A variety of Android tablets are now springing up around the world. You can find them for as cheap as £100 if you really look… but beware, they are usually running 1.6 and have resistive touch screens, making them as useful as a wicker condom. How happy I was then, when I herd about the Advent Vega with a 1ghz Tegra 2 CPU, a 10″ capacitive screen, HDMI out all formed round a FroYo operating system! At only £249 how would this help in the war against Apple for tablet market share?
So, while not at the crazy budget end of the scale, at £250 I wasn’t sure what to expect. On opening the box I was pleasantly surprised. The device feels sturdy, well put together and a reasonable weight at 750g, but not too heavy.
As I mentioned above, the spec sheet looks pretty impressive. Put it up against the Galaxy Tab spec sheet and you’d probably plump for the Advent Vega. There are some chinks in the armour though. On board memory shows to me as 331meg, of which I only have 41meg free. I’ve moved plenty of apps to the MicroSD card, which is only 4gig out of the box, but I still have over 3 gig free. I do, of course, have a 16gig MicroSD card on order, which will mean I can load it up with TV shows and movies.
The next problem I noticed is the screen. When looked at head on the screen looks fantastic. It wasn’t until I went to portrait on a grey website that I realised only a certain band through the middle looked the right colour. As you rock the screen toward and away, you realise the viewing angle is so bad, that you can’t always see the whole screen properly without either moving it further away or by rocking the tablet depending which part of the screen your looking at. This is apparently only really a problem on dark screens. On white web pages everything looked amazing.
Another hardware limitation I’ve come across is the WiFi sleep policy. In most devices you can set WiFi to stay on when the screen goes off. This is not possible with the Vega. Considering it has no other connection aside from WiFi, this is quite a big issue for me. It means 1) You can’t depend on the tablet to notify you of new e-mails or Google Talk messages 2) You can’t open up a radio playing app and leave your tablet playing while you go about your business. For some, this might not be an issue, but for me it was rather annoying as I wanted my tablet to do both of these two things. From what I understand, it is hardware limited too, not fixable with a hack.
Then we find there’s no Home or Menu button. Along the right side we have a volume rocker, a headset socket, a magnetised flap hiding a MicroSD slot, USB and HDMI connectors. Along the bottom is some kind of docking port and on the top is a power button, orientation lock and a back button… but no Home or Menu. When you boot up, you find they are both housed in the notification bar, along with another ‘Back’ button. I did find this to be kind of annoying at times, there’s no holding Home to switch apps for example.
Today I tested the HDMI slot too. My first attempt on my 32″ HannSpree HD TV proved unsuccessful, but it looked fantastic on my Samsung 50″ Plasma. The issue rose when playing a YouTube video, the audio went along at normal pace but the video stream couldn’t keep up. Maybe it’s just me. If you have one, please try it and comment below. It did make one of the more useful outputs on the device rather pointless for me though.
You will also soon notice there’s no GPS in the Vega. This possibly isn’t an issue if you’re only planning to use it around the house like me. If you want to be more mobile personally I would advise you take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Anyway, I’m perhaps focusing too much on the negative here. Last night I used the Vega and no other device for my evening in front of the TV, browsing forums, shopping and more and found it a joy to use. Every once in a while it would detect I hit a different link than I thought I had, but this wasn’t too big a problem.
No I know I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help but hack this thing straight away. Out of the box, all I could really do was browse web pages. There was no market, not even a file browser so I could install apk’s of my own.
After I hacked it, and put MoDaCo’s Custom ROM on it, I was off! Full Market access and root access made a huge difference to me. I used Titanium Backup to put all of my apps on the Vega and I could actually make use of it like I wanted to.
I say I shouldn’t as I know you would want to know what you can use without having to hack about with it. Honestly, I didn’t think there was a great deal you could do, but then if all you want is to browse web sites, check Facebook and check your e-mails, you’ll be fine.
Anyway, on my hacked version, apps look great filling the whole screen. I don’t really see why people say FroYo isn’t tablet friendly… it works fine for me! This morning I stood in the kitchen and ordered my shopping using the Ocado app with great ease. For me it was a tablet at its best. Light enough I could wonder around with it in one hand, large enough that I could see what I was buying. Perfect.
The stock keyboard is okay, I installed the new Gingerbread keyboard and found that to be much better with it’s improved error correction. The main problem here is the sheer size of the device. In landscape mode it becomes almost impossible to type with two thumbs and I soon found myself holding it with one hand and prodding at the keyboard with one finger, like an idiot. At the same time, the screen almost seems too sensitive, causing wrong keys to be caught and sometimes multiple key presses when I was going for just the one.
Still, with a decent keyboard of choice, in portrait, I found I was typing reasonably quickly and accurately.
The one benefit of the Vega shutting everything down when you power it off, is it will generally last a long time, sitting about the house until you need it. Yesterday evening, from full charge I used it for 6 hours (screen on time) before it finally gave up and froze on me at 2%. That should be good enough for most people I would think. If you’re on a long journey, it’ll get you through 3 movies on one charge.
- Nexus One (Froyo) – 42
- Desire HD – 39½
- Advent Vega – 36
- Galaxy Tab – 14
- Nexus S – 14
- Dell Streak – 4
- Nexus S (No textures) – 2,100
- Advent Vega – 1,870
- Desire HD – 1,860
- Nexus One (FroYo) – 1,300
- Galaxy Tab – 1,000
Obviously it’s big opponent here is the Galaxy Tab, which it apparently wipes the floor with, but Quadrant didn’t run a full test, so I’m not sure how much the score is to be believed. It does back up the feeling of a smooth fluid UI though, so I would be inclined to believe it.
So, is this the tablet you should buy? Erm… maybe…
I’m sure there will be much better tablets on the market in 2011, but for now, at only £250 you can’t go far wrong with this one. If nothing else it will perhaps let you know if you’d make use of a tablet. I like it for checking e-mail on when I wake up. On my way to the little boys room, I pick this up and tuck it under my arm. When watching TV, I like having this in range should I want to look something up.
I’ve been rather harsh on some of the faults of this device and I feel justifiably so, but I don’t want you to get the idea it’s a bad device. If any of the issues had been deal breakers it would have been on eBay very quickly where I could make a small profit due to stock levels not meeting current demand for this device.
I very much like the Advent Vega, but I’m sure there will be a slightly more expensive device on the market soon, with fewer annoyances.