2016 has seen the release of the new Intel Core M3 “Skylake” Chinese tablets, with an improved GPU & CPU the newer chipset promises an increase in performance over the previous Core M 5Y10 as used in last years Teclast Core M flagship the X2 Pro. This year’s model looks the same, but has some changes under the hood. Let’s look and see if it’s a true upgrade or just a quick bump in specs…
What’s in the Box:
- Teclast X3 Pro
- 12v 2A DC charger (White)
- Some warranty cards and info in Chinese
Hardware & build quality:
Disappointingly, Teclast didn’t refresh the design of the X3 Pro, it uses the exact same design and housing as the X2 Pro from last year and therefore inherits the X2 Pro’s sharp angled corners. The corners of the tablet should have been rounded and when holding it X3 Pro as the tablet the sharp edges dig into your palms and make it uncomfortable.
The the only real changes Teclast made was to replace last years Core M 5Y30 with the new Core M3 6Y30 and increase the RAM to 8GB. This most have saved them the extra costs involved in having to redesign and regear their production line for a new design. Teclast would have saved a lot and this possible why Teclast could increase the RAM for 4GB to 8GB without the price of the tablet increasing over competitors 4GB Core M3 tablets.
Still the build of the X3 Pro is solid, we have a metal rear housing that clips onto the back of a solid ABS plastic like frame. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the bottom left-hand side and above this you’ll find the dc jack for charging. The upper left-hand side is where the 3.5mm headphone jack is with mic support, micro HDMI and MicroSD card slot.
You’ll notice the large bezels and the 16:9 screen are starting to look somewhat dated.
Like the X2 Pro, the X3 Pro supports an active stylus, that’s powered by a AAAA battery. The stylus supports up to a claimed 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, well it’s true that the hard you press down when writing on the screen results in a thicker line drawn in OneNote, it also means plastic screen protectors are a no go. The stylus will scratch and even cut the pre-applied screen protector.
The accuracy of the pen on the screen seems perfectly aligned to where it’s displayed on the screen as pictured below. Note, that only pressure sensitivity works in applications that support it like OneNote. Once the pen is detected, being close enough to the screen. Palm rejection kicks in and touch isn’t registered.
Keyboard dock: (Optional)
Unlike my X2 pro review this time around I couldn’t find the flip cover style keyboard case for sale. Instead, I had to get the fixed angled flat keyboard that also has a USB 2.0 port on the right side, handy for plugging is a mouse for example (if right handed). The keyboard is rigid and sturdy, but you only have one angle to dock the tablet upright in. Love it or hate it, you’re stuck with this angle.
Typing on the keyboard is good and the keys are spaced out and have around 1.8mm of travel. It’s sensitive and the bottom of the touchpad has left and right hardware mouse buttons. Windows 10 gestures are supported. Some of which can be very annoying with no real way to disable them. I found the best solution as to plug in a mouse and disable the touchpad.
Screen and touch response:
The touch screen uses a Goodix controller with active stylus support. And for the most part the screen is responsive and accurate. But when using Edge or Chrome for example I noticed that scrolling down with my finger isn’t as responsive as say the Cube i9 which is another Core M3 tablet from China.
As for the IPS panel, Teclast used the same 11.6 inch AU Optronics 1080P 16:9 display and I recorded 288 cd/m2 of brightness at the maximum setting. Which is more or less the same brightness I got on my X2 Pro review. Being a non-laminated display it’s more susceptible to reflections as the IPS and digitizer glass aren’t optically bonded together. The pixel density of 190 isn’t record breaking. Still the screen looks sharp enough, but if you look close enough you’ll see pixels.
The screen comes with a pre-applied screen protector and it’s not very scratch resistance either. No gorilla glass here, just cheaper run of the mill soda lime glass.
Like last years model the X3 Pro has the same Chinese branded M.2 2242 spec SATA3 SSD. It offers far better performance than the typical eMMC drives as seen in most Chinese tablets but still falls behind compared to premium SSD drives as offered in the Surface Pro 4. Write speeds are good compared to others but I did notice a large difference in read speeds compared to the BWIN drive in the Cube i9.
Ports & Connectivity:
The X3 Pro is the first Core M tablet out of Shenzhen, China I’ve seen that has Intel Wireless AC. This is a first and great to see. And only one of a few tablets to have the less flooded 5Ghz band. The chipset is an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 (M.2 card)
The above results are good considering my desktop gets 24 Mbps and about 4mbps uploads. This is one of my temp 3G connections I’m forced to used after my unlimited 4G plan was capped. The wireless range on the Intel dual band Wireless AC card is very good, excellent in fact. I can still get full signal from downstairs where the common Realtek 2.4Ghz would have only 50% signal. Wireless performance and Bluetooth is definitely one of the strong points of the X3 Pro
MicroSD card slot. Full speeds and 128GB support.
