Review: Ainol Novo 9 Spark Android Tablet

Ainol Novo 9 Spark ReviewThis is a review of the Ainol Novo 9 Spark Android Tablet with 9.7 inch 2048 x 1536 retina IPS screen and powered by an Allwinner A31 quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 chipset. The 9.7″ form factor with retina display seems to be very popular among the China tablet PC manufacturers. Every brand seems to have at least 1 or even 2 models running on different chipsets.

Ainol has two versions of the Novo 9 but they both run on the same Allwinner A31 quad-core processor. The Novo 9 Spark comes in white while the Novo 9 Firewire comes in black. The Firewire version was released later than the Spark version and if you are to buy one today, the Firewire version will more likely have a newer firmware version.

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark initial firmware is buggy and caused all kinds of problems from poor WiFi to laggy performance. If you are uncomfortable with updating firmware, it is best that you stick with the Firewire black version.

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Dino Direct

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Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Amazon.com

Novo 9 Spark Quad Core A31 Tablet PC, 9.7 Inch, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), Retina IPS 2048 x 1536px Screen, 2G RAM, 16G ROM, HDMI, Dual Camera, Super Slim

Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on Amazon.com

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Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Amazon.co.uk

Ainol Novo 9 Spark Firewire Tablet PC - 9.7" Retina IPS III 2048x1536 Pixel Display, Quad Core A31 CPU, 8 Core GPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Dual Cameras, 10000mAh battery - includes HDMI cable and 8GB SD memory card

Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on Amazon.co.uk

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from AliExpress

AliExpress has numerous retailers that are offering the Ainol Novo 9 Spark at a great price and some even have free international shipping thrown in.

Buy from AliExpress

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Deal Extreme

Ainol NOVO9 SPARK 9.7" IPS Quad Core Tablet PC Android 4.1.1 w/ 2GB RAM / 16GB ROM - Grey + Black

DX offers free world wide shipping on all items! DX is the first and only retailer in the industry to establish multiple international warehouses. Currently serving more than 30 countries, items shipped from one of the three international warehouses are typically delivered in 3-7 business days.

Buy from Deal Extreme

First Impressions

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark has a much better build quality than the lower end products from Ainol. It has a fully metallic backing and of course the gorgeous looking 9.7″ retina display. The power button is placed on the upper right edge when the tablet is held in portrait mode. Located nearby on the right of the top edge are the Home and Volume rocker buttons.

All the ports are located at the bottom edge of the tablet. There is a 3.5mm audio jack, a mini HDMI port, a microphone, a microUSB OTG port, a microSD card slot and last but not least, the DC power connector.

The stereo speakers are also located on the bottom edge on either sides. This is a strange placement for the speakers as it means that they are not placed on either sides when the tablet is in landscape position. This may be a concern for those who plan to use the Novo 9 Spark for watching video. To get proper stereo sound, you would need external speakers or headphones.

 How does the Ainol Novo 9 Spark compare with other tablets?

Refer to our Top China Tablets Full Guide comparison matrix with over 40 tablets.

Ainol Novo 9 Spark Specifications

BrandAinol
ModelNovo 9 Spark
CPUQuad-Core Allwinner A31
RAM2 GB DDR3
ROM16 GB Nand Flash
CameraFront 2MP, Rear 5MP
Screen Size9.7 inch
Screen TypeIPS
Resolution2048 x 1536 pixels (Retina)
Wi-Fi802.11 b/g/n
3GNo
BluetoothNo
GPSNo
Battery Type10000 mAh
Size240 x 185 x 11.5mm
Weight655 g
Operating SystemAndroid 4.1

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark has a quad-core Allwinner A31 chipset that is paired with 2 GB of DDR3 RAM and 16 GB of storage ROM. The display is a 9.7″ 2048 x 1536 retina display. The display is the same size and the same resolution as the new iPad. Retina displays have very high pixel density. Unless you look very closely, you will not be able to see the individual pixels on the screen.

The tablet comes with 2 cameras. A 2 MP camera on the front for video calls and a 5 MP camera at the rear. There is no LED flash but the rear camera does have autofocus capabilities.

The battery capacity is 10,000 mAh which should be large enough for the retina screen.

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark does not come with neither Bluetooth nor GPS.

Ainol Novo 9 Spark Performance

First of all, if you can, you should update the firmware on the Ainol Novo 9 Spark and make sure that you are running the latest firmware from Ainol or a custom ROM based on the latest firmware. The earlier firmwares are buggy and causes all kinds of problem but worse of all, the tablet is very slow and laggy most of the time.

With the latest firmware, performance is quite decent and it can even play 3D games like Dead Trigger smoothly. The stock firmware supports Google Play Store but like many China tablet devices, you will find that there are a number of apps that are listed as not supported on the Ainol Novo 9 Spark. You can either try to side load these apps (download from somewhere else and install from a memory card) or update the ROM with a custom one.

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark has quite a lot of support from the open source community. There are a few different custom ROMs currently available for the tablet.

The retina screen looks great with great color saturation and contrast. Viewing angle is also great. However, I did notice that it is not as bright as the other retina displays I have tested so far. I am not sure if Ainol has purposely reduce the maximum brightness in order to improve battery life. However, when used indoors, the slightly dimmer display is hardly noticeable.

