Blackview Tab 11, a good budget tablet

Blackview Tab 11 tablet with optional wireless keyboard.

Blackview Tab 11 tablet with optional wireless keyboard.

Last year a family member told me that her compact mobile phone’s screen is too small to show family photos properly to her friends. She said her friends use tablets to show their family’s photos, and she asked me if it would be possible to access her existing WhatsApp account via a tablet. I explained that, without guaranteed access to Wi-Fi in public areas, it would not be feasible to use WhatsApp Web on a tablet, so a tablet would need to have a SIM card. As the tablet’s SIM card would have a different phone number she would need a different WhatsApp account on the tablet but that account could be a member of the existing WhatsApp chat groups of which she is a member on her mobile phone. Additionally, she could forward to her tablet’s WhatsApp account any photos she receives in her mobile phone WhatsApp’s account.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later we changed our home Broadband provider (the previous provider’s service was terrible), and the new package included a mobile phone SIM card with 5 GB data monthly at a very cheap price. We already have good SIM-only packages for our mobile phones, so the new SIM card was available to be used in a tablet. Therefore I decided to buy a budget tablet, and plumped for a Blackview Tab 10, which had a good specification for a budget tablet. It came in September 2021 with Blackview firmware version Tab10_EEA_TP717_V1.0.0_20210429V07 containing some bugs: the System Manager app did not work after I inserted a 128 GB microSD card and the tablet’s microphone did not work in WhatsApp, Signal and Skype. I was able to fix the bugs by upgrading the tablet’s firmware to version Tab10_EEA_TP717_V1.0_20210824V09 with the help of Blackview’s customer support department. I assume a Tab 10 purchased since September 2021 would already have the newer firmware. Anyway, after upgrading the firmware everything works well. The tablet’s camera performance is not stellar, but who buys a tablet for its cameras? I would summarise the Blackview Tab 10’s features as follows:

  • It has 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage.
  • It was supplied with a charger, USB C earphones (including microphone), OTG (on-the-go) adapter (USB C plug on one end, USB A socket on the other end), and a protective case which can be folded to make a kickstand.
  • It does not have a 3.5 mm jack socket for earphones, so you have to use earphones that have a USB C plug.
  • In the UK it works well to make and receive phone calls (4G), send and receive SMS messages (4G), and send and receive mobile data (4G). The SIM card for a mobile network that also supports 5G works with 4G too. I had to enter the APN (Access Point Name) parameters of my mobile service provider, which I found by googling.
  • According to Blackview the Tab 10’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA. only Europe and Asia.
  • It comes with Blackview’s Doke OS_P 1.0 using Android 11.
  • It has a bright, crisp screen, albeit without automatic brightness adjustment.
  • It can be connected to a magnetic keyboard designed for the Tab 10 (see Blackview’s online shop).
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work well.
  • It is fine for browsing the Web, viewing photos, watching YouTube videos and other videos, reading documents, chatting via WhatsApp, Signal and Skype.
  • The tap detection is a little slow, but fine for normal use.

There is a very comprehensive review of the Tab 10 on the NOTEBOOKCHECK Web site.

By the way, since I bought the Tab 10 Blackview has released a Tab 10 Pro with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, with handwriting support. The additional memory, storage and handwriting support make the Tab 10 Pro a better choice than the Tab 10 for an extra GBP 30 or so.

Anyway, the Tab 10 filled the brief I had been given.

This post would have ended here except that, last week, I noticed that the Tab 10’s screen had partially popped out of its plastic housing. I suspect one of my family had either dropped the tablet or sat on it on the sofa. When I tried to push the screen back into its housing a crack formed in a corner of the screen. The crack appears to be in the LCD screen under the touch screen. I asked a local repair shop how much they would charge to repair it and they quoted me nearly half what I paid for the tablet, so I decided to buy the latest Blackview tablet model instead, the Tab 11. The Tab 11 has a higher specification than the Tab 10 and I paid less for it than I paid for the Tab 10 (although the Tab 10 is now being discounted by Blackview and some online stores and can be purchased for less than the Tab 11).

Apart from the higher specification CPU and GPU than the Tab 10, the Tab 11 has double the RAM and double the storage. The Tab 11 housing is aluminium alloy rather than the plastic housing of the Tab 10, and it weighs less than the Tab 10. The NOTEBOOKCHECK Web site does not yet have a comprehensive review of the Tab 11, but the TECHXREVIEWS Web site has a fairly comprehensive review. The Tab 11 is noticeably snappier and responsive than the Tab 10 and I like it a lot so far. Unlike the Tab 10, the Tab 11 has a 3.5 mm socket for earphones with a 3.5 mm jack plug, which I prefer.

