Top positive review
61 people found this helpful
I am duly impressed - with one reservation
on 23 November 2012
Unlike most reviewers, I didn't buy this for the kids. Mostly, I got heartily sick of lugging a heavy laptop around when I needed to do some light work - read a few files, take some notes, check e-mail. And also to be able to watch some videos when the TV is being monopolised, or on longer flights. And last, out of curiosity about whether tablets are ready for prime time in schools.
It's not an iPad, or even a top-end Android slate. It's a budget tablet at a fraction of the price. So I have tried to judge it on how well it gets the job I wanted it for done.
Build - Seems pretty solid. The buttons work, although for some reason the mains power lead won't go in all the way. It seems to charge a bit quicker off the USB anyway (both take ages). I don't particularly like the white pannelled back, but it's effective. If you're the sort of person who cares much about this sort of thing, you're probably not into budget tablets.
What's loaded? - Not much. There's the standard gallery and music player. Adobe PDF Reader. There's also a voice recorder, which is fine for taking memos when you're 6 inches from the screen. Mine came with DocumentsToGo, I used with the old Palms (remember them?), but here I have only used as a Word/Excel reader. The lack of bloat is a good thing. You can choose from the thousands of apps in the Play Store.
Screen - Fairly good. I have had no problems with responsiveness. It can sometimes be a bit sluggish, though that's probably down to the relatively low CPU speed. It isn't enough to annoy me.
Setting it up - ICS is an absolute joy to set up .... as long as you're already firmly tied to the Google mothership. I had e-mail and calendars running perfectly in under a minute. The Play Store is more temperamental, though you can usually get it to do as it's told eventually. Some widgets need a full reboot before you can get at them. Apps all seem to install smoothly.
Video - Really good for a budget tablet. My only slight gripe is that the vertical viewing angle is rather narrow. This can make it a bit awkward to find a comfortable watching position. The supplied headphones are ok and the sound was surprisingly good. You'll need these - the built-in speaker is poor.
One thing to bear in mind is that unlike some of the sexier tablets, this one comes with an SD card slot. This means that the 8Gb storage limit is pretty much academic - you can add up to 32Gb and switch it out whenever you like. With one £15 card and what's left after the OS, I can take all my music, a modest photo archive and a dozen movies, and still have room to spare.
Wifi - Hmm. It's a bit underpowered, and has trouble with faraway connections. I've had worse, to be fair, but it is sometimes struggling when my laptop has 5 bars. With a poor connection, wifi DEVOURS battery (on which see below). But once it has a reasonable connection, it has given me no trouble at all.
Apps. All of these popular apps work just fine: Skype (including video chat, as long as the connection is ok); Pulse; Google+; Kindle; Evernote (miles better than the iOS implementation); Google Drive; Dropbox; OurGroceries; Pocket; SkyScanner; Twitter; eBay app; OneCast; and the obligatory Angry Birds.
Netflix didn't work. But when I e-mailed A1CS about this, they sent a fix which has done the job - posted in the forum. It is now working perfectly. I'm not sure what happens when an update is needed, but one thumb up for customer service.
Battery - this is the one bit that lets the tablet down, in my view. Yes, you can get 4-5 hours of video out of a full charge, which is fine. To achieve this, you really need to have the screen brightness turned down. It's not quite enough juice for me to take it on a one-day business trip without a charger.
But what alarmed me was when my sleeping tablet went from 95% to 6% overnight. Why? Because when sleeping, it keeps trying to sync. Unless you have a near perfect wifi connection, this goes through the battery at a furious rate. I now put it into airplane mode before bedtime, which has effectively solved the problem.
Charging takes many hours, and pretty much stops if you try to work on the tablet. You get used to this quickly - I guess I'm used to topping up my phone with a half hour blast.
Overall, I'd have to say that I'm delighted. It does almost all what I wanted with a minimum of fuss. I am withholding the last star due to having to be unreasonably careful about the battery life, but to be honest I feel a bit mean doing this. It really is an excellent little machine for its price.
Is it ready for schools? Not quite, unless the school is prepared to put USB micro power outlets in every desk. Sort out the battery issue and my answer would be "absolutely". Which, for the price of a few heavy textbooks, really isn't bad.