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BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition

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  • Ubuntu tablet
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
  • Ubuntu tablet
  • Ubuntu tablet
  • Ubuntu tablet
  • Ubuntu tablet
  • Ubuntu tablet
  • Ubuntu tablet
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Summary

Key Features

  • Ubuntu tablet OS
  • 8 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and 5 megapixel front camera
  • 2GB RAM and 16GB internal memory
  • 7,280mAh Li-Po battery
  • 10.1 inch multi-touch screen
  • MediaTek Quad Core MT8163A processor up to 1.5GHz
  • Manufacturer: BQ
  • Review Price: £180.00

Why you should care about the BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition

If I were to walk into a pub and ask a random person what they thought of Ubuntu, I’d probably be greeted by a blank expression. This is a little sad, since the OS is actually one of the most interesting around.

Ubuntu is the brainchild of Canonical, a company that in my and many developers' minds is the Justice League of software development houses. It's been working for years to develop open source, privacy-protecting software that any person can use for free.

The firm has had great success in back-end technology areas such as data centres, and is the most widely used desktop distribution of Linux around – which, believe it or not, puts its user numbers in the hundreds of millions. Full disclosure: I’m one of these users.

Which is why I couldn’t help but get excited about the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition. The tablet is Canonical’s latest attempt to bring its open source software to the mobile masses, and on paper it offers some pretty amazing features. Chief among these is the ability to switch from a tablet into a fully functioning Ubuntu desktop.

However, be warned: quirks in the software combined with more than a handful of bugs mean that the tablet is unlikely to be suitable for anyone but avid tinkerers and prosumers.

Editor’s note: We’re not scoring the BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition since it’s not really a consumer device and is very much a work-in-progress.

Video: Trusted Explains: Tablets vs Laptops

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition runs the software of the future...

Ubuntu is the most used desktop Linux distribution for a reason. It’s one of the simplest to get your head around and is actually pretty darned close to achieving the Holy Grail of software development: a ubiquitous OS.

For non-tech folk, a ubiquitous OS has been the end goal of numerous technology companies. The idea is to create an all-in-one operating system that can run across all device categories using a single, core, common code. Sound familiar? It should. Microsoft made a big song and dance about achieving this on its latest Windows 10 operating system.

This may not sound like a big deal, or something any general consumer should care about, but it’s actually a huge step for technology as a whole.

An all-in-one OS will make it quicker and easier for developers to bring their products to market across multiple categories, which will lead to faster development cycles and a greater number of apps from which to choose. This is because developers would no longer have to rewrite the core code of their apps when they want to launch on a new platform.

It also makes it easier for companies to plug security vulnerabilities across multiple device types – which, in this ever-evolving world where cybercrime is an increasing problem, is no bad thing.

Ubuntu tablet back

Ubiquitous software will also play a big part in the future as part of a trend known as the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to a future where everything from phones and tablets to fridges and traffic lights are connected to the internet and talking to each other. The idea is that with this ability to communicate, devices will be able to intelligently meet their users needs.

For example, a smart fridge may be able to detect when you’re running low on milk and ping a message reminding you to pick more up on your way home from work. Ubiquitous software helps make this happen as, by running the same core software, machines will all speak the same language and be able to communicate better.

The BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition’s software is the latest step in Canonical’s bid to make this future a reality.

Out of the box, the BQ Aquaris M10 comes running version 15.04 of the software, not the latest 16 – something seasoned Ubuntu users will find disappointing. But there’s a good, albeit confusing, reason for this. The software running on the tablet is actually using tech that’s ahead of Ubuntu’s latest 16.04 LTS desktop version. Specifically, the software is based on the newer, but still-in-testing, Unity 8 framework.

Unity 8 is a graphical shell that forms the basis of the OS and is being tested as a means to create a fully ubiquitous version of Ubuntu. The current version of Ubuntu desktop runs the older Unity 7. This, in essence, means the tablet OS is in some ways a preview of what Ubuntu will look like in the future. It’s also a key reason for the tablet’s most interesting feature – a dock-free version of Microsoft’s Continuum.

