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Droidpad Android tablet review

01/07/2010

So I bought a non-ipad tablet. You know what? It only cost $136! So it’s really not fair to compare them, because this one was only $136 and works pretty well. As long as we’re being honest with each other, I have to admit that I’ve never used or even subtly caressed an iPad, I’ve only read about them. I won’t be able to tell you what the differences are, but I can tell you how well it works. Here we go.

I ordered the device from DealsExtreme.com.  It took two weeks to get to fly-over country from what I would guess was Shenzhen. Yes, it was in a box of comparatively nice finish for the price. The device was not charged upon arrival, so I had to wait anxiously.  I think it took a little over 2 hours to completely charge.  The interesting thing is that although it has a USB port, it comes with a 9V charging wall wart, which is a bit odd, but effective. The pad also gets kind of warm on its backside while charging. The battery life I’d put at minimum 4hours of use with perhaps 6 hours total capability. I know that pales to the iPad but 4-6 hours of looking at the web or pdfs is a long time.

Firing it up, you get the standard Android boot screen, and it takes about the same amount of time as my Samsung Moment cellphone to boot up. From the specs on the site, it has internals that are at least similar with the Moment and seems to operate at the same speed.

The pad does run version 1.6 but it does it in a pretty sprightly way. All of the interaction is straight-up Android interaction, no funny business. If you have experience with Android this will be nearly identical.

The screen, although smaller than the  iPads I have seen in the wild, is 8.7in in size and seems to have slightly less luminescence than the Moment. Even so, it’s a lot of real estate for the money and it does well at legibility. The bezel is rather large and I think it has the negative effect of making the screen seem small. It is nice to have a place for your hands, though. From the look and feel of the bezel, I’d think that it might just be a thick piece of adhesive-backed plastic…so no hard poking.

I have heard that people find the device to be a bit pokey and after using it for a few weeks, I think that mostly comes from the sort of touch screen that it has, which is the resistive-touch sort. iPhones, Droids, and Moments have capacitive touch screens. What does that mean? Well, you have to select things with authority and the little wispy swipes and flicks we do are far too fast for the display to register. It takes some time really to get used to it. I figure it’s like going from a regular computer keyboard back to an older typewriter keyboard. Everything has to be much more deliberate. The good news is you can get used to it.

Speaking of keyboards, the feature they do not mention on the website is that you totally can plug in a USB keyboard to the pad! Evernote becomes a serious tool then, or the document program that comes with the device. The screen keyboard doesn’t work that bad, either, after you get the hang of the deliberateness.

The regular USB port can also read USB flash drives as well. Added bonus! No spoofing required.

There are the usual assortment of connectors on the device, including headphone out and a USB connector that looks curiously similar to an iPod connector, as well as a volume toggle on the outside next to the power button.

One thing to watch out for is that the on-off button is really sensitive and is also not even flush with the case. It actually sticks out. Trips in my satchel turns the device on and drains the battery. There is no ‘lock’ function, so beware.

The tablet has built in WiFi and works really well, perhaps even better than my laptop. The set up was pretty painless and the time it takes after startup to fix on a signal is nearly nil.

Getting apps is a sticky thing, though. The device is left out in the cold from Google Market. It’s really cold outside of the Google Market. You can get apps though. You have to seek out their .apks from ‘somewhere’ and install them somewhat manually. The up-side is that the built in install software works pretty well, much like the .deb software installer in Ubuntu. You can either save them to the SD card or download and install right away.

So far, I have not had good luck with any of the Google apps like Listen, I have not had good luck finding an adequate streaming/podcasting app I can install. The Google browser-based stuff works well, though. Otherwise, it seems you can ‘get’ most of the other pertinent apps. Dropbox works really well and is pretty handy.

Oh, wait! There IS a native app store! It’s mostly in Chinese and it looks like there’s a lot of games. There’s also Seesmic, in Chinese I think.

To get the best use out of the device, you’ll need to get an SD card. It doesn’t come with one and it does not use MiniSD. It uses MicroSD. (If anyone needs, a 4Gb MiniSD card, I have one for sale, cheap.) When the device is off, you can pull the card and stock it with the necessary files rather than having to rely on pulling stuff from the web.

It also comes with a media player, and it does a fine job as an MP3 player. There was also a YouTube app on it. That didn’t work. When you can get a streaming app to work it does a nice job playing music through the headphone jack. This functionality gives a bit of hope and excitement.

Right now, I use this tablet as a sort of reference item. It does a fine job of displaying .pdf files, and browsing the web,  although the portrait to landscape is a bit irritating. To change it you have to hold it vertical by the top and pretend its a sort of pendulum… I heard there is a screen lock app out there, though.

Should I get this a bit more bulletproof I might just buy a bunch more, because they’re ONLY $132!!! That’s really the crux of the whole comparison with the iPad and this tablet. yeah, the iPad has an aluminum case and longer battery life but it’s also $700 – you can get nearly six of these pads for that price. Think about that.

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