10.1″ Android Tablet for Less Than $100?! Meet The Vankyo Matrixpad Z4
With a low price and low spec, the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 promises much but ultimately fails to undercut the Amazon HD 10. Poor responsiveness from the touch screen and disappointing performance mean that you probably wouldn't buy it for a child, either.
Looking for a new tablet, but don’t have a huge budget? You might be inclined to buy an affordable Amazon Fire tablet, but did you know that alternatives are available?
The Vankyo MatrixPad Z4, a 10-inch tablet that you can buy for under $100. But is it worth it, or are you better off spending just a bit more?
What’s in the Box?
Packaged in a bulky box, the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 ships with a USB cable, mains adapter, user guide, and quick-start leaflet.
The tablet is secured in place by a pair of foam inserts; beneath this, you’ll find the adapter and cable. With so little in the box, however, it’s clear that Vankyo has not thought through the packaging. It looks great, sure, but a 10-inch tablet doesn’t need a box as big as this. Perhaps bundling a keyboard, dock, or case might justify the size, but without them, it seems wasteful.
Given the minimal packaging of its immediate competitors, this is disappointing. For some perspective here, you can buy a new laptop in a box just twice the size.
Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 Device Specification
With a 10.1-inch 1280×800 IPS display, the MatrixPad Z4 weighs just 1.08 pounds, measuring 9.84 x 6.73 x 0.35 inches. With a thick bezel and cheap plastic chassis, its appearance is in stark contrast other tablets you may have seen recently.
It’s easy to hold, with the micro-USB port, microSD slot, volume rocker, and power button grouped along the top edge in landscape. A single Lithium-ion battery delivers up to eight hours of battery, although it can be run from the mains. You should get a couple of days of standby time from a full charge.
A 64-bit 1.5Ghz quad-core CPU runs with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB of built-in storage, expandable up to 128GB. There’s also a MALI-G31 GPU. With 802.11b/g/n wireless networking and Bluetooth LE, you’ve got the connectivity you need for networking and peripherals.
The rear camera, meanwhile, has 8MP resolution, compared to the front 2MP cam for video calling.
What Can You Do With It?
The system spec of the MatrixPad Z4 means that you should be able to enjoy most tablet-style activities: video streaming, gaming, social networking, reading, even productivity tasks.
Well, that’s the theory. Sadly, it doesn’t work out too well for video streaming. We tested the MatrixPad Z4 with Amazon Prime Video, and an episode of The Thin Blue Line. This 1990s UK comedy starring Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) is available only in standard definition. Unfortunately, while streaming to the MatrixPad Z4 within a few feet of the router delivered good video, the audio was out of sync. This was repeated on other Amazon Prime Video content, with the same result.
Additionally, the audio quality of the tablet’s speakers is substandard. Headphones are recommended!
It’s worth adding that testing for similar issues with YouTube resulted in videos that were correctly synced. However, given the prominence of Amazon Prime Video, poor quality playback is a disappointment.
Android Pie Without the Bloat
Running Android 9.0 “Pie”, the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 comes without any bloatware whatsoever. A rarity in the Android tablet market, this is a stock Android experience, the operating system presented as Google intended.
Importantly, this is an approved device, which means that it also includes Google Play. Some cheaper tablet manufacturers have struggled to meet Google’s requirements for including the app store. That’s not the case with the MatrixPad Z4, giving you access to the entire library of Android apps (where compatible).
So, while you’ll inevitably install many pointless apps on the tablet, the MatrixPad Z4 certainly doesn’t come with any preinstalled.
Using the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4
Setting up the tablet under Android 9.0 Pie is straightforward if a little slow to respond. The reason?
Well, it’s the touchscreen display, which despite being visually adequate, feels cheap. Rather than a glass display like other tablets (including similarly priced Amazon Fire tablets and Huawei MediaPads), it’s plastic.
At least, that’s how it feels. My first tablet, back in 2010, was a budget Advent Vega running Android 2.2. Perfectly useable, but it was let down by a cheap, “plastic-y” display. Almost 10 years later, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect key components in low-cost devices to be better.
