EVGA Tegra Note 7 Review

By  |  0 Comments

Nvidia’s new Tegra Note 7 has unique features for a $199 Android tablet, but it still feels really cheap.

3 stars
(3 out of 5)

Pros

  • Fast, particularly for gaming
  • Pressure-sensitive stylus support
  • Powerful, front-facing speakers

Cons

  • Very poor build quality
  • Low-res screen
  • Awful camera
  • Apps have limited support for stylus

Fit and finish matter. The new Nvidia Tegra Note 7 delivers impressive features for a $199.99 (list) tablet, with its Tegra 4 processor, throaty speakers, and simulated pressure-sensitive stylus support. But the build quality and camera here are both pretty awful. I’m not going to say don’t buy it—it has other merits—but you should know what you’re getting into. For most people, the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7″ are better bets as small tablets.

Physical Features
The Tegra Note 7 is made by Nvidia and branded by graphics firm EVGA. It goes on sale November 19th, but you can pre-order it from Newegg beginning November 12th. The exact same tablet is being sold in the UK as the Advent Vega. Neither company has done a consumer tablet before, and it shows: This was designed by engineers, made of cheap, mismatched-looking plastics with a not terribly bright, front-facing screen. Held next to our Editor’s Choice Nexus 7, you can easily tell it’s dimmer. It looks and feels like a cheap Chinese tablet, which is strongly underselling the power within.

Nvidia sent me two units. The first one had a defective touch screen. The second had a confusing, perfectly rectangular USB port which led me to keep trying to jam the micro-USB cable in upside down. Underscoring the cheap-parts feel, the included AC adapter doesn’t have the usual holes in the prongs and isn’t certified by Underwriters Laboratories, which makes me worried for its quality and reliability.

At 7.88 by 4.75 by .3″ (HWD) and 12.3 ounces, the Tegra Note 7 is noticeably heavier than the 10.2-ounce Nexus 7. It’s certainly manageable in one hand. The screen is surrounded by a thick bezel and flanked by large speakers at the top and bottom. An included, rubbery-tipped stylus fits into a slot on the side.

The tablet has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and its speeds compared decently with the Nexus 7. Bluetooth 4.0 LE and GPS are also on board. There’s a 3.5mm headset jack and a front-facing microphone for video chat.

Battery life was quite good, at 7 hours, 46 minutes of continuous video playback with the screen turned to maximum brightness. That’s a few minutes more than the Nexus 7.

Performance and OS
The Tegra Note 7 is Nvidia’s Nexus: It uses, or at least tries to use, all the features in Nvidia’s Tegra 4 chipset that manufacturers have ignored. Most notably, there’s DirectStylus, which is Nvidia’s emulation of pressure-sensitive stylus support; always-on HDR photography, controller support, and virtual surround sound.

The Tegra 4 is a powerful processor, that’s for sure. When paired with a low-res screen like this 1,280-by-800 panel, it can pump rich visual effects at high frame rates without a problem. The 1.9GHz chip scored 34365 on the Antutu system benchmark, on par with the latest 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 devices, and pushed close to 60 frames per second both in the GFXBench and Epic Citadel gaming tests.

Gaming was further enhanced by the Tegra Note’s two front-facing speakers and side-mounted special bass port. Game sounds were louder and sharper than on most other devices.

But the tablet’s other flagship features weren’t as impressive. The Tegra Note 7 runs a mostly unmolested version of Android 4.2.2. Pull out the chisel-tipped stylus, though, and you see a small customization: A window pops up letting you pick the Tegra Draw or Tegra Write stylus-friendly apps.

Nvidia’s DirectStylus technology prioritizes touch input and uses some GPU magic to let you draw on the screen with no lag. The stylus is very accurate, much better than you’d expect. Palm rejection isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good.

The company is working with drawing application providers to make their apps more compatible with the Tegra Note. I found that Tegra Draw and ArtFlow Studio worked; Drawing Pad and Sketchbook Pro didn’t. Nvidia sent along a list of nine other apps supporting pressure, including Photoshop Touch, Zen Brush, and Infinite Painter, and said a fix would be pushed to make Drawing Pad work. The company seems devoted to getting this operating properly. That gives the Tegra Note better results than Toshiba’s Excite Write, but Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 still has a head-start on stylus support.

Camera and Multimedia
Always-on HDR isn’t available yet; Nvidia says it’ll come with a firmware update. But the camera has more problems than that.

The Tegra Note 7 has a 5-megapixel rear camera and a VGA front camera, both of which are awful. You must use Smugmug’s included Awesome Camera app, which crashed while taking HDR photos on both of our tablets. The main camera gives everything a pinkish cast, and anything bright is violently blown out. The supposed HDR mode doesn’t help this one bit. The front camera takes blurry, greenish images at low shutter speeds. I’d worry about using it for video chat—it’s that bad.

The Tegra Note 7 does have three great multimedia features: a microSD card slot that supports 64GB cards, the dual front-facing speakers, and a real Micro HDMI port. It played all of our music and video formats except WMA and WMV, at up to 1080p resolution. The slot lets you boost the 12.56GB of available storage with a card up to 64GB, and the HDMI port provides 1080p video output with no lag. That makes the Tegra Note a good little portable movie player, able to hook easily up to TVs on the road.

Comparisons and Conclusions
Nvidia’s leading competitors are cheating a little. Google, Amazon, and even Barnes & Noble are selling break-even tablets and making their money elsewhere, while EVGA and Nvidia actually need to make a profit off the Tegra Note 7 hardware. So it’s admirable that they’ve been able to build a fast, kinda-sorta pressure-sensitive tablet that sells for $160 less than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0.

But “admirable” doesn’t mean that you should buy it. If stylus support is your deal-breaker and you can’t upgrade to the Galaxy Note, with its superior set of S Pen-ready apps, the Tegra Note is an acceptable first step into the realm of drawing tablets. It’s also, as you’d expect from Nvidia, an excellent gaming and media device, especially thanks to its micro HDMI out and microSD card slot.

That said, we’d recommend the Editors’ Choice Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, and Apple iPad mini to more people. We don’t have a lot of faith in this tablet’s build quality, and EVGA is a complete unknown when it comes to tablet quality assurance. If you don’t need the stylus support, those other tablets are a better bet.

By Sascha Segan, PCMag

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7.88 by 4.75 by .3" inches
  • Weight: 12.3 oz
  • Operating System: Google Android 4.2.2
  • Processor Speed: 1.9 GHz
  • Screen Size: 7 inches
  • Screen Type: IPS LCD
  • Screen Resolution: 1280-by-800 pixels
  • Screen Pixels Per Inch: 216 ppi
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Storage Type: SSD
  • Storage Capacity (as Tested): 16 GB
  • Additional Storage: MicroSD
  • Ports: micro HDMI
  • Camera Resolution: 5/VGA
  • Video Camera Resolution: 1080p/VGA
  • Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility: 2.4GHz
  • Bluetooth Version: 4.0LE
  • GPS: Yes

Leave a Reply