Notion Ink Adam II Review: Second Is The Best?
In late 2010, Bangalore-based Notion Ink launched the Adam, an Android tablet. It touted many attractive selling points like its Eden interface, a 185 degree rotatable and a one-if-its-kind LCD+eInk display by Pixel Qi. It hit the spotlight in CES 2011 and ran a Tegra 2 processor, top notch and one of the first at its time. While it seemed great on paper, the execution left a bitter taste in a lot of customer’s mouths. The device was late to get the update to Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich forever languished in the beta firmware. All in all, was kind of a bummer.
This time around, Notion Ink is back with the successor to the Adam, the Adam II. This time, they launched it in India first, instead of USA and Europe like the last time. We’ve had the product with us for some time now and it looks like they might just have pulled up their socks this time.
Here’s what the device packs:
- 1.5GHz Dual Core Processor (Cortex A9), Quad Core Mali 400 GPU
- 10.1″ 1280*800 IPS LCD Display with a 16:10 aspect Ratio
- Two secondary displays STN of 100*5*2 pixels
- 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy support
- 3.2 MP Front and Back Facing Cameras (Fixed Focus)
- 1GB RAM, 8GB Storage, microSD Card
- 6000mAh LiPo Battery
- miniHDMI, microUSB, USB OTG, 3.5mm Jack
- Weighs 584 gram
Retail Packaging and Design-
The packaging is all white, as is the device. In it you get:
The image of the Adam II on the box says the product’s tagline: It all starts with the book. Incidentally, this is also the stock wallpaper on it. The charger is microUSB and charges the device at 2A.
The look of the Adam II is quite different from other tablets you see around. Most are inspired by either the iPad or the Galaxy Tab look. Here, Notion Ink went with a more memorable design. It isn’t symmetrical, but rather has one side thicker than the other. This thicker side houses the dual-stereo speakers, the front facing camera and the ambient sensors.
The industrial design of the Adam II is quite pleasant to look at, albeit a bit boxy. Unlike the sloping corners of the iPad, this device is rectangular in all ways. Thickness wise, it is pretty much exactly as thick as the fourth generation iPad.
The materials used on the device are above average. Quite good, in fact. You have a Pearl White Aluminium housing all around the device. The back too is aluminium, and has a nice matte feel to it. It feels premium to hold.
According to Notion Ink, the thicker side of the tablet is meant to be at the top when using in Landscape Mode, and for gripping the device like a book when in portrait mode.
That being said, we couldn’t help feeling that the device looks better turned the other way around, with the speakers along the bottom. It looks somewhat like a mini-television when propped up.
The left hand side of the device houses the various connectivity options like the miniHDMI out (1.4b), microUSB Charging and Data port, the SIM (full sized) and microSD card slot.
These are labelled at the back of the device, along with the cute “Created with love by Notion Ink Design Labs in India. *ahem* Assembled in China”
You also have the product name, and the back camera (y’know, for the tablet-ographers)
The top of the device, aka the side along the thicker side, is all glass. Here Notion Ink have housed two B&W displays. These are non-backlit displays not unlike the kind you see on a scientific calculator. More on them later. You also have the devices name written on one side of the top.
The other side of the tablet houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and the Power Button. This button isn’t too noticeable on first glance since its the exact same color as the case. However, it has decent feedback and is easy to press.
The device sports a 10.1″ IPS LCD Display with a paltry 1280*800 resolution. However, Notion Ink says it has been color calibrated with ICC Color Profiles and is one of the most accurate on the market. For a 10.1″ display, thats not too many pixels and in late 2013, with 1080p phone displays and 2K tablet displays, we couldn’t help but notice the pixels as we used the device.
Viewing angles were okay though, and we could make out everything even at 45 degrees either side. The glass used over the display is called Diamond Glass or Asahi Glass. This is supposed to be scratch resistant. We loved how the glass felt while using the device. The glass somehow manages to be noticeably cooler than the rest of the device and is pleasant to touch. Definitely prefer this to the feel of the glass on an iPad. Note that the company ships the device with a plastic screen guard for protection. Get rid of that as soon as possible.
All in all a very mid-range display. Not great but not horrible.
Notion Ink boasts of its speaker implementation, with a reported maximum volume of 101.80 decibels.
Further, there are two speakers facing the front of the device, and are stereoscopic. When listening to MP3′s over the speakers, we definitely could feel the stereo effect. However, we were expecting the volume to be better. At best, its maximum volume was as much as a slightly above average smartphone. Also, for some reason, volume while watching videos was abysmal. We could not play a single YouTube video satisfactorily loud enough, while testing it indoors. This seems more of a software niggle that will need ironing out as it doesn’t exist when playing MP3′s. You could, of course, just use the headphone jack
The device runs an almost unchanged Android 4.2.2 installation. This is far cry from the Eden Interface of the original Adam, which was a heavy skin over a FroYo installation. This time around they have stuck to stock as far as possible, which is a great decision if you ask me.
