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  • Nice geek toy for $100

    posted by arndb on 09/02/2010
    0 0

    Involvement:Expert (understands the inner workings) - Ownership:1 day to 1 week

    Pros:

    This certainly one of the better devices you can get in the $100 price range. The build quality appears to be slightly better than the M003 or similar products from Eken, and it's the only one with 256 MB RAM, which makes a huge difference if you want to run other operating systems like Ubuntu on it. There is a community of hackers adding features and modifications to the software to make it more usable on this and other machines.
    Having ethernet and USB connectors is very useful for hacking, although the dongle seems a little fragile.

    Cons:

    Like most cheap tablets, this comes with a resistive touch screen, which is much harder to operate than the expensive capacitive touch screens you find in many phones or high-end tablets.
    An ARM9 CPU running at a low clock frequency (haven't measured it yet, but the CPU is designed to run at 300 MHz) cannot provide a great user experience compared to what you would expect from an ARM11 or Cortex-A8 based device. Loading a moderately complex web page can take a minute compared to a few seconds on a PC.
    The camera is barely usable, and I couldn't get the accelerometer to work yet.
    The pre-installed software (Android 1.6 with modifications) is aging and parts of it are not licensed properly, so if you want to use the machine for more than just watching youtube and simple web pages, you need to have some deep Linux skills to make it do what you want.
    Mine took almost two months to arrive

    OtherThoughts:

    The software includes an 2.6.29 Linux kernel from VIA, u-boot and busybox, all licensed under the GPL (see www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html), which requires shipping with either the full source code or a written offer to provide that. It came with neither, which makes it illegal to distribute in many countries.
    The software is freely available elsewhere, so they should really just include it in the box!
    The box I got clearly showed a different product from a big American company, which might be regarded as counterfeiting in certain legislations. Customs did not seem to be interested in this for end users, but be careful when ordering multiple devices.
    Both these seem to be pretty dumb strategies from the manufacturer, because with just very little modifications it would be possible to ship legally to many more places.

    Bottomline:

    This is just the low end of the first generation android tablets.
    If $100 is your budget, get this tablet or one of the identical ones (e.g. sku 42216). For a little more money, you can get a much faster CPU (ARM11 in sku 41984, or a tcc8902 based machine) and within the next months there will probably be better replacements at the same price tag.
    However, don't expect this to compete with the performance of a modern cell phone or even one of the high-end tablets using Cortex or Atom processors, there's a reason for the price difference.

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