Updated: January 29, 2018
Once upon time, I gleefully purchased a BQ Aquaris M10 FHD Ubuntu tablet, believing this would be one of the technology platforms to take the Linux operating system big and mighty. However this never happened, and I ended up with a device that had little day-to-day use. So I upgraded it to Android, to see if this would make a difference.
However, early tests in the cozy comfort of my home are one thing. Actually using the tablet is another. Luckily, I had a chance to see how well it performs in a real-life situation, hence this article. It will also give us an opportunity to compare to my Samsung Galaxy Note device, which I also recently refreshed for new use. Follow me.
How and why and when
As it happens, I was abroad, suntanning my fine musculature when my Kindle reader suddenly decided to die. More correctly, half its display went bang, rendering the device rather unusable. Which meant not being able to read a whole bunch of books carefully planned for long, arduous beach sessions.
However, I travel not without a backup, and the fully pimped-up Aquaris device was there just for such an occasion. So it wasn't desire that prompted the test but necessity, but sometimes, best things are born out of necessity, like communism and reality TV shows. Or something.
I grabbed the Aquaris M10 device, found myself a Wireless network and began fiddling. First, I installed the Kindle application, and it seems to work fairly well. The one downside is that the display reflects light, and this can make for a tricky outdoor fun, with a lot of glare. You can turn display auto-brightness setting, which helps a little, but never quite gives you the clean, reflection-free Kindle experience. On the other hand, you have a reader, plus pretty, rich colors, so that's quite all right. Last but not the least, you can also secure the device, which in my case includes encryption, applock as well as the nice funky blue protective cover that BQ shipped as part of the Ubuntu tablet deal.
How about writing?
Warmed up to the experience, I thought about using the tablet for writing. Would this work? Remember my Samsung experience, especially in the offline mode? True, this was a couple of major Android releases ago, and things seem to have improved since. One, there's less noise and more functionality even without network connection. Two, the prediction algorithms are better, so you end up with less garbage while typing.
I did notice a distinct lack of writing software in the stock BQ/Android installation, and I had to install additional applications, including Microsoft Word. It does require for you to sign in, but afterwards, you can use it just fine in the offline mode and save files to your local device. It looks the part, it's quite convenient, and I even managed to write a bunch of text fairly quickly, without feeling like a touch-happy monkey. Nice.
Another interesting one. Well, it worked just fine. Offline of course. I used Here We Go, which is now freely available for Android, and it gave me what I needed. Fast, elegant and precise. So you can actually use your tablet as a navigation device. The large screen and strong battery life may actually make it more desirable in this function than a typical smartphone, in case your vehicle does not have an integrated IV-GPS.
Finally got to test it under real conditions. Not bad. Sure, it's not a proper camera, but as a backup device, it does its job relatively well. Video quality is also reasonable. Again, for someone who's had no plans to use the tablet at all, when the need arose for a portable thingie whatnot, it rose to the challenge well.
In the end, the tablet behaved well. Never got too hot, the responsiveness was quite good, battery held for roughly 3-4 days without recharging, with roughly 8-10 hours of constant daily use. Plenty of decent and useful software, and that's not something I would lightly say regarding the intellectually challenged world of mobile use. Android also looked the part. Again, high praise from someone like me. Overall, with Samsung Note 10.1 as the other available choice, the Aquaris tablet sailed with flying colors. Faster, more elegant, with better power management, and a more modern version of Android. This is probably the most significant element in this equation.
On a side note, interestingly, I've noticed that Google now offers unlimited storage for your full-size, high-quality images. Intriguing. Why would they do that? I guess contextual info available in photos will be worth a lot of money once AI picks up. Make sure you don't selfie naked too much, dear fellas.
And ... now for something completely different
Now this is not necessarily related to the Aquaris tablet or Android per se, but as part of my road test games, I also setup a mobile hotspot using my Nokia Lumia 520 as the access point, and this delightfully expanded the range of options and possibilities, also allowing full network connectivity on the tablet, as well as other devices in a range of places and situations. Sweet cooperation between different platforms, too. I guess all these different backup devices I had with me turned out to be fine little nuggets of gold, allowing for a lot of cool tricks and uses that you wouldn't normally get.
So there. I never intended to use the Aquaris M10 for anything serious, but the Android firmware change and a bit of life's karma gave me the opportunity. I have to say I'm rather pleased with the outcome, despite incidental circumstances. More so than I was with my Samsung tablet experience, but again, it comes down to software and what it can do, and Android has definitely progressed nicely over the years, and it really shows. Also it is the reason why unfortunately Ubuntu couldn't deliver on this hardware, and it's a good piece of metal and silicon and glass and plastic.
There are many lessons here, but ultimately, the one I'd like you to take home is that tablets aren't really necessary for anything if you have a working phone and a computer, but on the move away from your typical abode, when you need size and convenience and mobility, they can fit the bill nicely. In particular, BQ Aquaris M10 delivered nicely, with a balanced offering of performance, battery life, good software, okay camera, navigation, and general usefulness. That last part really surprised me. Which is good. It means money well invested. Road test over.