A $197 tablet isn't that uncommon, but a sub-$200 2-in-1 sounds like a pretty good deal, particularly when it has an 11.6-inch display. The Android-powered E Fun Nextbook Ares 11 offers decent battery life for budget shoppers, and it's got a little design pizazz. However, there may be too many trade-offs for that price, including an uncomfortable keyboard, weak performance and scalding temperatures.
The overall design of the Nextbook Ares 11 is interesting, and, thankfully, less boring than most budget tablets. A subtle blue line of metal sits between the black soft-touch outer shell and screen bezel. A 2-megapixel webcam perches above the 11.6-inch screen, if the tablet is in landscape mode. When you flip it over, a more bulky 2-MP camera greets you in a matching location. The tiny power button and volume rocker are on the top right of the backside. Oddly, a Home button sits next to the volume rocker on the back.
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The right edge houses the headphone jack, power, microHDMI, microUSB and microSD card slot. The left edge is blank.
At 11.25 x 7.66 x 0.37 inches, the Ares 11 is too big and heavy (1.6 pounds) to really be useful as a tablet, all the more reason to be grateful for the keyboard. It snaps into place via a rather bulky and somewhat stiff hinge, which puts the weight up to 3 pounds. I cracked the screen when opening the clamshell, but E Fun assures me no one else has experienced this. A second review model didn't crack when I opened it.
When the clamshell is open, it was pretty unstable and top-heavy while on my lap.
The slate, on its own, also gets too hot to hold comfortably. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the left side of the screen measured an uncomfortable 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The keyboard, however, remained cool at 77 degrees.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The blue plastic bed of the keyboard echoes the blue metal edging of the tablet. When the backlight is on, it creates a distinctly Tron-like feel. The chiclet-style keys are smaller than I like, particularly the tiny right Shift key.
The keys require a hefty 65 grams of force to go a short 1.1mm of distance, which is below the 1.5mm of the average laptop.
Overall, I'd call my typing experience terrible, evidenced by the results of the 10FastFingers typing test. I averaged about 40 words per minute on the Ares 11, which is less than half my normal score of 84 wpm. When typing passwords, I was reduced to hunting and pecking with one finger to avoid making mistakes.
Nextbook includes some unusual keys for Android shortcuts. One such key launches the Chrome browser but is labeled with the Internet Explorer icon, hinting that this keyboard may have started life on a Windows tablet. I liked the shortcuts to email, camera and calendar, as well as the contextual menu button. However, I wish the Wi-Fi button was actually a switch so that my connection couldn't get disabled by a typo.
A tiny, 3.25 x 1.9-inch touchpad sits directly below the keys. It has no buttons and offers no feedback, but was very responsive. It was so small, though, that I found myself navigating using the touch screen far more often than using the little square.
I wasn't blown away by the 1366 x 768-pixel resolution of the IPS display. While watching an HD version of Gone Girl, Ben Affleck's stubble had no definition, but I saw quite a bit of pixelation. For instance, the edges of Affleck's face also blurred into the missing poster of Rosamund Pike. Competitors, such as the $369.99 Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2, offer much better screens with resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or higher.
The Nextbook Ares 11's screen is dim, but accurate. Using our light meter we recorded just 273 nits of brightness. The tablet average is 384, while the Yoga Tablet 2 produced 374 nits. On our color accuracy test, the Ares 11 scored a Delta-E rating of 1.1, far better than the 5.9 average (closer to 0 is better) or the Yoga Tablet 2's 9.4.
According to our colorimeter, the Ares 11 can display only 67.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut scale. That's far short of the 84 percent average, but the Yoga Tablet 2 didn't fare much better, with a rate of 68.4 percent.
Two tiny speakers sit near the bottom rear corners of the Ares 11 when held in landscape mode. That means your music or movie audio is pointed away from you. Even at full volume, these two speakers were tough to hear in a small room. I had to lean close to the screen to make out Eminem's lyrics and the backup singers' voices while playing Headlights. Oddly, the higher-pitched notes of featured singer Nate Ruess' voice came through slightly louder. The bass was completely nonexistent, but the top-hat cymbals rang through.
E Fun loads the Nextbook Ares 11 with a stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. On the second home screen to the left is a shortcut box with some commonly used apps such as Chrome browser, Google Photos and the camera. Here you'll find a few Nextbook-specific help tools.
The Nextbook FAQ opens a page on the company website where you can learn more about any Nextbook tablet. The Nextbook Guide button also launches a page on the website, but takes you to a few how-to videos. Sadly, these were all Windows-specific, which isn't helpful for an Android tablet. The Questions button takes you to the company's tech support page online, while the Wizard merely prompts you to change the settings to launch the launch wizard that otherwise only appears the first time you turn on the tablet.
I did like that Nextbook pre-loads a Net Nanny button for added parental controls. It launches the company's website, which claims it can protect your family from pornography, online predators and cyberbullying. However, the service isn't free. It'll cost you $12.99 per year to monitor one device.
The Nextbook Ares 11 was a bit sluggish to open or switch between apps, which may be a result of the 1GB of RAM. It comes with a 1.8-GHz Intel Atom quad-core CPU. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2, which sports the same CPU but comes with 2GB of RAM, was a bit zippier.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall performance, the Ares 11 scored 2,048. The category average on that test is 2,256, and the Yoga Tablet 2 scored 2,396.
The Nextbook fared better on our graphics tests, scoring 13,124 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. The average tablet score is 7,691, but the Yoga Tablet 2 did even better (15,055).
While it took a while to open games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne, once I got to racing I didn't notice any lag. But while updating 10 apps simultaneously, this tablet took several seconds to open Google Play Movies.
I do appreciate that the 64GB of onboard memory on the Ares 11 can be expanded to up to 128GB through the microSD card slot.
The Nextbook Ares 11's endurance is on a par with the tablet category average. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, in which we surf the Web continuously at 150 nits of brightness, the Ares 11 lasted 8 hours and 38 minutes. The average slate lasts 8:21. But the Nextbook can't touch the Lenovo Yoga 2's 12:37 hang time.
The 2-MP rear camera on the Ares 11 offers a smaller resolution than you might expect from its bulging appearance.
Shots of an ornamental plum tree in bright sunlight looked more brown than burgundy.
My Daredevil figurine was fuzzy and had a strange orange tint to him in an indoor pic I shot.
A selfie taken with the front-facing 2-MP camera lacked definition. For instance, the wrinkles at the corners of my mouth disappeared and my thinning hair seemed almost fuller as individual hairs blurred.
The Android-powered E Fun Nextbook Ares 11 2-in-1 leaves a lot to be desired in the keyboard department. The camera is not very good, and we'd recommend headphones over using the very soft speakers. Sure, $197 sounds awesome for a tablet/keyboard combo, but this Walmart exclusive just doesn't measure up. If you can live without a keyboard, and can afford to spend another $100, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 would be a better option.