Gadling Gear Review: Ematic Genesis Prime Android Tablet

Ematic Genesis Prime Android Tablet
Ematic

Over the past few years the tablet market has grown from a small niche with few buyers into one of the fastest growing segments in consumer electronics. The introduction of the iPad created consumer demand where there had been none before and naturally a host of competitors soon followed. The most successful of those competitors are powered by Google’s touch-based Android operating system, which is now run on dozens of devices, including smartphones and tablets. Android has delivered on its promise to provide inexpensive devices that rival those built by Apple, and as a result someone looking to buy a tablet on a budget now has some legitimate options from which to choose. Take for example the Genesis Prime from Ematic, a device whose biggest selling point is its very affordable price.

At its core, the Genesis Prime is a 7-inch tablet with a 1.1 GHz processor, 4GB of storage and a front-facing VGA camera. It runs Android 4.1 (Jellybean) and has full access to the Google Play store, giving users the ability to download games, apps, books, music, movies and more. The device is just .4 inches thick and tips the scales at a svelte 9.6 ounces, which makes it thinner and lighter than most other tablets on the market. All of these features are pretty much the minimum of what you would expect out of any Android tablet these days, although the Genesis Prime does have one feature that helps it stick out from the crowd – its price. Ematic sells the device for just $79.99, which puts it squarely into the “budget” category and well below most of its competitors.In order to reach that price point some compromises obviously needed to be made with the technology incorporated into the tablet. How much of a deal breaker those compromises are depends on the value you place on having cutting edge technology in your gadgets. For instance, the 7-inch touch screen on the Genesis Prime runs at a resolution of just 800 x 480 – which is well below the 1024 x 768 display found on the iPad Mini or the 1280 x 800 screen that Google puts in it’s own Nexus 7 tablet. Ematic also skimped on storage space, offering up just 4GB out of the box, although that can be expanded up to 32GB using MicroSD cards. But that’s not all, the processor used to power the Genesis is on the slow side, the built in camera is sub-par and the battery life is just a shade over four hours, which isn’t even enough to complete a cross-country flight.

With all of that in mind, I tried to approach my review on the Genesis Prime from the perspective of the consumer who isn’t necessarily in the market for Apple’s high-end devices or even Google and Amazon’s mid-range tablets. I put myself into the shoes of someone who wanted a tablet but didn’t want to blow their budget acquiring one. Even coming at it from that angle, I found that I needed to set my expectations accordingly in order to not be disappointed. The Genesis does offer a full Android experience and provides access to the Google Play ecosystem, but it is also sluggish and slow at times, which can be a bit frustrating, particularly when you’re not sure if the device has registered your touch inputs or is actually doing something in the background. Once I started to install a few apps, it also didn’t take long to run into storage issues due to the paltry 4GB that comes built-in. At one point, I couldn’t even update some apps because there simply wasn’t enough storage capacity left to do so. Adding a MicroSD card fixed the problem, but that is an extra expense that some consumers shopping in this space may not be prepared for.

Ematic Genesis Prime Android TabletStill, the Genesis Prime isn’t without its merits. It you’re looking for a device to check email or your social networks, it works just fine in that capacity. It’ll even handle light web browsing activities relatively well and streaming from Pandora or Spotify worked great, although the sound quality was better coming out of a decent pair of headphones rather than the built-in speaker. Reading books through the Kindle app or Google’s own Play Books was also fine, although the low-resolution screen is likely to be a more of a strain on the eyes. Some of the more popular 2D games, like Angry Birds, performed reasonably well too, just don’t expect to play some of the more advanced 3D games in the Google Play store. Something like EA’s Real Racing 3 would probably be more of an exercise in frustration than anything else.

If you’re in the market for a tablet device and you don’t have much money to spend, you fit exactly into the target audience that Ematic had in mind when they designed the Genesis Prime. $80 for an Android device is extremely cheap for sure, although the old adage of “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more applicable than it is here. The all-around performance of this tablet is below that of the competition, but then again most of them cost at least twice as much. The Genesis Prime is a decent enough product, provided you go in knowing its limitations. But aside from the low cost of entry, it is hard to recommend this tablet. Especially when Google’s entry level Nexus 7 costs just $199 and comes with a much better screen, four times the memory, double the battery life and a considerably faster processor.

