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EVGA Tegra Note 7 Android 4.3 Tablet Review
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Date: Dec 31, 2013
Section:Mobile
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

NVIDIA officially took the wraps off of its Tegra Note mobile platform a few weeks back, though rumors had been circulating for months that the company was designing its own tablet. If you’re unfamiliar with the Tegra Note, it’s a 7”, Android-based tablet, powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 SoC. Beyond that, the Tegra Note also marks NVIDIA’s second foray into the consumer electronics market, with an in-house designed product; NVIDIA's SHIELD was the first. With the Tegra Note 7, however, NVIDIA is following a similar model to its graphics card business. NVIDIA designed the Tegra Note reference platform, but it is up to its retail partners to market, sell and support the devices.

We’ve got a retail-ready EVGA Tegra Note 7 in house and will give you the goods on the pages ahead. Unlike some earlier previews you may have seen already, however, we’ve updated the device to the just-released, official Android 4.3 OTA, so what you see on the pages ahead is exactly what you can expect should you pick up one of these tablets when they become available again (the first batch sold out right away)...


The EVGA Tegra Note 7

EVGA Tegra Note 7 Android Tablet
Specifications & Features

EVGA Tegra Note 7
  • First 7-inch tablet to feature the NVIDIA Tegra 4
  • Quad-core, plus a 5th battery-saver core
  • Features a 72-core NVIDIA GeForce GPU
  • 7” 1280x800 IPS display
NVIDIA DirectStylus
  • Patented stylus system allows for highly sensitive variable stroke width
  • 3x more responsive than other available stylus solutions
  • Only chisel-tip stylus on the market
  • Intuitive note taking, annotation, capturing, and sharing
  • Edit PDFs: write, save, share
  • Full lasso selection for easy editing
  • Grab images in any app, and easily share
  • Stylus support, plus finger and palm recognition
NVIDIA Chimera
  • 5 MP Rear Camera, VGA Front Camera
  • Computational photography for Always-On HDR
  • World’s first HDR camera in a tablet: Capture exactly what your eye sees
  • Tap-to-Track: Choose any object to track so it’s in focus when you’re ready to take the shot
  • Slow-motion: Gear down the action for drama and effect
NVIDIA PRISM 2
  • Display processing, which modulates the display backlight and per-pixel color values to extend battery life up to 40%
NVIDIA PureAudio
  • Front facing stereo speakers with a bass reflex port for true stereo sound
  • Extended frequency response 380-12 kHz – compared to typical 800-5 kHz range
  • Premium Tegra 4 audio processing for louder, cleaner, richer sound
NVIDIA TegraZone
  • One-stop shop for enhanced Tegra HD games
  • Enjoy HD Tegra gaming on your big-screen TV via HDMI
  • Compatibility with Built for NVIDIA Tegra wireless game controllers means console-quality gaming is available through the tablet
100% Android
  • Uncluttered, up-to-date, synchronized app and profile support across Android devices
  • Full Google Mobile Services (GMS) and over the air (OTA) updates
  • Full Google Play certification
Additional Specs:
  • 16GB storage + MicroSD card slot
  • Wi-Fi 802.11n
  • 4100 mAh battery for up to 10 hours HD video playback
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • GPS, 9-axis motion with gyro, accelerometer, compass
  • Micro HDMI to connect to HDTV
  • Ambient Light sensor for backlight control
  • USB 2.0
  • 1GB RAM
Pricing: 


 
The EVGA Tegra Note 7 Box and Bundle

The EVGA Tegra Note 7 doesn’t ship with many accessories in its box. Included with the tablet itself (which has its stylus attached), you’ll find a basic quick start guide and a micro-USB charger. There is no case or pouch included, or any NVIDIA specific values add-ons. Considering the Note 7’s sub-$200 price point, however, we weren’t expecting much to see many bundled items thrown in, really.

EVGA does offer a couple of accessories for the Note 7. There is a smart cover available for $29.99 and a pro stylus for $19.99. The smart cover doubles as a stand and the pro stylus offers a 2mm tip, variable stroke thickness, an eraser feature.

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Design and Exterior

The EVGA Tegra Note 7 is similar in size and weight to other like-sized tablets. The device’s overall dimensions are 7.83 x 4.68 x 0.37 inches and it weighs in at 11.2 ounces. Powering the device is an NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC (quad-plus-one-core) with a 72-core GeForce GPU and 1GB of RAM. There is also 16GB of internal storage, though that is expandable.

