The Teclast X98 Pro is the third iteration of the popular Teclast X98 series of tablets. This latest 2015 version features an updated chipset with Intel’s latest Atom SoC the 14nm Cherry Trail and double the Ram of it’s predecessors. The X98 Pro currently comes with Windows 10 and no dual boot or 3G/4G options yet. But Teclast have commented that there will be a dual boot release soon as well as a 4G version in the future. With only a chip and ram refresh and using the same design as the X98 Air series is it going to be enough to stay ahead of the competition with all these up and coming Cherry Trail releases coming Q4?
Update: This post has been updated with the arrival of the X98 Pro international model that supports English and language packs.
What’s in the Box:
Teclast X98 Pro 9.7″ tablet
MicroUSB charge cable (white)
MicroUSB to full sized USB adaptor OTG (white)
5 volt, 2.5A USB power adapter in white.
Various instruction manuals in Chinese
Hardware & build quality:
The X98 Pro has the same design and build as the X98 Air series. 8mm thin, and weighing 458 grams the X98 Pro is portable and easy to carry around. The front of the tablet has a 10mm bezel left and right from the screen to the edge of the device on both sides. The top and bottom bezels are 20mm, the X98 Pro only comes in white with a dark matte grey aluminum rear house that’s fairly resistant to fingerprints and smudge marks. It’s not slippery and it never felt like the tablet was going to slip out of my hands when handling it. The edge of the metal housing has a chamfered edge which gives it a nice touch. Overall the build is solid and doesn’t feel cheap.
The front left of the tablet is where you’ll find the front-facing 2-megapixel web camera and on the top rear right-hand side is the 5-megapixel autofocus camera. There are no buttons on the right side of the tablet and the top left-hand side is where the power on and volume up and down buttons are situated. On the bottom left there is a single microphone for voice and video chat. On the bottom of the tablet is where all the ports are. A MicroUSB 2.0 port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and the micro HDMI out. On the bottom rear, there are two grills which house two speakers.
So out with the old Bay Trail Atom Z3736F and in with the new generation Atom Cherry Trail X5 Z8500. I was pleasantly surprised to see Teclast used the mid-tier Atom X5 and not the X5 8300 I expected that only supports 2GB of Ram. Teclast decided to be not only the first Chinese manufacturer to use a Cherry Trail SoC, but pair it up with 4GB of dual-channel LP DDR3 ram clocked at 1600Mh. With this ram increase, a 14nm process,a slightly higher 2.24 GHz turbo clock speed and it’s 12 EU Intel GPU it should translate to a nice step up over the older X98 Air 3G and Air II models.
Screen and touch response:
The tablet uses the same proven 4:3 ratio 9.7″ retina IGZO panel from LG the iPad Air’s use and various other Chinese tablets. The screens resolutions is a sharp 2048 x 1536 resolution which gives it a decent 264 PPI (pixels per inch) this screen has great black levels, contrast, and color saturation. I doubt anyone would be disappointed in this panel, pixels are so tiny they are hard to see with the naked eye. Sure the 4:3 ratio isn’t for everyone, but it is a lovely looking display.
The touch digitizer is non-laminated, so it’s not optically bonded to the screen like an iPad Air 2. It’s a soda lime type of glass that’s not a scratch resistant glass like your gorilla glass brands. And there is no fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating here either so it does get all smudgy and shows fingerprints after a days use. Nothing a quick wipe can’t fix, but you do have to be careful about scratches. A screen protector might come in handy if you plan to hang on to this tablet for a while. Personally I don’t use one and if I decide to keep a tablet normally I just use a soft case to protect the tablet.
Touch response is good and scrolling is fluid and smooth, I do find however sometimes it’s difficult to close Windows as the accuracy while generally good can sometimes be a little hit and miss. I find this on most high-resolution Windows tablets, even with Microsofts own Surface 3 I had issues at times. I believe it might have something to do with the display scaling, by the way it’s set to 200% on the X98 Pro. Black levels are great and contrast and view angles.
The brightness has been tweaked to, no doubt via the bios. My first release K9C3 model has a maximum brightness of 365 cd/m2 this is with Intel’s display power saving features turned off. With it enabled the max brightness is toned down to 290 cd/m2. Lowest brightness setting is nice and dull, good for night reading.
Storage options for now only include a 64GB eMMC option, there is no SSD here as the Atom’s don’t support it, if your after SSD speeds you’ll have to look to a Core M power tablet for that. My unit comes with a Samsung CWBD3R module. The speeds are fine, but I was disappointed to see a 4.5.1 spec eMMC. When Teclast announced the X98 Pro there was talk of the tablet using eMMC 5.0 spec chips. But it seems this has since been dropped or they are using various batches like they do on the Air II and Air 3G?
On first boot you get 48 GB free with Windows 10 taking up a large chunk of space both with the OS and hidden recovery partition. I benchmarked the drive with CrystalDiskMark and the result below are decent, notice this is faster than my Surface 3 I reviewed. But slower than some of the Toshiba eMMC’s found in the C5J6 Air 3G’s I have benchmarked. 4k random reads and writes were good.
