Hands-on with the ultimate tablet for coders and Linux fanatics
If the smartphone world were the stage for a Star Wars movie, Apple and Google would be The Empire (albeit less evil and with just a smidge fewer blasters). The two companies have a near-ironclad control of the market and have managed to edge out powerhouse competitors, including Microsoft and BlackBerry.
The two firms’ grip has left many, myself included, yearning for a new hope to bring balance back to the universe. Enter Canonical, aka The Rebellion, and the BQ Aquaris M10 tablet.
5 things you need to know about the BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition
1) It has the scope to change the way we use tablets
The BQ tablet’s use of Ubuntu brings with it an entirely reworked “Scope” user interface. Scopes are tailored home screens that intelligently collect and push information from a variety of apps in a similar way to Google’s Now service.
For example, the “Nearby” Scope will pull information from apps like Maps, Yelp, Timeout and Facebook to find relevant information, such as local public transport links and restaurants, into its UI.
2) Split-screen goodness
The BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet has full-on multi-tasking support. The support not only lets you have more than one application open at once, but it also lets you have two running on screen concurrently using the OS Side Stage feature.
3) One OS to rule them all
Microsoft may have made a big deal about the fact that Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile’s core code is identical. But Canonical was actually one of the first tech companies to come up with the idea of creating one operating system that will run across every device type.
That’s why it’s no surprise that the version running on the BQ Aquaris M10 lets you switch to the desktop version of Ubuntu. Paired with a keyboard and mouse, this means you can turn the BQ Aquaris M10 into a functioning Ubuntu computer and run desktop Linux applications.
3) Dock-free Continuum
Microsoft’s been making a big deal about Continuum since it launched Windows 10 Mobile in 2015. Continuum, in theory, lets you turn any mobile running Windows 10 into a desktop computer using a specialist Microsoft Display Dock. However, with the dock costing £70 and the feature only granting you access to select applications, close to all of which are Microsoft’s own, the appeal is slightly limited.
Ubuntu offers an equivalent feature that lets you turn the BQ Aquaris M10 into a full-on computer simply by plugging the tablet into a monitor. What’s more, a Canonical spokesman told me the firm plans to expand the feature in the near future, adding a new wireless connection option. When activated the feature will let you wirelessly stream the BQ Aquaris M10’s screen to internet-enabled monitors.
4) And it’ll be cheap
The BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition aims to target the budget end of the tablet market, and its tech reflects this. The 10-inch tablet is equipped with a MediaTek MT8163A quad-core processor and comes loaded with 2GB of RAM. This tech isn’t bad, but it’s nowhere close to matching Apple and Google’s respective iPad Air 2 and Pixel C tablets.
5) But it’s a little rough around the edges
Ubuntu on a mobile and tablet is still in its infancy. In the past I’ve found this has meant a lot of its services and features can feel a little unpolished.
Whenever I’ve reviewed Ubuntu powered mobiles, I’ve run into more than a couple of performance bugs. These include inexplicable stutters when navigating between menu screens, as well as serious battery issues – the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition I tested last year outright leaked its charge when it was tasked to run multiple applications.
The BQ Aquaris M10 I tested was a preproduction model, so I can’t sensibly say if these old ghosts still haunt Ubuntu. But I definitely noticed a few jitters during my hands-on.
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BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition in pictures
In desktop mode the BQ Aquaris M10 can run desktop applications, like GIMP and Libreoffice
Ubuntu is compatible with pretty much every coding language under the sun and can run web apps hassle-free. But its dedicated app offering is a little light
The tablet’s screen is reasonably good
And it can display two apps at once
The ability to manually switch to desktop mode will be useful
BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition: Opening impressions
The BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition isn’t all that exciting as a piece of hardware. But its Ubuntu operating system is one of the most interesting bits of tech I’ve seen in a long time. The robust multi-tasking features, innovative Scopes system and ability to turn the tablet into a working PC make it a compelling device for any prosumer. Hopefully it’ll make good on its opening promise when it launches later this year.