With third generation iPads hitting stores and awesome Android tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime also hitting the market it’s very easy to get carried away with the latest technology and lose sight of the associated high price tags.
Lower cost tablets, like the Advent Vega provide a viable alternative and can be purchased right now for under £200.
Why The Advent Vega?
In the Sub £200 Tablet market there’s one key feature that makes the Advent Vega stand out, it uses Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor. The Tegra 2 is a dual core processor that runs at 1GHZ and is typically found in much more expensive tablets like the £300 Sony Tablet S.
In use, the Tegra 2 chip enables the Advent Vega to fly through web pages with ease. Embedded flash based content played smoothly (after updating Flash Player) and the Vega had no problem running 3D games like Grand Theft Auto 3.
The Vega also features a HDMI port, USB port for connection to a PC and it’s storage can easily be upgraded using a Micro SD card (a 4GB card is included).
Looks and Build Quality
From the front, the Advent Vega’s clean all black appearance looks great. It certainly doesn’t look like a budget Tablet.
It’s also a very sturdy tablet with a strong chassis that doesn’t flex in the hand. Our only criticism is that the plastic used on the back of the Tablet scratches quite easily. We noticed minor surface scratches after moving it around a computer desk. This can of course be easily avoided by buying a cheap case to protect it.
What’s The Catch?
As standard the Vega runs on Android 2.2 and does not have access to the Google Market. This really restricts the Vega’s usefulness and means that in it’s standard guise the Vega is only suited to those needing a tablet for basic web browsing.
If you don’t mind tweaking and tinkering the Advent Vega can easily be upgraded to Andoid’s 3.2 Honeycomb operating system which brings it right up to date and provides access to Google’s Market and 1000′s of apps. Upgrading the operating system involves downloading and installing a custom ROM which sounds far more complicated than it actually is, it really is quite straightforward and can be done in less than 30 minutes.
We tried out 3 of the best custom roms available for the Vega. Viewcomb 3.2, Vegacomb 3.2 and also the Corvus 5 Rom. Whilst both of the 3.2 Roms worked fine we really liked the Corvus 5 Rom. It’s based on a streamlined version of the original 2.2 operating system but includes the Google Market and is blisteringly fast when browsing the web. What it might lack in looks compared to the 3.2 roms it compensates for with sheer speed.
And that’s not all..
We were also able to overclock the Advent Vega to 1.5GHZ, a 50% increase over the standard speed which resulted in a significant increase in performance. Importantly, the Vega running at 1.5GHZ on the Corvus5 Rom remained stable and didn’t appear to run at a significantly higher temperature.
Overclocking the Advent Vega is simply a case of installing a custom Rom that supports overclocking and then downloading one of the many overclocking apps from the Android market.
Advent have clearly had to compromise with the screen quality to keep costs down. The Vega runs at 1024 x 600 which is lower than many of it’s competitors, for example the Motorola Xoom 2 runs at 1280 x 800 and produces crisper images. But it wasn’t so much the resolution that was an issue for us, but the very limited viewing angles. You really do need to be looking directly at the Vega to see the screen clearly.
Whilst the Vega’s screens not the best we’ve seen it was perfectly usable and wasn’t so much of an annoyance that we wouldn’t recommend the Vega. You might just need to occasionally remind yourself that the Vega cost you less than £200. The screens also not very fingerprint resistant so you’ll find yourself wiping it on a regular basis.
One other gripe, strangely Advent haven’t included a “home” button on the front bezel of the Vega, instead they rely on an on-screen “home” button. This isn’t a huge issue but does take some getting used to and eats into valuable screen space. There is a hardware “back” button which is located on the top right hand corner of the tablet.
Where Can I Buy One?
The major high street retailers are no longer stocking the Advent Vega but we picked up a refurbished one from Ebay for £120. At this price it really is a lot of tablet for your money. Our’s arrived in a sealed box and was absolutely mint with no sign of use at all. Admittedly, buying refurbished items can be a bit of a gamble but we’ve had very few problems with the items we’ve purchased and all come with at least a 3 month warranty.
Advent have to be applauded for producing a Tegra powered Tablet at such a competitive price point. Sure, they’ve had to make sacrifices and the screens not the best we’ve seen but compared to other sub £200 unbranded tablets, some of which are virtually unusable it’s a revelation.
It’s also worth remembering that to unlock the Vega’s full potential you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and install a custom Rom. If you’re comfortable doing this it’s a great budget buy, if you’re not then you’ll be better off saving up some more money and going for one of the more expensive tablets that come pre-installed with Android 3.2 Honeycomb.
All things considered, the Vega’s a powerful tablet and at under £200 represents great value for money.