This has several shortcomings, not least from feeling “dirty” to use compared to the Gorilla Glass of other devices. Displays of this type are also easier to scratch, necessitating the rapid deployment of a screen protector.
It isn’t just the display that feels cheap to use though; it’s regularly unresponsive to gestures.
There is also a feeling that the plastic chassis isn’t particularly hardwearing, along with some curious design choices. For example, while the tablet uses micro-USB rather than the increasingly common USB-C. Meanwhile, the microSD slot curiously has no cover to protect you from card loss, or from dust and grit entering the tablet.
Connecting to Wi-Fi should be straightforward, but during the initial setup it wasn’t possible to enter the passkey. While resolved later on, when the tablet wakes it defaults to connecting to a networked printer rather than the router. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a few taps, but another frustration to add to the list.
Stock Android (With an Annoying User Interface)
While Vankyo heralds its adoption of stock Android, without any bloat, it has nevertheless included two annoying customizations.
The first is the addition of three additional buttons to the usual trio of Back/Home/Recents. Vankyo has added volume up, volume down, and screenshot buttons. It looks a mess, is confusing if you’re used to using Android… and the volume control responds to adjustment poorly. The same is true of the hardware volume rocker, I should note.
With many feedback options for button presses, it’s somewhat remarkable that Vankyo chose an error noise for launching apps. This is the second annoyance, another thing that leaves you thinking “they needed more time with this.”
The lighter, cheaper feel isn’t something I personally enjoy. It might make the MatrixPad Z4 more suitable for a child–but for business or other intensive use, it’s unsuitable. There is some concern over the chassis, too, which seems to radiate quite a bit of heat even when the tab isn’t doing much. This suggests poor thermal dispersion, along with inadequate hardware.
Benchmarking the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4
To get an idea of the performance you can expect from the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4, we used Antutu Benchmark. Available free from Google Play, Antutu is a respected name in desktop and mobile benchmarking.
As you can see from the results, the tablet performs poorly. Whether standard use or support for HTML5, the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 functions like a machine from several years ago. Indeed, it is placed lower than the Google Nexus 5 phone from 2013.
By any standards, this is poor performance in 2019.
How Does the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 Compare to the Amazon Fire HD 10?
Competing directly with the 10-inch Amazon Fire HD 10 seems an ambitious move from Vankyo. Most of its products are budget projectors or display devices and they seem to be well-received. The MatrixPad Z4, however, just can’t match its intended rival.
A better display, processor, battery, and general software and hardware support are available from Amazon. The Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 is an adequate tablet, but if you’re looking for a cheap alternative to the Amazon Fire HD 10 to fulfill the same tasks, you’ll be disappointed.
You’ll get better media playback performance from the Amazon Fire HD 10, better app support, and overall better experience.
Is the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 Suitable for Kids?
The delicate display and budget chassis mean you’ll need a screen protector and case before unleashing a child on this tablet.
Given the intended use, you might prefer a budget tablet to a more expensive alternative. However, the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 feels like it might break at almost any moment. Tablets for children, especially pre-school, at least need to be hardy. They should also be responsive, something which this slate simply isn’t.
This makes it far less suitable for children than you might like. It could do the job in the car if secured on a headrest, perhaps, but for the rough-and-tumble of a child’s standard activity… you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Usable, Affordable Tablet With a Budget Feel
There is so much about Vankyo’s MatrixPad Z4 that harks to the past. Its unusual touch display, the surprising customization of the Android UI buttons, the out-of-sync video playback. Games play slower than they should; volume control is laggy, whether using hardware or software buttons. And the speakers are awful.
Tablets should be enjoyable to use; in many ways, you should forget that there is hardware doing the work. It should be effortless, and seamless. The Vankyo’s MatrixPad Z4 doesn’t manage this. At best, it’s frustrating to use.
Need a 10.1-inch tablet to browse the web, read, and do some social networking and online shopping? You could do worse than the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4. But for gaming, media streaming, and hardcore mobile productivity, spend an extra $50 and get an Amazon tablet instead.