Setting realistic expectations for a sub $100 import tablet
Buying a import Android tablet? Trying to decipher the jargon and figure out which deal is a good value?
Lets address some of the many performace claims that are cut and pasted into online auction listings and product descriptions:
1.5 GHz High Performance Processor!
Don’t confuse a 1.5GHz mobile processor with the 1.5GHz in your desktop or notebook.
Even the mobile claims of 1.5GHz are not completely accurate. 1.5GHz is what the CPU is capable of if it is overclocked. This would drain a battery while generating a lot of heat. It would also result in constant crashes. In real world use the chip is more likely humming along at 700mHz and peaking at 900mHz when the workload gets heavy. There are CPU Spy apps that monitor this.
The A13 is efficient and capable, but I wouldn’t label it as powerful by any stretch.
4GB Hard Drive (2GB free).
This refers to onboard Nand Flash memory. There is no physical spinning hard drive like a notebook or early generation iPod.
Some of your 4GB/8GB/16GB internal storage will be taken up by system files, pre-installed apps, various data files, etc. So you never really get 100% of the advertised storage space.
Sometimes a seller will bundle in a “free” memory card and add its capacity to that of the internal drive.
Don’t pay too much more just because a tablet has 16GB vs 8gb. Unlike an iPad with no memory slot, you can add additional storage as you need it. A 32GB card is about $20 (and getting cheaper every day). This is one of the reasons my Android pad stays in my bag while the iPad collects dust.
A million pixels! Most of these cameras are baaaaad. Don’t be fooled by the fancy sounding terminology. Most phones have far better cameras, as do name brand tablets. It is okay for a webcam, but don’t bother paying more for a 2MP dual camera model.
Capacative touch display
Yes this is better than resistive touch, but when your CPU lags a second (or more) after every touch you need to wait and see if your command registered. Sometimes the tablet might appear frozen, but it is just thinking. It will then execute your last few touches in rapid succession. This is quite frustrating when trying to navigate menus and web forms.
Getting a wifi signal can be very challenging if you are not very close to the transmitter/router. Sometimes the tablet will see the signal, but not be able to maintain a connection. These tablets get a little cranky when a task is interrupted due to a network issue.
If connected to an external 3G modem (not included) some tablets can connect to the internet. Most people won’t use this feature. But “3G” is always plastered all over the item descriptions but it is not available out of the box.
When connected to an ethernet adapter (not included) some tablets can connect to a wired network. Some tablets also have an ethernet port built in.
Full HD 1080P
It means your tablet is able to play a video file encoded at 1080p. It doesn’t say it will run smoothly for 2 hours and keep the sound synced with the picture. Or that it won’t become a stuttering slideshow just at your favorite scene. Luckily most import tablets are shipping with very capable video hardware acceleration that rivals the playback experience of a $500 iPad for a fraction of the sticker price. I would say exceed because it can handle almost any type of video format and output to a HDTV (optional).
If your device has no HDMI output, then you are watching movies on a 7″ screen. How much definition can you really see? It will look good, but you won’t be replacing your 55″ Samsung any time soon. Let me revise that: it will look good if your are positioned directly infront of the screen. The viewing angles on most import tablets are very limited so the person sitting next to you might see an inverted ghost image of what you are watching. If you put the tablet flat on your desk it is unlikely you can read the screen unless it is directly under your nose.
“run multiple applications at once”
Don’t do it unless you want to grind down to a crawl (or crash). Just downloading apps from Google Play in the background makes the store grind to a halt. If you want this kind of functionality consider spending a few more bucks on a better model with a beefier processor.
“Full access to Google’s Android Market”
“Android Market – Only all free application download”
This means that you will not be able to purchase apps on Google Play because your device model isn’t officially authorized. For some people this isn’t an issue. You will be able to install free apps. Some devices may not include the official Google Play app and you will need to download it or install via memory card.
You might need to install the Youtube app if it is not included. I found playback to be excellent with a good wifi signal, but navigation and searching a bit sluggish.
“Full working time – 2 hours”
Take these claims with a grain of salt. I’ve read stories of battery time as low as 15 minutes. Every manufacturer uses different size batteries. So to identical looking Q88 A13 tablets might have a 1800mAH and 3500mAH battery. The battery life in one should be twice the other. 8″-10″ tablets usually have 4000mAH and higher to light up the bigger displays.
It will really depend on what you are are doing: internet, video, games, reading an ebook.
The only way to find out for sure is to use your particular device until it runs out. There are a few battery testing and tweaking apps that might help gauge performance. If you are going to be traveling with a import tablet you might want to invest in a external battery pack that can charge via the USB port. You can test if your tablet will charge using the USB port by connecting to your computer. When I do this my Samsung put a little red “X” over the battery icon to inform me that it is not charging while connected.
Some of the games displayed in the ads barely run, if at all. The screen shots are photoshopped onto an image of the device.
Some units that claim 800×480 pixels will actually display 800×432. You will notice the screen is slightly squished. Not much you can do about that. The reported display pixels varies depending on which benchmarking or system info software you are viewing. Most of the displays are photoshopped. Some of the displayed games will not work on your device (or crawl at 10fps) but look attractive to potential buyers.
Also keep in mind that 800×480 is the lowest resolution on this generation of tablets. A 7″ display with 1024×600 or a 8-10″ with 1280×1024 will look much cripser (and cost more). In some cases a similarly featured tablet with a higher resolution display is only a few bucks more.
Most tablets will have very tiny speakers located in awkward positions…or covered up by a case or fingers.
Consider headphone or external speakers.
From where exactly? The factory in China? The importer who won’t carry this model next month? The guy who bought some to flip on eBay? This is what Best Buy is for. Quality can be hit or miss with these devices.
Hopefully this information will help cut through some of the fantastic claims of the product descriptions and auction listings so you won’t be disappointed when your import tablet arrives.