More thoughts on the $150 Hisense Sero 7 Pro tablet

Steve Aubrey wrote in with a link to a useful site dedicated to the Hisense Sero 7. It collects all the useful information that’s surfaced from xda-developers and other sites, including custom ROMs, rooting instructions, and where to get accessories.

He asked if I recommend rooting. The short answer: Yes, if you know what you’re doing. If you’re willing to read the prompts when an app requests root access and understand what it’s asking for, then sure. If you just blindly click yes to everything, then no, by all means, leave the tablet stock.

But if you know what you’re doing, one nice thing you can do is install a firewall, so a rooted Android tablet can be safer than an unrooted one. Have fun wrapping your head around that slice of counter-intuitiveness.

Let’s talk about my impressions of the tablet itself.

Having lived with a hacked Nook Color for the last 18 months or so, this feels like the jump from a 486 to a Pentium. Maybe even a 386 to a Pentium. It’s dramatic. There’s little to no lag, and everything’s fast. And for that matter, apps that were wonky on my Nook–some had a tendency to forget what day it was, for example–run just fine on the Sero.

The screen is fantastic. This Old House magazine ran an editorial in the June issue absolutely begging readers to try out their tablet edition (it’s free to subscribers), so I tried it out on my Sero 7. It’s reformatted for the 7-inch screen, and looks like a dream. At 216 PPI, the text is sharp and very readable.

Video playback, as one would expect, is effortless.

The wifi signal is strong. I haven’t had any troubles with it dropping out on me or anything. I took it out of the box and it just worked, like any piece of good consumer gear. The setup process was brief and intuitive, and the tablet teaches you how to use it. You can dismiss the help prompts once you know your way around. The experience makes it easy to learn without treating you like a beginner forever.

It looks good too. It’s plastic–what else do you expect for $149?–but doesn’t feel overly cheap. I would recommend getting a case for it, just in case. The $5 universal 7-inch cases from Big Lots fit, though one of the straps will cover the camera and the power button, and the case doesn’t have a hole for the camera. But they’re cheap and work until you can find something better. I expect a flood of choices in due time, because there’s every reason to believe this tablet is going to prove very popular.

Of course I’ll eventually load a custom ROM on it and try some other things with it, but I think the out-of-the-box experience is very good. I’m very happy with it so far.

The Tegra 3 that powers the Sero 7 Pro isn’t state of the art anymore, but it wasn’t long ago that it was about as good as you could get, so it has plenty of life left in it. I expect this year’s new tablets to surpass it in speed and power, but one can reasonably expect the Tegra 3 to have a long useful lifespan ahead of it.

I also found the first full review of the device at Laptop Magazine. Their benchmarks indicate it’s a little slower on some benchmarks and a little faster on others than a Nexus 7, but not by much. It’s faster than other upcoming 7-inch tablets using reference design ARM chipsets. Battery life is about an hour below average, so that’s its weakest point.

Laptop Magazine calls it the best value Android tablet yet, and I have to agree.

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