Are budget tablets worth it?
When I first saw Elonex’s line of Android Tablets at Gadget Show Live I remember being very impressed with the published specifications and just how well they ran.
Elonex had several tablets on display that day, in both 7″ and 10″ form factors and featuring a range of different processors and display technologies.
On the day I couldn’t play around with any of them too much as they were mounted on the desk and the stand was buzzing with activity, but ever since I’ve been trying to get my hands on one of their tablets to give it a proper road test.
Unfortunately, after spending a week with the 10″ eTouch I kind of wish I hadn’t.
I’ll be honest, as an iPad user my expectations have been set pretty high. The original iPad was a triumph of design, no matter what you think of Apple or their products.
The Elonex works hard to try to emulate the look of the iPad, and looks impressive from a distance. Unfortunately as soon as you pick up the Elonex you can tell it isn’t anywhere near the iPad in terms of quality. In fact, it’s even quite poor compared to some of the other Android tablets I’ve had use of.
The plastics feel cheap and flimsy, and there’s way to much flex in the frame for my liking. Certainly I don’t feel that this tablet would survive long on the road with me. The billed weight of the eTouch is more or less the same as the iPad, though strangely it feels a lot lighter.
The Elonex eTouch 1000ET comes with a 1GHz Arm processor, which is the same clock speed and architecture as the original iPad.
It also comes with 256MB or RAM, again; the same as the original iPad.
The display is a 10.1″ 1024×600 LED backlit unit. Sadly it’s only a resistive touch screen, though I’m happy to say that it’s one of the better resistive screens that I’ve used.
In terms of connectivity, you certainly have more ports than Apple’s own dock connector. There’s a full size USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a MicroSD card slot as well as a mini-USB connector. There’s also another socket on the side of the device which looks strangely like a Micro-USB socket, but is in fact a wired network port which needs an optional adapter to function.
This last discovery is a welcome surprise; my biggest criticism of the iPad is that it has no facility to plug into a wired network connection.
On connectivity, this model is WiFi only, though there is another model available, the 1043ET, which features 3G connectivity.
There’s the same number of buttons on the eTouch that you would find on an iPad; the front mounted button is a “back” button while the side of the device houses a volume rocker and the power switch for the device.
The eTouch does have the iPad licked in one other area though; stereo speakers. Though, that said; my impression is that they’re not as high quality as the mediocre speaker found in the iPad.
The eTouch comes with Android 2.2 as standard, though for some reason this review model is stuck with 2.1.
That being said, I can get enough of an idea as to performance from using 2.1, even though I’d urge you, dear reader, to take this section with a pinch of salt due to me having a non-standard build.
Being an Android device the interface is pretty standard, there are a series of home screens topped off with the tool bar, as well as having a dock on the right of the screen giving immediate access to the applications menu, the web browser and the file browser.
Performance is mediocre for an Android device. There’s a certain degree of lag between screens and the animations aren’t as fluid as on other devices. Basic apps like the web browser, Facebook and YouTube work reasonably well, though some more power hungry apps such as some games do tend to struggle with the eTouch’s limited processing power.
That being said, this is an Android licensed device, so has access to the app store with over 150,000 applications. Most of those will probably work adequately, but greased lightning the eTouch most certainly is not.
To be honest, there are two huge problems with this device which make it a chore to use: The resistive touch screen, and the battery life.
I’ve struggled to get more than a couple of hours solid use out of this device, and that was just web browsing and some light gaming. When it came to media playback I could barely get through a feature film without the battery draining completely. Elonex only claim that the device has a battery life of three hours, but it’s still disappointing to not be able to use it more between charges.
The eTouch 1000ET has a retail price of £149, but can be picked up for less than that. In fact, you can pick a “B-grade” one up for less than £113.
For that price, I can kind of see the market for it, though having owned an iPad since day one I do find the experience of using the eTouch quite frustrating.
There’s no denying that the eTouch 1000ET is cheap, but does it represent value? On reflection the answer is probably still yes, providing you understand it’s shortcomings.
The display isn’t as clear as other devices on the market, nor does the eTouch function as well. But it is decidely cheaper than the competition, so if you’re on a budget it may be the option for you.