Thursday, February 10, 2011

android - be discerning at lower end

Here is what to look for (as reasonable minimum) in android tablets, if you have £200 or more to spend:
  • 3D graphics support (OpenGL ES)
  • 256MB ram
  • SD card slot (or microSD at a push)
  • Android 2.1 or later (2.3 or later for WebM)
Here is what you can get if you halved your budget:

This advert was in an 'offers' sheet posted through the door. At the time, I remember thinking that the specification is value for money, but really at the low end of what I would want in a tablet.

If you only had £100 to spend would I recommend this tablet?

Well I think it ticks quite a few boxes for what it costs (about the same as 60 loaves of bread in UK)

When looking at a tablet it is all about budget. Firstly are you looking 'low range', 'mid range', 'high range'. Putting this as a car analogy, are you wanting a cheap compact (Vauxhall Corsa or similar), a mid priced saloon (Ford Focus), or a fast roadster (BMW Z4).

Staying with cars ... if you have £8,000 in your pocket, it is no good rejecting a Corsa because "It's not a BMW Z4"

That Elonex tablet and why it is not £200:

Going back to my 4 point test:
  • Does not have 3D graphics
    [ probably fine for watching movies and a bit of light browsing, however   Angry birds and newer games might not be available for the device ]
  • Has 128MB rather than 256MB
  • Has microSD which is okay.
    [ Full sized SD capability would be better ]
  • Android 1.6
Android 3 is now out. If you want to buy Android 2 devices then okay, but as Android 2 came out late last year, buying Android 1.6 device needs to be considered carefully.

What does a newer version of Android bring?

Perhaps a slightly slicker interaction, and improved power consumption from the same battery unit. More details in the link at the end of this article.

Elonex and December 2011:

This might be a little demanding, but I would not be surprised if in December this year Elonex for £99 ticked all the boxes :)

It is the way in technology that components get cheaper generally, and software technology develops quickly also.

The observant amongst you will have noticed that in my quick review of the Elonex £99 tablet, I failed to mention the keyboard / docking setup.
What a great little feature!

Maybe the build quality is not brilliant, but again going back to budget, for £99 Elonex offered a 720p capable 7" tablet with HDMI output.

It would be hard to argue represented anything other than GREAT VALUE.

My own tablet wants and likely purchase:

I am in no hurry to buy a tablet. I will be interested to see the situation around December in the coming year.

Probably I will still not buy, but in 2012 I will be looking at how 'free and open source' the available tablets are, and choosing one then.

Press coverage and "It's not a blah" type responses:

There are some in the media who have a favourite tablet.

Nothing will change that, and why should it. If I already owned a tablet and thought it was the 'bees knees', then it would be unlikely to be unsettled by a new arrival.

However what is inexcusable is for tech reviewers in major newpapers or online sites (BBC click) or similar, to disparage a £200 tablet because it cannot match a £500 tablet.
Refer back to my car analogy, for a reminder on why it is just nonsense to do so.

There is a premium tablet out now, from Motorola, named Xoom. I find it laughable that some of the same journalists will now say things like:

Unfortunately, at £nnn the tablet could end up as representative of the exclusive, expensive and elitist toys collected by tech's early adopters

So what the reviewer is really saying is "I already have my favourite".

Reviewer: Show me a £200 tablet, and I will fail to see it's merits, and just launch into a comparison of the new tablet against my favourite.

Reviewer: Show me a $800 tablet, and I will fail to see it's merits, and just launch into a comparison of the new tablet against my favourite.

Tablets as commodities and the Tesco / Asda launch:

Right now in the UK, the budget tablet market is pretty fierce.

[ Which is great for the consumer :)  ]

The £80 to £150 bracket in particular is being targeted by Tesco and Asda.

Do read the checklist at the beginning of this article and know what you are buying. If you just want a bit of light browsing and do not currently own a computer a tablet in this price range might represent excellent value for money.

It will not set your world alight perhaps, however as a useful piece of convenience, it might be hard to find better value.

If you can afford a Samsung Galaxy Tab or a Dell Streak or a Motorolla Xoom, then your options are much wider.

However it is important to be honest about your usage. Would you regret paying £500 for a tablet and rarely using it, or would you get better value paying more or less than that amount.

The choice, as they say, is yours.

Notes and Further Reading:

In the main article I did not expand on why I preferred SD card slot rather than microSD. An 8GB SD card will be slightly cheaper that an 8GB microSD card.

Also, some people, especially those who have dexterity problems, or who have deteriorating sight, might find microSD just 'too fiddly'.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Original post just recommended Android 2.1 or later.

Now that Android 2.3.3 includes WebM support, this really does make youtube viewing future proof.
Android 2.3 includes WebM (vp8) support

Gives you local WebM, another local media format alternative to 3GPP (.3gp). 3GPP has never proved popular beyond mobile phones so has been somewhat limited in overall use/exposure.