The backside and surrounding frame of the Tegra Note are made of a black composite material, which flanks the front glass on all sides. The IPS screen on the device is 7” in size, with a resolution of 1280x800. That’s somewhat low in light of a number of competing tablets, but at 215ppi, it’s not a deal breaker by any means. The screen produces nice, rich colors, has excellent viewing angles, and adequate brightness.

Just above the screen along the top edge of the device (if you’re holding it in portrait mode) is a VGA-resolution front facing camera, which is decent for video chat purposes. And at the top and bottom of the screen are the Tegra Note 7’s excellent speakers. The speakers are front facing and there is a bass-reflex port on the bottom of the device. The speaker and port design work extremely well and produce some of the best audio we’ve heard from a tablet. If you’re primary reason for wanting a 7” slate like the Tegra Note 7 is media consumption, the screen may give you pause, but the audio will not. Watching movies on this device was great. In fact, we’ve found Tegra 4-powered devices to be some of the best for movie watching—this thing streams high-bitrate MKVs from a NAS without issue.

The backside of the Tegra Note 7 is home to a 5MP camera (more on that later) and an hour-glass shaped inlay with a matte finish and small dimples. The textured/matte finish looks good in our opinion, and it definitely helps when gripping the device.

Along the right edge of the Tegra Note 7 is its volume rocker and micro-SD card slot. Along the left edge, there is only a decorative ridge. The bottom houses the included stylus and bass-reflex port mentioned earlier. The top of the Tegra Note 7 is where you’ll find its power button, 3.5mm audio jack, a mini-HDMI output, and a micro-USB charging/sync port.

Placing most of the connectivity along the top end seemed like a questionable move at first, but in practice it works out well. When we had the device charging, it was easier to have the cord pointed away from the user—it simple got in the way less.

Overall, the fit and finish of the Tegra Note 7 is good, but not great. We weren’t expecting any exotic materials at the Tegra Note 7’s price point, but the seams felt somewhat sharp on the device, especially at two of the corners.

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User Interface and Experience

NVIDIA equips the Tegra Note 7 with a near pure version of Android, similar to Google’s own Nexus devices. There are only minor additions made to the OS, to support NVIDIA’s proprietary technologies like DirectStylus, Chimera, and PRISM.

 

Right out of the box, there is virtually no bloatware installed, and there’s no custom skinning done either. The streamlined nature of the OS, combined with the speedy Tegra 4 make for a smooth and enjoyable experience in our opinion. The Tegra Note 7 already feels fast and responsive, though we do wish the device had more than 1GB of RAM.

 

There is an array of Widgets included on the Tegra Note 7, but initially, all of the devices home screens are free and clear of clutter. NVIDIA / EVGA leave it up to the end user to configure his/her home screens, which is how it should be in our opinion.

We’re going to talk about Chimera on the next page, in the camera section, but we should mention DirectStylus and PRISM here for a moment. PRISM is a power saving technology, that will dynamically adjust the screens backlighting to conserve power. PRISM works as advertised, but it was somewhat distracting to our eyes in apps like Facebook. When scrolling, if a large image would slide on-screen, the dimming would change the white background to a greyish hue. And then it would turn white again as the image passed. It’s not a big deal, and some people probably wouldn’t notice it, but we mention it because it did catch our eye.

 

DirectStylus on the other hand is good stuff all around. DirectStylus uses the Tegra 4’s image processing capabilities to analyze data from the device’s touch sensor to recognize the difference between a fine-tip stylus, finger, eraser and palm, eliminating the need for a separate digitizing layer to the screen to support a stylus. DirectStylus is also intelligent enough to discern pressure, so the included blade-tipped stylus can be used to draw fine or thick lines. Turn the stylus over and it acts like an eraser.

As we’ve mentioned in our evaluations of Samsung’s Galaxy Note products, we like what having a stylus brings to the table. And NVIDIA’s implementation is very good. There is minimal lag and the stylus works as expected. NVIDIA also included a couple of apps (Tegra Draw and Write) which are designed for the stylus (which pop-up when you pull the stylus from its slot), but you can also use it to write on images, capture portions of a screen, etc.
 

