Cube i9 - the cheap Win 10 tablet

Cube i9 - the cheap Win 10 tablet

Cube i9 Windows 10 tablet.

The Shenzen Alldo Cube Technology Company is no houshold name but their 12.2 inch 2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet is worth a second look.

This is a essentially a cheap alternative to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with the same latest generation Intel Core M3 (6Y30) Skylake, Intel HD Graphics 515 and a USB C port. This is also the same CPU and GPU as in the newest 12" Apple MacBook (mid 2016).

Physically it is similar with a kickstand and a 12.2 inch IPS display. At 1920x1200 pixels, the Cube has a lower resolution but that makes the job easier for the GPU so the perceived speed of the GPU might be better than with the Surface. On the cheap side, there is no WiFi AC, only n. The drive is a 128 GB SDD and the tablet comes pre-installed with a genuin version of Windows 10 Home edition in English. You can upgrade it to Pro if you need to, but unless you need to join a corporate domain you will probably be fine with the Home edition. There is also a MicroSDXC card slot if you need more storage space (it can be your D: drive) but the current firmware version seems to have problems with cards exceeding 64 GB.

The USB C port is properly implemented including support for charging. Using my old 5-port Anker USB charger and a USB A to USB C cable I could charge the device from 0% to 60% in two hours. USB charging is not without its problems. For me, charging only works as long as no other device is plugged in to the charger at the same time. If I also plug in my iPhone, neither device will charge. In fact, the port used for the iCube stopped working when I tried to charge it at the same time as my iPhone. 

If you are uncomfortable with a totally pre-installed version of Windows where even the user account is set (named "Cube"), you can use Windows' "reset" feature and re-install Windows. This allows you to choose language and regional settings as well as setting up your own account yourself.

As someone used a an iPad and the "dumb down" operating system that hides almost everything and only allows you to run one program at a time in full screen mode - having an actual real PC in a laptop format is strange. When you start the web broswer (Edge), it starts as a window that does not cover all of the screen - just like any normal Windows computer.

You can choose "tablet" mode in settings. If you do, some GUI elements are enlarged to better suit fingers on a touch screen and applications open directly into full screen mode by default. This gives a more iPad -kind of feeling but I prefere the normal mode.

The device is a bit on the heavy side and not that comfortable to hold without support but it's better suited to be kept in your lap than a normal laptop. And the kickstand works well when placed on a table.

The "Stylish Magnetic Keyboard" (CDK07) as it says on the packege is ok but not great. The keyboard itself has a very plastc and slightly "hollow" feeling to it - but the keys work well. The trackpad works well as long as you just use it for moving the pointer around on the screen, but when you try to click, you have to press harder than is ergonomical. The trackpad also supports guestures such as "pinch to zoom" and two finger swipes to scroll but it is quite inexact. If you try to scroll you will likely end up zooming in or out aswell. The keyboard is only awailable with a US layout but on request, other languages will be laser engraved on the keys besides the original US markings. I chose a Swedish layout and it looks like factory made markings. Only the letters/characters that are different from the US layout are engraved.

Chris at techtablets.com has an excellent heat sink modification how-to for those comfortable with opening up their tablet - this can improve the thermal performance of the device significantly.

I'm not quite sure what need this device will fullfill but I am happy to reaport that you can install Steam and play Civilization III withouth any problems (and more demanding games aswell, but why play those when you can play Civ 3).

UPDATE 11.2.2017:

After 9 months of use, the Cube i9 stopped working. Charging it and powering it externally suddenly stopped working - both trough USB C and the DC jack and with several different chargers. Eventually the battery run empty and now it's a brick. I was happy with it for as long as it worked, but clearly there are quality and reliability issues.

No service center here in Finland will even have a look at it since they say they can't get spare parts for this brand.

I contacted the seller (So Cube) on Aliexpress and asked if they could fix it - perhaps under warranty - and they told me to send it to them so they could have a look at it. I think it's a good sign that they are willing to investigate the issue. I have now sent the tablet back to China, let's see how it works out.

UPDATE 5.5.2017:

The Cube is back and working! It took some time but the seller repaired the device at a reasonable price - and as far as I can tell, they did a really good job.