Ports & Connectivity:
The X98 Pro has the same Realtek RTL8723B wireless N chipset with Bluetooth 4.0 as the X98 Air 3G and Air II. It’s only 2.4Ghz band it’s a shame Teclast haven’t moved to dual-band 5Ghz/2.4Ghz wireless which I personally think it’s about time we saw dual band wifi on these tablets. Wireless and Bluetooth performance is good. I had no speed or limited connection issues. Connection strength and performance remained good around the house. There is also no GPS on this model, but it should be coming when the 3G/4G version is released later on. Be aware if you plan to use Bluetooth and wireless at the same time the two can interfere with each other and wireless or BT can slow as a result.
The microSD reader is another area where we see some improvements thanks to the new Atom X5, it now supports fast UHS cards and I was able to get some decent speeds using my 64GB Sandisk Extreme UHS-1 card. The speeds I achived are faster than some eMMC drivers I’ve seen on tablets, so it’s like having a second drive in the tablet.
The HDMI port now also supports up to 4k 30fps. Finally, I’m able to take advantage of my 2560 x 1440p monitor and the Intel Gen8 graphics had no issues running this resolution. Previously on the Atom bay trails only 1080p was possible, so it’s good to see this has improved.
Windows & Performance:
As commented at the start of the article my unit originally came with Windows 10 Pro Chinese only, the release the rest of the world is getting will come with Windows 10 Home.
At the heart of the X98 Pro is the new 2.24 GHz X5 Z8500 “Cherry Trail” Atom quad core and 4GB of ram, performance is expected to be much higher than the older 2.16 GHz Z3736F Atom. The Cherry Trail doesn’t disappoint in the benchmarks, results show the new SoC is almost twice as fast graphically than the Bay Trail and it has a nice bump up and multi-core scores in Geekbench 3.0.
Over all the tablet does feel faster compared to my X98 Air 3G. Windows loaded up quicker maybe thanks to the extra ram Windows could cache more and use less virtual memory. The extra ram also made multi-tasking more pleasant, allowing me to do much more on the 4GB of ram Vs the 2GB Air 3G. Below is a video test of some multi-tasking. (Note Chrome is best avoided, it runs horrible on Windows 10 for now)
The X98 Pro can handle 4k streaming from Youtube, but only using IE11 or Edge. Chrome proved it wasn’t up to the job.
Please keep in mind results will vary slightly due to different thermals. I did my best to let the tablet cool between tests. My results show the X5 Z8500 is only a step behind the more powerful Surface 3 with it’s X7 Z8700 the highest spec Atom Cherry Trail.
3Dmark11 showed the Graphics score to be almost double that of the Air 3G’s P210, with a P425 score. While GeekBench 3 got a respectable 2972 points on the multi-core score, this was helped by the X5 Z8500’s higher clocks and the fact the chipset had no issues holding the 2.24 GHz clock the whole time on all 4 cores. 3Dmark’s Ice Storm on the X98 Pro got 25199 points. More impressive was the PCMark score of 2940 which is only 47 points off the Surface 3.
Other benchmarks I tested were PassMark, where I got a 683 rating. And Cinebench 11.5 below.
I tired out a few popular titles like League of legends, Counter Strike Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. The result can be found in my below gaming video. Over all most games ran much faster than the Bay Trail, but once the throttling kicked in the FPS drops and it was only slightly better than the Z3736F surprisingly enough.
Heat and throttling:
The Achilles heel of the unit. Heat is the trade off for all the extra power the Atom Cherry trail has, the main culprit in my testing seems to be those 12 executional units or cores the Intel generation eight graphics has. That’s eight more EU’s than the older Z3736F bay trail Atom in the X98 Air series. While the CPU performance has increased a little, the GPU is almost twice as fast as the Bay Trail. And it now consumes more power than before and gets much hotter as a result. During normal use, the temps of the Atom X5 SoC hovered around 60-70 degrees, even watching a 1080p YouTube clip in Chrome would push the number 0 and 1 core up to almost 80 degrees.
Worst of all was gaming, during my normal gaming tests and benchmarks I do on these tablets, HWinfo reported the Core #0 and #1 hit 86 degrees and as a result, thermal throttling occurred. Both CPU core and GPU clocks were lowered to help keep the temperatures under control and stop the chipset from overheating and triggering a thermal event to power off the tablet to avoid any damage. That would be the worse case scenario for that to happen and the temperatures would have to hit 105 degrees.
The X98 Pro wouldn’t go past 86 degrees luckily avoiding getting itself anywhere near temperatures that could cause any damage, but as a result the tablet’s performance suffered due to it throttling down the core speeds once it hit 85 degrees.
I thought the issue was due to a bad batch or my own unit was faulty. Or the fact I used my own Windows 10 image and not the factory one (Which was in Chinese) Which was the reason I delayed this review. Not the case, I later got hold of the official drivers pack from Teclast’s website, so this is a hardware issue. So I decided to dig deeper and open the unit up.
