When we reviewed the $50 RCA Voyager II, we were a bit surprised at how much we liked it. Not everyone likes the 7″ tablet form factor. Thankfully, RCA has just refreshed their 10″ tablet with the Viking II.
At first glance the Viking II doesn’t quite invite a second glance, and that’s a shame. Yes, it looks like just another mid-range 10″ slab of plastic. Picking it up, we see that it weighs a drop over a pound, which is not terrible in the mid-range (for comparison, it weighs a bit less than an iPad 2). The layout of ports and buttons (almost all along the “top” edge) may not grab you either… until you notice the full-sized USB port. Yes, RCA opted to put both a MicroUSB and a full USB port on this tablet (as well as a dedicated DC-in jack). This port worked perfectly with my USB drives, making it a huge plus. Keyboards and mice should also work fine. This is a fairly unique feature for an Android tablet.
The two most well-known lines of Android tablets out now features a very heavily-modified version of the operating system. And even the ones who don’t modify throw on a a ton of “value-added” apps. This made it very refreshing to notice that RCA did neither of those things. The only OS tweak they made was adding volume buttons to the navigation area at the bottom of the screen (now back, home, window view, volume up, volume down). This takes some muscle memory re-training but it’s must easier than essentially learning a whole new UI. As for apps, the only additions I had were a File Manager app, an RCA app for registering, an office solution, and a Target app (the Viking II is exclusive to Target). The good news is that all these apps are removable (except an RCA manual shortcut). That makes this an almost “pure” Android experience, and it’s running the latest version of Android; 6.0, aka Marshmallow.
In terms of day-to-day use, I was coming from using my Nexus 7 (2013) as a daily driver. The 1.5 GHz quad core chip in there was enough for my reading and light streaming. The Viking II has a more modern ARM quad core chip, running at 1.3 GHz. The two feel close enough in daily use, and the Viking II felt faster at times. So I ran a benchmark… or rather, I tried to. GeekBench3 would not run on the Viking II (I also had issues syncing with one Windows box). That’s not great. But like I said, general real world use is similar, and some videos even rendered a little bit smoother.
Image quality on the Viking II is better than expected on this type of tablet – but maybe not up to the RCA name. It’s a 1280 x 800 display with modest viewing angles. Don’t try to run a presentation off of it, but you could get away with watching with a friend. The built in speakers are tablet speakers in a plastic body – far better to use headphones. There are front and rear cameras, but tablet cameras are not even worth testing. Don’t use them unless you have no other choice.
Outside of the USB port, I don’t seem to have much to say to grab you with this, right? That’s because the big item here isn’t the hardware or software, but the price. The Viking II has a suggested retail price of $129.99. If it follows the pattern of the Voyager II, it will likely go on sale for under $100 several times a year. Considering that my 3 year-old Nexus still costs more than $150 new, that’s a heck of a good deal. There are absolutely cheaper tablets, but they are usually flimsy junk.
This is usually where I add a disclaimer saying RCA provided this tablet for review purposes. And it’s true: they did. But this is the rare item where I can say I would absolutely have spent my own money on it. My Nexus 7’s charge port was separating (a known issue), and while using a QI charger would fix it, going back to a 10″ tablet has been great. I can confidently say that if you want an affordable 10″, you should check out RCA.