Monster, known more for the cables and headphones that connect devices than the devices themselves, threw their hat into the very crowded budget tablet ring earlier this year. The Monster M7 tablet, exclusive to Walmart.com, is the first tablet, and first computing device of any sort, from Monster, so there’s no history here to form any kind of expectations. What we do know is that there are a lot of quality options at low prices from other sources in the 7” tablet market, especially with Amazon’s Kindle Fire line seeing some incredibly low price tags. So, can the M7 hang? Shaq sure seems to think so, at least. Is Shaq a budding soothsayer of tech excellence?
The basic specs are what you might call the 2013 standard for budget tablets – a 1280 x 800 resolution display with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. You’ll also have 16 GB of storage, along with a 5 MP rear camera and a 2 MP front camera. The whole thing measures 7.9” x 5.01” x .38”, and weighs .79 pounds. The M7 feels a little heavier than others in the 7” class, but not overly so. For a handheld computing device, it’s still remarkably light and thin, even if it hasn’t gotten into the weight-shaving, millimeter-obsessed game of one-upsmanship that most of the other tablet manufacturers play. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are here (no 3G or LTE models), and there’s a 4,000 mAh battery inside. Monster promised about eight hours of battery life, and the M7 lived up to that more often than not during an average day of use.
The build feels sturdy, with a no-slip rubber-like grip on the back. Around the edges, there’s a microphone, a headphone port, a microSD card slot, a Micro USB port for charging and file transfers, and a Mini-HDMI port. You’ll also find a power button and a volume rocker – a small gripe is that these buttons are nearly flush with the body, so it’s easy to miss them or hit the wrong one when you’re in a hurry or fumbling around in the dark.
The M7 only runs Android 4.1 out of the box. There’s a firmware update that fixes some freezing problems that were prevalent during the initial release, but nothing in the way of an update to any of the later versions of Android. There are also some extra apps tacked on besides the standard Google suite, and, as befits Monster’s reputation for cables and headphones, they’re largely music based. Speakerfy helps you simultaneously stream your music on other devices, and Music Maker Jam is a simple mixing app. The Walmart app, along with a widget, is also here, due to the exclusive partnership. There are some other third party sound and photo editing apps thrown in, too. You can’t uninstall any of them, which is a little irksome if you don’t find them to your liking.
There’s also an introduction to the Monster Central PowerControl app. Did you know that Monster actually makes smart plugs that go between your home appliances and your outlets? Well now you do! You can then use the Monster Control app on the tablet to control and monitor power going to those appliances, or turn them off or on remotely.
Audio is a high point for the M7, as you might expect. The tablet gets impressively loud for being a 7” device, and Time Correct Bluetooth and aptX codec tech work to make music streaming to portable speakers sound as good as possible.
The most disappointing part is the performance. Switching between apps tends to be slow and choppy, as is web browsing – browsing with multiple tabs is not advised. Interestingly, I seemed to get better performance out of the M7 when using Firefox as my browser, instead of Chrome. I also wasn’t able to get the front camera working for use with video calls. We’re hoping that a future firmware update will address the front camera issue.
The Monster M7 tablet is available only on Walmart.com for $150. It comes in eight different colors that match Monster’s line of N-Tune headphones. You can check out our full review of the N-Tune headphones here.
If we’re being honest here, the Monster M7 is probably more significant for its marketing value than for being a tablet. It’s a matching accessory for Monster’s N-Tune line of headphones, and it introduces and fits with Monster’s other products, like their speakers and smart plugs. An exclusive deal with Walmart helps push it into public consciousness, and maybe brand recognition does the rest. The point is, it’s not built to be a show-stopper of a tablet on its own.
That being said, the Monster M7 is quite the solid buy at its price point. The firmware update fixes the most grievous problems, leaving you with a 7” tablet with pretty good specs and decent, if sometimes flawed, performance. If you get one, at this price, you certainly won’t be disappointed in the long run. While I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that this is the best buy in the 7”market for this price, Monster has done a really nice job with their first tablet, and it does offer a nice amount of value for the pricing. The fact that you can color coordinate it with their colorful N-Tune headphones is like icing on the cake.
Update: It seems that Walmart has dropped the price on the Monster M7 from $149 to just $99, making it pretty much a steal. At this price, it’s hard not to recommend the tablet for those looking for the most bang for their cheap buck.
The Good: Attractive price, available in a choice of 8 fun colors, matches N-Tune headphones, nothing to complain about when it comes to hard specs, pretty good build quality with nice finish and grip, great audio for a small tablet.
The Bad: Browser performance is choppy, switching between apps is a bit slow, only ships with Android 4.1 with no update in sight