Ubuntu tablet

Continuum is a cool feature that Microsoft launched on Windows 10 Mobile in 2015. In theory, it lets you turn any mobile running Windows 10 into a desktop computer using a specialist Microsoft Display Dock. However, with the dock costing £70 and the feature granting you access to only select applications, close to all of which are Microsoft’s own, its current appeal has been limited.

By comparison, thanks to its Ubuntu software, the BQ Aquaris turns into a functioning computer and runs desktop Linux applications the moment you connect it to a monitor using the bundled micro-HDMI to HDMI cable.

The feature works a treat and, with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse attached, meant I was able to write this review, edit its photos and load it into TrustedReviews’ CMS using the BQ Aquaris.

The software’s Scopes-focused user interface also has the potential to radically change the way we interact with tablets, and is tailor-made to take advantage of the the future world of IoT. Scopes are intelligent homescreens that collect and push information from a variety of apps in a similar way to Google’s Now service.

For example, the “Nearby” scope will result in the phone pulling data from apps such as Maps, Yelp, Time Out and Facebook to display relevant information, such as local public transport links and restaurants, into its UI. This means that, in theory, you can access information from all the applications installed on an Ubuntu tablet without having to open them individually.

Ubuntu tablet

This is what the nearby Scope looks like

Ubuntu tablet

The news app's also pretty good, but missing direct links to key media outlets, like *cough* TrustedReviews

When the Scopes feature works, it feels like something out of the future. The Nearby scope was is a particular highlight. After a solid week with the tablet, I found it could offer excellent updates on a variety of things, including upcoming calendar alerts, local weather forecasts and updates on the status of nearby and often-used public transport services. On more than one occasion I used the scope to avoid London downpours and time my exit from the office to catch my bus home without having to wait.

Out of the box the tablet’s Scope offering is limited, including only basic pages for things such as news, music and video. But, you can download new Scopes from the Ubuntu store to expand the type of information appearing on the tablet’s homescreen. If you’re particularly clever you can also create new Scopes using Ubuntu’s software development kit – the tool developers need to use when creating applications for the OS.

Scopes runs as a fullscreen app when the tablet is undocked, and runs in a window when desktop mode is enabled. It would have been nice for Scopes to be a slightly more seamless integration, with perhaps a side-bar or a pull-up menu instead of needing its own screen or window.

It's also worth noting that the tablet’s screen turns into a touchpad when you plug it into a monitor, which is a novel touch, although it would have been nice if the tablet could also act as a secondary monitor as well.

The kit is pretty robust, and thanks to Ubuntu’s strong following in the open source community, there are plenty of useful guides and documentation available that make it one of the easiest Linux distributions to develop for. As an added bonus, Canonical has included support for every coding language out there – which, again, makes this a great tablet for tinkerers and coders.

I’m hoping this will lead to an influx of new, more advanced Scopes in the near future. Further ahead I can also see Scopes benefiting from Canonical’s IoT investments, which will likely help them pull data from a greater number of sources and offer even more intelligent recommendations.

Related: Best tablets 2016

... but regular folk shouldn’t buy it

All this sounds great, and if you’re an avid tinkerer like me then it is. But I still wouldn’t recommend that any general consumer touch the Ubuntu tablet. The OS is still in development and suffers from a number of bugs.

For starters, the tablet’s performance is finicky. I’m not sure if it’s due to software bugs, or the low-end MediaTek MT8163A processor and 2GB of RAM at the heart of the Aquaris M10. Either way, performance is stuttery in use and will on occasion crash.

Ubuntu tablet

This is particularly evident when the tablet is tasked with demanding processes, such as large-scale photo editing in GIMP – although given its average 10.1-inch, 800 x 1,280 resolution display, I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless it’s connected to an external monitor anyway.

