The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is one of the cheapest ways to get hold of a 4G tablet. There’s fun to be had here, but basic hardware means you need to keep your expectations realistic.
Low price for a 4G tablet
Solid display colour
Mediocre battery life for video
Low-resolution ‘lined’ screen
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The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is a tablet for a very mainstream buyer, the kind of person who might have once bought a Tesco Hudl, a classic budget tablet.
This one is a little different, though. Instead of just buying it outright you get it ‘free’ with a 4G contract, starting at £16 per month. It’s a 4G tablet, the kind you might use to watch Netflix while on a boring train journey.
For £16 a month you get the tablet and 5GB of data (per month), enough for around ten hours of SD-quality video streaming. The plans creep up in intervals to £31 a month, which offers a tasty 50GB of data.
These are 24-month contracts, though, so in total the £16 deal will cost you £384.
If that puts you off you can also buy the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 outright for £129, which includes 6GB of data (lasting 90 days). After that you can ‘top up’ with data packs, starting at £5 for 250MB, moving up to £25 for 15GB.
The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is undoubtedly one of the cheapest 4G tablets around. However, the hardware is also rather uninspiring, and doesn’t do justice to high-end games and apps. To some extent that’s to be expected, but does it strike a reasonable balance of price to performance?
- Basic specs and a big, but low-res screen
- Cheapest slate offering 4G speeds
This is a basic tablet, there are no advanced features beyond a 4G SIM slot.
The CPU is fairly weak, the screen is low-res and performance won’t get anyone excited. Those with a lot of tablet experience will be able to taste the compromise, and there’s a bitterness to it.
However, there’s also no other recent 4G tablet at the price from a recognised brand. The Asus ZenPad 10 Z300M costs around the same amount, but is a Wi-Fi only device. The Amazon Fire HD 10 is £50 more but has a far more powerful CPU, although still no 4G, and the 4G Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 is over twice the price.
There’s 16GB of storage here and a fairly decent 2GB of RAM, but this is really just the minimum to ensure the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 isn’t painful to use.
Similarly, the cameras are low-spec, with a 5MP sensor on the back and a 2MP one on the front. Neither can take great photos.
It may all sound damning, but we don’t expect more than the bottom-rung essentials at the price.
Two features that are welcome little extras include stereo speakers and perfectly good colour reproduction in the display. That’s enough to elevate the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 to a decent buy if the price and 4G sound spot-on to you.
Design and display
- Simple plastic build, not pretty or interesting
- Low-res 10.1-inch screen
The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is a big tablet with a 10.1-inch screen. This size of tablet is no longer all that popular, and new models don’t appear that often – though with Apple now switching to bigger tablets it’s possible that 10-inch+ Android slates will grow in popularity.
Either way, it’s reassuring to see the style of 10-inch widescreen Android tablets has at least changed a little. The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 doesn’t have giant expanses of black around the display like old models. That said, it is a bit longer than the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1.
Its build is also rather basic. You’re not going to convince yourself this is anything but an entry-level tablet.
On the Vodafone Smart Tab N8’s back there’s black plastic with a tight-knit texture of embossed lines. Vodafone uses the same design on the Smart N8 phone. It doesn’t work quite as well here but it is better than a flat block of grey plastic, which is what you get with some older Vodafone devices.
The tablet is 465g and is 8.95mm thick. We find 8-inch tablets a bit better for portable use, but the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 will slip into a bag very easily. There’s no carry case or bag included, though, and you might want to get hold of one if you’re going to take this tablet on your daily commute.
After all, the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 doesn’t have the Gorilla Glass protection of some more expensive tablets. The glass on the front is toughened, but it’s a no-brand type without more advanced extras like fingerprint smudge resistance.
There’s also no water resistance. The little flap on the side that covers the microSD and SIM slot is a basic piece of plastic: no rubber seal.
The Vodafone Smart Tab N8's screen is 10.1 inches across, which seems massive when you’re used to a phone display. It’s like moving from a 26-inch bedroom TV to a 65-inch one.
This is great for video in particular. However, the size doesn’t half show off the limited resolution of the Vodafone Smart Tab N8. This is a 1280 x 800 IPS LCD, resulting in a low 149ppi pixel density.
Depending on the part of the software you’re looking at, it’ll either appear significantly pixelated or very soft. There’s also slight patterning to the panel, making it look like there are very fine lines running top to bottom across the display when the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is on its side. It can be distracting.
This is not a great screen, and its structure is dated too. Switch it off and the display part looks grey rather than black because there are air gaps between its layers, which cause a little bit of light to be reflected. It also means this grey is your ‘base’ black, limiting contrast.
The best part of the screen is colour, which is rather good for a budget tablet. Videos and games look rich and vibrant as soon as your eyes have adjusted to the lower resolution.
Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.