- Decent battery life
- Lack of mobile optimisation
- Juddery performance
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: We test out the very first Ubuntu tablet, a 10.1-inch slate which can convert into a fully fledged desktop computer, using Ububtu Convergence.
Back in February, BQ and Ubuntu announced that they'd joined forces to create the Aquaris M10 Tablet, the first 10.1-inch device to run Ubuntu OS. With the ability to quickly transform from a handheld touch tablet to a full-on desktop computer, the M10 has something different to offer users; and let's be clear on this, the M10 is a tablet for developers and fellow geeks, not the average consumer. If you want something to watch movies, play games and browse the web on, you'll be much better serviced elsewhere.
So, how is the first Ubuntu tablet experience? Here's our Aquaris M10 review.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Design
Sure, the Aquaris M10 is unlikely to ever be described as 'sexy' or 'desirable', as it's not geared towards consumers, but it's not a bad-looking tablet either. Although that all-black finish screams 'business device', it's a very neat and flawless design, with well-ordered ports and no unsightly stick-out buttons.
More importantly, the M10 is relatively slender and pleasingly light, so can be comfortably used one-handed for extended periods. That soft-touch, textured back helps grip, while the bezels around the display are just wide enough to keep your thumbs from straying onto the screen.
As well as a micro USB port for charging, you get a micro HDMI port to hook up to a big screen or projector (something rarely found on tablets, but essential for the Convergence feature). You also get a microSD memory card slot.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Screen and media
The M10's 10.1-inch screen isn't a Full HD panel, but the 1280x800 pixel resolution is perfectly fine for editing documents and playing with creative software. Colours are subdued and the screen is lodged firmly at the 'cold' end of the spectrum, with whites sporting a blue-ish tint. The screen is certainly easy to view in bright light, although also quite harsh on the eyeballs when you're pulling a late-night session compared with warmer displays (like the iPad Pro's, for instance).
The touchscreen is of course perfectly responsive to touch and recognises all of the standard gestures, although the likes of pinch-to-zoom isn't recognised in many apps such as LibreOffice.
As for audio quality, the M10's dual speakers at the base of the tablet are basic at best. They'll do for watching a YouTube video or two, but music sounds very tinny.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Performance and battery life
A MediaTek MT8163B chipset backed by 2GB of RAM runs the show and it can generally handle everyday life, although some more demanding software does cause the M10 to stutter and sag. That's a real shame as the M10 is supposed to be used to get creative and run productivity apps.
Battery life is decent, offering a few hours of non-stop use. I never made it through a full working day without reaching for the plug, but the M10 will at least survive for the length of a cross-UK trip.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Features and Convergence
One of the M10's biggest draws is its ability to switch from tablet mode to desktop mode, to give you a full desktop computer experience when you connect peripherals such as a monitor and keyboard. We've already explained Convergence in our Aquaris M10 news piece, so head there if you want a detailed round-up.
In tablet mode, the M10 has the usual finger-friendly features you'd expect. You can quickly switch between apps, just by swiping from the left and top right edges, while a flick down from the top right corner gives you fast access to all of the main options and settings. And a flick up from the bottom edge allows you to manage your home screen (which displays whatever info and shortcuts you'd like) and jump into the app store.
Coming from Android and iOS tablets, the Ubuntu setup is pleasingly intuitive and effective, even if the lack of traditional desktops is a little bizarre at first. However, we'd still highly recommend staying clear unless you know Linux inside out already. Simple processes like copying and pasting between different apps are handled very differently to other operating systems, there are a few weird bugs here and there and it's very easy to get frustrated if you don't know what you're doing.
Some of the pre-installed apps such as Libre Office and GIMP are not optimised for touchscreen use, with the same tiny buttons and menus that you get from a desktop app. Thankfully you can head to the Ubuntu Store to download some touch-friendly apps, although the layout of the store isn't great (there's no easy way to browse the most popular free apps, for instance) and the selection pales in comparison to the Google Play and App Store offerings.
Covergence works well as expected, allowing you to hook up Bluetooth accessories like a keyboard and mouse as well as a monitor or other screen using an HDMI cable. You'll then have a full Ubuntu desktop experience at your fingertips. Personally we'd rather simply carry a laptop around, especially as you still need the mouse and keyboard to make it work (although the tablet screen does at least function as a kind of touchpad if needed). However, if you're after this kind of portable solution, you won't be disappointed.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Cameras
The Aquaris M10 also comes equipped with a couple of very basic cameras, an 8-megapixel snapper on the rear and a 5-megapixel camera on the front of the tablet. We're not really sure why that rear lens even exists, as we can't imagine many users snapping away with the M10. Just as well, because the camera is light years apart from the shooters found on other tablets like Apple's iPads. Photos lack detail and often come out murky or flat.
Still, while the 2-megapixel selfie camera isn't much better, it does the job for a quick bit of video conferencing. We came through quite clearly and difficult lighting is usually handled well.
BQ Aquaris M10 Review: Verdict
As already stated, the Aquaris M10 is definitely not a tablet for consumers, while its occasionally juddery performance, lack of mobile optimisation and random bugs/quirks make it a tricky recommendation for Ubuntu lovers too. Still, the likes of Convergence is a solid indication that Ubuntu has a lot to offer on a mobile platform and we're intrigued to see what comes next.