It has already been a few months since the first Remix OS tablet – the Jide Remix Ultra was released. But there aren’t any decent written or video reviews to show people what the Remix OS is all about. Also, the tablet is priced a little too high for an Android slate from a brand that no one has heard of before, it fails to establish the fan base for their system and software.
The Cube i7 Remix which we’re reviewing here is the second tablet to run this new heavily customized version of Android OS, with a more refined design, a better-known brand and a much lower price, it is set out to be the real tablet to introduce the Remix OS to the public.
Cube i7 Remix Specs
• OS: Remix OS (on top of Android 4.4.4)
• Display: 11.6-inch IPS, 10-point multi-touch, IGZO
• Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
• CPU: Intel Atom Baytrail-T Z3735F Quad-core Processor
• CPU Frequency: 1.33GHz – 1.8GHZ
• GPU: Intel HD Graphic Gen7
• RAM / Storage: 2GB / 32GB
• Function: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, OTG
• WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
• Camera: 5MP back camera, 2MP front camera
• Battery: 8,400mAh
• Extend Port: TF Card Slot, 2*Micro USB Port, 3.5mm Headphone Jack, Micro HDMI port
• Weight & Size: 720g / 297*180*8.5mm
Cube clearly spent a lot of time and effort on the packaging to make the i7 Remix feel like a premium tablet. The white box that contains the i7 Remix looked sharp and precisely constructed.
Inside, I found a tablet, a keyboard base, and a black box which contains a charger, a DC/data cable, an OTG adapter, a warranty card and a user manual. As a reviewer, my package also contains a very well-built keyboard stand, which is not included in the retail package and is sold separately for $64.
Design and build
The i7 Remix looks identical, if not exactly the same, to the more business-focused Cube i7. I cannot tell the one from the other while the screen is off, but there are some differences.
The original i7 measures 9.1mm thick, but the i7 Remix is a little bit slimmer at 8.5mm. Also, the i7 Remix weighs 720g, a lot lighter than the Cube i7 (840g). With that said, the Cube i7 Remix is still quite big and heavy for an Android tablet, although it is quite thin.
Like the i7, the i7 Remix has an 11.6-inch display on the front, with relatively big bezels to rest your fingers on. There is also a “Windows” key below the display. As the i7 Remix is not really a Windows tablet, the key functions as an Android Home Button. Other hardware keys – a power/standby button and a volume rocker are hosted on the top side (in landscape).
The ports and slots on the i7 Remix are also different from those on the Cube i7. The i7 Remix doesn’t have a Micro USB 3.0 port and Micro SIM card slot found on the i7, instead it has two Micro USB 2.0 ports, one can be used to host storage and input devices through an OTG adapter, the one can is mainly designed for charging the tablet and connecting to the PC, but it is also able to host USB devices. A 3.5mm audio jack, a Micro SD card slot and a Micro HDMI port can be found on both the i7 Remix and the original i7.
The magnetic docking on the bottom side of the i7 Remix can be used to connect to the keyboard base. The i7 Remix shares the same keyboard base initially designed for the i7, if you have already owned an i7, you don’t need to buy another keyboard for the i7 Remix.
The Keyboard for the i7 and the i7 Remix is one of the best tablet keyboard we have ever seen, it is very comfortable to type on, and it won’t take you much time to reach your top typing speed.
The keyboard also offers two full USB 2.0 ports, making it easier for the i7 Remix to host storage and other devices.
The build quality of the i7 Remix is extremely solid, as good as any high-end Android tablets available. The blue powered coated metal chassis gives the slate an amazingly premium feel, but unfortunately it isn’t all that resistant to scratches.
Display and sound
Just like the Cube i7, the i7 Remix sports a full HD 1080p 11.6-inch screen. That’s tangibly larger than the screen on your average tablet. That’s bad news for pixel density, but good news if you plan to get some work done, as that little extra bit of screen real estate makes it easier to see what you’re doing if you’re working on Office documents, browsing complex web pages or running several applications on the foreground in phone mode.
Quality of the i7’s display, meanwhile, is extremely good. Text still looks smooth and crisp, and while the display isn’t the brightest we’ve seen – particularly when you compared it to the ultra-bright panel on the Acer ICONIA W700 – it does have wide viewing angles and an impressive richness and depth of color to compensate.
