How much Android tablet can you get for £150.00? Quite a lot, as this JoyTAB 8″ tablet from Gemini Devices demonstrates. No complaint about the specs: ARM Cortex A8 1.2Ghz processor, Mali-400 GPU, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage, running Android 4.03 “Ice Cream Sandwich”.
There is also a Micro-SD slot (confusingly labelled “TF Card”), a front-facing camera, headphone jack, USB connector, mini HDMI port, and wi-fi.
No Bluetooth, unfortunately, but you cannot have everything. Though given the choice, I would rather have Bluetooth than HDMI.
Still, no real complaint about the specs. How is it in use?
The unit is light though it feels a bit plastic, particularly the switches on the front and side, but they work fine. There is not much to see on the front: black screen, black surround, and two physical buttons, one for menu and one for back. On the side, there are buttons for power, volume and home. Personally I would rather have the home button on the front, but it is no big deal.
On the bottom edge are the connectors for USB, power, HTML, SD card and sound. Not clear why the SD slot is labelled “TF Card”, but I stuck a 4GB SD card in there and it worked instantly.
I turned on, and was greeted with the JoyTAB wallpaper, its brightness perhaps compensating for the rather dim screen.
Wi-fi connected smoothly, and I had a quick look at the apps:
Nothing exceptional here. Documents To Go is a trial, Twitter and BBC iPlayer I added myself.
Unfortunately BBC iPlayer was a letdown. The app bounces you to the browser, and the browser says my phone (?) is not supported.
I tried updating Flash Player to the latest version with no improvement. In fairness, this may be a BBC issue, though iPlayer works fine on other Android tablets I have tried.
YouTube mostly works, but video is not too good. It looks dark and detail is lost.
I got an even more entertaining error when I attempted to play my Google music in the browser.
Web browsing in general is a mixed experience. Mostly it is good enough, though searching Google is slow and jerky if you have incremental search enabled.
Not only is the screen dim, it is unresponsive too. Pinching and zooming is an effort, and when it does work it is not smooth.
Still, Angry Birds works well, email works with both Microsoft Exchange and Google Mail, and battery life seems not bad though charging is slow even with mains.
I connected it to a PC and got an error. USB storage shows up if you enable it in settings, but it did not connect as an Android device. I fixed this by installing the (unsigned) driver from Gemini, which I found in a forum post here.
While I have not seen any faults, the test device does make odd, quiet popping noises from time to time when charging, which is a concern.
In the end I cannot give this a recommendation. It is good value in one sense, but if you can stretch to a Samsung Galaxy, which admittedly is twice the price, you do get a substantially better experience. An Apple iPad costs even more; but if you want silky-smooth touch control, a beautiful screen, and for everything to just work, then it is worth the money.
What if you only have £149? My pick would be something like a nearly new HTC Flyer, currently on offer at Amazon UK for around that price. Yes, it only runs Android 3.x “Honeycomb”, but it is a lovely device with a great screen and HTC’s customised Sense UI.
Update: It is worth adding that Google has now announced the 7″ Nexus Tablet which is on offer in the UK for £159 for the 8GB version or £199 for 16GB. That changes the rules.