The two USB 3.0 ports work perfectly, able to power external 2.5″ HDD’s and as seen below work at full USB 3.0 speeds.
The X3 Pro has Windows 10 Home installed and activated without any problems. What I did encounter was some preinstall bloatware in Chinese. 5 applications in total. One of which now and then pops up a huge advert just when you least wanted it. I cannot trust a system if it comes with this type of adware/malware. If you get this, a fresh, clean Windows 10 install is highly recommend to be safe. Or at the least install a decent anti-virus and do a full system scan.
The X3 Pro performed well in most benchmarks, beating the Cube i9 just in all but 3Dmark11 which kept hitting power limits. The extra 4GB of RAM doesn’t really increase the tablet’s performance. What it does allow however is increased multitasking and better performance in RAM hungry applications like Chrome, Photoshop or Auto CAD and other memory heavy apps. Below is a comparison of the X3 Pro’s performance compared to other Core M tablets tested here.
Below are the scores and other benchmarks tested.
- Geekbench 3: http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/6439131
- Passmark: http://www.passmark.com/baselines/V8/display.php?id=61490002718
- 3DMark11 http://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/11231707
- 3DMark Ice Storm 1.2 Extreme: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/11945225?
- 3DMark Ice Storm 1.2 : http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/11977294?
- PCMark 7 http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/1043880
The GPU in the Core M3-6Y30 is a Gen9 Intel HD 515. It’s capable of more than you would think giving it has thermal heat room to keep the GPU clocks up. It’s able to play popular online titles like Counter Strike Global Offensive and DOTA 2 and League of Legends at the native screen resolution of 1920 x 1080. Only settings need to be lowered in order to keep the frame rates high. And as seen below when gaming the tablet will get to around 83 degrees on the GPU and in the low 80s on the CPU. It will also get very warm to the touch just above the d/c jack (Up to 43 degrees C to the touch after 2 hours of gaming). This is common on all fanless Core M tablets and something I also experienced on my Surface Pro 4 M3 and Dell Venue 11 Pro, more expensive premium tablets
The tablet has two 4500mAH cells giving a total of 9000mAh. This lasted me on average around 4 to 5 and a half hours only browsing the net, using multiple tabs in Chrome and writing this review (By the way it was all done on the X3 Pro)
Heat and throttling:
Like the Cube i9, the Teclast X3 Pro doesn’t experience thermal throttling, but something similar. Power limit throttling works to lower the chipsets power limits which in turn Teclast has used to stop it from overheating. After gaming for 1 hour and 30 minutes playing Counter Strike Global Offensive against some bots. It only took about 3 minutes for the power limiting to kick in. Thermals, the CPU reached 82 degrees max and the GPU 83. Hot, but not thermal throttling. What was certainly hot was the rest of the tablet just next to the D/C jack that reached auncomfortablele 43.4 degrees c. Which meant it was very hot to the touch.
The X3 Pro took around 4 hours to charge from when it powered off with a low battery. Once charged, it will stay at 100% and run off power. This should prolong the life of the battery cells unlike Atom tablets that tend to drop to 95% and charge back up to 100% to only drop back down. This causes wear on the battery from constant charging and discharging.
The speakers on the X3 Pro are the same as the X2 Pro. They are loud enough, offer very little bass. The 3.5 mm jack supports a mic input and the output is both loud and clear. No sign of static or interference over the port.
The front facing 2MP camera is fine for basic video chat needs in good lighting. Take the tablet into a dark room and people will struggle to see you. And the 5MP rear camera takes average shots, Can’t say I would use it. But at least you could get a snap or two of text or a diagram if your mobile wasn’t handy. I would leave any serious photos up to your DSLR or mobiles camera, it will take a photo ten times better.
Here are some Teclast X3 Pro rear camera samples:
The X3 Pro is a solid performer, great wireless performance and finally 8GB of RAM. It’s a shame Teclast used last year’s design, which is starting to look dated with those pointed edges. Competitors, Core M3’s like the Cube i9 have 16:10 screens with smaller bezels, a kickstand, and a better screen. Still the X3 Pro is a step forward, finally, we see Wireless AC and 8GB of RAM on a Core M powered tablet from China.
And let’s not forget the X3 Pro slighty underperforms compared to other Core M3 tablets like the Surface Pro 4 due to power limiting to restrict temperatures. And the exact same thing is happening on the Cube i9, the other Chinese Core M3 offering. With its active stylus support, the Teclast X3 Pro is the only Chinese Core M3 stylus enabled offering currently available. So if you need a cheaper Core M3 tablet with stylus support, this is it. There is no other (yet).