A company called Simbans contacted me recently and asked if I would be interested to check out a tablet of theirs called the PicassoTab. The highlight of this tablet, I was told, is that it supports pressure sensitivity and palm rejection with the included active pen. That's actually what made me interested to review the tablet.
PicassoTab is currently selling on Amazon at US $200. I consider that to be mid-range pricing because you can get Android tablets at even cheaper prices, and of course there are more expensive Android tablets as well, such as the Samsung Tab S3 which is US $300 more expensive.
Let's take a look at the specs first.
- Processor: Quad Core MTK8163 1.3GHz/Core
- Screen: 10.1 inch tablet. 16:9 capacitive IPS touch screen
- Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels
- Storage: 32 GB, can be upgraded with another 32GB of micro-SD card for file storage
- RAM: 2GB
- OS: Google Nougat 7
- Camera: 2.0 M Front Camera and 5.0 Back Camera
- Connectivity: WiFi (IEEE802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth and GPS
- Applications Google Apps (Gmail, YouTube etc) and Google PLAY (use it to download FREE Games and apps)
- Ports: Ports: Mini-HDMI, USB Type-C, Audio, Micro-SD Card Slot
The tablet comes with a case, an active pen, universal power adaptor and screen protector what's already applied.
That's the faux leather case with a surprisingly thick cover front and back to provide ample of protection for the tablet.
The cover uses magnets to snap close. Unfortunately, there's no auto-sleep function when the cover is closed, so you have to remember to power off the tablet before closing to conserve battery life, or set your table to auto-sleep after a few minutes.
The case also doubles as a stand but it only has one position.
On the side of the case is a pen holder.
This is the active pen included. It's said to support 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. More on that later. The pen does not require Bluetooth to work.
The build quality of the pen is surprisingly good. It feels quite premium and has a nice weight.
The tip is those hard plastic tip and is quite slippery while drawing. So it definitely takes a while to get used to controlling it.
The pen is powered by one AAA battery and is always on by default. I'm not sure of the battery life though. If the battery life is something like the Microsoft Surface Pen, then it's going to last for months.
There are no shortcut buttons on the pen.
Replacement tips are available for sale on Simban's website.
The overall build quality of the tablet feels solid enough. It's not quite as premium or classy compared to more expensive tablets obviously but it doesn't look too bad either. The bezels are a bit thick but not really a downside.
The tablet is thin enough but once you put it the case on, it's much thicker. At the bottom of the tablet are some connection interface, probably for an external keyboard.
These are the ports located on the sides: Micro SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, mini HDMI and a Type-C power and data port.
If you find the included 32gb storage to be limiting, you can expand it with your own Micro SD card. Interestingly, there's a mini HDMI port so if you want to connect the tablet to a monitor or TV, you can do so. No mini-HDMI to HDMI cable is included though. Since I don't have the necessary cable, I can't tell if the tablet is able to power a screen that has higher resolution than it.
Speakers are located on both sides and the quality isn't that good. They sound like they are placed too far inside the tablet.
Further along the same side, there are the volume buttons and power button.
The back is matte surface and nice to touch, but if you're using the case then it's not going to matter. Oh, there's a camera on the back, and in front.
The 10.1-inch screen uses an IPS panel and has a resolution of 1280 x 800. The resolution isn't particular high for a screen like this so there's definitely visible pixelation. Even 5-inch smartphones nowadays have 1920 x 1080 resolution. The lower resolution is still usable but it would have been better if it has higher resolution.
The screen protector that's already applied is the glossy reflective type. It feels quite slippery when drawing on it with the pen.
Colour reproduction and viewing angles are quite decent. There's no mention of how bright the screen is. I'm using it at 50% brightness and that's quite satisfactory to me.
The Android OS version included is version 7, Nougat. That's quite a recent version of Android. It looks like stock Android to me because there aren't any customized interface other than the ugly looking wallpaper that I replaced quickly.
One good thing I like is Simbans has not loaded the tablet with any bloatware. The only pre-installed app is Autodesk Sketchbook and that's the app that they recommend for use with this tablet.
Performance is generally quite snappy. It doesn't feel as fast compared to more expensive Android tablet, but it definitely does not lag. The 2GB RAM that's included will definitely limited the number of apps you can have in the background without making the system lag though. Having 10 apps in the background is about the maximum it can go before the system starts to show first signs of lag.
I would consider the overall user experience to be satisfactory, something I would expect from a budget tablet at this price range.
And here are the downsides.
For some reason, certain apps can't be installed. For example, I wasn't able to install PayPal. Most of the other drawing apps are fine. I've installed ArtRage, ArtFlow, Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw, Bamboo Paper, INKredible, Medibang, Painter and OneNote.
There's no auto-brightness feature in this Android version.
Drawing performance depends on the app you use.
While the tablet is marketed to support palm rejection, it doesn't work that well. That's because the pen has to be really close to the screen (not touching it) for the palm rejection to work. When the pen tip is really close to the screen while using Autodesk Sketchbook, and only that app, a hovering cursor appears. When I'm drawing, sometimes my palm will touch the screen first, sometimes the pen will touch the screen first. As a result, it's unavoidable to have stray strokes caused by my palm which are those dots you see in the drawing above.
Pressure sensitivity works relatively well. But I don't think it's as sensitive as 1024 levels that it claims to support. The initial activation force is minimal. As long as the tip touches the screen, you will get a line.
Unfortunately the pen does suffer from the slow diagonal line jitter. It's a problem that plagues many tablet styluses so I'm not surprised to see it here as well. So to get smooth strokes, you have to draw faster. For quick sketches, it's not going to be much of a problem, just remember to raise your palm from the screen to prevent stray strokes.
Here's a sketch that I drew on location with ArtFlow. Pressure sensitivity works well with ArtFlow. Because palm rejection does not work that well (with most apps), I had to prevent my palm from touching the screen, which wasn't too difficult because I could rest my palm on the side of the case.
The only tricky part when sketching that picture above is the screen was quite slippery so you have to make a more conscious effort to control the pen. If you're someone who likes to sketch fast and loose, it may not be an issue. The other tricky part was dealing with the slight parallax at certain angles, but again, it's not a major problem because in the end, I was still able to get the lines where I want them to be. I've used other styluses before where the parallax is so bad that it's almost impossible to draw. That's not the situation here thankfully.
You can take notes with this tablet. It's able to capture my handwriting enough to be legible, but there are some stray strokes.
Another downside to drawing on this tablet is the pen tip feels a bit too slippery. There's also some parallax. The lines will always come out beneath the tip of the pen so that's quite accurate. It's just that when you're drawing from certain angles, the parallax and offset will appear. If you're always drawing while looking straight down on the screen from the front, then parallax and offset is not going to be an issue.
This tablet is probably more suitable for casual drawing purposes. The tablet is actually marketed to beginners and students. For those groups of people, I think this product is good enough, especially if you have a limited budget.
The slow diagonal line jitter issue could be a deal breaker for those who work slower. Other things like parallax, the slippery surface are things that one can get used to. Palm rejection unfortunately doesn't work that well. I'm already used to lifting my palm while drawing so it's not a big issue for me. Because of the way the included case is designed, the case actually covers the bezels and that area is higher compared to the screen, so you can actually rest your palm on it and that helps make it more comfortable for drawing.
An affordable tablet like this will definitely have some limitations. It works but not as well as I expect it to be. At the price it's selling at, and considering that they included a case and a surprisingly well built pen, I can't complain much. Ultimately you have to decide on what to compromise.
Anyway, you can can read more reviews about the Simbans PicassoTab on Amazon and see what others have to say.