There is also a light sensor on the front panel to support auto-brightness, and if that’s not enough, Cube and Remix made it easy to enter the quick setting panel and adjust the brightness with your finger.
Here comes the million dollar question – why does an Android tablet need such a big screen? We know that there are bigger tablets out there, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and the Tab Pro 12.2. The reason that the i7 Remix needs such screen real estate is well related to the customized Remix skin and its special features, we will talk about that in details in the software review.
The speaker grills found on the right side of the tablet pack a fairly decent punch, and sound even better when the tablet is laid on a flat surface or when you cup your hands behind the speakers. The sound bounces off these surfaces and back in your direction, enhancing your listening pleasure. Although it must be pointed out that the quality of the audio is not all that great from the device, and I would recommend using an external audio system to enhance your experience.
Hardware and Performance
The Cube i7 Remix is powered by an Intel Atom Bay-trail Z3735F quad-core processor and 2GB RAM, a hardware set-up normally seen on entry-level Windows 8 and dual boot tablets. Although the Atom CPU fails to deliver powerhouse performance for Windows desktop applications, it generates enough power to smash any Android applications, including the most graphic-intense 3D games.
For readers who are still not familiar with what kind of Android performance the Z3735F processor and 2GB RAM could deliver, you can read our reviews of the Cube i6 and some other dual boot tablets on cngadget. However, we still ran some popular benchmark tests on the i7 Remix and got some predictable scores.
According to the Benchmark scores, the i7 Remix may not be the most powerful Android tablets out there, but in the real day-to-day use, I found it much more capable of handling big applications or multi-tasking than my Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and LG G3.
Software and experience
Despite the nice design, the solid build, the amazing display and the powerful internal hardware set-up, the Cube i7 Remix is all about its software. It runs the Remix OS, a heavily customized skin on top of Android OS.
The Remix OS feels like a combination of iOS, Windows 8 and Android. The current version of REMIX OS is built on Android 4.4.2 with a planned update to 5.0. The slate only supports its native launcher with no app drawer, so the homescreen looks very similar to iOS. It is fully compatible with all Android applications, with some very unique and well-designed features.
The Android navigation bar has become a Windows-like taskbar with pinnable apps, a back button and a home button on the left, as well as a multi-purpose button on the right.
The multi-purpose button can be used to switch between full screen and phone size (for multitasking), and can also be used to clear the memory. Running apps in phone size allows multiple apps to run in the foreground, such as holding a hangouts conversation while watching an MKBHD video and also posting an article to cngadget.
Icons for the apps currently running will show up in the taskbar. You can switch between running apps by tapping the icons.
If you’re using a full-screen app, the taskbar will hide itself to enhance the real full-screen experience and prevent you from accidentally touching the home and back button. But whenever you need it, you can bring it up by simply double tapping the screen or swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Closing a running application is also extremely easy on the Cube i7 Remix. You can drag its icon out of the taskbar, or tap the x icon at the top of the app window (in phone mode), or hit the multi-purpose button to bring up a menu with a “Quit App” option.
Apps in phone mode are resized to look like they’re running on a 5.5-inch smartphone screen, so they are still very easy to use with your fingers. You can fit 3 or more apps side-by-side in landscape mode. Unfortunately, even in phone mode, the apps are not resizable, so you either find peace with its 5.5-inch phone size, or you will have to switch the app to the 11.6-inch full-screen size.
Although the i7 Remix is mainly a media tablet, some applications are customized to offer more productivity than ordinary Android tablets could bring. The mail app is designed to work like the email system on Windows 8, with a pop-up writing box. The file manager also offers much more functions than the file app in stock Android.
The WPS office suite is very useful for some simple editing, but if you want to compare it to the fully functional Microsoft Office on Windows, you will certainly be disappointed.
Everything on the i7 Remix runs quick and smooth. But if there are too many apps working actively at the same time, loading a webpage or a 3D game will slow down a little bit, and there might be some slight stuttering moving apps around the screen.
As a whole, Remix OS is a huge step forward for Android OS. It lets you do just about anything you could do with a normal Android tablet, but it adds support for Windows-like multitasking, and also other customized features to enhance productivity.
