CSL was kind enough to lend me a review unit of their latest Android product (the Mi300 being their first): Mi700 DroidPad. Along with the review unit, I had some time chatting with both the CEO and Senior Manager of Marketing at CSL. The relevant details and observations from that discussion will be inserted in the review.
The product comes in a fairly large white box. In it, you get the tablet, along with (Please refer to the pictures below):
- Hardcase Cover (with a small sleeve in the front and a elastic band, used in journals to keep the contents together). This cover is useful to prop the device at an angle, for display purposes. Note: They term this a pouch in their manual. I think not.
- Screen Cloth Cleaner
- Screen Protector (which I decided not to use since it was the reason why the screen looked washed out during my ‘quick review’)
- Headphones/Handset (practically low quality and only good for receiving calls with – more on that later).
- Earphone buds
- Car Charger (great for car usage, especially when you use the DroidPad as a Garmin-replacement)
- Mini USB Data Cable
- Wall Charger
- Quick Start Guide
- MapKing Android 1 year Authorization Card
- CSL Fun Club Instruction Booklet
- CSL Warranty Card (1 year, which you can upgrade for another 0.5 years by registering online)
It is a simple package, which I found quite attractive (you won’t want to throw the box away).
Take note, in this review, I will refer to the tablet in landscape position being its normal, at rest, position. This is how the company has designed it. Not like the Tab where it is displayed as a “portrait” mode tablet. Honestly, I prefer to handle tablets in portrait position; I find landscape a bit too disconcerting as it requires one to relearn habits acquired in using phone UI (User Interaction)s. That is just a pet peeve of mine. By the way, all the photos taken are from my HTC HD2 at 5MP. I will try to include a video in future posts.
This is a 7″ inch device, with the following dimensions: height of 179.4mm, 110mm width and 11.5mm length. It weighs at slightly less than 0.5kg. The DroidPad can definitely be carried using one hand, although not for long stretches; ideal for the short surfing and simple tasks. The best way to hold this device (from my experience) is to put it on any platform (could even be your belly) and leaning it back against your palm/fingers. The weight in that position is negligible.
The build itself is solid. There are no moving parts or rattling noises from the unit. This is not unexpected since it was mainly designed and manufactured by Foxconn (though CSL has input into the design through a subsidiary of Foxconn). The unit does not house a fan to dissipate heat. Frankly, it is not needed as I have not felt any heat coming from the unit, even when under heavy usage. When you turn the whole device around, you will notice that it is all sealed up nicely. The back is a polished, glossy matte (ala iPhone 3G) cover in black. I do not know what material it is made of, but it attracts finger prints on it. The side of the tablet is framed with an aluminium casing (it looks like aluminium to me). The thickness is evident (at 11.5mm), but good to see that the back and the front does not bulge out, but fits that length perfectly. Although everything looks nice, I have a bit of a complaint concerning the front bezel. I admit, I am bit picky at times, and like things to be symmetrical, and thus found the bezel around the display to be of different sizes. I measured the sides, and they are both 11mm. The top is 9mm while the bottom is 12mm. I just find that a bit odd and have no reason to justify their rationale in this (especially since the camera is located at the top left and not at the wider bottom bezel). Anyway, at the right side of the display are 4 touch sensitive buttons. One for ‘menu’, ‘home/voice search’, ‘search’ and ‘back’.
At the bottom of the device, there is a reset button that can only be accessed with a pin or something really small. Microphone is also there along with a 3.5mm headphone port. The mini USB slot is also there.
The external speakers are at both sides of the device. The power button is at the bottom of the left speaker (see picture above). Now here is something odd… there is a small hole just above the speakers. I have no idea what these are for, nor does the manual say anything about it either. Part of the design? Hard to believe.
The top house the slot for both the microSD card (4GB is included) and for your SIM Card. In Malaysia, we use GSM, but the brochure says that it works also on WCDMA. I am not sure whether the chip allows for global usage. The hinge for the slots are made of plastic and seems capable of taking some amounts of violence on it. Next to the card slots, are the volume controls, decrease button followed by the increase button. I find this irritating when using the tablet in portrait mode; whenever I grip the device using my hands, I will somehow accidentally touch the volume buttons. I guess I am too much of a rebel to use it ‘properly’ in landscape mode.
2) The Display:
Previously in my quick review, I mentioned that the screen looked a bit washed out. Well, it was, and I now know the reason why: the screen protector that is included is totally at fault. I would advice against putting any screen protector on it because it would make it harder for the device to register your touch. On the brightest setting, the display holds its own quite well… colours are bright and everything seems clear. Contrast seems okay, though it is not that great. The low resolution of 800 by 480 does not fit a screen this big well. I believe that though that resolution is alright for a device like the HD2 with its 4.3″ screen size, it is pushing it for a 7″ screen. The crispness of the fonts and graphics are lost and pixelation quite obvious when your eyes are within 25cm from the display. Again, for the price on this device, I do not expect the quality that Samsung Tab is pushing. However, the viewing angles are something of a concern for me. Putting the device on the table before me, I can already notice that the darker colours on the screen are all darkened, making it hard to differentiate images of similar tone. The lighter colours are alright though. If viewed from the same angle from the top, the backlight brightens the display a bit too much, making it hard to see too. It is sad because the side angles are perfectly fine. I suspect this has to do with the imbalance of the bezel design which disrupts the angles from the top and bottom. A real pity, but a minor problem (in my books).
The screen is made of glass, as far as I can tell, TFT LCD quality. It will scratch, though I have not tested that myself. Fingerprints are not as obvious as the back cover, from what I can tell. Do not expect spectacular sensitivity on this device. It is capacitive and it works as well as my old HTC Dream did. But it does not have the same level of the iPhone or even Galaxy S series. But it is usable and much better than the best resistive screens. This is one of the attractions of this tablet that I find, over all other cheaper, but with resistive screen tablets around. There is not much frustration in using this, as long as you are not expecting blazing speed responses to your touches.
Sound is loud and clear. It is adequate to fill a regular sized room with music. I find it more effective to amplify the sound when it is resting on a flat surface. The sound quality is passable, though not fantastic, as some of the higher pitch range gets distorted. Again, this is only a tablet device that is not meant to be a media player replacement. I tried using the external speakers in a conversation with a friend the other day, and the other party’s voice sounded loud enough for my wife and I to hear. Using the in-built microphone, my friend noted that my voice was clear on his line.
The headphone/handset given is practically useless for listening music. It is really bad quality. The moment I put in my Sony earphones and even HTC ones, the music that comes through was pleasing, and had a nice balance to it. Nothing to complain here concerning the sound (again, I am not an expert in this area).
The next post will talk about the software side of things.