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Review

Smartron t.book Flex Review: An affordable Surface Pro alternative from India

Not much has changed in terms of design, but under the hood are some key changes that make the Smartron t.book Flex an interesting portable computer.

smartron tbook flex review stand

Smartron t.book Flex 3.5 5
BGR Rating :
3.5/5

Highlights

  • The Smartron t.book Flex starts at Rs 42,990 for the Intel Core m3 variant, and Rs 52,990 for the Intel Core i5 variant.

  • The device is primarily a Windows 10 tablet, but you get a detachable keyboard that gives it laptop functionality.

  • The biggest USP of the device is its QHD screen, which makes the t.book Flex excellent as a media device.

Smartron isn’t among the biggest or hottest brands to watch out for, but it’s definitely an interesting one when it comes to the consumer technology space. Although better known as a technology company, Smartron does have a small range of products that are sold through its website, including three smartphones and one laptop. Although its early products weren’t the most polished or competitive, the newer ones have shown more potential, including the affordable Smartron t.phone P.

The company’s first laptop was the Smartron t.book, which was launched back in 2016. Priced at Rs 54,999, it came across as a more affordable competitor to the Microsoft Surface range thanks to its form factor, design and styling. Today, we’re reviewing the newly launched Smartron t.book Flex, which is the successor to that computer. It sports the same compact, hybrid form factor, but with updated internals. Here’s our review of the Rs 42,990 Smartron t.book Flex.

Surface lookalike

Visually, there isn’t much change between the Smartron t.book Flex and its predecessor. The chunk of the device remains the tablet itself, with its 12.2-inch 16:10 aspect ratio screen. This contains the hardware sitting behind the screen, including the processor, RAM and all other components. You get two USB Type-C ports (one is Thunderbolt compatible), two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm jack for audio, and buttons for power and volume.

The power button has a fingerprint sensor built into it, and charging is through the USB Type-C port. The device comes with a 45W charger that can quickly top up the battery. Standby time on the device is fairly good, and I was able to get well over a day’s worth of mixed usage out of it before I had to charge up.

The back of the tablet has the kick stand, which allows you to prop up the tablet while it’s in landscape or laptop mode, similar to the way the Microsoft Surface Pro does it. The back and front both have cameras, while the device’s speakers are above the screen and forward-firing. You also get a dual-tone color scheme, which has become a trademark touch for Smartron. Our review unit featured orange and grey colors, and I quite like how it looks.

What lets you use the Smartron t.book Flex as a laptop is its keyboard attachment. The component is a flat keyboard and trackpad unit that clamps onto the tablet magnetically and connects to it using contact points at the bottom. The folding hinge on the keyboard attachment allows it to remain attached even when you aren’t using the tablet, resembling a laptop with its lid closed.

While typical laptops have their weight and bulk at the bottom, the design of the Smartron t.book Flex makes it top-heavy. It’s also fairly difficult to use the device on your lap with the keyboard, and you’ll have to switch to tablet mode and use the on-screen keyboard if that’s your use case. On a table-top, you’ll be able to use it easily enough, but you don’t have too much flexibility to adjust the viewing angle. The form factor has its pros, but as mentioned above, it also has cons.

Improved, but still basic internals

While the previous generation t.book came in only one variant, the newer t.book Flex is available in two variants with different processors under the hood. The more affordable Rs 42,990 option features the Intel Core m3 processor, while a slightly more expensive Rs 52,990 variant is powered by the Intel Core i5 processor. Both are 7th-generation processors, and you also get 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 128GB of SSD storage and Intel Integrated Graphics.

While the specifications aren’t exceptional for the price, it’s worth remembering that you’re paying a premium for the form factor as well, which includes the overall weight of less than 1.4kg with both the tablet and the keyboard. You do of course get Windows 10, and the touch-screen experience. The device has a QHD screen, with a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels.

The screen is particularly sharp as a result of its high resolution, which is great for watching videos and even surfing the web. During my time with the Smartron t.book Flex, I primarily used it as a media device, to watch TV shows on Netflix, videos on YouTube and for a bit of music and web browsing. The specifications are basic, but entirely competent when it comes to basic usage.

As a writer, I also need my laptop to function as a device for me to type long-form articles. The keyboard of the Smartron t.book Flex is much improved over its previous version, and now works both when connected to the tablet physically as well as without the connection via Bluetooth. Typing is good, but admittedly not as good as on the kind of keyboards that you get on full-size laptops. The key travel could be a bit better, but the keyboard is entirely workable for basic productivity.

However, the trackpad was definitely bothersome during my time with the device. It wasn’t too accurate, and I often had to deal with ‘phantom’ taps, where running my finger over the pad would strangely register as a click. Fortunately, you do have the option to connect an external mouse or simply use the touch screen to navigate, so the issues with the track pad aren’t too serious. Interestingly, you also get a stylus with the device, and creative professionals who sketch a lot on the go can use it as such.

The device isn’t very powerful thanks to its basic specifications. You won’t be able to do any heavy graphical processing effectively beyond basic picture editing, and anything more than simple web-based games will likely struggle. However, if you choose, you can use the Thunderbolt port to connect an external graphics card, but that technique will admittedly be only for a very niche audience. With simple usage that doesn’t involve too much processing or ‘heavy lifting’ you won’t have any trouble with the Smartron t.book Flex.

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Verdict

The unique form factor of the Smartron t.book Flex makes it somewhat of a niche product. It isn’t a typical laptop or tablet; instead it classifies better as a hybrid device. As a tablet, it’s an excellent device, particularly if you get the Intel Core i5 variant which gives you a bit more power. As a laptop, it works for basic productivity tasks, and has its light weight and portability as its biggest USP.

For media consumption on the go, combined with a bit of productivity and work-based usage, the Smartron t.book Flex works well. It’s lack of real power means that you’re better off buying a full-fledged laptop if you have heavy usage that includes graphics processing. The t.book Flex goes head-on with the Microsoft Surface Pro, but is naturally a less powerful and more affordable alternative to it. It’s definitely worth a look if you need a device with the t.book Flex’s unique features and form factor.

  • Published Date: May 4, 2018 12:15 PM IST