When the iPad was first announced the biggest intake of breath was not at its design, size or features – it was at the price tag. Squeezing the cost of tablets between smartphones and laptops proved a masterstroke and one rivals still struggle to match. Instead of getting into a price war, however, Orange has a different idea…
The 'Orange Tahiti' is pitched on contract. Sign a £25pm, two year deal and you will get 2GB of data per month (1GB anytime, 1GB 'quiet time' - midnight to 4pm) and unlimited access to BT Openzone. You will also walk out with the Tahiti for an outlay of just £69. Given tablets remain a luxury item and we live in an era of economic uncertainty, the idea of spreading cost is persuasive… if the tablet itself is worth the commitment.
So what do you get? Orange hasn't become a hardware manufacturer overnight, so the Tahiti is actually a rebranded Huawei MediaPad which we previewed in November. This in itself is no bad thing. Unlike the majority of tablets, the Tahiti sidesteps a 10in screen in favour of a smaller 7 incher. This reduced size may disappoint some, but it makes the Tahiti smaller (190 x 124 x 10.5mm) and lighter (390g) than the competition and with 3G baked in (an optional £100 extra on most models) this added portability is welcome. A further bonus is the high resolution 1,280 x 800 display has a greater pixel density than many of its rivals making text razor sharp and images detailed, while colour reproduction it good to. Overall it may not quite pack the punch of AMOLED, but no owner would fail to be impressed.
Better still the Tahiti defies its dimensions to pack quite a punch. At its heart is a 1.2GHz dual core processor and 1GB of RAM which puts it in line with most premium tablets and makes it highly responsive in all core applications. Storage is reasonable too with 8GB available natively and the potential for another 32GB to be added via the microSD slot. Defacto niceties too like WiFi, GPS, an accelerometer and mini HDMI along with a 5MP camera on the rear and a VGA camera on the front. Picture quality from these cameras isn't groundbreaking (see the sample image below), but they are certainly as good or better than most other tablets currently on the market.
There is a further pleasant surprise. The Tahiti comes with Android 3.2 (rather than the phone-focused Android 2.x which tends to pervade cheaper tablets) and Huawei has promised an upgrade to the impressive Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in the near future. The final cherry on top is Orange has resisted its usual habit of heavily customising the interface, so you'll find no tacky orange skins or third party app stores bogging the whole experience down. Admittedly some of the added Orange apps on its smartphones can be quite useful but overall we don't miss them.