The Sero has a better screen, easily expandable storage (the iPad has none) and runs a more modern operating system.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


A small tablet better than an iPad, at $149

June 9, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Android fans got a shock a few weeks ago. A new tablet very similar to the popular Google Nexus 7 arrived in stores at a price well below both the cost of the Nexus and Apple's iPad mini. Along with many others, I rushed to Walmart to pick up the new tablet, called the Sero 7 Pro, before it could sell out.

It was the best $149 -- yes, you've read that right -- I've spent in years. The Sero 7 Pro is made by Hisense, a Chinese company that until now had specialized in appliances and televisions. What's amazing about the Sero is not just that it matches the $199 Nexus 7 in every possible way -- a 7-inch high-resolution screen, similar execution speed, GPS, the same built-in app store and much more -- but that it has three features the Nexus lacks -- two cameras, including a high-definition (5 megapixel) rear camera, a slot for a removable storage card and HDMI port.

The Sero 7 Pro looks even more impressive alongside the iPad mini, which sells for $329 on up. The Sero has a better screen, easily expandable storage (the iPad has none) and runs a more modern operating system.

The Sero 7 Pro runs Google's latest version of Android, called Jelly Bean (Android 4.2). By contrast, all iPads run the iOS operating system, which lacks many of the features of Android 4.2.

Note that Walmart also sells a companion tablet, the Sero 7 (without "Pro" in the name) for $99. It lacks many of the features of the 7 Pro and is not recommended.

In my tests of the Sero 7 Pro, I was impressed with how easily I was able to read tiny text on the 7-inch screen. Every day, I've been reading the online version of The Post-Standard, called the ePost-Standard, on my large Android tablet, a wide-screen Acer Iconia. But when I found that the Sero, while much smaller than the Iconia, sported the same display resolution, I switched to the Sero. The smallest text was amazingly sharp and clear.

Sound quality was good, although not loud enough to fill a room. I have a tiny external speaker I bought for $12 that plugs into any of my tablets for times when I need them to be loud, and it worked fine with the Sero.

The built-in microphone was excellent and picked up voices from a dozen feet away. The Sero 7 Pro would be ideal for recording classes or conferences. I use it to make long voicemails, too. (Get the paid version of HiQ MP3 Voice Recorder from the Google Play Store for superb audio recordings.) Any time you record audio, you can easily send the resulting file by email.

One other thing: The stock email software in Android is dreadful. Install the Gmail app from the Play Store and use it instead.