At the start of this review I mentioned how quickly the tablet market has grown over the past few years. It has gotten so big in fact that tablets are now projected to start outselling traditional PC’s as early as next year. Apple of course commands the largest part of that market share with their iPad, but Android has carved out a nice slice of the pie with lower-cost, alternative devices. Perhaps Ematic is looking to create a bargain basement space in which they can become the dominant player. If that is the case, the Genesis Prime is a solid device at a great price. But if you can manage to dig a little deeper into your wallet, you’ll find the alternatives are much better devices all around and well worth the extra money spent.

New Backcountry Tablet Set for Late Summer Launch

Stratageme.com, Flickr

This summer, backcountry enthusiasts might be stowing a new piece of electronic gear into their packs.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, developers are planning to launch Earl, a 7-inch “backcountry survival tablet” this August. The rugged, Android-based tablet was designed for outdoor adventure, with an ultra-precise GPS chipset, weather sensors, two-way radio and laminated solar panels to recharge on the go. (A fully charged Earl tablet will run for approximately 20 hours in the wild before needing juice.)

The Wi-Fi enabled tablet can survive a 3-foot swim in a running creek, so long as you rescue it within 30 minutes, and at altitudes up to 40,000 feet. But don’t plan on using it on your next polar expedition; Earl is rated to work in temperatures down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sqigle founder and tablet mastermind Jon Perry named the device after his eight-year-old Italian greyhound, a frequent companion on his adventures. The design team went through more than 100 case designs before finding a design that would stand up to the type of abuse typically dished out on the trail.

The 7-inch 10.8-ounce e-Ink tablet will likely retail for $325 when it’s released later this summer, although early backers can purchase it for 30 percent off until June 9.

Bonus daily gear deal: Dell Streak 5 Android tablet – unlocked and contract free for $199.99

As part of our never ending search for the best gear deals, we’ve come across a fantastic bargain on the Dell Streak 5″ Android tablet with unlocked 3G. This 16GB tablet PC runs Android Froyo and comes with 3G support for AT&T and most global 3G operators (but not T-Mobile USA).

Yesterday, the tablet retailed for $579.99, but just dropped to an insane $199.99 with free express shipping. This price will get you the Streak with no contract requirements, so you can use it with your current SIM card or on any WiFi network.

The product page is here – which is where you’ll find more information on this marvelous little tablet and its available accessories.

Update: Looks like Dell pulled the deal. If you got in on time, congrats!

[Via: Fatwallet]

Archos 7 Home Tablet review

Last week, we reviewed the Archos 5 Internet Tablet – a device that surprised us by being quite competent. In today’s review, we’ll take a closer look at the newest Android powered tablet from Archos, to determine whether bigger really is better.

On paper, the Archos 7 Home Tablet seems to be quite decent – a 7″ touch screen, USB host, 8GB of storage, a MicroSD card slot and the Android operating system. Sadly, “on paper” is where the good news ends.

The hardware is a real disappointment – it feels cheap, there is a small hole on the front where someone had obviously planned to install a webcam, and even the good things carried over from the Archos 5 have been screwed up – like the kickstand. On the Archos 5, this kickstand is a sturdy metal leg, but on the 7, it is a flimsy piece of plastic.

Then there is the screen – In order to keep the price down, Archos obviously decided on a fairly cheap screen, but in doing so, they turned the device into a major disappointment. Colors look dim, the touch sensitivity is weak and inaccurate.

Applications

Sadly, the worst part of the unit may be its software – the Archos 7 Home Tablet runs on Android 1.5 – a version that is well over a year old. And this means you miss out on a lot of the features included in current Android version. And – like the Archos 5, the 7 lacks access to the Google app market – opting to offer downloads through the awful Archos applib. This means the majority of good apps for Android are unavailable. Of course, there are ways around this, but the extra effort involved may not be worth it.