The Tab 11’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA, only Europe and Asia according to Blackview. I can confirm a UK SIM card works perfectly in the Tab 11 in the UK. The SIM card I am using supports the mobile provider’s 5G network but the Tab 11 supports up to 4G LTE, which works fine with the SIM card.

There is significant commonality between the Tab 11 and Tab 10 as they both use Android 11. The Tab 10 has Blackview’s Doke OS_P 1.0 on top of Android 11, whereas the Tab 11 has Doke OS_P 2.0 which has several additional features (split screen functionality, for example).

I have seen a YouTube video review that claims the Tab 11 does not support Widevine L1, despite Blackview’s specification for the Tab 11. I have not tested that feature as it is not something I am particularly interested in. However, I read Blackview’s blog post ‘How to enable or check out Widevine L1 Certification on Blackview Tab 11?‘ and I installed the third-party Android app ‘DRM Info‘ which indicated the Tab 11 supports Widevine L1, although that is as far as I have checked. I installed the BBC iPlayer app on the Tab 11, and programmes play perfectly; video looks great to my eyes, and audio is also excellent. YouTube videos also play well and sound great. I’m not interested in playing games, so cannot comment on that aspect, although the reviews of the Tab 11 I have watched on YouTube claim games performance is good.

I would summarise the Blackview Tab 11’s features as follows:

  • It has 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage.
  • The housing is made of aluminium alloy and is strong and rigid.
  • The tablet weighs less than the Tab 10.
  • It was supplied with a charger, OTG (on-the-go) adapter (USB C plug on one end, USB A socket on the other end), and a protective case which can be folded to make a kickstand.
  • It has a 3.5 mm jack socket for earphones.
  • In the UK it works well to make and receive phone calls (4G), send and receive SMS messages (4G), and send and receive mobile data (4G). The SIM card for a mobile network that also supports 5G works with 4G too.
  • According to Blackview the Tab 11’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA. only Europe and Asia.
  • It comes with Blackview’s Doke OS_P 2.0 using Android 11.
  • It has a bright, crisp screen with automatic brightness adjustment (‘adaptive brightness’).
  • It can be connected to a wireless keyboard designed to work with the Tab 11 (see Blackview’s online shop).
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work well.
  • It is good for browsing the Web, viewing photos, watching YouTube videos and other videos, reading documents, chatting via WhatsApp, Signal and Skype.
  • The tap detection is good, and response is snappy.
  • Audio is good.

In summary, if you’re in the market for a budget tablet, in my opinion the Blackview Tab 11 would be a good choice; I am very pleased with it. At the time of writing, Blackview’s online shop lists the Tab 11 at GBP 168.44 and the Tab 10 at GBP 145.47. Unless your budget is tight, I would forget the Tab 10; the Tab 11 is the way to go. If you want a tablet that supports a UK SIM card as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the Blackview Tab 10 and Tab 11 are good budget choices in the UK, although the Tab 11 is a much better choice if you can afford the extra GBP 25 or so. However, US residents should note that the tablets do not support mobile networks in the USA (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work fine in any case). Blackview’s Web site states “This tablet’s 4G [mobile] network connection can only work in Europe and Asia area, please pay attention before purchasing or consult us.”

Installing Linux on an old Motorola Xoom tablet

Motorola Xoom MZ604 tablet

Back in March 2012 I bought a Motorola Xoom Android tablet (Model MZ604 UK), when tablets were going to be the next big thing. It was available in two versions: 3G and Wi-Fi, and it was the latter version I purchased. When it was released in early 2011 the Xoom was state-of-the-art with its NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip, 1 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage memory, microSD Card slot (up to 32 GB), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, barometer and Android 3.0, trumping the first Apple iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. It has a 2 MP front-facing camera and 5 MP rear-facing camera that records 720p video, supports 720p video playback, has a 10.1-inch display (1280×800 pixels) and 3D graphics acceleration, and a micro HDMI port.

Apple launched the iPad 2 almost immediately after Motorola launched the Xoom, and the Xoom looked outclassed. By the time I bought my Xoom in March 2012 Motorola was already discounting it. Motorola issued a couple of Android updates for the UK Xoom before the company stopped supporting it, although I think mine lost its second update (Android 4.1.1, if I recall correctly) after I factory-reset it several years later when it became very sluggish. Anyway, ‘Settings’ > ‘About tablet’ tells me it currently has Android 4.0.4 installed.

