Outdoors, the camera fares pretty well. Indoors, so long as the lighting was good, the picture were adequate, if unimpressive. In low-light settings, you'll be hard-pressed to get a decent photo, though the flash does help some. The 2-megapixel front facing camera isn't terrible either, though admittedly, the bar is set absurdly low in that arena. Our sample photos weren't too grainy, and the webcam should do in a pinch for video chatting too.
The Sero 7 Pro's 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a mainstay in last year's tablets, still performs reasonably well. According to our benchmark tests, the Sero measures up decently against competing 7-inch tablets, besting the much beloved Nexus 7 on the likes of Quadrant Advanced and AnTuTu while breaking almost even on CFBench. It does, however, display a few behavioral tics common to Android devices. Every now and then, we experienced some minor stuttering and delays, particularly when scrolling through our recently used applications.
Occasionally, it took more than one press of the power button to wake the tablet up from sleep (cut to a pint-sized Sero whining, "But Mom, just five more minutes!"). The biggest delay we noticed while using the device for day to day activities was the lag in adjusting the its orientation. The accelerometer took a beat longer than we would have liked to register the tilt and switch from landscape to portrait (or vice versa) accordingly.
When browsing in Chrome, we ran into very few problems. Pages loaded relatively quickly, and zooming in and out caused minimal to no tiling. On websites that had a lot going on (large photos, animated gifs, et cetera), there was the occasional lag in scrolling, but it wasn't enough of a problem to be too off-putting. On an extremely gif-heavy Tumblr, we encountered very little latency in terms of zooming, loading and scrolling.
Games of varying complexity all ran without a problem on the Sero 7, which is hardly surprising considering the quality we've come to expect from Tegra 3 Android tablets. Temple Run 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 both showed off the Sero's responsiveness and smooth gameplay abilities. With the spiffy display, they both looked great as well. When shopping for the aforementioned games in the Play Store, we did run into some delays when it came to touchscreen typing and browsing, but those issues weren't widespread across the device's other applications.
Hisense promises seven hours of continuous video playback, so we were pleasantly surprised when our test exceeded the company's estimate. With the brightness set at 50 percent, we looped a video at a resolution of 1,270 x 720, and the Sero chugged along for eight hours and 28 minutes before the battery called it a day. That number places it in the middle of the pack, as you can see in the table above. So, it's not overly impressive, but when compared to similar budget Android tablets, it's not too shabby either. During somewhat more quotidian usage, the Sero 7 (in balanced mode) happily survived an entire day of browsing, gaming, Facebooking and tweeting.
While the Sero 7's 4,000mAh battery can't quite catch up the Nexus 7's herculean ten hours on a charge, Hisense's offering does have a reason to toot its horn. Three reasons, to be exact. The Sero 7's power saving modes offer three distinct tiers: Performance priority, balanced and power saving modes, which can all be switched on and off from the settings menu. With power saving mode enabled, the Sero 7 Pro should get you through an entire workday. Our only complaint in terms of power management was the tablet's tendency to overheat. While it's pretty common for devices to warm up while charging, the Sero overheated when plugged in to the point where it was too hot to touch barehanded.
Hisense is entering the wonderful world of Android tablets at an interesting time. Devices like the Nexus 7, now a year old, set the bar high for budget offerings, and everyone else has seemingly been entrenched in an elaborate game of catch-up with Google. The Sero 7 Pro has its flaws, but it does measure up pretty nicely against the Nexus 7 -- which is to say it's decent compared to a soon-to-be-outdated device. It blows the low-specced HP Slate 7 out of the water, but considering how disappointed we were with that device, the odds were never in HP's favor to begin with.
The Sero 7 Pro manages to put up a good fight.
At the top of the list is the upcoming Nexus 7 refresh. Set to debut on July 30th with a price tag of $230 for a 16GB WiFi edition, the new and improved model will launch with Android 4.3, a quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and a 1,920 x 1,200, 323-ppi display, making it one of the most pixel-rich tablets on the market. There's also the ASUS MeMo Pad HD 7, which could also give the Sero 7 a run for its money. With the 16GB version of the MeMo Pad retailing for $150, the same price as the Sero, the argument can be made for holding out for a newer, more up-to-date device. With twice the internal storage for the same price, along with a 1,280 x 800 IPS display, the MeMo Pad looks to be the better buy, at least on paper. (Stay tuned for our full review if you're on the fence!)
Also on the market is Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3, which just hit stores with a starting price of $200 and somewhat underwhelming specs compared to the Sero 7 Pro and the MeMo Pad 7. Boasting a modest 1,024 x 600 display and eight gigs of storage, the price doesn't seem to justify the specs when you consider all the available options. Likewise, Acer's Iconia A1 tablet packs a quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek processor and 7.9-inch 1,024 x 768 IPS display with a lower pixel count, but decent viewing angles.
As we said towards the top of this review, buying a budget tablet is frequently an exercise in managing one's expectations. Hisense hasn't established itself in the Android tablet market, and it's likely that won't happen for some time. All things considered, the Sero 7 Pro is a decent outing for a company without a proven track record in mobile devices, and at $150, it's not a bad buy. With a gorgeous, color-rich display and a simple, sophisticated design, you could do a lot worse.
That being said, we were less than impressed with some of the device's audio playback issues, and we're not sure when or if we can expect an upgrade to Android 4.2.1. Otherwise, we were generally pleased with its performance, aside from the mild hiccups we've noted in other Tegra 3 devices running Android. One can argue that it might be wiser to go with a company with a proven record when it comes to Android tablets, like ASUS, but the Sero 7 Pro still manages to put up a good fight in a crowded arena.
Zach Honig contributed to this report.