I had no problems with WiFi on my tablet but I have read of users who are experiencing problems. Some users claim that the WiFi issues are resolved with the latest firmware update. Others claim that it is caused by the metal cover at the back blocking the WiFi radio signal. The more tech inclined users even hacked the tablet and replaced the WiFi antenna for better performance. I am not sure if it is a quality or design problem but I thought that I should highlight my findings.

The other thing about the metal cover is that the tablet does heats up significantly when in use. It could either mean that the metal cover is doing its job to dissipate the heat from inside the tablet or it could mean that the heat ventilation is poor and the tablet is overheating. It does not get too hot but I think it is best not to use a tablet cover that traps the heat further.

Besides the odd placement of the speakers, they are also a little too soft so keep your earbuds or headphones around. You are going to need them.

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark comes with a 10,000 mAh battery that can last a good 6 hours with WiFi switched on. I can probably drag the battery life to at least 8 hours if I switch off the WiFi. There is very minimal drain when the tablet is left in standby mode. However, the display puts such a drain on the battery, it is not possible to charge the battery via the USB connector unless you switch the tablet off. The included charger is a 3A charger but it still takes about 6 hours to fully charge the battery from empty.

The cameras as usual are the usual mediocre quality cameras found on all China tablet PCs. Do not expect to take any masterpieces with them but they are functional.

Last but not least, I read the user reviews on Amazon.co.uk, someone managed to use a 64GB SDXC class 10 microSD card with the Ainol Novo 9 Spark. This is strange because as far as I know, the tablet’s SD card compatibility is listed as up to 32GB. I don’t have a 64GB microSD with me to confirm this. However, if this is true, it is an important point to those who need huge storage for storing movies or for photographers who use their tablets for viewing large RAW image files from their DSLR cameras.

Conclusion

The Ainol Novo 9 Spark is one of many similar iPad clones from China. The hardware specifications of all these clones are almost indistinguishable from one another. However, the Novo 9 Spark is a little different from the rest. Some of the differences are good and some are bad.

I like having the power button on its own edge so that I do not confuse it with the Home button. I also like having a hardware volume rocker button instead of relying on the soft buttons. However, I don’t like having the stereo speakers placed for the tablet in portrait position. I prefer having them in landscape.

WiFi performance is good but I am not sure if I am just lucky I didn’t get a unit with a poorly assembled WiFi antenna. Battery life seems good at about 6 hours but no where near the manufacturer’s rated 8 hours unless they expected users to switch off WiFi all the time.

There is no Bluetooth or GPS and there is no optional 3G version either.

There is also an unconfirmed finding that the tablet works with a 64 GB Class 10 microSD card. If you are a Novo 9 Spark owner and you happen to have a 64 GB microSD lying around, I appreciate if you could test it and let me know if it indeed works or did the Amazon reviewer make an error on the card size.

Overall, the Ainol Novo 9 Spark is quite a good buy although it does have some minor flaws.

Where to Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Dino Direct

DinoDirect.com is a world’s leading cross-border online store with millions of active customers from more than 200 countries. DinoDirect is committed to becoming the best reliable marketplace on the net by offering high quality products with the widest selections, reasonable price, worldwide free shipping and superior 7×24 customer service.

Buy from DinoDirect

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Amazon.com

Novo 9 Spark Quad Core A31 Tablet PC, 9.7 Inch, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), Retina IPS 2048 x 1536px Screen, 2G RAM, 16G ROM, HDMI, Dual Camera, Super Slim

Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Amazon.co.uk

Ainol Novo 9 Spark Firewire Tablet PC - 9.7" Retina IPS III 2048x1536 Pixel Display, Quad Core A31 CPU, 8 Core GPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Dual Cameras, 10000mAh battery - includes HDMI cable and 8GB SD memory card

Click Here for Pricing, Pictures and Reviews on Amazon.co.uk

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from AliExpress

AliExpress has numerous retailers that are offering the Ainol Novo 9 Spark at a great price and some even have free international shipping thrown in.

Buy from AliExpress

Buy Ainol Novo 9 Spark from Deal Extreme

Ainol NOVO9 SPARK 9.7" IPS Quad Core Tablet PC Android 4.1.1 w/ 2GB RAM / 16GB ROM - Grey + Black

DX offers free world wide shipping on all items! DX is the first and only retailer in the industry to establish multiple international warehouses. Currently serving more than 30 countries, items shipped from one of the three international warehouses are typically delivered in 3-7 business days.

Buy from Deal Extreme

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Review: Ainol Novo 9 Spark Android Tablet, reviewed by Roy Yap on 2013-08-30T22:27:40+00:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

Author: Roy Yap

Roy Yap is the administrator of TopChinaTablets.com. Roy has been writing both online and for print magazines for many years. He writes mostly technology related articles, particularly on consumer electronics and gadget reviews.

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4 Comments

  1. How do get the tablet out of safe mode I’ve tried hold down power off button procedure, does not work for me, I also sometimes have to rotate screen to make the touch screen work

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  2. I am watching the 4 k video player and but got messages “Unfortunately 4 k video player has stopped”.

    Post a Reply
    • The 4k player is not very reliable and is more of a gimmick than anything.

      Post a Reply
  3. Sir,how can my ainol Novo 9 tabe upgrade to next stage 4.2.2 please ..

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