We aren’t going to take you through Android 4.2.2 on a tablet, but its not the unified interface from the Nexus 10. Rather its close to how the tablet UI has been ever since Honeycomb.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the Adam II. You can also judge the performance of the tablet while navigating the menus
There are some additions they have put into it, like a dedicated Screenshot button along the virtual keys at the bottom.
There is also an option to control HDMI output, and vary resolution and refresh rate upto 1080p 60Hz.
Other than that, its all the same as any of the many, many other 10.1″ Android tablets in the market.
We are quite happy with the way the Android tablet experience is moving. More and more tablet specific apps are launching, with the Play Store finally having a Tablet-specific section.
The multitasking button shows thumbnails of the recent apps vertically in portrait and horizontally in landscape mode.
Note that while the 3G version uses the SIM Card to connect to the internet, there is not Dialler or Messaging App. Hence you can’t use Whatsapp directly, and cannot check your prepaid balance.
An interesting feature of the Adam II is the STM or secondary displays along the spine of the device. These are meant to give quick glance-able information to the user.
This Secondary Display can currently perform the following functions:
- Show the Time
- Show if the device is Charging
- Show Custom Text that we set
- Show the Apps which are currently running on the device – cycles through them
- Show notifications (eg: if you get a mail, it toggles through the subject and first line)
Notion Ink have kept a separate update manager for the Secondary Display, and informed us that they plan to keep pushing new features to the secondary display. One such feature in the works is the ability to toggle through multiple notifications using the Volume Up and Down keys. Another is showing Battery Percentage.
Sadly this is a very first generation feature so far. The display has no backlight and isn’t easy to read. You can only read text clearly if there is sufficient light and you are looking at the display straight on. While interesting, this feature is nothing to write home about.
The device has the same fixed focus Front and Back facing 3.2 megapixel camera. Quality is quite poor, but then again, why would you click images with your tablet?
Here are sample images of Yash recording for UnleashTV through the front and back camera:
The Adam II has a somewhat dated 1.5GHz Dual Core A9 chip running with a decent Mali 400 GPU. Most of the time, the device will be lag free. However, if there is something going on in the background, like an app updating, you will immediately feel the framerate drop and lag.
We played a couple of high definition games on the Adam II to see how it held up.
First is Gnu bestseller Contract Killer 2. This involves a lot of movement and running around.
Then we tried our personal favourite, Riptide GP2. We maxed out graphics settings and recorded a very distracted two lap race (Spoiler: we came second)
As you can see, it managed to handle these games admirably.
We don’t believe in these, but some of our readers invariably ends up asking for them, so here they are.
The Price and Availability:-
The Adam II is available in India immediately, at Rs. 16,499 for the WiFi and Rs. 18,999 for the 3G Enabled version. It only comes in White right now. It can be bought from the official Notion Ink website. They currently have a discount code mentioned for Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 of the two models respectively. Further, owners of the first generation Adam will be eligible for a special upgrading discount.
They also plan to start selling on E-Commerce retailers soon. Flipkart will have it first, followed by others.
Here’s the Adam II sandwiched between the iPad 2 and the iPad 4.
Its exactly as thick (or thin) as the iPad 4th gen.
Should You Buy it?
To answer this question, we need to look at the other 10.1″ tablets available currently in the Indian market around the price :
As you can see, price wise its not the best deal ever, but is somewhat at par with the market offerings. We feel that the premium industrial design of the hardware give it an edge over the unapologetically cheap quality of brands like iBall.
The guys at Notion Ink expanded on the 1 Year Warranty to us. Apparently there will be home pickup and drop off of devices should you face any problem with it during the warranty period
If you are in the market for a 10 inch tablet, and have a budget of 15 to 20 thousand rupees, we would recommend the Adam II to you. However, if you would be able to do with a smaller screen. its hard to ignore the Nexus 7 and the first generation iPad Mini.
- Premium Build Quality with Aluminium casing and Asahi Glass
- More recent version of Android than immediate competition
- Great Gaming Performance
- Stereoscopic Front Facing Speakers
- Tries something new with the Secondary Display along the side
- Bevy of connectivity options with USB OTG, microSD, HDMI
- Pedestrian Screen Resolution
- Dual Core in a Quad Core World
- Speakers Could Be Louder
- 16:10 aspect ratio not great for portrait mode