Idolian Mini Studio Review

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The Idolian Mini Studio is a well-built, small-screen Android tablet, but it’s not the best value and makes compromises with its software.

2.5 stars
(2.5 out of 5)

Pros

  • Sturdy aluminum construction
  • IPS display with wide viewing angle
  • Mini HDMI out and microSD card slot

Cons

  • Google services disabled by default and buggy when enabled
  • Lackluster screen
  • Slow Wi-Fi reacquisition

Like most Apple copycats, the Idolian Mini Studio ($178 direct) looks the part, but is a far cry from the iPad mini it shamelessly apes. It’s more of a scaled down Studio 10, with essentially the same internal components and software, but a smaller and lower-resolution display. If you’re on a strict budget, the Mini Studio will net you basic tablet functions on the cheap, but spending just a bit more can get you a vastly superior Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD. And if you want to go even lower, the Coby MID8065 offers similar performance and features for less.

Design and Features
The Mini Studio is a tweener, with its 8-inch screen and 4:3 aspect ratio—clearly aimed to mimic the iPad mini. At 8.2 by 6.4 by 0.39 inches (HWD) and 14.8 ounces, it’s relatively thin and light, but still doesn’t come close to matching the fit or finish of the iPad. It feels more solidly built than the MID8065 and is a bit lighter to boot. The aluminum back is sturdy, but the edges can feel sharp and dig into your palms over time.

A plastic panel along the left edge houses a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro USB and mini HDMI ports, and a DC power input. Like the Studio 10, the Mini Studio syncs via micro USB, but requires the included power brick to charge. The micro USB port also supports USB OTG, and Idolian includes an adapter for plugging in peripherals like USB mice and keyboards—both of which worked fine in my tests. It’s a generous selection of ports compared with the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD.

The 8-inch, 1,024-by-768 IPS display is sharp, but it’s a bit too dim and colors appear too cool. Whites have a distinct blue hue to them and outdoor visibility is pretty bad. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have sharper and brighter displays, while the iPad mini easily trounces the Mini Studio. It’s about on par with the display on the MID8065.

This is a Wi-Fi-only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz frequency. During testing, the Mini Studio had some trouble reconnecting to Wi-Fi networks when woken from sleep—there were noticeable delays even though saved networks were within range. The tablet also supports Bluetooth 2.1 and connected easily with a pair of wireless headphones.

Performance and Android
The Mini Studio is packing pretty much identical specs to its larger sibling—a dual-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A9 processor with 1GB RAM. Performance is generally swift, and the Studio 10 did well on most of our benchmarks—besting the MID8065 in many categories. Gaming performance is decent, with games like Temple Run 2 running without a hitch, but don’t expect high framerates on more graphically intensive games like Real Racing 3.

The software loaded onto the Mini Studio is a mixed bag. It’s running Android 4.1.1 “Jelly Bean,” which is a step up from the MID8065′s 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” but buggy Google apps hold this tablet back. Google apps like the Play Store, Gmail, and Chrome are disabled by default—you have to dig into the settings, find Developer options, then uncheck “Hide Google Application.” Idolian says it is still working out the kinks with its Google certification, but promised future firmware updates to resolve any bugs. As it stands, the Mini Studio can access the Play Store and its hundreds of thousands of apps, but I found frustrating deficiencies, like the fact that Chrome did not work during testing.

For media support, the Studio 10 handles Xvid, DivX, MPEG4, H.264, and AVI videos at up to 1080p resolution. For audio, you get MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, WAV, and WMA support. Screen mirroring worked fine using a mini HDMI cable, and the tablet was able to output video at 720p or 1080p resolution. If you absolutely need a camera on your tablet, there are front- and rear-facing 2-megapixel cameras, but they are not worth using—details are smudged, image noise is overwhelming, and dynamic range is non-existent.

In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the Mini Studio lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes. Compare that with the MID8065′s 3 hours, 11 minutes and the Nexus 7′s 10 hours, 30 minutes in the same test—it’s decent, but not great.

Conclusions
When it comes to small-screen tablets, you have a lot of great options, even in the budget-conscious realm. While the Idolian Mini Studio looks and feels like a premium tablet, it’s lacking the software refinement that makes tablets like the Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD stand out. On top of that, there are a few clear compromises in terms of display quality and software polish. If you simply want the least expensive and functional tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire (2012) is still a good choice too. I’d recommend any of these tablets over the Mini Studio, and if you really need the microSD card slot and HDMI out, the MID8065 is a better value.

By Eugene Kim, PCMag

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.4 x 0.39 inches
  • Weight: 14.8 oz
  • Operating System: Google Android 4.1.1
  • CPU: AMLogic Cortex A9
  • Processor Speed: 1.6 GHz
  • Screen Size: 8 inches
  • Screen Type: TFT LCD
  • Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels
  • Screen Pixels Per Inch: 160 ppi
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Storage Type: SSD
  • Storage Capacity (as Tested): 8 GB
  • Additional Storage: MicroSD
  • Ports: mini HDMI, micro USB
  • Camera Resolution: 2 MP Rear; 2 MP Front-Facing
  • Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility: 2.4GHz
  • Bluetooth Version: 2.1

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