The Android tablet market is a proverbial scarce wasteland these days. It has been quite some time since we saw something from Samsung or Asus, two of the last major stalwart players in this space (excluding Amazon, obviously). Tablets are not what they were in years past, though I personally still find having one useful for certain situations, despite Android leaving much to be desired in this aspect.
In either an attempt to capitalize on a dead horse, or to jumpstart one, AT&T teamed up with Lenovo to "create" the Moto Tab, a device exclusive to the giant carrier and aimed at its DirecTV customers. Now, I put "create" in quotes because this tablet is just a Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus with some rebranding done — Google Find My Device even reports it as such. And yet despite it being the first "Motorola" tablet in years, I urge you to restrain your enthusiasm for an era long gone (one that was not even that great at the time).
The Moto Tab's specs are quite middling, if not disappointing, and its marketed use case is extremely limited, yet AT&T wants $299 for it. As you will read further along, dear reader, this is ridiculous. Tl;dr, this is a waste of money at this price (or period, depending on your perspective).
|Display||10.1" 1920x1200 IPS LCD; 224ppi|
|Software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat|
|Cameras||8MP rear, 5MP front|
|Connectivity||802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual band: LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/20/29/30|
|Misc||USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, fingerprint sensor, front-facing speakers|
|Display||Nice size, decent colors, and good for watching videos or playing games.|
|Battery life||I would expect a tablet to last a while, and this exceeds my expectations.|
|Software||Though "stock," this tablet launches with Nougat and I'm doubtful that it will ever see Oreo, let alone in a reasonably timely fashion.|
|Performance||The Moto Tab is ridiculously slow. It hangs when opening/switching apps, homescreen redraws are frequent, and it never shirks its overall feeling of sluggishness.|
|Bloatware||AT&T went all out on the pre-installed apps, which you cannot uninstall (of course).|
|Fingerprint sensor||While somewhat accurate, the sensor takes so long to read my fingerprint, and even longer to wake the tablet and unlock it.|
|Cameras||No surprise, but they are both bad. Don't use them.|
|Value||At $299, the Moto Tab is not a good buy, especially when compared to its Tab 4 10 Plus sibling.|
Design and display
While a lot of tablets take the 4:3 or 3:2 route, Lenovorola went with a 16:10 widescreen layout. Since this is aimed at DirecTV users, who theoretically want to watch TV, this decision makes sense. Honestly, I liked the 16:10 aspect ratio a lot more than I thought I would since I have been using a 4:3 tablet for several months now. The only annoyance is when I opened a portrait-mode only app, which made me realize how awkwardly tall this thing is in that position.
The face of the Moto Tab is fairly unremarkable, with the fingerprint sensor, front camera, and thick bezels surrounding the 10.1" display. Up along the top frame of the tablet are the dual front-facing speakers, which are a nice touch. They get reasonably loud, but higher volumes lead to intense distortion. Truly gone are the days of Boomsound, it seems. Keep them at 40-50% and you will still be able to hear notifications and videos in a quiet to moderately loud room.
The power button and volume rocker on the left side are both solid, though the former feels a bit softer during its travel than I would like. Over on the right side are the USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack, each up toward to the top of the frame. The back has an interesting soft-touch plastic — the best way I can describe it is a combination of the "band-aid" Nexus 7 (2012) back and the OnePlus One sandstone texture. The Moto Tab is soft, but my fingers grip it quite well which makes it great for holding and watching videos for a long period of time. The only problem is that this plastic picks up dust, dead skin, and oils very easily (much like my old Nexus 7 did).
I was excited at my first opportunity to try out a tablet with a fingerprint sensor, but the Moto Tab's reader quickly tempered that enthusiasm. While the sensor itself is reasonably accurate (though it does better with my index fingers than it did with my thumbs), the tablet itself takes quite a while to unlock. There is a delay while the sensor reads the fingerprint, then another lag while the tablet wakes up and unlocks. After using the OnePlus 5T and Huawei Mate 10 Pro sensors, this disappointed me. I suppose that I should not have been surprised.
Overall, the Moto Tab's design is extraordinarily unremarkable, which I suppose furthers the tablet's purpose of being a content-consumption device, not a fashion statement.
For a tablet in this range, the display on the Moto Tab is fairly decent. It has good colors, though a bit on the warm side, and great viewing angles — which is what I would expect for a tablet marketed specifically for watching TV.
However, the Moto Tab suffers from high touch latency, especially when compared to other similarly-priced options from Asus. This was most noticeable when scrolling on web pages or through the app drawer; the tablet would lag, at times significantly, then jump to catch up. This sort of behavior reminds me of the ancient smartphone days.
Then again, this latency could be down to the underwhelming performance of the Moto Tab, which I will address later.
This section feels almost useless, since Android tablet cameras are almost always... bad, sometimes laughably so. The Moto Tab is certainly no different, and no one should use what this device offers. The best that it could produce was a slightly less-washed out photo of the park a few blocks from my house — on a side note, I have never gotten used to the looks I get when I take photos with a tablet.