So who’s to blame here? Intel or Teclast. Surely Teclast had a reference unit from Intel to use for testing and design purposes. And Intel’s guidelines on the passive cooling requirements for such a chip that Teclast would have followed. The heat spreader design is very similar to the Atom Bay Trail models and it works on that model so why not the new Cherry Trail? Again the culprit seems to be the GPU generating more heat. Teclast would be wise to revisit the heat spreader and shielding used, maybe a thicker plate is all that’s required? Or perhaps it” the bios at fault allowing the SoC to turbo for far too long, when it should only allow for shorter boosts?
Room for improvement:
I decided to take things into my own hands and try to tackle the problem myself (something I should never have to do by the way) I have modded a few tablets before with great results so I decided to add a 20mm x 20, 1mm thick copper shim to the SoC and use some of my own thermal pads and paste to further improve things. My mod and results an be seen in the below video:
My mod lowered temperatures by a massive 20 degrees, only gaming for over 30 minutes saw the cores reach 80 degrees which didn’t cause any throttling, so overall it was a success. Note: The I don’t recommend doing this, you could completely destroy your X98 Pro in the process. I’m not expert at all, but this is about the 5th tablet I have modded like this and I have years of doing mods to my PC’s.
Battery life has taken a rather large hit due to the higher power consumption of the new X5 Z8500. According to HWinfo the Z8500 is consuming almost double that of the older Atom Z3736F with taxed. Not surprisingly the extra EU’s in the gen8 graphics account for most of the increase is power consumption by the chipset. As a result the battery is burnt up much quicker than the old X98 Air series. A good 1 and a 1/2 hours less and the battery capacity remains unchanged from the last gen tablet.
Gaming the X98 Pro can achieve around 4 hours, web browsing, watching youtube clips in 1080p and general office style work with the brightness set to 40% saw only 5 hours and 23 minutes before the tablet powered off. These results a step down from the X98 Air 3G I reviewed almost a year ago which can get over 6 hours and minutes under the same conditions. I’m not sure if it’s my unit or the first batch, but I hope Teclast can improve this figure in latest hardware revisions, maybe a bios update is required to help balance the power usage better? (This will be update if things have improved on the International version)
The X98 Pro’s 8000mAH battery takes a good 3-4 hours to fully charge from zero. If you’re using the tablet at the same time, you can double this figure if your brightness setting is high or gaming, charging whilst in use is a very slow process. But it’s something all Atom tablets suffer from due to USB current limitations.
Still using Battery Bar Pro, charge rates while in use reached up to 8 watts. And the stock 2.5A 5 volt charger was able to output 2.35A and almost 5 volts according to my inline USB meter.
I’ll start with the positives, the 3.5mm audio output good, loud and clean. Much cleaner than even my Surface 3 which is plagued with interference and background static. The loudspeakers still remain unchanged from the X98 Air 3G and they lack punch, bass, mid range and most importantly volume. The dual rear speakers just aren’t loud enough, it’s definitely one area Teclast should have focused on would be to improve the speakers over the old X98 Air series, seems it was overlooked which is a real same. At least the volume output over the 3.5mm jack should be loud enough for most.
And finally Teclast are the first Chinese manufacturer to use a 4 pole 3.5mm plug, unlike the Air series which only supported 2 pole stereo headsets, the X98 Pro works perfectly with my Android in-ear headset and mic combination. The external microphone on my headset worked fine. I can only assume when the dual boot version are released this audio jack should also be compatible with headset remotes.
The internal microphone on the other hands seems to suffer from some over the top audio gain settings and clips as a result. Audio recorded sounds muffled and like a 1900s audio recording or worse. To me this seems to be a software driver issue, I did restore the original drivers pack from Teclast, but the issue continues. I will check my latest Intentional version when it arrives and see if the problems is caused by a missing audio config file when restoring the drivers? Or maybe my unit has a faulty mic? Edit: The international release has fixed this issue. The microphone sounds normal.
Most tablets have awful cameras, but the Teclast’s rear camera isn’t as bad as most. Okay it will never beat your mobile phone or digital camera. But it can take a usable snap or two. I think the most practical of photos on tablets is Marco ones, if you need to take a picture of some text or a diagram in class etc maybe. The 5MP rear camera is okay and Teclast have optimized it better than most other 5MP cameras I have seen on tablets. See the samples below, macro shots come out excellent and very usable. The front facing 2MP camera is decent enough for Skype and other video chat apps. The image quality is better than most Chinese tablets I’ve reviewed, still nothing comes close to the Surface 3’s 8MP autofcous camera.
While the new X5 8500 and 4GB’s of RAM give it a nice proven performance boost, it brings with it some unwanted heat and throttling. I can’t but help feel a little disappointed in Telcast’s latest and greatest Atom retina tablet. It feels like two steps forward and one step back. I certainly hope Teclast address the thermals in the X98 Pro in later hardware revisions and look at adding a better heat sink solution to help keep that hot Cherry Trail cooler. As it stands I can only half recommend this tablet, a yes for it’s great screen, double the power, extra ram for multitasking and 4k video output.
Overall the performance is great, when its not overheating. However, if you’re a gamer this tablet is not the huge step up you would think it would be, pushing the tablet hard when gaming over long periods causes enviable throttling which lowers overall FPS performance in the end once it gets hot.
Questions? Join us in the Teclast X98 Pro Forum