Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review

4G tablets don’t get much cheaper than this

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Interface and reliability

  • Android 7.0, mostly as Google intended
  • A bit of Vodafone bloat, but not rivers of the stuff
  • A little laggy, but not game-ending stuff

One of the best bits about Vodafone’s Android devices is that they use a near-vanilla version of Android, in this case Android 7.0.

There are simple home screens you can have your way with, and an apps menu that’s just a grid of icons on a ‘white page’.

Recently we reviewed the Amazon Fire HD 8 and the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is so much cleaner, simpler and more customisable. You can make this tablet feel like a digital ‘home’ with very little effort: it’s more a struggle with an Amazon tablet.

Android still doesn’t feel like a system made perfect for tablets, but unless you’re expecting to be able to max-out on the extra screen space you’ll be happy. And a load more app icons fit in the apps menu than on an Android phone.

There’s also relatively little bloat for a tablet branded with the Vodafone name. There are three Vodafone apps, and as long as you’re not buying this as just a cheapish Wi-Fi tablet, some are actually pretty useful.

You can look at your account balance, for example. The Accessories app is pure bloat, though, just a direct link to a web page that sells earphones and the like.

We think many will prefer the Vodafone style to the heavy-handed Amazon tablet approach.

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is not a very fast tablet, but it has enough RAM, at 2GB, to avoid slug-like performance and while the 1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT8735B CPU is not all that powerful, it is at least a 64-bit CPU with ‘current’ Cortex-A53 cores.

Real-life performance is only fair, though. There’s intermittent lag when zipping through certain parts of apps or moving between them.

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 screen is often slow to rotate when you turn the tablet around, the keyboard often takes a beat to show up and there’s occasionally a wait as you flick between parts of Google Play, for example.

That’s because while the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 has what we consider the basics needed for decent performance with Android 7.0, there’s not much slack here. The RAM is rather slow, as is the internal storage (with read speeds of 71MB/s).

Crucially, though, it’s at a level that isn’t constantly annoying to use. As long as the tablet isn’t downloading something in the background, anyway, which makes the lag far more common. The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 isn’t built for multi-tasking.

Movies, music and gaming

  • A big screen is always good for movies
  • High-end games don’t run that well
  • Stereo speakers but limited sound quality

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 may not have an amazing screen, but watching YouTube videos on it is a reminder of why sometimes bigger is simply better. Watching a movie on this is going to be more pleasurable than doing so on a Samsung Galaxy S8.

That’s as long as you can get over the fine lines the pixel structure leaves over the screen, anyway. These are apparent when the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 is displaying darker content.

You don’t need to worry too much about the resolution when watching movies, as 720p content looks rather good on the display.

The low resolution is a lot clearer in 3D games, where you’ll see a lot of ‘jaggies’ in titles like Asphalt 8. High-end games like this also show the limits of the low-end CPU/GPU. At the default graphics setting, it’s too slow to be fun. Drop down one level of visual fidelity and it’s playable but still a tiny bit slow.

Asphalt 8 actually works best at ‘Low’ graphics, which turns it back into the smooth and fast game Gameloft designed. However, it also means you lose out on some textures and reflections. It’s still loads of fun, though.

But not every game lets you fiddle with the graphics. Real Racing 3 doesn’t have manually scalable visuals, and the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 struggles with it. The frame rate is noticeably shaky, making the game less fun than it should be.

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8’s speakers are passable, their main strength being the stereo front-loaded drivers. This gets you proper stereo sound when you hold the tablet in front of you.

However, the tone is a bit thin, lacking the smoothness and power of the best tablet speakers, but it's the best you can hope for in a bottom rung tablet.

Specs and benchmark performance

  • Low-end CPU
  • Fairly poor Geekbench 4 results
  • Lower-performing than Amazon’s sub-£100 Fire HD 8

The Vodafone Smart Tab N8’s chipset is a MediaTek MT8735B, a CPU with four 1.1GHz Cortex-A53 cores. This is a low-end chipset, but comparable with some other budget tablets.

It has a dual-core Mali MT720 graphics chip, another low-end but reasonably capable component.

In Geekbench 4 the Vodafone Smart Tab N8 averages a multi-core score of 1,309 points. This is significantly lower than the 1,887 of the Fire HD 8.

It’s surprisingly low, actually, when the two tablets have comparable specs when you look at the numbers: four Cortex-A53 cores and a Mali T720 GPU. It’s no wonder the Vodafone tablet struggles with quite a lot of games.

Andrew Williams

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.