The software also has a few interesting quirks that will stump even the most tech-savvy of users. For example, the native Ubuntu browser doesn’t support the necessary software to handle even basic things, such as play videos on Netflix. A Canonical spokesman confirmed the company is working to add the functionality in the near future, but couldn’t say exactly when this would happen.

This is a problem, since the Ubuntu store’s application is a little lacking compared to that of iOS and Android. All the usual freeware is present, plus some useful third-party services including SoundCloud, 7digital and Songkick, Yelp, Fitbit, Twitter and Facebook. But big-name services – including, Spotify, Tesco and BBC iPlayer – are absent.

Ubuntu tablet

The Unity Launcher is the little side bar on the UI's right

I’d hoped to partly get round the application shortage by creating shortcut icons to the services' web apps in the Unity launcher (a pull-out side bar that offers shortcuts to applications), as you can on Ubuntu desktop. But, yet again, the functionality isn’t currently active in the Ubuntu tablet software.

As final confirmation of this tablet's lack of consumer appeal, I also noticed that a number of applications haven’t been properly optimised for a touchscreen. For example, the secondary Firefox web browser is the desktop version, and won’t pull the on-screen keyboard when you launch it. Gedit, the text editor, also doesn't fire up its onscreen keyboard, which is irritating.

Related: Best Android tablets 2016

Ubuntu tablet

Verdict

The above may make it sound like it’s all doom and gloom for the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition, but this isn’t the case. Sure, the tablet isn’t ready for consumers, but that’s because it’s a work-in-progress. In the world of open source, early releases are often buggy and finicky. In fact, even the early versions of Android, which had Google bucks behind it, were pretty terrible.

The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is a step in a wider journey for the OS, and open source software as a whole. It may not be ready for consumers right now, but thanks to sensible decisions by Canonical regarding its back-end software and place in a wider software ecosystem, the Aquaris M10 radiates potential.

As a result, while I wouldn’t recommend it as a purchase for regular consumers, I’d wholeheartedly urge open source developers and avid tinkerers to buy it, report any bugs they find and, if they’re feeling particularly generous, throw a fix or two onto GitHub.

Dead Words

February 24, 2016, 2:24 am

It's certainly interesting, but I'm not sure what I think of Ubuntu itself.

adi

February 24, 2016, 7:27 am

As a Ubuntu user for nearly 4 years, I have to say that I enjoy every part of it. It has it's issues, but even Windows and Apple's OSes have.
Unfortunately I do not own a Ubuntu mobile device as I can not afford any of them...hopefully in the near future.

Ubuntu mobile OS has what Android lacks:
- constant updates to the OS itself (no more useless non-flagship phones which come with known vulnerabilities and no update)
- the ability to make use of C++ on a native level helps improve apps performance and stability (something which hugely lacks in Android)
- community which help the OS devs to polish the OS itself and help find bugs and vulnerabilities
- Qt applications can be easily ported if are built with QML(devs would know what I am talking about here);
Example:
- Ubuntu has Qt support and web apps support
- SailfishOS also has Qt support(Jolla phones), probably web apps also (didn't checked)
- Tizen has support for native c++ applications and web apps
- Qt supports by default: Android, Windows phones, IOS and BlackberryOS
So a application can be easily made to support a wide range of mobile devices with only 2 techonologies.

The bad side is:
- Limited possibilities for app GUI development
- Low-to-none number of apps that the average person uses (only alternatives)
- Little support from big hardware vendors
- It's still in it's infancy and the bugs are a common sight, but probably little know how was Android in it's early stage

There are more that can be said, but hopefully what I posted it's helpfull enough and I didn't missed anything major.

Bugblatter

February 24, 2016, 11:38 am

Unfortunately there's a huge barrier to entry in the mobile OS world: apps. It's kept Windows Mobile and so on as niche players because of the old Catch 22 where devs won't build apps for a minor OS and customers won't buy without the apps.