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Camera Performance and Battery Life

The Tegra 4 features computational photography capabilities, dubbed Chimera, which can enhance images captured on mobile devices in real-time. For example, with Tegra 4, HDR photos can seamlessly be captured without the lag associated with current solutions. The Tegra 4 effectively captures two images simultaneously (at high and low exposures) to produce the HDR images. Current solutions capture two images as well, but there’s a lag between the captures, which can result in strange artifacts if there’s any motion in the frame. The Tegra 4’s computational photography capabilities are also be able to handle HDR panoramas, strobe motion captures, 3D reconstructions, and object tracking.



   

   

As we mentioned earlier, the rear-facing camera on the Tegra Note 7 has a 5MP sensor. When used in conjunction with NVIDIA’s special sauce, the camera is capable of capturing some pretty good images, but not all of the time.

If you take a gander at the samples, you’ll see what we mean. We found that the Tegra Note 7’s camera had some trouble focusing in less than ideal lighting conditions. Outdoors or in well lit areas, however, the Tegra Note 7’s camera does a pretty good job, as evidenced by the shots of the plants and tree branches. Colors are slightly under-saturated, but that’s an easy fix with any image editor. Though it isn’t perfect, for a tablet camera, the Tegra Note 7’s isn’t bad.

HotHardware Battery Life Test
How Long Does It Last?

As is the case with any mobile device with a high-res screen and quad-core SoC, battery life can sometimes be an issue. NVIDIA claims the Tegra Note 7's 4100mAh battery can offer up to 10 hours of battery life during HD video playback. To take the Tega Note's battery to task, we opted for a controlled "worst case scenario" battery test with AnTuTu Tester.

The Tegra Note 7 didn't fare very well in this test. We tested the device in its default "balanced" configuration and with its power saving features enabled (which limits the Tegra 4 SoC to 2 active cores). In balanced mode, the Tegra Note 7's score of 346 trailed all of the other devices. In power saving mode, however, the Tegra Note 7 finished in the middle of the pack.

Please keep in mind, however, that this test is worst case scenario, and that higher-performing SoCs are likely to kill a batter quicker when running at full bore.  During normal use, we had absolutely no trouble getting the Tegra Note 7 to last more than 2 full days, which including a mix of gaming, browsing the web, and running social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter.  We do not think battery life with be an issue with the Tegra Note 7 for consumers shopping for a 7" tablet.
 
 

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SoC Performance: CPU and Device

In addition to using the EVGA Tegra Note 7 for portable browsing and gaming and in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well it compared to some of the other mobile devices we have recently evaluated.

CPU testing
Android CPU testing

In the Linpack benchmark, the Tegra Note 7 slots in a notch behind the NVIDIA SHIELD and higher-powered phones/tablets we've tested, but well ahead of some of last year's devices.


AnTuTu Detailed Results - Click To Enlarge

The Tegra Note 7 also put up some middling numbers in the AnTuTu suite of benchmarks. Its performance was relatively strong in the GPU, memory and storage IO tests, but its overall score trailed the SHIELD, Note 3, and reference BayTrail-based tablet.


MobileXPRT Detailed Results - Click To Enlarge

According to the MobileXPRT suite of benchmarks, however, the Tegra Note 7 is a performance champ. Here, it trails only the higher clocked (and actively cooled) SHIELD portable gaming device. The Tegra 4 in addition to its streamlined and better optimized installation of Android 4.3 give the Tegra Note 7 an edge in may of the real-world scenarios tested by MobleXPRT.
 

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SoC Performance: GPU

Next up we've got some tests that focus solely on graphics performance. The 72-core custom GeForce graphics engine used in the Tegra Note 7 is one of the most powerful currently available in a mobile SoC, so we were particularly interested in seeing what it could do...

Graphics testing
Android graphics testing

The Tegra Note 7 didn't lead the pack, but it was grouped tightly with the best performers here. A couple of the tests in this benchmark are now V-Sync bounce, but as you can see in the Flower Power tests, the Tegra Note 7's GeForce GPU performs very well in comparison to other devices.

The Tegra Note 7 also does fairly well in the GLBenchmark tests we ran. In terms of theoretical peak fillrate, the Tegra Note 7 trails quite a few devices, but in actual frame rates, it was only a pair of high-end, much more expensive Samsung devices that put up better numbers.
 

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SoC Performance: GPU (Cont.)

We have a few more graphics-related benchmarks for you here, namely Futuremark's 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark and Basemark X. These two tests are a bit more comprehensive than the ones on the previous page...

