Looking for a powerful yet inexpensive tablet? Dragon Touch’s new E97 model released in 2015 packs a lot of features into very attractive price point.
UPDATE (Malware?): I’ve received a few emails asking about malware on this tablet. While I did initially scan the tablet for malware when I first received it and it came up clean, I recently ran another scan with the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware app and it did discover a hidden malware app (“BroService”). I’m not sure if this was due to something I installed or if it came on the tablet, but I thought I would point this out.
You may be looking at the technical specifications and wondering how this compares to a more well-known tablet like the iPad Air 2. Let’s go through the different features.
- Quad Core Processor: To me, a responsive user interface is one of the most important features of any computing device. Who likes to tap something only to have the unit respond 5 seconds later? The quad core processor in this unit means that this tablet will keep up well with you and your favorite apps. Screen swipes and app launching were fast for me. My unprofessional test in the video involved launching CSR Racing on both tablets at the same time and while load times were definitely longer on the Dragon Touch, the game itself looked really good and played fine. The framerate was lower than the iPad Air 2.
- 1GB of RAM: RAM helps keep the tablet moving along at a snappy pace. The 1 GB of RAM means that this tablet can handle running multiple apps at once. For example, this makes things quicker when you switch between the Gmail app and the Google Chrome web browser app. Or if you’re playing music on Pandora while flipping through an eBook. More RAM means that the tablet can “remember” multiple apps at the same time without needing to close out apps in the background. 1GB is a good amount for a tablet, but the iPad Air 2 has 2GB of RAM which helps it perform better.
- 16GB of storage: This refers to how many apps, photos, videos, and music files you can store directly on the tablet. It doesn’t really affect performance. For reference, the lowest end iPad Air 2 also has 16GB of storage. However, the Dragon Touch’s storage can be expanded with inexpensive Micro SD cards, like the ones you would use in your phone and some digital cameras. The slot is located underneath the long white flap on the back. The iPad Air 2’s storage cannot be expanded.
- Screen: The tablet has a vivid display with IPS (which means you can view it from an angle without the screen washing out). I doesn’t have a Retina resolution as found on the iPad Air 2, but it’s still very good. Colors are bright and photos look great.
- Unlocked 3G SIM card slot: Normally, you would need a WiFi signal to access the internet on this tablet while you’re out and about. However, if you need to have internet wherever you go, you can purchase a data plan from a GSM carrier and then use their SIM card in this slot (the slot is located underneath the long white flap on the back). In the US, the most popular GSM carriers are AT&T and T-Mobile. This would not work with Verizon or Sprint plans. Just remember that mobile broadband is a little pricey, so you’ll want to watch your data usage while using a SIM card without WiFI (mainly, avoid Netflix and YouTube). In comparison, the iPad Air 2 has SIM-capable models available, but those models cost $100 extra over a regular iPad Air 2.
- Built-in FM radio: I thought this feature is pretty cool, as I haven’t seen it in other tablet models. This can pull in local FM radio stations without needing an internet connection. The iPad Air 2 does not have an FM tuner.
- Built-in GPS radio: The tablet has a “real” GPS chip inside, so if you download an offline map app, you can use this tablet to find your way without needing a data connection. The regular iPad Air 2 does not have a GPS chip and instead relies on WiFi triangulation to estimate your location.
- Bluetooth: This tablet also has Bluetooth so you can use it with Bluetooth keyboards and Bluetooth speakers. This is fairly standard on all tablets, including the iPad Air 2.
- Two cameras: I don’t use the camera on a tablet very often, but the Dragon Touch has a 2.0 megapixel front-facing camera and a 5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera. The rear camera is slightly better on the iPad Air 2, as it has a 8.0 megapixel camera in the rear (and a slightly worse 1.2 megapixel camera in the front). Low light performance is definitely better on the iPad Air 2.
- Build: The tablet is a little thicker and a little heavier than the iPad Air 2. However it is still a very compact unit and travels well.
- Bezel: I noticed that the bezel of the screen is a little loose and has some give when it is pressed on. However, the rest of the build quality seems solid to me.
- Speakers: The sound is tinny on the tablet and the speakers don’t get very loud. However, you can use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker instead.
- Pre-applied screen and back protectors: I’m paranoid about scratches and I’ve struggled getting a bubble-free screen protector on my iPad in the past. It is quite a chore. TabletExpress ships this tablet with a screen protector already applied. There’s also protection on the back of the tablet as well. Very nice!
Overall, I’m impressed by the performance of this unit given its low price tag. While it’s not as powerful as the iPad Air 2, it is still a very capable tablet that has great performance and a nice display.