Geeks.com sent us in an Android 2.2 tablet, the MID M80003W. They recently populated their store with a number of cheap tablets, so we thought it was a good idea to see what one could expect from these products that seem to have flooded the market recently.
The MID M80003W tablet has a black front face with a silver back. It has an on/off button, a “back” button a’la iPad, and volume up/down buttons. It sports an 8″ resistive touchscreen with 800×600 resolution (4:3). Also, it uses a VIA 8650 800 MHz CPU, 256 MB RAM (~200 MB available to the system, the rest is for graphics), 2 GB internal storage (400 MB available to the user), a microSDHC card slot, 3G wireless (W-CDMA, CDMA2000, TD-CDMA) support, a built-in VGA front web camera (3 MP for stills, possibly interpolated), speaker and microphone, headphones jack, and an orientation sensor. The device also comes with a dongle, that hosts two female USB ports, and one ethernet port. There is no micro-USB port for charging or PC data — the power adapter port is proprietary.
If you do a quick round on various retailers’ pages about any of these no-name (non-Google licensed) Android tablets you will see mostly negative comments about people complaining about bugs, speed, wifi incompatibilities, and what have you. I was hoping that this early stage of affairs was over, and newer no-name tablets, like this one running Froyo, would offer a better, more mature experience. But unfortunately it doesn’t. The device is slow, very slow. It gets slower as much as you use it, usually 30 minutes after a clean boot. Gets better if you manually kill a few processes, like the Browser.
The device also has many bugs, including USB bugs that seem to crash the USB stack every few seconds. A 5 MB copy from a USB drive to the internal storage took about 20 minutes to complete. However, one thing did work well: WiFi compatibility with my WPA2 network (even if acquiring an IP address took a while). The device comes with CDMA 3G support, but since I don’t have such an account I was not able to test it.
The device has no official “Market”, but it has a different market app that only carries a few, completely unknown apps. I had no alternative but to search on various forums for .apk files of popular apps — something that can be dangerous for security. This is one of the few no-name tablets that support the relatively fresh Froyo 2.2, but this didn’t help with compatibility with apps. For example, the new version of Fring crashes the device when trying to use video chat, while the audio-only chat somehow turns off the speaker so you can’t hear anything. Skype wouldn’t login at all. I also downloaded some of the Google apps from a Cyanogen repository, and some worked, some didn’t. For example, GTalk wouldn’t work, but Maps did (albeit super-slowly).
The tablet comes with a number of apps that are written by the OEM, like a music app, a youtube app, video playback and recording, camera app, file manager, email. The UI of these apps feel mostly like a… KDE app rather than a tablet or Android interface. The gallery app for example is a bit more complex than one would expect — finding how to delete a picture is not a straight forward process.
Since the device has only a “back” button and not a menu/home hardware buttons as in most Android devices, these were added in the Android notification bar as soft-buttons. They are best used with a stylus rather than a finger. Originally, I could not click them properly, because the screen calibration was off by 50 pixels or so.
Battery life is not great at around 3 hours of usage. The standby time seems to be pretty low too, although I could not get accurate readings: battery would report either 100%, or 50%, or 10%.
The screen is nothing to brag bout, it feels pixelated, and there’s a lot of wasted space in Home screen. The replacement Home uses a matrix for 4×4 icons, but the size/resolution can easily support 5×4 without making things feel stuffy. When you go to the “Apps” screen, the resolution is used properly, and many more icons fit.
To show you how impossibly little test this device has gone through, consider that it runs the Android Dialer and Bluetooth services, even if there’s no hardware to support these functions. Wasted RAM. The camera app crashes, the browser reports that it’s running Mac OS X. Basically, the whole device feels like “it compiles? ship it“. For the first time possibly, this meme can be taken quite literally.
Moral of the story: only buy complex systems (like a tablet or a smartphone is) from reputable manufacturers. This is classic case of getting what you paid for.
FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Disclaimer
The device was sent to OSNews for free, and to keep, in return for the unbiased review, and a citation to Geeks.com. Geeks.com, MID, or Google, had no influence or involvement in the article’s findings and opinions.