Unlike the Cube i7, the i7 Remix doesn’t have an SIM card slot on board, so it is a Wi-Fi only model. But it does offer a lot of connectivity options for its users. It features Wi-Fi a/b/g/n support, with 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility. Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA support are also available as well as GPS and GLONASS receivers. Bluetooth 4.0 is also available for local data transfer.
There is a micro SD card slot as well, on top of the 32GB of internal storage.
The Cube i7 Remix also supports USB-on-the-go, and an OTG adapter is already included in the retail package. The tablet can work with USB storage, USB mice and normal keyboards. Of course, you can always hook up a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard to the slate without relying on the cable connection. If you buy the additional keyboard base for i7, you will get two new full USB ports, making it easier to host storage and input devices.
You can also connect the tablet to your HDTV through the Micro HDMI port.
The i7 Remix also comes with a GPS receiver. A-GPS can speed this up quite a bit, but requires Internet access. Cell-ID and Wi-Fi positioning is another quick (but less accurate) option.
The i7 Remix packs an 8,400mAh Li-Po battery and lasted for 8 hours of video playback in our standard cngadget battery test, which is average among Android tablets.
In everyday use, I did notice that the battery of the i7 Remix dropped a little bit faster than ordinary Android tablets, because I was always running two or three applications in phone mode at the same time. With that said, the i7 Remix can easily work through a whole day on a full charge, and you don’t really need more than that.
Battery drop during standby has been minimized, nine hours of standby whilst connected to the Wi-Fi and receiving social media alerts left a drain of only 3%, meaning I never felt the need to ensure that the slate was hooked up to a power supply overnight.
The Cube i7 Remix features a 5 megapixel main camera and a 2 megapixel front-facer, and you can shoot 720p videos with the main snapper.
The user interface is based on the new generation camera UI. A single viewfinder handles both still and video capture, so you don't have to switch modes. However, this is certainly not the most convenient solution as, if you're shooting full resolution 5MP photos, you'll have to frame your videos using a 4:3 ratio viewfinder, which doesn't match the screen's wide aspect ratio.
The camera app is extremely simple, with not much options in either still camera or video camera mode. The photos produced by the main camera, even when there is decent lighting, are disappointing, definitely one of the worst 5MP cameras we have ever used.
The 2MP front-facing camera is good enough for video-chatting on Skype, but it is not the kind of snapper you want to do selfies with.
Photos snapped by the main camera
The i7 Remix is thin, but solid built with a strikingly premium design, making it arguably one of the most attractive Android slates out there. Its display isn't one of the brightest and sharpest we've laid eyes on, but the text, images and UI elements look pleasingly crisp and provide plenty of desktop real-estate for productivity or general tasks, in addition to some serious 3D gaming.
Its excellent IPS display means that content can be easily viewed from all angles and shared with friends and family.
For those that like to be productive, the keyboard base is one of the comfortable tablet keyboard to type on, definitely much better than the Surface Touch Cover. It's satisfying to use thanks to its incredibly low profile and decent sized, well-spaced chiclet-style keys.
It may not be the most powerful Android tablet out there, but you still get an overall smooth experience, even when there are several applications running in the foreground.
Even though the i7 Remix might be our favorite Android tablet so far, it isn’t perfect. When it comes to battery life, the i7 Remix is not as exceptional as some of the other high-end Android tablets by Cube. For example, both the Talk 9X and the T9 has 10,000mAh battery and could easily offer 9 hours screen time on a charge, but the i7 Remix could barely make it to 7.5 hours.
Also, compared to those cellular tablets by Cube, the i7 Remix has extremely bad cameras. Not only does it offer fewer options in snapping both pictures and videos, the quality of the photos is also very disappointing.
Compared to the adjustable kickstand on the Jide Remix Ultra tablet, the i7 needs to rely on its keyboard base to stand up, but the keyboard is pricy and might not be a worthy investment for an Android tablet. The best alternative is to buy a cheap tablet stand or a leather case which includes a stand.
Despite the drawbacks, the Cube i7 Remix doesn’t fail to live up to its promise: to introduce the Remix OS to the general public. With an attractive design, an eye-watering display, all the functions of a high-end Android tablet, some special features as well as a little extra productivity, the Cube i7 Remix could easily replace any Android tablets right now. And with a price of RMB999 ($161), the cost-efficiency of this slate is something you should not overlook.