Quick Review: CSL’s Spice Mi700 DroidPad (Updated)

Update 3: Check out my extensive review on this site itself. Here for the first part. Oh, rooting (access to ‘root access’) is also written up on my site.

Update 2: Just saw FreshGear’s write up on the Mi700. Nothing extensive, but they gave better photos of the device. Go check it out here at: http://freshgear.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/review-csl-spice-mi700-google-android-powered-tablet/. Again, I am a bit skeptical with what they write since they are a gadget shop dealer. So, go there for the pics only (I am so bad :P)

Update: Steve Paine (Chippy of UMPC Portal and Carrypad) explained via e-mail that “I recognise it as the Camangi FM600 / Viewpad 7 and I think there’s an Indian version too.” No wonder it looked familiar. CSL rebranded the same device made else where. Anyway, the specs for the Camangi and Viewpad can be retrieved here: http://www.umpcportal.com/products/Camangi/FM600/ and http://www.umpcportal.com/products/Viewsonic/Viewpad%207/.

Check the actual product page from here.

CSL is a local Malaysian company who has in recent days garnered some headlines when it supported Fusion Garage’s controversy-laden JooJoo tablet early this year and later with its entry into cheap Android devices. Early this month, it announced its entry into the Android tablet, with its own version, called DroidPad. No, it has nothing to do with Motorola (and it shows). I took the opportunity this evening to visit one of the sales outlet which had a fully functioning demo unit of the product that is being sold for RM1,599 (no discount, at least from their retail outlet). That would be approximately USD500.

Just for your information, this is not a detailed review, since I only managed to spend 30 minutes in the outlet before feeling a bit uneasy, not giving the sales person a definite yes or no, in purchasing it. Nevertheless, thanks go to the outlet for giving me free rein on the DroidPad, to test everything that came to mind (I missed a few critical ones, as I will point out below).

Hardware:

This is a compact tablet at 7 inch (same as the Samsung Tab). It can definitely be held with one hand, although do not expect that hand to hold it for too long since it weighs half a kg. The size of the device makes it seem less bulky than it really is. The build itself feels solid, since it is lined with metal (aluminium? or a knock off material? I couldn’t tell). It feels sturdy enough that I am confident it won’t break after a fall. However, this is not a beauty to behold. It really does look ‘fat’, at half an inch (see picture compared to a 20cent coin). The unit was still wrapped in a thin plastic wrap (cheap way to prevent scratches I guess). I did not take note of the speakers, although I believe they are located at the sides.

Display:

The resolution is only at 800 by 480 (WVGA). The colours seem washed and not as vibrant as it should have been. This is one of the downsides of the DroidPad since they needed to cut cost from somewhere. However, the viewing angles were not that bad. You could still make out the images even at 30-45 degrees. Nevertheless, the display is of the capacitive variant (yay!) and I have to admit that it feels quite sensitive to the touch. Typing was a breeze and with ample room, I was typing away fairly quickly.

Interface and Feel:

The DroidPad uses stock Froyo, Android 2.2. The good news is: you can customize your own homescreen to your hearts content! The bad news is: CSL has put their horrible looking widgets at the side of the screen [update: this seems to be the same horrible widgets on Viewpad 7 and Camangi FM600]. The unit I was using had both the stock Launcher and Launcher Pro on it. I also found that the accelerometer did not kick into action when I rotated the screen to potrait (it seemed stuck on landscape) even though I toggled to auto-rotate in the settings. I find this is just poor implementation on CSL’s part; just slap some of their own icons to make it ‘theirs’. I am confident most users would just ditch the whole custom interface provided and run their own (ADWLauncher or Launcher Pro).

The transitions were smooth and there were no lag (not surprising since the DroidPad uses Qualcomm’s improved MSM7227 600Mhz CPU to power the device). Things just zip open. The only problem that I could detect was in some crazy input detections while using Google Maps (the pinch-to-zoom was doing the opposite of what we wanted). The screen also froze once (before it had to be ‘forced close’). I’ve seen this sort of behaviour only in the ROM flashing scene, when using an un-optimised ROM that has been freshly released. I suspect this is the problem for the DroidPad… poor development quality control. The importance is that this is merely software-related and not hardware; it can be fixed!

Applications:

According to the sales person, there is no Flash available for the unit. I tried downloading from the Market (yes, they have the Market available) but it did not show on it. Which brings me to the Market; it is available from the apps menu (but sorry, no paid apps).

I installed Linpack Benchmark to test out its score, and found that it performed relatively well for its CPU, at 7.258Mflops.

Games worked well too.

I tested out Aldiko on the device, and found it very usable as an e-reader (see the picture). Would I use this to read Kindle? Why not? The screen is as big as a paperback anyway, and from my normal reading angle and distance, the words and text seem clear enough to me. I also tested the GPS and found it very speedy (again using the wifi connection only); managed to get a lock on my location in Google Maps in a few seconds.

What about browsing? It is acceptable. It won’t beat the iPhone 4 and the latest Android devices (of course), but it is not slow either. The best thing is the screen size allows a full site to be viewed without zooming into its part (see Engadget’s homepage that fit nicely in landscape mode). Even at that size, the text on the website can be easily read off the screen (see screen for yourself). The sales person told me that the DroidPad comes bundled with MapKing and a free one year license (good for Malaysians!). I think this device can easily replace any Garmin standalone devices for the car.

Camera:

It is a paltry 3.0MP camera in the back and a VGA (I believe) in the front (top right hand, see picture above for the smaller front facing camera). It takes adequate pictures (which reminded me of the camera on my old HTC Dream). Don’t expect much from it. For simple photo taking, it is quite fast. Video was basic and low quality. Unfortunately, I should have downloaded Fring/Skype or Qik to test out the front facing camera also. But I forgot all about that.