Unless it can run Android apps then I don't see this making a dent, which is a shame as iOS and Android both have major shortcomings.

orionds

February 24, 2016, 3:10 pm

There may be a chance that convergence and scopes will help Ubuntu mobile break through.

With a small bluetooth keyboard and mouse it truly becomes a very useful computing and communications device. For quick work, tablet mode will do just fine and when serious work is needed, it's just a matter of sitting down in a cafe or whatever with full desktop applications enabled, e.g. Libreoffice word processing and spreadsheet, the Gimp for photo editing and even video editing using Openshot or Kdenlive.

These apps are similar enough to Windows ones to let a user pick up using them fairly easily. I've seen this with a first-time user with Openshot. Also, never once have I seen a MS Office user have problems getting started with Libreoffice. I know this because I see it happening on a regular basis in a school's library where all the computers run Ubuntu (actually Xubuntu).

This combination of tablet and PC (or notebook) functionality should prove great for university and college students. Plus, the pricing is right.

Scopes will be great for travellers looking for services and entertainment instead of fiddling around looking for the right app as scopes helps *converge* the necessary services and locations into one scope.

Another feather in the Ubuntu cap is true multi-tasking.

If Ubuntu mobile with convergence can have all the major apps that people use like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, it stands a good chance of taking off and do well, though it's unlikely it will unseat Android or Apple.

Marek Kwasniewski

February 25, 2016, 4:01 pm

Can't wait to get a bunch of these!!! Will make great gifts!!

André Correia

February 28, 2016, 6:16 pm

i have a bq aquaris e4.5 ubuntu and one android, i can say battery life is better with ubuntu than android, the only problem is some lag changing scopes, but since last ota 9 it was reduced a lot

Heimen Stoffels

March 18, 2016, 2:27 pm

I'm so interested in buying this tablet! Ubuntu on desktop rules. I'm actually a light computer user so I'm looking to make this tablet both my tablet and laptop. But I need to know one thing: as I also want to make this my laptop, will the desktop mode on screen (on the tablet itself) be available forever? 'Cause I really want desktop mode when needed on the tablet itself rather than hooking it up to a big screen.

yolo_smd

March 21, 2016, 12:47 am

these guys dont really do anything but install the software. I'm sure its a generic asian tablet rebranded. might as well make it 4gb ram and 3+4g+wifi station and direct like in samsung phones+bluetooth+gps, then it would sound good, because windows 8.1 eats a gig of ram, ubuntu will 0,75gig at least,if i remember correctly, its not as light as it wants to be known for. u dont do anything with it if its wifi only cause then u cant use it everywhere like your home without other computers offering the 3g.

also its gonna simulate android linux so it needs more ram. also a big battery or a back up battery. its gonna be updating lots. might as well make it a emulator from start and say it can run all linux+windows+android apps at the same time, that would be something. add in playstation+all other consoles and u got something catchy. and make sure its voice + data so it can make phonecalls with the 4g sim so it can do everything. ok thats enough lol.

K Lowe

April 9, 2016, 1:28 pm

Besides tablets from BQ - Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition (HD and Full HD, MediaTek), https://store.bq.com/en/ubuntu... there are alternative products from MJ Technology - Ubuntu/Windows Warrior Series (Full HD, Intel), https://www.indiegogo.com/proj... For more information: https://www.facebook.com/MJ-Te...

Stakoov

April 11, 2016, 9:15 am

What!??!?!?!?

