The Packard Bell Liberty Tab is a 10.1in Android Honeycomb 3.0 tablet of the type filling shelves for the past few months. In other words, it’s an imposing slab, with plenty of accompanying heft. It weighs 760g. Now that slimmer tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are available, this 16mm slab seems rather pedestrian. If you like your tech to be connected, though, you may quickly forgive Packard Bell. There’s space for an SD card slot, HDMI and a docking port as well as the usual power, volume and headphone provisions. A USB port and a micro USB port for charging also feature. If you wished, you could add 3G via a hotspot device for use on an ad-hoc basis. (See How to share a 3G connection).
The Packard Bell Liberty Tab has a slightly different look from some of the other 10in Android slates with smart silver-coloured accents along its top and bottom and a browny-red rear plate. In other words, Packard Bell has successfully disguised the Acer Iconia tablet that lies within. All those openings for ports and cards highlight the poor plastic finish, though. Despite its superficial gloss, the Liberty Tab is the least well-built tablet here.
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It’s a more positive story once you start using the Packard Bell Liberty Tab. Packard Bell has dispensed with the interface frippery that bogs down some other Android tablets. In particular, there’s no confusion of media players, which you get with Acer’s tablet range. The screen is a 1280x800-pixel IPS panel, so the viewing angles are good even though the screen doubles as a mirror. We were also pleased to discover an update to the OS that transforms this into a Honeycomb 3.2 device able to take better advantage of the memory management features and resulted in fewer performance issues than we found before performing the upgrade. The 1GHz processor is standard for the big brand tablets but the graphics processor couldn’t keep up with the action gaming we wanted to use the Liberty for.
Entertainment is curiously muted on the Packard Bell Liberty Tab, though. Playing the preinstalled Need For Speed through reasonable quality headphones we get hardly any sense of pace as we raced through the streets. There’s volume, though: a pair of Dolby speakers sits low down on the rear of this tablet.
Playing professionally recorded music video content streamed from YouTube, however, was a whole different matter. Frustratingly, though, when the video needed to buffer content, the Packard Bell Liberty Tab’s screen routinely went blank and didn’t call up the picture again even when the video recommenced playback. Instead, we had to go the Unlock screen to bring it back to life. Adjusting the screen timeout settings didn’t fix this either.
The GPS was spot on, with directions for walking and vehicular navigation provided almost instantly. Zooming in and out using a two-finger pinch resulted in very fast detail redrawing. The same was true of zooming in to detailed photos. Those taken on the Packard Bell Liberty Tab’s 5Mp camera are rather ropey. You can zoom in at up to 8x, but we don’t recommend it.
Artificial light, in particular, is poorly handled, with thick edges of purple fringing and detail lost at even very low magnification levels on the 2Mp front-facing camera. There’s no autofocus or image stabilisation, either. Effects range from fireworks and theatre to sepia and posterise. The front-facing camera defaults to portrait mode too, so if you happen to peering at the Packard Bell Liberty Tab’s 1280x-600-pixel screen in landscape mode, you’ll get a rather odd distortion of your face.
Battery life depletes quickly whenever the Wi-Fi is active, so we suggest keeping that switched off unless you really need it. Packard Bell claims an operational life of 10 hours between charges, but we got just over three and a half when using it for music, gaming, web browsing and taking snaps – hardly a taxing scenario.