I don’t like Apple...
The iPhone, iPod, iMac, even iPad are all a bunch of cheap, low quality, mass produced crap that is exceptionally well marketed to the public. The iPad’s premise is interesting enough. Take a 10” touch pad, load it with iPhone software, and sell it for $499 and up. It costs the same as a laptop just with much less functionality and higher “cool factor.” It does seem like a cool device and but for my need to go against the grain and my burning hatred for all things Steve Jobs-related I probably would have picked one up. Fortunately for me the iPad has been the target of Chinese (A.K.A the land that international copyright law and trademark infringement forgot) knock-offs almost since day one. A quick search on ebay revealed a veritable horde of tablet imitators all running (you guessed it!) the anti-thesis to Apple’s second rate phone software: Google’s Android OS.
This revelation was nothing short of mana from heaven to me and I jumped at the chance to buy one of these cool little toys. Unfortunately I was unable to find a seller that was based in the US so I was in for a long shipping time while my Apad took the slow boat from Schenzen China. There are a few US-based resellers on the Internet but the price of the tablet goes up at least $30-40 when purchasing from them. Ever the cheapskate I opted to get mine from the source. So after a 9-day wait I finally received my Apad (like iPad but the “A” is for Android) and unlocked its untold wonders….
First off, for just $100 you aren’t going to get the fastest, flashiest technology on the planet. The Eken M001 sports a meager 600mhz Via ARM processor, 128mb of DDR2 memory, and despite boasting of 2gb of internal storage mine only came with 1gb. It is no speed demon and it can be a bit sluggish at times, especially when surfing the more intensive websites, but all things considered I think it is more than tolerable.
- The battery lasts from 2-3 hours tops. Not awful but not greater either.
- Built-in Wireless G works very well. I was connected to my home network and surfing the web and emails in mere moments.
- The 7-inch touch screen is pretty nice. Colors are reproduced well and it is definitely bright enough. The touch portion itself could stand to be a little more responsive but there are some 3rd party firmware downloads available to fix this problem. The standard Android Keyboard pulls up just like on any Android phone and that works well enough for short-term typing. The screen is too small for my 2-handed QWERTY typing but if you have smaller hands that may not pose such an issue. I have a younger brother (12), for example, and he pulled it off.
- The speaker is surprisingly crisp and clear. It won’t win any contests but truthfully I thought it would be a tinny disaster. The sound quality is decent for its overall size and it does get fairly loud, too. The headphone input is equally adequate.
- The overall quality and construction of the device is pretty good all things considered. I’ve certainly handled more expensive pieces of hardware that felt cheaper. The plastic is pretty thick and everything feels pretty solid. It is a little heavier than I expected but in a good way; like the components aren’t the cheapest stuff they could slap together.
The Eken M001 Tablet comes with the full Android OS, albeit version 1.6. I’m not an avid Android user but it seems that a device running 1.6 doesn’t really present any problems as all of the software I’ve tried to run works fine on it. The included software is pretty basic. Standard Email client, Documents to Go, Text editors, movie players, a Youtube app which I could never get to work, and a slew of foreign language music, video, and mini game apps that run well enough.
One definite downside is that you will not have access to the Android market on this device. There is no Market app included and every link to the market I’ve tried produces a “page not found” error. However, it does include a very functional APK Manager which allows you to install virtually any Android compatible application as long as you transfer the .apk file to the device. With a little bit of digging this opens the doors to game emulators, freeware productivity software, and lots of games. The tablet also includes an E-Reader app which reads multiple formats and serves its purpose.
I’ll have to admit that one of the first things I wanted to do with my Apad was to play some games. I’m a gamer at heart and being able to game on the go or when laying on the couch is appealing to me. There are a variety of games available for Android and most of them have worked on the Apad without a hitch.
Console emulators (NES and SNES) are available for free if you search for them. The Nesoid, the NES emulator, launched successfully but ran very slowly at every game I tried. It is technically possible to play, say, an RPG game like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, but the response and loading times are a lot longer that I would like and thus are not a great option. Snesoid, the Super Nintendo emulator, did not actually work for me. It launches but when I try to load a .ROM file it sits at a blank screen. It occurred to me that it may just be a loading screen but after waiting for several minutes it appears that it just will not work for me.
With emulators out I was pleasantly surprised that ScummVM, an emulator for many old school adventure games, had been unofficially ported to Android. It loaded up without any trouble and every game I’ve tried (I have most of the ones on their compatibility list) played without any problems. Sound, music, speech, and graphics are all great! One major caveat is that the Eken M001, being touch screen driven and with only a few buttons, has no way to simulate a right mouse click. The controls are not mappable and there is no option for on-screen controls. As a result there are several games that are unplayable due to that software limitation. The Curse of Monkey Island, for example, plays flawlessly but since I can’t right-click anywhere I am unable to access the inventory screen. The first two Monkey Island games, along with Day of the Tentacle and several others, run perfectly as no right-click is required of them.
All things considered, this $100 device is not perfect, but I really like it. I can surf the internet laying on the couch when I get home without having to drag out my laptop and hope the battery is charged. I can read eBooks on the go as well as listen to music and (slightly choppy) video if I wish. If I don’t want to take my laptop with me to public places or when I go and visit someone, this device works great in a pinch. People love to look at it, too, and play around with it. Really, it has all of the appeal, basic functionality, and cool factor of an iPad at only 1/5th of the price! Android is a great OS to boot and love tinkering with it. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun toy or who likes the idea of an Apple iPad without the high price tag and sinking feeling of becoming another Steve Jobs tool.
· Very portable
· Wide array of available FREE software and games already exists
· Screen and speaker are surprisingly good
· Very inexpensive and capable tablet
· Sluggish at times, especially when loading large websites (such as Newegg)
· Youtube app functions poorly and Flash is not natively supported
· While most Android software works, not all of it can function as designed due to the touch screen nature of the device
Buy one! It works great and I love mine.