Well designed, but so slow that it’s almost useless.
Alcatel’s area of expertise is cheap and cheerful products that get the job done for a reasonable price. Their smartphones are a great example of this mind-set. The Plus 12 tablet however, is an awful example of Alcatel’s commitment to value for money. Frankly, the Plus 12 is one of the poorest performing computers to come across our testing lab.
The Plus 12 is a rather standard 12-inch tablet, with a 1080p touch screen, running Windows 10 and is based around the 1.1 GHz, dual-core Intel N3350 Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC for storage. There’s plenty of devices on the market like this and they all suffer the same problems as Alcatel’s implementation of it.
For starters, the N3350 is a weak CPU. Surfing the web with Chrome, even with an ad-blocker turned on, many websites max the CPU out, turning what should be a rudimentary task into a test of your patience. The rear of the device where the CPU is located, gets so hot to touch that it hurts if the CPU has been running at 100% for a few minutes. Unfortunately, that happens often due to how slow the CPU is.
Alcatel’s decision to use cheap eMMC storage instead of a proper SSD also adds to the Plus 12’s poor user experience. Not only is eMMC slow, so apps take a while to open and process information, but there’s only 32GB of capacity all up. Windows 10 takes up close to 30GB, so good luck installing any additional software or storing your documents on here, there’s just not enough space. At least there’s a microSD slot for additional storage, but it’s only a USB 2.0 device, so you aren’t going to get much disk I/O from that.
A rare highlight of the Plus 12 is a fingerprint reader embedded into the power button. It works fine, but the sensor is so narrow, that it normally takes two or three taps for it to recognise your finger. It’s often simply faster to simply enter a PIN or password.
Adorning the aluminium exterior is a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro HDMI port and USB-C port that doubles as a normal USB 3.0 port and a power connector. In the box is a Bluetooth stylus with Windows Ink support that is handy for sketching simple diagrams and annotating documents. It’s not in the same league in terms of accuracy and latency as say, the Surface Pro, but the Plus 12 is half the price.
The model tested here contains a fabric keyboard case with full sized keys that connects magnetically to the tablet via a dedicated keyboard connector for instant pairing. While there’s a bit of flex in the keyboard, it’s fine to type on for extended periods. The built-in trackpad is nothing special, but better than most cheap laptops. Attached to the side of the keyboard case is a nice fabric loop to store the stylus in.
There is an LTE keyboard case available that contains, obviously, an LTE modem, as well as an additional 2580mAh battery for extra power. The base doesn’t directly give the Plus 12 an LTE modem over USB, but is an LTE hotspot, that can be used by up to 15 other devices at once, even if the tablet isn’t around.
The Alcatel Plus 12’s slow CPU and slow storage make for an awful experience. Even for basic tablet use, websites take far too long to load. Using a large spreadsheet in Excel is a headache. It is supposed to be a simple, basic machine for low-end use, but nobody deserves this sort of slowness on a brand-new device. An iPad is cheaper and faster for tablet use and for laptop use, there’s plenty of sub-$500 laptops that are better than this. Spend a little extra money and get a Windows tablet with an i3 or i5 CPU, it’ll be well worth it.