Review Regrets:

Besides not testing the front facing camera, I did not test the phone functionalities also. What I was told is that calls can be made via a handset that will be supplied along with the tablet. You can also pair it up with a Bluetooth headset if you want. Oh, please do not trust what the website says about their battery usage… CSL products are known for their poor battery quality. [Update: 3240mah battery made from an unidentified ODM, Original Design Manufacturer, is really hard to validate, without formal testing] Really sad but true. I think it should last at least 6 hours of heavy usage. It should, but again this is mere speculation until I get my hands on an actual unit (if ever).

Conclusion:

Is the DroidPad worth the money, given that the screen is only adequate and has low resolution? Does the USD500 justify the 2 cameras, the GPS and phone functionalities? I think on the matter of hardware, it seems a good price to pay for those abilities that were non-existent on the iPad. But if you are looking for high-quality builds that you can show off to your friends, well, let me suggest that you just walk away from this one. DroidPad at the end of the day, may not be an iPad alternative, but it sure is a Tab alternative.

I suspect that the DroidPad would be popular among the developers and Android hardcore developers and users who would like to rebuild the ROM and fix all the software flaws that was inherent in CSL’s work. I am sure that there is just so many things that you can do on this device that were not possible in smaller phone screen sizes. On that hope, I think the Android fanboy would be more than willing to spend that money on something that is a much cheaper version of the Samsung Tab.

Or you can just wait a month or two for the price to go down another RM100-RM200 before buying it. At RM1,300, this device is a MUST buy, given that it really delivers the basic Android experience that we have come to love.

The device is already available locally in Malaysian stores. No word about international sales though.

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33 thoughts on “Quick Review: CSL’s Spice Mi700 DroidPad (Updated)

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  3. thank , great review , froyo 2.2 should support flash player like htc desire and google G1 phone…
    smile , did you try the flash player.

    if flash is not support , i believe this is not real android 2.2 , may be other

    • I am quite certain it is Android 2.2. But the problem is that Flash needs to utilise the GPU for the handset device, which I suspect, some developers do not know how to ‘make ready’ their devices for. Hence, those who are able, will find that Flash would be ‘ready’. If not, Flash wouldnt’ work and can use Flash lite only (e.g. HTC Hero and Legend’s ROM).

    • Look for the brands Viewsonic Viewpad 7 (UK, France, Germany) and Olive Pad (India) and Camangi FM600 (unknown, possibly global)
      They are all the same devices and, based on the quality of the device, i’m sure we’ll see more versions of it popping up.
      Chippy

      • I am requesting from CSL a review unit. Hopefully they will lend me one for an extensive review. Will let you know if its positive :) I have loads of stuff to test and run on this.

    • I can confirm that it is an ARM11 – MSM7227 CPU… I took a benchmark test and it was the same speed as the Aria and Legend (on Stock ROM). The only reason why it is sometimes grouped under the Snapdragon family is because they share the same GPU (AMD z430) and also with floating point unit (FPU). But the main processing chip is a slight upgrade from Arm11 MSM7201A (the now hated 528Mhz generic processor).

  4. Thanks for your review.
    I’ve bought MI700 CSL droidpad and so far…I love it. I don’t mind the low quality camera because I can always use my digital camera. I would like to highlight that I love the functions. I can make calls and send text messages. Furthermore, it comes with DocsToGo so I can create and edit documents. Kudos to CSL for bringing this device to our shore. For those looking for a pad as your ‘buddy’…I recommend MI700 CSL droidpad.

    • Thanks for positive review on it :) I think it would be even better if it was ‘rootable’. :) Then you can run so much more stuff… by the way, have you tried the available emulators on it? That is definitely what I’ll do when I get the review unit.

  5. interesting in buying one, but no flash? what different does it have with the galaxy tab because galaxy tab got the flash support. please enlighten us, csl.

      • I assume that your meaning of same functionality is that both can accommodate Flash. Hope some developers can come out with an apk that can utilize the GPU acceleration for flash in this Droidpad.

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  7. Thanks erlern! One point: I have also experienced the weird reverse pinch problem in Google Maps since upgrading my Verizon Motorola Droid X to Froyo. So it may be a generic Froyo or Maps problem, or a common driver problem.

    • Thanks for the feedback Kevin… I am currently testing the review unit and think it may be due to drivers. I’m going to ask the developers on this. :) How’s your unit going? What are you using it for?

  8. I just got myself a CSL Driodpad lol….
    Built like a tank(heavy), and too big to fit into my pocket :P
    Other than that everything works like a decent andriod phone.
    BTW, I’m also looking high and low for ways to root the device, still no result yet. :(

    • Thanks for the feedback. Yeah… it’s heavy, but its much lighter than the iPad that’s for sure. I’m looking for ways to root it too, but not able to for the moment. If you are able to do so, let me know. Thanks :)

      • You better don’t root the droidpad. Tried that and my droidpad ended up in CSL service centre in KL (by the way I work in Sarawak. I tried to root but only CSL logo was displayed and nothing can be done. Now waiting for the service centre to send back my droidpad. (hopefully, this week) :(

  9. Nice review. I will be interested to read your more in-depth opinion if you manage to get hold of a review unit.

    I’ve just had a play around with one in a shop here in Phnom Penh, and must confess I am very tempted …. They had it priced at USD$480 which seems to be about the same as it retails for in Malaysia.

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  11. I have purchased one Spcie im1700 from Malaysia and brought to India. But I can connect the internet only through Wi-Fi only, Not through 3G sim..
    So let me know, how can I connect the internet through 3G options.

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