Monday, August 23, 2010
Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 07:00 AM
So, after a good amount of hunting, I finally managed to acquire the Gentouch Android tablet. There have been some mixed reviews on the web and The Yaz posted a very nice analysis in our forums. So, after a few days of using the device I'm going to give you my thoughts. Overall, I think it is a pretty good device, but I don't think a lot of users are going to be disappointed with it in its current form. Read on to see why.
I'll start with the good. It is a low-priced, functional Android experience and it comes with a case. The bad (but understandable for the price), resistive touch screen which is a tad unresponsive when using your finger for input, works better with the included stylus. If you have a stock unit, be sure to download the update from Augen which includes a screen calibration tool for a big improvement. There also does not appear to be an accelerometer (or the OS is not set to change orientations). Finally, there is no GPS, microphone, or camera. The device is also slow to boot up and slow to reconnect to wireless after coming out of standby. The inexcusably bad (just poor design) – navigation buttons are small and on back of unit (but I admit, I am slowly getting used to it), 2.5 mm headphone jack (they'll send you a free set of headphones but I purchased an adapter so I could use my own), and a lack of hardware buttons for volume control. Finally, the biggest issue is that the Android Market doesn’t work.
The lack of the standard market is a point of some controversy. This was a big selling point and one of the reasons this device garnered so much interest. The first reviews immediately noted that the Market didn't work and Augen posted on their site that this was a glitch and would be fixed shortly. However, more recently they've said that the market was left on the devices as an oversight and should have been removed prior to production. I find this a bit disturbing since if this were the case, why did earlier indicate it was a glitch and why did their advertising and website suggest (and still does suggest) that the device has access to the market apps?
The lack of an app store knocked out my plan of using this as a Kindle, but with the Kindle price drop to $139, I just ordered one anyway. This also prevented me from trying some of the other primary functions I use on my Droid, namely the apps for Facebook, Yahoo Mail, Slacker Radio, and nswPlayer. So my testing consisted primarily of using the web browser and playing some videos using Android’s lackluster built-in video player. It worked fine for these purposes. I really liked the browser; even though this has roughly the same resolution as my Droid, the much larger screen size made it pretty enjoyable to look at the normal versions of websites like Facebook rather than their mobile counterparts.
This really leaves you with a 7" Android powered tablet primarily for surfing the web - and not much more. Not bad, but not what I was offered, so what to do? I debated returning it, but after the hoops the store jumped through to get me one (the manager personally picked one up in another state while traveling because his store had not been alloted any) I feel kind of bad just returning it. Plus, there is already quite the hacker community springing up for this device. It has already been fully rooted and it appears that you can get the market to work on the rooted device. If you are into that sort of thing, check out the XDA Developer Forum for this device.
Had this been available a year ago, prior to the release of the iPad, I don’t think most of us would have complained much had it been priced at $400-$500. But, they released it now, and for the price, this is an OK unit as is. But having used Android on my Droid for nearly nine months now, using this device made me realize that there is a certain synergy between all the hardware components and that the apps really do make the device. If you aren't afraid to get under the hood, it looks like this could potentially be a fun device to tinker with. Otherwise, I’m left seeing so much missed potential, which we will probably be able to get if willing to wait six months and spend an extra $50 to $100. In a nutshell, I think this device is similar to the original Eee in that it is just good enough to give us a glimpse of what is coming.
Chris Gohlke is a Contributing Editor for Thoughts Media. He loves roller derby, poker, RPGs, and Sci-Fi and loves to get his hands on real-life tech gadgets. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, USA with his wife and three cats.
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