It had been gathering dust on a shelf for several years until I decided to dust it off yesterday to see if there was anything useful I could still do with it (the answer is: not much). None of the apps on it can be upgraded. The version of the Play Store app can no longer access the Google app store. Even if it could, most of the apps in the app store cannot run in Android 4.0.4. The YouTube app cannot access YouTube. The Web browser cannot browse many modern Web sites and can no longer download files either, displaying a message that the browser is no longer supported and must be updated — except that it cannot be. The Google Talk app no longer works since Google pulled the plug on its Talk service (not that I ever used Google Talk anyway). The Gmail app still works, but I don’t use Gmail either. The Maps app still works, as do the Music and Gallery apps.

I connected the Xoom to my desktop machine using a USB cable (Type-A to Micro-USB) and was able to copy files quickly and easily to and from the Xoom. I systematically set about finding versions of Android APK files on the Web that the Xoom would be able to install. APKPure for Android is one of several Web sites to find older versions of APK files. The latest versions I found that the Xoom could install are as follows:

Google Chrome browser

com.android.chrome-42.0.2311.111-2311111-minAPI14.apk

This old version of the Google Chrome browser works better than the browser supplied with Android 4.0.4 on the Xoom but is still not much use, as it cannot browse many sites and cannot download files either. It can access YouTube and play some of the videos, which is some consolation given that neither the browser nor the YouTube apps supplied with Android 4.0.4 can access YouTube any more.

File Manager + (an excellent Android app, by the way)

File Manager_v2.6.0_apkpure.com.apk

This older version of File Manager + works well in Android 4.0.4 on the Xoom, and even enables me to browse files on my Cloud server via WebDAV, although the Xoom cannot open hi-res photos (4032×3024 etc.) via WebDAV. This version of File Manager + supports SMBv1 but not later versions of the protocol, so I cannot browse SMB shares on my home network, as all my machines use either SMBv2 or SMBv3. Pity.

Total Commander

Total Commander file manager_v3.20_apkpure.com.apk
WebDAV plugin Total Commander_v3.01_apkpure.com.apk
LAN plugin for Total Commander_v3.20_apkpure.com.apk

Although I find Total Commander’s UI rather old-fashioned, with the WebDAV and LAN plugins installed I can browse files on my Cloud server via WebDAV, and browse files on my NAS via SMBv2/v3. So Total Commander works well, and the Xoom can open hi-res photos (4032×3024 etc.) via either protocol.

NewPipe legacy (forked by sh000gun to work with Android 4.0+)

NewpipeLegacy-armeabi-v7a-API-14.apk

This open-source YouTube app works in Android 4.0.4 on the Xoom and allows me to view some YouTube videos, although the app tends to crash quite often. Still, it is better than the YouTube app supplied with Android 4.0.4 on the Xoom, as that does not work at all and cannot be upgraded.

Linux

The following Android apps enabled me to root the Xoom and install and run an old version of Linux in a chroot:

BusyBox_v64_apkpure.com.apk

Linux Deploy_v2.5.0_apkpure.com.apk

VNC Viewer Remote Desktop_v2.1.1.019679_apkpure.com.apk

Those were the most-recent versions of the BusyBox, Linux Deploy and VNC Viewer apps for Android that the Xoom could manage to install.

Motorola Xoom MZ604 tablet

I downloaded the tarball LAIOT.tar.gz from the following Web page and extracted the file TiamatCWM.img from it:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/laiot/files/LAIOT.tar.gz/download?use_mirror=phoenixnap&r=&use_mirror=master

Note: Do NOT try to run the shell scripts in LAIOT, because they are out of date and will mess up the ADB and Fastboot tools in Linux on the desktop machine.

To be able to install Linux it was first necessary to root Android 4.0.4 on the Xoom. I used a modified version of the procedure given in the 2014 blog post Motorola Xoom Root on Linux:

• I installed ADB and Fastboot on a desktop machine running Lubuntu 20.10:

user $ sudo apt install adb
user $ sudo apt install fastboot

• I enabled the USB Debugging mode on the Xoom (‘Settings’ > ‘Developer options’).
• I downloaded the file Xoom-Universal-Root.zip from XDA Developers Forums thread [Root] Universal Xoom Root – ANY XOOM ANY UPDATE. The main link in that thread no longer works but a link in Post #411 in the thread still downloads the file.
• I inserted a 32 GB microSD card in the Xoom microSD Card slot.
• I connected the Xoom to the desktop machine via a USB cable.
• I copied the file Xoom-Universal-Root.zip to the microSD card.
• I checked connectivity:

user $ adb devices
* daemon not running. starting it now on port 5037 *
* daemon started successfully *
List of devices attached 
0299918743aad023        device