The camera app is buggy, slow, and takes way too long to capture a photo, even with HDR off. We're talking in the many, several seconds here. Oh, and nighttime performance? Don't even get me started — just look at the ones at the end of the gallery below.
At one point, the Moto Tab freaked out and suddenly spat out pictures like it had the ISO cranked higher than anyone needs, especially outdoors. So, both the front and rear cameras suck. Can we move on now?
Performance and battery life
Performance on the Moto Tab is yet another area of intense disappointment. Despite its age, we have seen strength in the Snapdragon 625, so I felt quite confused when I started noticing significant hiccups in the UX. Animations would suddenly become choppy, then jump ahead to try to appear normal; the homescreen, on both stock versions and two different custom launchers, redrew constantly, especially with more than two apps open; the notification shade would freeze in place, not allowing me to act upon anything in it, even dismissing items.
It seems pretty obvious that, at least in part, the problem comes down to the RAM. 2GB is rough, considering that I have noticed similar issues to what I just described in phones with 3GB — granted, that is anecdotal, but you get my point. I imagine that even an additional gigabyte of RAM might have mitigated some of my problems with the overall performance, but that is water under the bridge now.
Switching gears, the Moto Tab has stellar battery life. Android reported two weeks off the charger, claiming that even at 20% battery, the tablet would last another four days. During this time, I used the Moto Tab for email, messaging, watching plenty of YouTube (and forcing myself to watch Xfinity TV), and playing heavy games. To be fair, I did not have a SIM card in it to test full cell standby, so take that into consideration.
Following in the trend of disappointments, the Moto Tab launches with Android 7.1.1 Nougat and the July security patch. Fortunately, there is very little obscuring the stock experience, and most of those additions are useful. The software, however, feels unoptimized with wildly varying performance; one moment, animations are decently smooth, the next, the whole thing hangs up. Inconsistency is not something I like to see.
Another ding here is the over-abundance of bloatware. From AT&T apps to large games, the list extends to over eighteen. I understand wanting to provide customers with a stellar user experience, which means installing things like Device Help and the like, but AT&T went overboard. Most of them can be disabled in Settings and hidden with a custom launcher, but I find them a nuisance nonetheless.
Stock Nougat is fairly simple and unassuming, but Lenovorola included a few extra additions to enhance the experience. The most important, and the one I used the most, is what Moto calls Productivity Interface. This modifies the stock launcher and UI to mimic a desktop, moving the nav keys to the left corner and adding a taskbar where your open, recent apps live. I really enjoyed this, though I don't think it improved my productivity any. I mostly preferred it for the soft keys in the left corner, something that I wish Android still did on tablets — reaching to the middle of a 10.1" 16:10 display (in landscape) to tap the navbar is quite cumbersome.
TV Mode is one of the highlight software features that AT&T seems rather proud of. By either swiping to the left on the stock launcher or double-pressing the power button, the Moto Tab opens whatever video app you have set (default is DirecTV Now, but you can change this during setup; I went with Xfinity Stream). What makes TV Mode so special? Well, nothing — it is just a shortcut to launch an app. Yay?
My largest concern with the software is that I am rather skeptical that AT&T/Lenovo will ever update the Moto Tab to Oreo. I mean, Verizon and Asus managed to update the ZenPad Z10 to Nougat, so who knows. In this case, though, I think my misgivings are warranted, but I sincerely hope that I am wrong.
By this point, you probably know what I am going to say here. The Moto Tab represents an extremely poor value proposition at $299 or $15/month for 20 months. At half that price, I would be more inclined to recommend it, though I'd likely stray toward one of the Kindle Fire models.
Carrier-exclusive and branded tablets are rarely a good idea, since they are often overpriced and quickly abandoned (much like the Verizon Ellipsis 7 was). I simply cannot, in good conscience, recommend the Moto Tab to anyone, especially given its value — or the lack thereof.
To say that I was disappointed in the Moto Tab would be an understatement. Part of me liked it, especially when I discovered the Productivity Interface (every Android tablet should have something similar), but the touch latency and underwhelming performance quickly soured the experience.
Buying an AT&T-branded Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (what a ridiculous name) for $299 is not a wise investment and should be avoided. At $199, its quirks could possibly be overlooked (though still worth noting, especially the touch latency). I do not like that it comes with Nougat out of the box with no Oreo update, or the promise of one, in sight.
The intense focus on DirecTV features is strange to me, but I am neither an AT&T/DirecTV customer nor an avid television viewer. Obviously, AT&T thinks there are people out there who want a tablet dedicated to watching their TV content on the go. Or the carrier could use the Moto Tab as another thing to push people to sign up for its additional services.
Motorola's "return" to the tablet space was more of a letdown than the Xyboard of old (and the Xoom before that). I expect that many of you will voice your criticism of how Lenovo has handled to venerable name in the last few years, and the Moto Tab is another example of those claims. For now, I suggest seeking elsewhere to satisfy your tablet needs, whatever they may be.