Can an unknown manufacturer really go toe-to-toe with Google's Nexus 7? We take a look.
Build and Design
Superficially, the Sero 7 Pro has a lot in common with the Lite version. They're both very simple black-and-brown designs with a generic tablet shape and a fairly wide bezel around the screen.
There are a couple of external differences, though. For one, the back casing is now covered by a textured rubbery coating, giving it a reasonably good non-slip quality. There's a larger rear sticker identifying where the NFC antenna is, which happens to be right above what are now dual speakers, compared to the single speaker in the cheaper tablet. The microSD slot is covered by a small door, where the Lite had it uncovered. Otherwise though, there's not much physical difference.
[click to view image]The rubbery coating makes the Pro feel better in the hand, versus the slightly cheap plastic of the Lite, and overall the feel and build quality seem to be good. You definitely don't get the impression of a cut-rate device, even if you could argue that that's what it is. The build quality feels solid. That's not always a guarantee, but often it's a leading indicator of how reliable a device is going to be, and the Pro feels good.
Thankfully, one of the upgrades in the Sero 7 Pro was to ditch the slightly sub-par screen used by the Lite in favor of a much more robust and pleasing display. Colors and contrast are better, and the resolution is significantly improved, putting it on par with other 7-inch tablets like the Nexus and the Galaxy Tab 7.0. It makes for a nice reading device, as well as one that's much better for photos and video than the Lite.
It's not going to beat a Retina or OLED screen, but it's definitely competitive with comparable tablets.
Other Buttons and Ports
Besides the power and volume buttons found on the side, all the Pro's other controls are found on the "top" of the device. It's unconventional, but it works well enough for most things. And if you want them at the bottom, you can just turn the tablet 180 degrees around, it's pretty much all the same.
You're just getting started. Part 2 explores whether the performance of this inexpensive tablet stands up to the competition.
If you're looking for solid real-world performance and a device that does everything you expect out of it, you'd probably be pretty happy with the Hisense Sero 7 Pro. If on the other hand you're one of the pure speed buffs who are looking for high numbers coming out of a quad-core beast, you might be disappointed.
[click to view image]In four runs of Quadrant benchmarks, the Sero 7 Pro averaged 4037, which is actually a little lower the 1.6GHz dual-core model performed. However, benchmarks aren't the only measurement of speed -- and more importantly, the quality of the speed.
The processor inside the S7 Pro is an Nvidia Tegra 3, which is designed from the ground up around balancing pure performance and low power consumption. It actually features five cores, with most normal operations running on the fifth core while the four more powerful ones idle, only kicking in for things like games and ultra-high-definition video. It's rated to be able to even play 1080P content, and is currently pretty much the gold standard for even the most graphics-intensive Android gaming experiences. So it's safe to say that even if the benchmarks aren't in the stratosphere, the S7 Pro will hold up.
In a more general performance vein, this tablet sports quite a few features that were taken out of the Lite model for cost. The biggest of these are GPS, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication, and a rear-facing camera.
Of all these, GPS is probably the most beneficial; unlike the Lite, the Pro is more than capable of serving as a solid GPS navigation device, even if not necessarily paired with a car charger.
Overall, the specs on the Sero 7 Pro are so impressive that they rival the base model of Google's own Nexus 7, which is $50 more expensive. Although the Nexus has more memory (16GB versus 8 on the S7 Pro), they feature the same processor, screen size and resolution, RAM, and the Sero 7 Pro trumps the Nexus by featuring HDMI, a rear-facing camera, and microSD expansion.
That last one is the real treasure: with it, you can add another 32 or 64GB of memory to your tablet just like that, making it a viable media device to handle music as well as GPS in the car, or to keep the kids entertained in the back on a long road trip.
Like its cheaper sibling, the Sero 7 Pro runs an almost stock version of Android 4.2. Although users of previous versions of Android might not realize that at first, since Android 4.2 has a different notification system from previous releases, which is kind of confusing at first look. Suffice it to say that there are now two different pull-downs where there used to be one, along with some new configuration of icons. Even if you're a veteran hand with Android, it can be a little jarring, although new users probably won't have the same experience.
Otherwise, there's very little pre-loaded software on Hisense's Pro model. Walmart's own app, as well as Vudu, and a couple others. Last but not least is Kingsoft Office -- relatively unknown, but still quite capable of handling most Office documents and PDFs without needing additional apps.
[click to view image]The Sero 7 Pro features both a 2.0 megapixel front-facing camera, and a 5.0 MP rear facing camera for more serious picture taking. Neither is spectacular, but they're reasonable quality for the specs, showing a smartphone type level of clarity.
Between the battery-saving functions of the Tegra 3 processor, and dropping in a roughly 15% larger battery, the Sero 7 Pro improves considerably on battery life. Hisense claims a battery life of 7 hours of video, or 10 of web browsing. I wouldn't go that far, but it wouldn't be too hard to stretch it to 7 or 8 hours of browsing or reading with the backlight on medium.
Notably, it also makes huge strides over the lower-end Sero 7 Lite in standby time. While the S7 Lite drained noticeably when off, the S7 Pro barely trickled power, very handy if you only use it now and then.
Keep going. Part 3 has our conclusions on this tablet.
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Looking at the specs, the Hisense Sero 7 Pro is hard to beat for the money. It touts specs that are comparable to the Google Nexus 7 -- plus some features the Nexus doesn't have, like microSD expansion and HDMI -- for a price that's $50 lower than the base model Nexus 7. It even handily beats out the $170 HP Slate 7.
[click to view image]There's really only one area where it doesn't measure up, and that's reputation. Hisense is a relatively unheard of company, and while the Sero 7 Pro appears to be a solid device, some people might find greater peace of mind with their device being backed by names like Google and HP.
Still, it's just as easy these days for a big name to have bad customer service as it is for a small name, so for those who are willing to go an unconventional route, the Sero 7 Pro represents a very nice little tablet for a nice price.
Bottom Line: An impressive combination of hardware and price point, if you don't mind giving up the security of well-known brands.