I have a preference for the 9.7" tablets, but almost changed my mind earlier for the 10.1" because Pipo only had the M9 available.
But all is well now as the Pipo Max-M6 is here, and with interesting twists that made it worth waiting for...
The previously reviewed tablet had problems running SDK2.0 Android build (apparently affecting some RK3188 tablets randomly).
Fortunately, the Pipo M6 Max is finally available so I can see for myself what makes that brand so popular in the forums.
CPU: RK3188 Quad Core 1.6Ghz
Screen Size: 9.7"
RAM/ROM: 2GB/16GB (only 2GB internal are allocated for /data and most custom ROMs would tweak it to 4GB)
Display: 2048x1536 Retina display
Cameras: 5mp A/F with flash + 2mp
The Max-M6 exists in 4 versions:
The M6-Wifi-W (white) and M6-Wifi-B (black) costs around 200€
The M6-3G-W and M6-3G-B adds 3G support and is ~30€ dearer.
The Pipo Max M6 comes with a complete set of accessories with the usual USB cable and UK type A/C adaptor (9V/2.5A), but also an OTG cable and a pair of earphones.
I particularly liked the little "Tips" card included in the box to guide the beginner from the very start! The user manual stored on the tablet is complete and includes instructions for future upgrade operations.
In addition to the classic Android launcher, there's also the PIPO launcher, giving a colourful presentation of the applications sorted by categories, in a style reminding of the Windows 8 Metro panels.
It is partially customizable and operates with some pre-installed productivity apps.
Overall it's a nice-looking launcher that deserves to be given a chance.
Some of the applications are however redundant (IncStage Reader/E-Book, IncStage Explorer/ES explorer, ...) but most can be removed without the need to root the device. Their footprint is negligible though (~200MB).
|List of pre-installed apps on first launch.|
The M6 differs in its design by an aluminium back cover surrounded by plastic panels and the front speaker slots on each side of the screen.
Although it doesn't have the classy aluminium surrounding of the U9GT5 and likes, it's very nice looking, feels solid and well built.
The lighter use of aluminium by Pipo is probably why it is not affected by the usual Wi-Fi range limitation seen with other models.
The "garden test":
The Wi-Fi connection remained stable when used outside, with a signal as low as -55dBm, situation where the U9GT5 failed consistently.
Like all the RK3188 devices, the micro-USB OTG port will not charge the tablet.I felt that the 9V/2.5A A/C adaptor provided was charging the tablet slightly faster than the 12V/2A common to other brands.
The 2 x 5000 mAh batteries allow at least 8 hours of uninterrupted fun.
3G option: HSDPA connection was obtained quickly on the Irish operator network tested. The SIM card snaps deep into the casing and is a bit of a challenge to eject afterwards.
Performance and compatibility
The Pipo Max-M6 shipped with 4.2.2 (rk30sdk-eng 4.2.2 JDQ39 eng.ljh.20130625.200611)
SDK2 firmware should bring significant improvements over the previous generation, and indeed, the system is snappy, with only Chrome (again...) showing occasional lags, even with the "Force GPU rendering" option enabled (by default). Update Sept 2013: After a few months of use, the tablet hung a few times. Unlike other tablets, pressing the power button for 10 secs does not work and you have to use the Reset pin hole at the back. I'm currently testing the Riley ROM 1.8 to see if it helps.
|Score obtained in HD mode|
The M6 benchmark score is 14740 in HD mode.
I could only find one app on Google Play that didn't want to install on it, not enough to justify messing with the build.prop file.
Heavy recent games tested ran smoothly.
"Galaxy on File 2 HD" required the developer option "Force 4x MSAA" to run properly.
The retina screen is -as you would expect- bright and contrasted with deep blacks and wide viewing angle.
|HDMI test with Riptide 2|
I found the cameras on the M6 conform to what I expect them to do most: "Face unlock" and video conferencing for the front one, read bar-codes and take occasional pictures for the rear one. This one has a 5 mp sensor with auto-focus and flash.
|Picture taken with the rear 5MP camera, click for full size.|
|Side speakers= Good|
Front speakers= Better!
Having the speakers located on the front of the tablet is a particularity of Pipo M6. This is even better than side located speakers which could be blocked by the hands when holding the device in landscape position.
The pair of earphones produces a good sound, but note that the A/C charger generates a persistent humming sound when plugged.
The protection case:
Although very nice looking on picture, the original Pipo M6 protection is just a thin PU sleeve that is affixed to the tablet with a "sticky pad". It provides very little protection and, really, this tablet deserves better!
While built around the same specs as most 9.7" RK3188 tablets, Pipo made a few subtle and advantageous improvements to the Max-M6: Front facing speakers, 5MP AF camera, and WiFi-friendly back cover. That attention to the details is seen within the first seconds of unpacking with a tip card explaining how to start the tablet and where to find the user manual.
- Good accessory pack with OTG cable and earplug
- Android 4.2.2 runs smoothly in both high and normal video modes
- The ROM is clean with minimal space used for Pipo launcher and a few apps that you could actually find useful. This makes rooting optional.
- Functional cameras suitable for "face unlock", bar-code reading and video conferencing
- Front facing speakers
- Good Wi-Fi range, no connection drop
Not so good:
- The original Pipo case is bit light to protect the tablet. The M6 is worth investing in a better one.
- Occasional crashes with the original ROM (Riley ROM greatly helps).
- Need to use a reset hole (instead of a long press on the power button) in case of hard crash.
- Speakers could have been louder.
Pipo in the forums:
Many thanks to Ben from Pipo for providing me with this sample.