• I reboot the Xoom:

user $ adb reboot bootloader

• ‘Starting Fastboot protocol support’ was displayed on the Xoom’s boot screen. I typed the following commands on the desktop machine:

user $ fastboot oem unlock

• In response to a question on the text screen on the Xoom I pressed Volume Down (accept) then Volume Up (confirm).
• I repeated the process to confirm, i.e. I pressed Volume Down (accept) then Volume Up (confirm).
• ‘Device unlock operation in progress’ appeared on the Xoom screen and the Xoom rebooted.
• The bootloader was now unlocked.
• I typed the following commands on the desktop machine:

user $ adb reboot bootloader
user $ fastboot flash recovery TiamatCWM.img

• When flashing was complete I rebooted the Xoom by pressing Volume Up + the ON/OFF button.
• Upon booting, when the Motorola logo appeared I pressed Volume Down.
• ‘Android Recovery’ appeared in the top left corner of the screen.
• I pressed Volume Up to enter recovery mode.
• This mode is called ‘ClockworkMod recovery’. I selected ‘Install zip from sdcard’ > ‘Choose zip from sdcard’, then selected the zip file I had downloaded earlier to the microSD card (Use Volume Up/Down to navigate and ON/OFF to select).
• I rebooted, and root access was enabled. I verified this by downloading the Android app ‘Root Checker_v6.5.0_apkpure.com.apk’, copying it to the Xoom via USB, installing it and launching the app.

Now that the Xoom had been rooted, I could proceed with installing Linux in a chroot. To do this I followed the procedure given in the 2017 Android Authority article How to install a Linux desktop on your Android device. In the Linux Deploy app I selected ‘Ubuntu’ as the distribution, ‘Precise [Pangolin]’ as the distribution suite, and LXDE as the desktop environment. I installed the three apps BusyBox, Linux Deploy and VNC Viewer, launched the BusyBox app and tapped ‘Install’. Then I launched Linux Deploy, tapped the configuration icon next to the STOP button in the top right of the screen and configured Linux Deploy as follows:

BOOTSTRAP

	Distribution
	Ubuntu

	Architecture
	armhf

	Distribution suite
	precise

	Source path
	http://ports.ubuntu.com/

	Installation type
	File

	Installation path
	${EXTERNAL_STORAGE}/linux.img

	Image size (MB)
	Automatic calculation

	File system
	ext4

	User name
	root

	User password
	android

	Privileged users
	root

	Localization
	C

	DNS
	Automatic detection

	Network trigger

	Power trigger

INIT

	Enable
	Allow to use a initialization system  <--- NOT TICKED

	Init system
	run-parts

	Init settings
	Change settings for the initialization system

MOUNTS

	Enable
	Allow to mount the Android resources  <--- NOT TICKED

	Mount points
	Edit the mount points list

SSH

	Enable
	Allow to use a SSH server  <--- NOT TICKED

	SSH settings
	Change settings for SSH server

PULSEAUDIO

	Enable
	Allow to use an audio output  <--- NOT TICKED

GUI

	Enable
	Allow to use a graphical environment  <--- TICKED

	Graphics subsystem
	VNC

	GUI settings
	Change settings for the graphics subsystem

	Desktop environment
	LXDE

Then I tapped the three-dot icon in the top right of the screen, tapped ‘Install’ then ‘OK’. Once the messages on the screen stopped scrolling and a final message ‘<<< deploy’ was displayed, I tapped the START arrow and ‘OK’.

Linux Deploy running on the Motorola Xoom MZ604 tablet

I launched VNC Viewer, tapped the ‘+’ icon to add a new connection, entered ‘localhost:5900’ for the address and ‘Linux’ for the name, tapped ‘CREATE’ then ‘CONNECT’. From there I was prompted to enter the password I had specified previously under ‘User password’ (see above), and the LXDE Desktop was displayed.

Motorola Xoom MZ604 tablet running Ubuntu Precise Pangolin with LXDE in a chroot

After following the procedure in the above-mentioned article to configure and install the Linux image, subsequently I use the following steps to start and stop Linux on the Xoom:

To start Linux on the Xoom, use Linux Deploy.
Press the ‘START’ arrow at the top right of the Linux Deploy screen.
Then open VNC and press ‘Connect’.

To exit Linux on the Xoom, use Linux Deploy.
Tap the square ‘STOP’ button at the top right of the Linux Deploy screen.
Tap ‘OK’ to ‘Stop services & unmount the container’.
Then tap the menu button (three horizontal bars) at the top left of the Linux Deploy screen.
Tap ‘Exit’.

To exit VNC Viewer:
Press the ‘Recent Apps’ icon (two overlapping rectangles) at the bottom left of the Xoom’s Android screen.
Swipe to the left to close the app.