and it’s good to see Cube have fixed the USB 3 speed issues the first i7 had. The USB 3 port functions as it should and the new smaller design is priced very competitively. Cube continue to impress me with their build quality and set the standard for a value for money Core M tablet. Great performance, a decent screen, fast SSD. Sure no tablet is perfect, they all have something. But for the price, this is a decent Core M powered tablet considering you also get Wacom stylus support if needed. If it had a full sized USB 3.0 port, 128GB option, front-facing speakers and a laminated display it would be almost perfect. But then the price would no doubt jump a hundred or two US more and it would no longer be a value for money Core M.
Questions, want to know more? Please visit the Cube i7 Stylus Forums for more detailed discussion on the i7 Stylus.
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