I’ve had the Alcatel OneTouch Pop 7 for review for quite a while now. in fact, longer than any other review device that has graced the SA Vibe review floor (sans HP Inkjet 4645). That’s because the Pop 7 is arguably the sleeper hit among small tablets this year. Alcatel OneTouch’s device doesn’t have the speed of the Nexus 7 or the interface tricks of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 and S line, but it is superbly balanced. It runs smoothly, packed with smart software and (most importantly) carries a sub-R99 monthly price (exclusively through Vodacom). For that reason, the Pop 7 is potentially exciting; it sticks to that familiar formula while bringing in a rather faster processors and a fresher interface. What’s not to like? As you’ll find out in our review, there are a few aspects that definitely need improvement, or even take steps backward — but it’s also clear that OneTouch’s has budget-tablet design down to a science. They’ve got this.
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The One Touch Pop 7 is a, erm, 7-inch tablet with a 1,024×600 resolution TFT screen. It’s not an IPS screen, and its viewing angles are painfully narrow as a result. The tablet houses a 1.3GHz dual-core CPU, a 2-megapixel rear camera, and a VGA front camera and at about 280 grams it’s fairly light, but its 0.35-inch thickness screams anything but “sexy.” However, the tablet doesn’t feel uncomfortable when held and actually reminds me a lot of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch with its smooth plastic backside. And that’s mostly a good thing. They’re easy to hold, with rounded edges and side buttons that you’re unlikely to hit by accident. You’ll find micro-USB and headphone ports on the top, the power and volume controls on the right and a microSD storage slot on the left. There’s little on the front besides the company logo and the front-facing camera. This bad boy includes a measly 4GB of storage — only 2.4GB usable — but thankfully Alcatel outfits it with a microSD storage slot supporting up to 32GB, boxed running Android 4.2.2 with the press release stating an upgrade to 4.4 is available. This must be depended on your region as our review device is still limited to 4.2.2. On the back, you’ll spot a rear camera above and a stereo speaker below.
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The design on the Pop 7 is ever so slightly easier to grab with one hand. I was happy to use it for a significant stretch of time without propping it up on my lap; this is a fine device for reading on the couch or playing games that demand a two-handed grip.
That conservative design approach does mean the Pop 7 inherit a few flaws. Those buttons may prevent unintended presses, but they’re also harder to activate on purpose. Since you can’t see them most of the time or quickly identify them by feel, it’s all too easy to accidentally lower the volume when you meant to put the device to sleep, or vice versa. The glossy finishes also have their quirks. The 7’s smooth backing tends to stay relatively pristine (at least in a the pearly white).
In real life, the battery is healthy enough that you likely won’t notice the difference. I can get through a day of moderate browsing, social networking and photography even on the Pop 7. Heavy-duty gaming chews up a lot of that precious energy, although you can counter that by invoking a special energy-saving mode that cuts internet access when the tablets aren’t in use. It’s a last-ditch measure, to be sure, but it might save your hide if you need a working device at the end of a daylong trip.
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To close off if I were on a really tight budget or making my entry into the tablet side of things I’d choose the Pop 7 without hesitation, as it’s simply a better bargain. Spending +R1000 more surely nets you better cameras, longer battery life and that all-important larger display. The 7-inch system offers superb speed for a R99/pm tablet, but it’s somewhat hobbled by the downgraded cameras. I’d make the sacrifice, as I rarely snap photos with any tablet.
It’s a harder call when pitting Alcatel OneTouch against its opponents. While it should be clear by now that the Pop range can take on most any task you’d expect from a mobile tablet, they’re not the best at everything; you can find nicer screens and cameras without much difficulty, especially if you’re willing to go beyond the R99/pm mark. I don’t think that specs alone tell the whole story, though. OneTouch makes a good case for custom Android interfaces. Theirs is more helpful than the largely stock Android implementation on the Dell Venue 7 or 8, yet it never gets in your way. I can comfortably recommend the Pop 7, but you do have to be aware of what you’re giving up — at roughly double the price that is.