JustNiz

April 21, 2016, 5:03 pm

I just received mine and am already sending it back for a refund. Contrary to Ubuntu's blatantly false advertising all over their website such as:
"It delivers the power to switch to an Ubuntu PC when connected with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard"
There's NO WAY this tablet can ever be used like a Ubuntu PC. Apart from anything else its not actually running "real" Ubuntu. Its a very cut-down mobile version intended primarily for cellphones.... and that right there is the root of nearly all the problems.
You can only install apps that are in their store, and the selection is, small, limited and mostly useless unless you love the crappy "hipster lifestyle" apps that represent the worst of every other platform, such as inflexible music and photo library management apps, and dedicated apps for Amazon and Facebook. The one thing I found useful in the store was a console. I installed it thinking I could at least then run apt-get to install packages like a conventional Ubuntu PC right? wrong. Most of the filesystem is mounted as read-only even if you use an SD card, so no write access to the system directories means apt-get cant work either.
if you actually want the free, powerful tools (like gcc, wireshark, virtualbox, mythtv frontend etc etc) that most people run Linux for, you're totally screwed because they're not in the store. Even if you find a way to hack them and their dependencies into writeable memory, anything other than command-line only apps wont work because the windowing environment apparently doesn't even support the conventional runtime interface.
if you download a console you'll find you can actually can remount the / filesystem as RW from the command line, but from there on in you're flying blind and you'll probably both invalidate your warranty and brick your pad in seconds. The only documentation in the box is a warranty and some brochures stating only the most blindingly obvious features about the hardware (physical button locations etc) that you would have already spotted immediately. Theres nothing at all in the documentation of any actual use, like how to use or customise the awkward, unintuitive GUI. It also came with a (useless to me) EU micro-usb power adapter even though I ordered in the US on the Ubuntu website. Once you've paid, the order is handed off to a Spanish company called BQ that apparently mostly makes cheap Android phones and tablets. The product is shipped from Spain and all the emails etc from that point are in Spanish only, as are all the interactions necessary on their very clunky website to get support or return it for a refund. BQ as a company are clearly not properly equipped to do international sales and support to end-users.
There are plenty of signs that the Aquaris M10 OS has been cobbled together from Canoncials cellphone OS codebase, then released before it was even superficially tested. The User Interface is very unintuitive and particularly awkward in use. For example to close an app (or more accurately, dismiss it, since they stupidly made it so that once launched, apps stay running forever so therefore unnecessarily consume already limited resources) you have to swipe from the left edge, but thats also the same action that brings up the side app-launcher so theres always a wierd clash. (Why the heck couldn't they have just kept the conventional "window close" [x] button in the titlebar?) Other signs of thrown-togetheness include The pad coming with a phone app installed right on the home screen that you can't uninstall or apparently even hide, even though there's no phone hardware so it has no actual use or purpose. Also the only utility provided to format an external SD card (you insert in a slot without a cover) apparently never finishes a format. I tried inserting a 2GB SD card and after 8 hours of "formatting... + busy wheel" I gave up waiting. I had to reboot the pad to stop the format. I gave it 3 tries with 2 different SD cards just in case. Same result every time. Obviously it had been installed and shipped without ever having been actually tested even once. Many simple apps and even some of the system setup apps pay no attention to the physical orientation of the tablet and force either portrait or landscape, or some ridiculously tiny font size.
WTF were Canonical thinking? The way they set this up is clearly half-baked, shoddy, and worse, f***ed to the point of uselessness for most existing Linux users (i.e. just about all of their potential customer base for this product).
I've been waiting for years for a Linux tablet to come out, and I still *REALLY* want one, but after temporarily owning Canonical's offering, my advice to other potential buyers is to stay well clear of this one, since everything is somewhere between bad and truly unuseable especially for anything Linux-specific. It stupidly (and apparently on purpose) completely blocks the user from all the power of GNU/Linux (most notably the repository access to thousands of excellent free software apps that really make Linux what it is). Clearly Ubuntu's only aspiration for this tablet is to be yet another poor competitor in the already very oversubscribed "dumbed-down device to run social and media apps" space, and also as a way to lock you into yet another app store so they can charge you for stuff that would normally be free in most Linux repositories. If I wanted that I would have just gotten an iPad or something, which already does "braindead hipster" far better. Sadly, this product has so much potential and done right it would have been awesome, but because of the retarded way Canonical implemented it, the reality is that you're going to be FAR better off and more productive with a cheap laptop running "real" Linux, or even an Android pad, than the Aquaris M10.