The unit comes with a very basic assortment of apps – browser, email (but no Gmail app), an e-book reader, music/video player, file browser, global time app and photo browser/photo frame.

Performance is also a major issue – some basic actions (like opening the video app) take almost 20 seconds – inexcusable on any kind of tablet. Opening a similar app on my Nexus One takes no more than 2 seconds.

Multimedia features

The Archos 7 Home Tablet comes with an Archos developed music and video player – both apps are pretty competent, albeit a tad basic. Audio is great – thanks to speakers on each side of the screen. Sadly, in their infinite wisdom, Archos removed physical volume control buttons, which means you need to tap the on-screen volume controls.

Like the Archos 5, the 7 has a good array of media format support – including MP3, OGG, FLAC,APE, WAV and ACC in the music department and H.264, Realvideo and MPEG-4 (.avi, .mp4, .mkv, .mov and .flv) in the video department.

I also noticed that the video player constantly “forgot” to play movies in expanded width – so each time I opened a video clip, I had to resize it. Not a massive inconvenience, but still something that should be fixed.

Hardware

The Archos 7 Home Tablet feels fairly well made – most of the front and back are covered in polished metal. The 8GB of memory is sufficient for a couple of movies and songs – but you’ll need to invest in a MicroSD card if you want to carry more.

Unlike most other Android devices, the 7 lacks an accelerometer – this may not seem like a huge deal, but some apps insist on starting in portrait mode, and there is no way to rotate them.

Inside the unit is a 600MHz processor, 128MB of ram and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It lacks the video output options of the Archos 5 (and we could not confirm that is even has any kind of video output available). A “USB host” option is advertised, but you’ll need to invest in a separate cable for this, because it shares the MicroUSB port on the device. With USB host, you’ll be able to add a USB keyboard and/or mouse. Personally, I would have preferred to see Bluetooth instead, but that is sadly lacking on the 7.

For travelers

Unlike the iPad, the Archos 7 Home Tablet is the perfect size for watching a movie on a plane. Its built in (flimsy) kickstand mean you won’t have to invest in a case/stand.

Archos rate the battery at 42 hours of music playback, and 7 hours of video – making it surprisingly decent given its lightweight design.

Final thoughts

This is a tough one – at $199, you get a fairly decent 7″ media player – something you won’t find from any other brand name company. But that $199 also comes with a bunch of compromises. The screen, lack of Android market and lack of video output make it a pretty weak option in my opinion. That said – if you just want the most basic of devices that can play music and video, you can’t really find anything better right now (at least not at this price point).

Android tablets are going to be very popular – there are at least 20 of them on their way later this year, but if you can’t wait for them, this $200 investment won’t be too disappointing – assuming you only buy it for media playback or Internet browsing. A purchase expecting a full Android experience will let you down, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Archos 5 Internet tablet review – an Android powered iPad alternative?

The Archos 5 Internet tablet is the first Android powered device from this French media player company. The device features a 4.8″ touch screen, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and storage through built in memory with MicroSD expansion or hard drive storage up to 500GB.

The device runs the Android operating system, along with a whole host of Archos developed improvements and applications. The device takes the regular Android experience, and turns it into a very compact media/Internet tablet. So – can this $249.99 device really take the place of the iPad?
Multimedia features

The Archos 5 Internet tablet supports music, photos, video and online content – half of the device is a great portable media player, and the other half is a portable computer. The Archos 5 even features a built in FM radio and FM transmitter – something not found on most portable devices.

When connected to a TV, the tablet itself acts as a trackpad to control all the playback features.

Hardware

The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is extremely thin – a mere 10.4mm (0.409 inches) on the MicroSD versions, and 20mm (0.787″) on the hard drive versions. Unlike Android phones, the Archos 5 Internet tablet relies entirely on screen presses for controlling the device, though there are power and volume buttons on the top. On the left side is a MicroUSB port and a headphone jack, and on the bottom are the usual 2 ports found on most other Archos players.

Battery life is rated at up to 22 hours of music, and 7 hours of video, and in my tests this turned out to be quite accurate. When you connect the Archos to its mini dock, you can use the USB host connector to add a mouse or keyboard.

