Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

Vodafone's latest stab at the tablet market underwhelms

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Our Verdict

The Vodafone Tab Speed 6 is a cheap 4G tablet with reasonable battery life, but from the screen to the processor to the camera almost every other aspect of the slate is lacking.

For

  • Above-average battery
  • 4G speeds
  • Low cost

Against

  • Rubbish screen
  • Underpowered
  • Awful camera

An affordable £125 tablet with 4G and 6GB of data thrown in. That's the Vodafone Tab Speed 6. It sounds like a bargain – but even at such a low price point the competition is steep.

For proof of that you only need to take a wander over to our best cheap tablets guide, where you'll find the Amazon Fire HD 6 for £45 less with similar specs, albeit with a slightly smaller screen and no 4G.

Then there's the EE Harrier Tab, a rival network's offering that's no longer available on pay as you go, but which comes at a similar contract price yet boasts far higher specs.

Even the iPad mini 2 can be found for just £65 more if you shop around, so suddenly the Vodafone Tab Speed 6 doesn't seem like quite such a good-value proposition.

But while the 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8.0-inch 1,280 x 800 screen don't make for the best back-of-the-box reading, specs only tell so much of the story. So does the Vodafone Tab Speed 6 have hidden depths, or is it as compromised as it is cheap?

Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

Design

The Vodafone Tab Speed 6 actually doesn't make a bad first impression. It's plastic through and through – well, not literally; that would be wildly impractical – but the back is plastic. Plastic and dull.

It seems like it might be aiming for a brushed-metal look, but it's not at all convincing. It's also quick to pick up marks and smudges, and has few distinguishing features – just a 5MP camera lens, which juts out worryingly, a Vodafone logo, covered slots for a microSD card and SIM card, and a small speaker.

Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

Sounds like a bad first impression right? But it's not – not considering what the Tab Speed 6 costs, anyway.

Yes, it's plastic, but it feels solid and well built, and the edges have a gentle curve to them which lets the slate sit comfortably in the hand, and it's got a reassuring amount of heft to it at 330g. It's a little bit slippery, but given the price that's far less of a worry than it could be.

The front is even plainer, with just the screen and black bezels. The bezels aren't tiny, but they're not massive either, and a certain amount of bezel is desirable on a tablet, as it gives you something to hold.

Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

Overall the Vodafone Tab Speed 6 has a functional rather than stylish appearance, but it's smart and understated.

It's also easy to operate. Its 8.0-inch screen makes it fairly compact – it's still too large to use one-handed, but you can happily chuck it in a bag and forget you're even carrying it – while the power and volume buttons, which are on the right edge when the tablet is held in portrait orientation, are easy to reach.

Key features

There aren't a huge number of standout features here. At £125, the price is clearly the Vodafone Tab Speed 6's key selling point, and it achieves that low price at the expense of almost everything else feature-wise.

The inclusion of 4G is worth a mention though, since not all tablets have it, especially low-end ones, and its inclusion here makes sense as it's a low-cost way for people to hop onto Vodafone's network.

But then again, I can't help feeling that most people who are okay with shelling out for data every month on their tablet would probably also be okay with spending a little more upfront to get better hardware.

Still, if you want a low-cost slate with 4G connectivity the Tab Speed 6 certainly ticks those boxes. Coupled with the small size it also makes some sense as a tablet you'd take out and about with you and still be able to get full use out of when there's no Wi-Fi.

Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

The problem is that it's never going to be that pleasant to use. Take the screen, which is always a key, even vital feature of a tablet. It's just 1,280 x 800.

That's lower resolution than the full-HD EE Harrier Tab or the sadly discontinued Tesco Hudl 2, and the same resolution as the far cheaper Amazon Fire HD 6 – and the resolution works on the Fire's screen because it's packed into a smaller 6-inch size, but spread across eight inches it's distinctly lacking.

Vodafone Tab Speed 6 review

While it's still perfectly useable, everything from gaming to web browsing looks a lot worse than it could, and left me feeling like I'd much rather just do these things on my phone – which currently isn't even a high-end one.

And don't even think about using the Vodafone Tab Speed 6 outside. While you can just about see the screen if you pump the brightness up to max, it's incredibly reflective.

In fairness to the Speed 6, few other slates offer 4G at such a low price, and it's arguably an improvement on the Vodafone Tab Prime 6, which offers the same meagre resolution screen in an even larger size.

But unless you're desperate for 4G on the cheap I'd say either spend slightly more or live without it, because the Tab Speed 6 isn't strong enough for those 'key features' to work for it.