GPU Testing (Continued)
Futuremark and BasemarkX

The Tegra Note 7 finishes about in the middle of the pack here, outpacing the Bay Trail reference tablet, but trailing the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. The Tegra Note rocked in the on-screen portion of the benchmark, but keep in mind this tablet has a resolution of only 1280x800. The other tablets are full HD or higher.



The Tegra Note 7 finishes near the top of the heap in the 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark, trailing only the Galaxy Note 3 and NVIDIA SHIELD.
 

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SoC Performance: Browsing and Javascript
Next up, we have some numbers from the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark. According to the SunSpider website:

This benchmark tests the core JavaScript language only, not the DOM or other browser APIs. It is designed to compare different versions of the same browser, and different browsers to each other. Unlike many widely available JavaScript benchmarks, this test is:

Real World - This test mostly avoids microbenchmarks, and tries to focus on the kinds of actual problems developers solve with JavaScript today, and the problems they may want to tackle in the future as the language gets faster. This includes tests to generate a tagcloud from JSON input, a 3D raytracer, cryptography tests, code decompression, and many more examples. There are a few microbenchmarkish things, but they mostly represent real performance problems that developers have encountered.

Balanced - This test is balanced between different areas of the language and different types of code. It's not all math, all string processing, or all timing simple loops. In addition to having tests in many categories, the individual tests were balanced to take similar amounts of time on currently shipping versions of popular browsers.

Statistically Sound - One of the challenges of benchmarking is knowing how much noise you have in your measurements. This benchmark runs each test multiple times and determines an error range (technically, a 95% confidence interval). In addition, in comparison mode it tells you if you have enough data to determine if the difference is statistically significant.

JavaScript testing
JavaScript Android and iPhone testing

 

The Tegra Note 7 was the best performing Android-based device in the Sunspider benchmark. The Tegra 4 SoC and clean, optimized installation of Android 4.3, handle JS very well.

Rightware Browsermark
Web Browsing Performance

The Tegra Note 7 also put up some excellent numbers in Browsermark. Here, the Tegra Note 7 finished near the top of the heap, trailing only the much more expensive Apple devices and Intel's Bay Trail reference platform.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: All things considered, the EVGA Tegra Note 7 is a relatively high-performance device. We knew from our experience with the NVIDIA SHIELD portable gaming device that the Tegra 4 SoC has the potential to be one of the better performing mobile processors on the market. The SHIELD, however, is actively cooled and has a much different form factor than a typical slate. The Tegra 4 is passively cooled in the Tegra Note 7, and is crammed into a thin and light 7" tablet form factor. As a result, the SoC can't hit peak frequencies quite as high as the SHIELD (1.8GHz vs. 1.9GHz), but that didn't hold the Tegra Note 7 back very much. In a few of the CPU-centric and system level tests, the Tegra Note 7 finished at or near the head of the pack, and in the graphics benchmarks, its 72-core GeForce GPU competed very well, and often allowed the Tegra Note 7 to outpace much more expensive devices.


The EVGA Tegra Note 7 -- Available For $199 On Amazon

We should be clear that he EVGA Tegra Note 7 is not an ultra-premium device, outfitted with exotic materials, and an equally exotic price tag. The Tegra Note 7 is a sub-$200 product ($199 to be exact) that doesn't have a high-DPI screen and lacks 5GHz WiFi, but it does so many things right that it is absolutely worthy of consideration if you're looking for a tablet in this form factor. First of all, the stylus is a definite value-add that works very well. We also dig the clean installation of Android, the speakers on the Tegra Note 7 are excellent, the device feels snappy overall, and the wealth of Tegra optimized games and Bluetooth controller support are pluses too. The Tegra Note 7's storage capacity is also expandable thanks to its micro-SD card slot and NVIDIA seems intent on aggressively adding new features through software updates. If the SHIELD is an indicator, lots of good stuff should be coming the Tegra Note's way in the future.

It is not without its imperfections, but for the money, the EVGA Tegra Note 7 is a great device. If you don't mind the lack of a high-DPI display and are content with sacrificing some battery life versus some more expensive products in this class, the Tegra Note 7 is a fine choice.

 

  • Good Performance
  • Low-Latency Stylus
  • Great Speakers
  • Clean Android Installation
  • Aggressive Price
  • Relatively Low DPI Screen
  • Sharp Corners
  • Battery Life


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