The PIPO M9 is one of the first quad-core Rockchip RK3188 Android tablets to be released. There is a lot of anticipation for the RK3188 based tablets as the RK3188 provides great performance at a very reasonable cost. China tablet manufacturers have the reputation of producing low-priced but poor quality tablets with poor performance.
However with the introduction of newer and fairly powerful chips such as the Rockchip RK3066, the popular predecessor to the RK3188, the China manufacturers are now able to produce cheap tablets that provide fairly decent performance. The RK3188 is a quad-core SoC that can outperform the NVIDIA Tegra3 and the Samsung Exynos 4412, that power tablets from the powerhouse tablet manufacturers but yet cost a fraction of the price of its competitors.
Of course, the chipset is only one part of the equation. How does the PIPO M9 perform on the whole as a package? That is what we will try to find out in this PIPO M9 review. There are two versions of the PIPO M9. The difference between the 2 versions is that the higher end version comes with 3G support while the other only has WiFi. This review is based on the WiFi only version but it should apply to the 3G version as well.
Gone are the days of China devices that come with boring and uninspiring designs. Most of the newer devices do show some effort in industrial design. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t but in the case of the PIPO M9, my impression of the design is generally positive.
The back of the unit is a brushed metal panel that looks good and gives the impression of a quality product unlike the fully plastic designs that are so common nowadays. On either sides of the rear panel are plastic panels that provide a good grip when holding the PIPO M9. The bezel around the 10.1″ screen is fairly thin and adds to the overall design. The only design element that seems a bit odd is the rear camera. The cheap looking plastic housing that frames the rear camera seems to be a really bad choice and could have been easily improved upon.
Hardware Features and Specification
The PIPO M9 comes with a 10.1″ 1280 x 800 resolution multi-touch IPS screen. IPS screens are generally found on mid to upper ranged models but not all IPS screens are created equal. The IPS screen on the PIPO M9 is not the best IPS screen I’ve ever seen but it is pretty good.
The screen resolution does not match the retina screens on the new iPad or even on the China made CUBE U30GT2 tablet but it is very bright and provides good viewing angle. I would even say that the screen looks brighter than the iPad at maximum brightness. The colors are vibrant and not too overly saturated.
At the back of the unit is a 5 MP camera with an LED flash. The LED flash is quite weak and would not be of much use for taking pictures in dim lighting. The quality of the camera is quite decent though and it even performs fairly well in low light conditions. It is also capable of taking video at 720p resolution but the quality of the video is not up to mark and there is a lot of noise even in good lighting conditions. The front camera is 2 MP and it is adequate for video conferencing and is nothing to shout about.
Also at the rear of the unit are a pair of stereo speakers. The speakers are surprisingly quite loud and have minimal audio distortion even at high volume. They are even louder than many laptops that I have used.
Size wise, the PIPO M9 measures 240 mm x 172 mm x 10.8 mm and weighs 570 g. It won’t win any prizes in the lightweight or smallest size category but the size and weight makes it suitable for holding in your hands for prolonged periods.
PIPO doesn’t skimp when it comes to buttons and ports. At the top edge of the tablet (in landscape mode) are the ESC and Power buttons, a dedicated port for charging, a mini HDMI port, a microphone, 2 micro USB ports, an audio jack and a micro-SD slot that supports cards up to 32GB in size. Surprisingly, there is no volume button and you need to rely on the soft volume buttons on the menu bar to adjust the volume. This can be a problem when coupled with the loud speakers on the tablet. There were quite a few times when I wished I could quickly reduce the volume.
The PIPO M9 comes with a 7800 mAh rechargeable battery. This may seem relatively small compared to the 8000+ mAh batteries that come with other similar tablets. However, the 28nm process used by the RK3188 reduces the power consumption significantly. The tablet battery life is rated at 9 hours and I can get close to that with actual use. Also of interest is that the battery life is minimally affected by whether the WiFi is left on or off. The tablet also runs fairly cool.
It is also interesting to note that the PIPO M9 comes with a light sensor that is used to automatically adjust the brightness of the display. Light sensors are usually not common on China tablets.
Like most RK3188 based devices, the PIPO M9 comes with 2 GB of DDR3 RAM, 16 GB of NAND Flash storage. The stock OS is Android 4.1 but it can be upgraded to Android 4.2. It also comes with both WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth. The WiFi connectivity can be considered above average as I could maintain a decent connection in most places within my house and stream HD videos from the internet.
PIPO M9 Performace
The PIPO M9 actual performance is more of a mixed bag. While everything runs quite smoothly, I also do not feel much performance improvement over a RK3066 dual core device. This could be caused by the fact that the Android OS does not fully utilize multi core processors.
There is also minimal graphical performance improvement when playing highly demanding 3D games like NFS for example. The RK3188 has the same Mali 400 GPU as the RK3066 but clocked slightly higher so this may explain the lack of graphical improvement. Watching 1080p HD videos is smooth and no problems at all.
However, on the whole, the PIPO M9 is quite a good performer. I did not encounter any major bugs and it is quite stable despite the fact that the RK3188 is quite a new chip so this is definitely good news. I am hoping that performance will improve with firmware updates.
The PIPO M9 comes with a customized user interface that looks like it is inspired by Microsoft’s Metro design. It has the similar panels that you can customize and the interface works in both portrait and landscape. I am not a big fan of customized UIs so I reverted to the standard Android launcher.