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I promise you that the Pipo X9 is unlike any device you’ve seen before. It transcends labels and attempts to carve a niche, but is it a niche that anyone will want? Read on as we find out.
The Pipo X9 is available now with free shipping for under $130 from GearBest.com; and at the end of this review, we’ve got one to giveaway to one lucky reader. Be sure to watch the video to get some additional entries into the competition!
Design and Specifications
There’s no denying it: this is a weird one. Looking more like a kiosk or terminal than a tablet or laptop, the Pipo is a hybrid device, designed to sit on a table or work surface, angled slightly downwards towards the user as a wedge. This is awkward to use when sitting for long periods of time, but that isn’t really the use case for it.
The screen is 8.9″ LCD multi-touch, running at slightly higher than HD 1920 x 1200 resolution, powered by Intel HD graphics. It neither stands out to me as amazing, nor substandard. Although heavy screen glare can be seen in the photos and video, it’s not as bad in actual usage when viewing from head on.
Inside you’ll find an Intel Atom Z3736F quad core processor (up to 1.83GHz burst), and 32gb or 64gb of internal storage (we tested with 32gb; the 64gb model comes in at just under $150), as well as 2gb of RAM, and expandable micro-SD storage.
The specs are nothing remarkable, but neither is it an underpowered device by any means. Physically it’s 630g, and takes up a desk space of roughly 15x22cm, with the screen elevated 6cm at the rear.
For connectivity, you’ll find a wide selection of options. It features Wi-Fi speeds up 802.11n, and a 10/100 Ethernet port – the preferable option for more reliable media playback and streaming. Neither of these are the latest generation though: the Wi-Fi isn’t AC (do you need an AC router?), and the Ethernet port would ideally be Gigabit speed, but isn’t.
A total of 4 USB2.0 can be found on the side and rear (no USB3.0); an SD card slot for additional storage; an HDMI out; and a headphone socket. That’s more ports than you’ll ever need, and it’s easy to imagine how funny the device would look on your kitchen countertop with everything possible plugged in. You’ll definitely want to use either the headphones or HDMI playback for audio, as the built-in speaker is horrendous. It’s fine for interface sounds, but it’s a small driver and echoes around the internals, leading to a horribly muffled sound that any modern smartphone could surpass in quality and volume, easily.
It’s also worth pointing out the huge Wi-Fi antenna sticking out the rear. It’s kind of ugly, and entirely unnecessary in a world where a 4-inch smartphone can neatly fold a capable antenna completely within its casing. I might forgive the antenna if it came with a faster Wi-Fi chip, but it doesn’t. You can fold it down so it’s somewhat out of the way, but it can’t be unscrewed.
Another minor complaint is the reversed volume buttons: for some odd reason, the button furthest from you is volume down. It’s labelled correctly, but not intuitive.
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly: it needs to be plugged in at all times. For that reason, although it has a tablet-like interface and touchscreen, it’s probably not fair to compare this fully to a portable tablet device. It seems like there’s room inside for a battery, but alas, there isn’t. The supplied DC power adapter also has a remarkably short lead of around 1 meter.
That’s not to say this detracts from the device’s function – this simply isn’t designed to go on your lap and be carried around. With USB accessories plugged in and and HDMI cable attached, portability isn’t a factor you’ll be looking for in the Pipo X9 – if you want a portable device, just get an actual tablet. That said, a small battery charge would have been appreciated for those moments when your kid pulls it off the countertop, and other such first world problems. You could also connect this to a large external battery pack if you were desperate for something portable.
Upon booting the device, you’re given a choice of OS, defaulting to a 10 second timer for the last used option. Running Android 4.4 with no indication of a pending update, the Android experience is none the less pure and relatively snappy.
But in a world where Android 6.0 (“Marshmallow”) is rolling out shortly, the inclusion of such an old version is worrying – 4.4 was released at the tail end of 2013, though it’s still the most widely used version of Android, on around 40% of devices. I can forgive the lack of updates to my Karaoke machine that just happens to be built on Android; it’s primary function is the Karaoke subsystem, not the latest Android OS, after all. Hack that and you might just find out my vocal high score (which I suspect is a random number generator anyway) and my most popular tunes to belt out. But on a tablet hybrid designed for everyday general use, the lack of updates it’s a little disconcerting, and may open up a number of security holes.
Antutu scores the device at around 35,000; the same as a mid range smartphone, or a little below that of a Samsung Note 4. Not outstanding, but certainly not bad either. I’m happier using Android on this than Windows, for certain.
Windows 10 Performance
You can boot quickly in Windows from either the initial boot menu, or a custom shortcut in the Android system pulldown.
Performance in Windows 10 is less than stellar, but about what you might expect from a $150 device. It’s better than my HP Stream 7, which has yet to see more than a few hours of use, but that’s not saying an awful lot.
Launching applications can be painfully slow; in one case, I managed to open 10 copies of an install, thinking I’d tapped wrongly. This is endemic to the Windows experience on any tablet though, as the activity light you’d normally have on a desktop PC is absent, which would typically serve to tell you “something is going on, just wait, ok?”. After about 20 seconds, they all launched at once.
Running in desktop mode, I had trouble hitting the tap target for smaller interface elements, but you can switch back to tablet mode simply enough, and it’s nice to have the option. You can of course plug in a mouse and keyboard for finer control.
There’s no bloatware installed, either, but you will find a single non-descript app on the desktop called “PCtoAnd”, which is a shortcut to reboot in Android mode.
I can’t see myself using Windows 10 that often, but I’m still glad it’s there. It’s important to know that this is a full desktop version of Windows 10, not an RT-style “sorry, App-Store only and here’s a fake desktop” disaster. You can run anything designed for Windows; you can download Chrome; you can install whatever you like. If you have a mission critical Windows application that you absolutely must run in the kitchen, this device is for you.
PCMark was less forgiving of performance; scoring just over 1000, or half that of a 2013 “Office PC”. Again, that’s not bad at all for something this small and cheap, but it does serve to how highlight empiracally how unsatisfying the Windows experience on the Pipo X9 may be.
In general use the interface is comfortable enough, though trying to stream a game through Steam In-Home Streaming was quite laggy over the wireless connection – you’ll need to use the wired Ethernet if you plan to do anything like streaming over a home network.
Is it a TV Box? Is it a Tablet? Is it a Kiosk?
It’s a little bit of everything, and that’s either going to be it’s greatest downfall or a really unique selling point.
Personally, I think this’ll sit beautifully in the kitchen – as a general use machine for reading recipes or watching the news while I make breakfast; as a home automation controller to quickly check in on how the house is doing; as a media player to drive a small TV on the wall so we can watch Netflix over dinner.
As an dedicated Android or Windows tablet (if you absolutely must), I couldn’t really recommend the Pipo X9 – there are simply better devices to perform that single function, and they come with a battery, too.
But combined: as a tablet/kiosk/media centre that can dual boot between a full version of Windows 10 and a reasonably fast Android experience? Well, that it does admirably. Buy yours now from GearBest.com.
The real question is: how many people are going need something that does all that?
A curious device that nails a couple of use cases, but not much else.
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