In Depth Review of the Ainol NOVO8 Dream Quad Core Tablet
Ainol has enjoyed a pretty decent tablet market share in China since the success of their first generation of the NOVO8 (Advanced). As the iPad Mini brought in this unprecedented celebration of 8 inch tablets, Ainol craves to win the market back again with its newer and more powerful version of the NOVO8: the Quad Core Dream!
◇8 inch 16M-color display at XGA resolution (1024X768 pixels)
◇Weighs 470g, 199*158*10.8mm in size.
◇Actions ATM7029 SoC., quad core Cortex-A5 processor, Vivante GC1000+ GPU, 1GB memory
◇Stock Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
◇16GB of built-in-storage
◇VGA front facing camera; 2.0MP rear-facing camera
◇MicroSD card slot
◇Standard 3.5mm audio jack
◇2160p video playback
◇6000mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery
Hardware & Design
As you can probably guess from the name of the device itself, the NOVO8 Dream rocks an 8-inch 4:3 display at a resolution of 1024◊768, which is a bit low considering that even smaller screens sport higher resolutions. It has a pixel density of 160 PPI, which is only slightly less than the iPad miniís 162 PPI.
But here comes the greatest disappointment of this device, the display NOVO8 dream features if of the Twisted Nematic (TN) technology, which is terrible in viewing angles, the color saturations and contrast ratios of the display are also far worse than IPS displays.
Everything about the display of the NOVO8 Dream is somewhat unpleasant. After using it for just a few minutes I started to feel this swell in my eyes. I donít know if itís me getting too accustomed to Chinese tablets sporting IPS and HFFS displays, I really had a hard time understanding the choice Ainol has made for this product which is marketing mainly towards e-book lovers. Who would read on such a crappy display these days?
As for the design of this new slate, it sort of reminds me of the SmartQ Ten and how I love machines which represent the essence of black technology. The overall dimension of the Dream is 199*158*10.8mm, so it inevitably feels a little porky comparing to slimmer tablets like the iPad Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. Somehow Ainol decided not to follow the trend of using a chassis with a smaller bezel, the NOVO8 appears much bigger than average 8 inchers. The body of the Dream is mostly plastic, but the frosted processing technique of the back cover avoids the feeling on the cheap side.
In portrait mode, the power/standby button sits on the top edge of the tablet, whereas the volume rocker and the home button sit on the left edge.
All the ports and slots, including a 3.5mm audio jack, a 2.5mm DC port, a USB data port, a Micro SD card slot and a mini HDMI connector, sit comfortably on the bottom edge of the slate.
The speakers are situated on top left of the back cover, and just as with most of the 8 inch tablet products, the Ainol NOVO8 dream has the rear side camera in the top middle.
The NOVO8 Dream runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean out of the box, which means youíll have to wait for later firmware update if you want to enjoy the newer Android 4.2 OS. Changes to the stock OS has been kept to the minimum, besides a few customized apps, you wonít notice any modification at all.
The Owl video player app is developed only for tablets with the Actions ATM7029 Soc., and the most impressive thing about it is that it is able to stream up to six different HD videos in six floating windows. However, as amazed as I am by the video decoding ability of the Dream, I donít see the necessity for anyone to play that many videos simultaneously.
There are also some other preinstalled apps, most of which are only useful for Chinese users, and none is Ainol exclusive.
Internally, the NOVO8 Dream is distinctly last generation hardware, but not necessarily the most powerful. The Dream uses the Actions Quad core SoC., which features four ARM Cortex A5 cores running at up to 1.2GHz with the Vivante GC1000 GPU. The SoC. is also paired with 1GB of memory.
As I have said in the review of the Ainol NOVO7 Venus, which is powered by the same chipset, that the Actions ATM7029 is probably the least powerful quad core SoC. mainly due to its lagging Cortex-A5 frame. It is easily beaten by dual core chipset like the Rockchip RK3066 in almost every Benchmark testing.
However, using the same SoC., the Dream is much faster than the NOVO7 Venus, I donít know if itís because of the reduction of display pixels or the better optimization work, the NOVO8 Dream does everything faster from opening apps to running graphic-intense games than the Venus.
One of the few advantages of the Actions ATM7029 SoC. is video decoding. The Dream is able to stream 2160P videos quite smoothly, and with an HDMI cable, you can easily enjoy those HD videos on much larger screens!
Another advantage of the chipset is the power efficiency. Tablets with the ATM7029 SoC. actually have much longer battery life than RK3066 powered tablets. The battery consumption is very little during standby mode.
The NOVO8 sports a 2 MP rear-facing camera with a VGA front-facing shooter for video chatting. As for photo quality goes, itís certainly not satisfactory at all, even with good lighting, photos can turn out fairly grainy and noisy. The front-facing camera isnít any better, and it may not garner the selfie quality that youíve been yearning for, but it gets the job done when it comes to video chatting and such.
As for the battery life of the NOVO8 Dream, the only word I can use to describe is ďimpressiveĒ! During my online video streaming test, the NOVO8 ended up lasting over 7 hours before the meter dipped below 15%! I reckon that most casual users will be able to go all day long and even into the next day before having to plug it in, with heavy users like me being able to most likely make it through an 8-hour work day.
The Ainol NOVO8 is a decently priced tablet, the RMB 699 (USD 115) price technically makes it the cheapest 8 inch quad corer in the market. But being a customer, as much as I love the build quality of Ainol and the black technology representing design, I definitely wouldnít buy the NOVO 8 Dream, not because of the ATM7029 chipset which I clearly have never been a fan of, but the fact I canít tolerate its crappy screen! Any tablet with a TN screen is a nightmare, especially in the year 2013, when even the RMB399 (USD69) tablets are featuring IPS displays! As a leading tablet manufacturer in China, Ainol should have known better.
Besides, I really had a hard time understanding why Ainol seems stuck with the Actions ATM7029 Soc., I figured out that Ainol probably had some unpleasant history with Rockchip, as we have never seen an Ainol-Rockchip collaboration, but there are still dozens of other chipsets to choose from: the Allwinner A31, the price-dropping Samsung Exynos 4412 and Exynos 5250, the Nvidia Tegra3Ö, all would be better than the quad core A5 swindler! If I were the CEO of Ainol, I am going to fire everyone on their product development team for bringing such disappointing slates to the market!