A year ago it looked like dual-boot tablets and 2-in-1 notebooks that could switch between Android and Windows might be the next big thing… or at least a thing. But big companies that had introduced dual-OS solutions backed down from actually releasing those devices, reportedly due to pressure from Google and Microsoft.
Now we’re starting to see some honest-to-goodness dual-boot products in the wild though, and they’re not coming from big name companies like Asus. They’re coming from Chinese manufacturers like Pipo, Chuwi, and Cube. My sense is that these companies simply don’t care about pressure from Google or Microsoft — if they can get free or cheap licenses for the software, that’s all the go-ahead they need.
The folks at Geekbuying are selling the new Cube i6 Air 3G for just over $230, and they recently provided me with an opportunity to play with this dual-OS tablet.
The Cube i6 Air 3G features a 9.7 inch, 2048 x 1536 pixel IGZO display, an Intel Atom Z3735G Bay Trail processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. It features WiFi, Bluetooth, and 3G, has an 8,000mAh battery, a microSD card slot, front and rear cameras, and perhaps the most significant feature is that it runs both Windows 8.1 and Google Android 4.4.
The unit I tested was running a pre-release version of Windows, but I’ve been assured that the device will ship with a fully activated Windows 8.1 license as well as Android.
You can switch from Android to Windows by pulling down the Quick Settings menu and tapping the OS Switch button. There’s an icon in Windows that lets you switch to Android as well.
Note that in either case you’ll have to wait for the tablet to reboot — the operating systems aren’t running at the same time. So if you want to play an Android game and then open a Windows app, you’ll have to wait for the tablet to reboot.
So while in some ways this sort of device offers the best of both worlds, it’s not a perfect solution since you can’t just run Windows and Android apps one after the other without waiting a little while to switch from one operating system to the next. There’s also less free disk space available than you’d normally expect from a 32GB Windows or Android tablet, since each operating system takes up a fair bit of space.
That said, the tablet felt pretty responsive no matter which operating system it was running and it could be an interesting option for folks that can’t decide whether they’d prefer a Windows or Android tablet… but who are pretty sure they like the idea of spending half the price of an iPad Air.
I’ll have a more detailed review of the Cube i6 Air 3G in the future. For now, you can check out some more hands-on photos and a first impressions video below.