When out of range of Wi-Fi, you can also use the built in tethering feature to hook the device up to your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone.

Expansions galore

The list of available accessories for the Archos 5 includes a DVR station that turns the device into a TV recorder, a mini dock with video output, an mini HDMI dock, a mini DVR dock, a battery dock, a variety of cases and (on the non-hard drive models), MicroSD cards. Ideally, video outputs like component and HDMI would have been built into the device itself, without the need for additional accessories.

Hardcore geeks may even want to replace the Android operating system with something a little more powerful – and Archos provides all the information you need to turn the device into a dual-booting portable computer.

Prices

The cheapest Archos 5 Internet tablet comes with 8GB of storage an a MicroSD expansion slot. At $249.99 it is quite a bargain. The 16GB version is $299.99, 32GB is $379.99, 160GB is $399.99 and 500GB is $499.99.

These prices are quite good – the 8GB model may not have enough space for most people, but for around $30, you can add a 16GB MicroSD memory card.

The Archos 5 Internet tablet for travelers?

The Archos 5 has pretty much everything a traveler needs – movie and music playback, excellent browser, email client and a variety of decent Android apps. With the optional mini-dock, you can plug the Archos into a (hotel) TV, and with a USB or Bluetooth mouse/keyboard, you’ll even be able to use it as a full computer replacement. Unlike some devices, the Archos displays everything from its screen onto a TV – not just specific TV enabled apps.

In my tests in a hotel room, using the Archos 5 as an entertainment device was just fantastic – very easy to set up and a breeze to use.

A viable alternative to the iPad?

Can the Archos 5 Internet Tablet replace an iPad? In one word – maybe.

It all depends on your requirements. The Archos 5 Internet tablet will most certainly not replace your iPad if you enjoy the applications Apple offers on its devices. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of decent Android apps, but the Archos lacks access to the Android Market, opting for a specially designed app store built by Archos which does not offer access to some of the most popular Android apps.

Where the Archos beats the iPad (in my opinion) is multimedia – there is no need for iTunes to load content onto the device, and with an available 500GB version, you can carry a lot more content.

The Archos 5 Internet Tablet also has more media format support than the iPad, offering video support for MPEG-4 up to HD resolution, WMV, MKV, M-JPEG and optional support for MPEG-2, VOB and WMV HD. Music support is built in for MP3, WMA, AAC9, OGG and FLAC. The device even supports subtitle files for movies.

I also find the form factor better for travel – the iPad is a really big device, and watching a movie on it when flying just isn’t all that practical. The 5″ screen on the Archos is just right – nice and bright, and the kickstand makes it perfect for movie watching. I’ve used it on several flights, and actually enjoyed it more than using my iPad in its case.

As delivered, the Archos 5 Internet Tablet does not come with a dock or video output – so you’ll need to invest in the Archos Mini Dock ($29.95). Ideally, this should have been included with the package as it seems like such an essential device.

Final thoughts?

The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is not perfect – it suffers from a fairly mediocre touch screen and the lack of Google apps (market, Gmail) are a bit of a disappointment. That said – there is a very easy way to load these apps onto the device without having to be too much of a hacker. Obviously, this is not an Archos endorsed method, but it really does improve the device.

Video, audio and photo support is just fantastic – with its long list of formats that work, you won’t have to waste time encoding clips to work on the device.

The hardware is also very good – I love the kickstand on the back, and the general look and feel of the device shows a lot of effort went into designing it.

All in all I am quite surprised by the usability of the Archos 5 Internet tablet – so much in fact, that once I send this review unit back, I’m ordering one for myself. The unit is one of the only on the market that has so much video format support, and the option for a large hard drive. Of course, being a huge Android fan only helps my decision.

To make a great media player better, it also works very nicely for email, web and other applications – and you can even use the pre-installed navigation system to turn it into a GPS system.

When selecting an Archos 5 Internet Tablet, you’ll want to order the largest you can afford – as delivered, more than half of the space on the 8GB version is occupied by apps and demonstration content.

You can learn more about this very competent little tablet at Archos.com.