Cellular connectivity. Good display. Long battery life. Relatively affordable.
Lots of bloatware.
- Bottom Line
If you need cellular connectivity in your tablet, the Primetime is an affordable option for consuming content from AT&T's paid streaming services.
Every now and then carriers like to put out branded tablets. T-Mobile has the Revvl, Verizon's got the Ellipsis 8 HD, and now AT&T has the Primetime, a 10-inch midrange Android tablet that connects to its network for a relatively affordable $199.99. For the price, the Primetime has a sharp 1080p display, dual-front speakers, and a long-lasting battery. It's a great multimedia slate for existing AT&T customers who subscribe to DirecTV Now, but if you don't need cellular connectivity, the Amazon Fire HD 10 offers a similar level of performance for a lower price.
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Design and Display
The Primetime looks like your typical midrange plastic slab. It has a blue textured back panel with AT&T branding (the actual manufacturer is ZTE), a strip of gray plastic running along the sides, and a pair of loud stereo speakers on the front.
The tablet measures 10.1 by 6.5 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and tips the scales at a hefty 1.2 pounds. It's heavier than the metallic Asus Zenpad 3S 10 (9.5 by 6.4 by 0.4 inches, 15.2 ounces), and even the Fire HD 10 (10.3 by 6.3 by 0.4 inches, 1.1 pounds). It can get a bit cumbersome to hold over an extended period.
In landscape orientation you'll find a power button and volume rocker on the top, along with a ridged quick launch button that puts the tablet in TV mode, giving you immediate access to a media app of your choice. Also up top you'll find a SIM/microSD card slot that worked with a 256GB card. On the left is a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB-C charging port.
The 10-inch, 1,920-by-1,200 TFT display packs 224 pixels per inch, the same as the Fire HD 10, and offers good viewing angles. The one downside is that the panel is a little dim, which makes it hard to see under direct sunlight.
Network Performance and Audio
The Primetime is locked to AT&T and supports LTE bands 1/2/4/5/7/12/29/30. During our testing in midtown Manhattan, network performance was in line with AT&T phones we've tested recently in the same area. For an idea of how well AT&T's network performs where you live, see our Fastest Mobile Networks results.
AT&T offers several data plans for tablets. If you use the carrier for phone service, you can add the Primetime to your plan for an extra $10 per month and share the same bucket of data. If you only need the tablet, a number of plans are available, from $14.99 per month for 250MB of data up to $50 per month for 5GB.
In addition to network connectivity, the Primetime also supports Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. And it has Bluetooth 4.2, but with a feature that lets it stream audio to two devices at the same time, something that isn't possible on most other devices without Bluetooth 5.0.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The tablet is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clocked at 2GHz. It's a capable midrange chipset, which contributes to a score of 62,954 on the AnTuTu benchmark. That's less than ZenPad S3 10 (72,618), which has a MediaTek 8176 processor, but nearly double the Snapdragon 425-powered Lenovo Tab 4 10 (36,730).
Benchmark scores are only part of the story, though. With 2GB of RAM, the Primetime handles multitasking better than many tablets in this price range that come with 1.5GB. At a certain point you'll run up against the RAM usage limit, but for regular multimedia use, you won't encounter much sluggishness except for a bit of stuttering when you're scrolling through a large list of TV shows or movies. High-end gaming is possible, but titles that require high levels of control responsiveness, like GTA: San Andreas, can suffer.
Battery life is excellent. The Primetime clocked 9 hours, 17 minutes in our battery rundown test in which we streamed full-screen video at maximum brightness over LTE. That's more than double the Zenpad 3S 10 (4 hours, 3 minutes) and three hours longer than the Fire HD 10 (6 hours, 14 minutes), both of which were tested over Wi-Fi. The slate also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 with the included adapter.
Like most camera sensors on midrange tablets, the Primetime's are average at best. The 5-megapixel rear camera can take decent pictures outdoors and in clear lighting, but inside or in lower light it's almost always blurry or muddy. Surprisingly, there's a set of manual controls that let you adjust exposure, ISO, and white balance, which isn't something you normally see on a tablet, but I found it didn't make much of a difference to picture quality.
Video records in 1080p, but looks jittery, grainy, and drops frames in low lighting. The 5-megapixel front camera takes fairly good shots and serves well for video chats.
The tablet comes running Android 7.0 Nougat with a few UI changes including custom app icons and widgets. Additional features include a split-screen mode that lets you run two apps side-by-side when holding down the Recents button.
The aforementioned quick launch button brings you into TV mode (which really just means launching the video app of your choice). DirecTV Now is set for TV mode by default, but you can pick other video streaming apps like Netflix or YouTube instead. The primary reason for AT&T subscribers to consider the Primetime is that the carrier gives you unlimited data with DirecTV Now, provided you're a subscriber. That means you can watch on the go to your heart's content without worrying about Wi-Fi connectivity or a data cap.
There's lots of bloatware, including nine apps from AT&T. You'll also find Amazon, Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, and Yelp.
The slate comes with a total of 32GB of internal storage, with 18.33GB available for use. That's plenty if you mostly plan to use the tablet for streaming, but if you want to load your own videos or download games, you have the option of using a microSD card.
For $200, the Primetime is an affordable cellular tablet that offers AT&T customers a solid multimedia experience. You'll be hard-pressed to find a data-enabled slate at this price range that doesn't make major compromises. The Alcatel A30 Tablet on T-Mobile, for instance, is held back by a grainy screen and sluggish performance. The Verizon Ellipsis 8 HD is a bit smaller, at 8 inches, and costs more. The Apple iPad is significantly more powerful and has an even sharper screen, but a cellular model starts at $459. If you don't need built-in cellular connectivity (or you're content to use your phone as a hotspot) and don't mind the Amazon-centric approach, the Fire HD 10 offers similar performance to the Primetime for $50 less, making it our Editors' Choice.
By Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar. More »
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