JustNiz

April 26, 2016, 4:49 pm

They simply need to stop thinking of the tablet as a mobile device like a cellphone, and see it as a laptop replacement so make it run a "full" Ubuntu distro, not some hacked up mess that can't even support apt-get.

Sean Cameron

May 5, 2016, 7:04 pm

I've been using the desktop version of Ubuntu as my primary computer system (after a Windows crash) for over 10 months now, and I've been nothing but impressed. Having something with the same power and interface on a smaller system would be wholly welcome, this tablet may be a guilty purchase yet.

JayArby

May 9, 2016, 2:04 pm

Regarding apt-get, I think that's old news. They want all of the apps to run sandboxed using their Snappy system. My understanding is that eventually you will be able to install .debs into a sort of Snappy wrapper package that will simulate the un-sandboxed environment that such applications run in.

JustNiz

May 9, 2016, 2:47 pm

Snappy sounds like yet another "solution" looking for a problem.
It also isn't how they advertise the tablet. They claim it can be used as a full PC.
At least until whatever non-standard mechanism they are adding also offers access to all the software in the repositories, apt-get most definately isn't "old news".

JayArby

May 9, 2016, 2:49 pm

Well ok, I'm pretty sure I read about it like a year ago, but whatever. :P

JustNiz

May 9, 2016, 2:50 pm

It doens't matter how old the idea is, if it (still) doesn't actually work let alone offer any improvement, then replacing the standard mechanism with it is f***ing stupid.

JustNiz

May 10, 2016, 5:21 am

It irrelevant how old snappy is. Their advertising lied and their tablet OS sucks ass. If its as supposedly mature as you claim then they've got even less of an excuse.

Rob

May 11, 2016, 5:43 am

yeah, that's why I stayed clear of this. They are trying to create another Android instead of creating a true linux tablet.

Phillip Bell

May 25, 2016, 10:01 pm

I like Ubuntu - really I do. Which is why I bought this tablet.

I don't like this tablet. It's not living up to anything Ubuntu. If you just want to use the pre-installed apps and one or two extra things, it's fine, although battery life isn't as good as I'd hoped.

If you are a Developer, really avoid this thing. You will find that none of your normal apps are available for two reasons:

1. This is an armhf processor, not an arm processor.
2. Mir is the windowing service, rather than X (or even Wayland). Mir gets no love, and it shouldn't considering the crappy licensing that Canonical gave it.

So, if you are expecting a "full PC experience" that Canonical advertises, forget it.

Michal Kohútek

May 27, 2016, 3:23 pm

It does have apt-get. You just need to remount the root partition as rw. Not that hard to do, especially since it's a tablet for tinkerers and Linux enthusiasts.

JustNiz

May 27, 2016, 6:04 pm

OK so you have to do an unsupported hack, which is BAD especially on an undocumented and non-standard system because you can't know for sure what the side effects of your actions will be. Even then whatever you just installed won't actually run if its graphical (i.e. most things) because of the fucking retarded decision to use Mir not X.

Michal Kohútek

May 27, 2016, 6:18 pm

Trying to install packages using apt-get on a tablet presumes you have some linux knowledge and experience. Also, it's not "an unsupported hack", it's just as supported as rooting a Nexus device. Root partition is locked precisely for the reason so that newbie users don't brick their device (which you can flash quite easily) or screw up the updates.

The "retarded" reason for Mir instead Xorg is that Xorg is getting pushed out of Linux distros and that it would create more trouble for development of Touch UI and convergence. FYI Android does not use Xorg either.

Bottom line is, that this ain't no "consumer ready" product. It is aimed at Linux enthusiasts, tinkerers and geeks. If you want something that works and don't care about software freedom, you can use Android or iOS.

Zygmunt Krynicki

June 29, 2016, 8:52 am

This is an ARM processor. The "armhf" string describes a Debian architecture string for ARMv7 architecture.

EDIT: Can you please stop the FUD? Mir is licensed under the GPLv3, among others (http://launchpad.net/mir) It is as free software as it gets.

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