Orbic’s Tab8 4G doesn’t cost much, and that’s entirely the point.
In the tablet space, I typically advise people to buy the lowest cost current iPad in the market for most needs, unless they’re going down the replacement-laptop route, at which point there are tricky decisions to make around iPad Pros and Surface Pros and the like.
But what about Android tablets? There have been some interesting models and approaches over the years, but for the longest time, I’ve not been a big fan for the very simple reason that for iPad level money, the Android tablet experience just wasn’t as polished.
Apps didn’t seem to know how to handle larger displays, or multi-tasking displays in a visually appealing or consistent way. Apple’s tight control over iOS/iPadOS app development tackled that problem early on, but it’s something Google’s gone hot and cold on multiple times. How very Google, you might say.
The gap this does leave in the market is for tablets that sell for significantly less than the price of an iPad. For less money, maybe having a less polished experience is OK, especially if your actual tablet needs are pretty mild.
Enter the $149 Orbic Tab8 4G. Here in Australia it’s being sold through Telstra, so unlike the many other very cheap Android tablets you might buy online, you’re at least getting the promise of a bit of after-sales support – and the possibility of seeing one in actual stores, as opposed to just in pictures or video online.
But is it any good? Orbic loaned me an Orbic Tab8 4G for a two week period to test out. Here’s my takeaways of where the Orbic Tab8 4G provides good value, and where it’s less than impressive.
Orbic Tab8 4G: The good stuff
- 8 inches is big enough: Stop sniggering in the back there. The Orbic Tab8 4G features an 8 inch 1280×800 pixel display, which at a technical level ain’t much to crow about. However there is something about this size tablet if you’re using it as an e-reader (like, say, for this fine collection of short stories) or for web browsing or social doomscrolling or the like. Light browsing on the sofa works pretty well in this context, and it’s easy to drop into a bag without fuss.
- It’s really cheap: $149 isn’t much to spend on a tablet, so it could be a good match as a Christmas gift, or a tablet for the kids.
- Battery life is reasonable: The Orbic Tab8 4G has a 4300mAh battery under its plastic frame. That’s not huge for a device this size – you can get smaller smartphones with bigger batteries than this – but it tends to last out the day reasonably well under moderate strain. If you were thinking of getting one as a simple Android games machine for the kids, it’ll run out quite a bit faster, though. Recharging is via USB-C, and there is a charger in the box, which isn’t always the case for cheap tablets – or cheap tech in general these days.
- I like the green buttons: There’s not too much to say about the Orbic Tab8 4G’s design, which looks so generic it’s almost painful, but Orbic’s designers at least had some tiny, small sense of fun with the side-mounted green volume and power buttons. It’s also notably got a headphone jack if you’re a fan of the old-style wired headphones.
- Surprisingly water resistant: Orbic says that the Orbic Tab8 4G is IP54 rated for water resistance. That’s an odd flex for a cheap product, because most simply don’t bother. IP54 means that it should survive light water sprays, not a journey to the bottom of your pool or bathtub, mind you.
- Did I mention it was really cheap? I think I did, but it’s worth repeating, because this is a unit almost designed as falling into “impulse gift” purchase territory.
Orbic Tab8 4G: The bad stuff
- It’s pretty slow: The Orbic Tab8 4G relies on a Qualcomm 680 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. You can at least boost that up with microSD cards by up to 1TB, although amusingly that might mean you spend more on the memory than the tablet itself. It also means that it’s the equivalent of low-cost phones such at the Motorola Moto G32.
What that means in practical terms is that apps are slow to load, web pages with any complex code behind them (which is all of them these days) are equally turgid, and you need a lot of patience, especially if it’s been running a while and any apps are chewing up its limited resources.
- The cameras are awful: This is no shock at all, because (say it with me), it’s really cheap. You get a rear 13MP camera and a front facing 5MP camera, and they’re both slow to focus, poor in any kind of difficult situation and basically just… there, because they have to be. Amusingly, Orbic’s camera app includes a ProMode setting – AKA Manual Settings – but even then you’ll struggle to get good results. Does the Undertaker on my desk approve?
I think he does not.
- 4G doesn’t feel like a big benefit: Without a doubt, the reason why Telstra’s taken on the Orbic Tab8 4G is so that it can sell mobile plans, so 4G integration is a bit of a must for it. But for consumers, I can’t quite see the point. It can make phone calls… but it’s so big it’s hard to use that way for most. It can access 4G data… but it’s not that difficult to hotspot from a smartphone you probably have. While the 4G capability certainly works, it’s an extra battery sapping step when it does. I can’t help but wish that Orbic had thrown whatever money the 4G components take up into improving the screen, processor, battery or cameras instead.
Orbic Tab8 4G: Should you buy one?
I’m going to repeat again that this is a low-cost tablet, built for a market that’s either on a limited budget where your choices aren’t vast, or those looking for a more “giftable” tablet that won’t break the bank, whether it’s for grandma, the kids, or that weird cousin you only see once every few years.
It’s hard to get too excited about the Orbic Tab8 4G, because in most ways it’s a very basic tablet indeed.
Without a doubt, if your budget can stretch upwards to the 9th Gen iPad that’s a far, far better tablet experience. It’s just that you could buy 3 of the Orbic tablets for less than the cost of one iPad 9th Gen.