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A shocking surprise
on October 18, 2012
My family has been using this tablet now for over 6 months.
I have a two year old daughter, who loves a large variety of kids videos so I was mainly looking for a smaller format tablet just potent enough to mainly play and store videos - it would have to be a lower cost device in case she splattered it with oatmeal or of course, dropped it. An added bonus would be if the wife could surf, check her sites, weather, read news, etc.
The other primary concern was to determine if the family would actually use a tablet enough to justify one more expensive (down the road) and if so, would a 7" format suit their needs? I have a droid 3 phone that the office issued me, and both my daughter and wife love using it (it's like a big treat to use daddy's phone). This tablet feels like a larger version of my phone.
Well, when the tablet arrived just in time for her birthday, I was absolutely stunned at the quality and how well the tablet works overall. The screen is surprisingly responsive, crisp and usable, much more than I expected.
I was concerned that some specs were too good to be true - but so far, all have been true and even understated.
Here's some of the hesitations I initially had before buying, so I thought it might be helpful to address them now that I've been using the tablet for some time (over 6 weeks).
Does it really have the option to insert and USE a micro-SD card?
- YES! I purchased a 32GB sandisk micro-SD card (max is 32 Gb). I opted for a class-4 card because I'm using it to view 1080 HD movies shot with our HD video camera (my daughter loves watching her cousins, herself, etc)
- Using the microSD card is easy as I hoped. I use a USB card reader on my laptop and simply drag-drop photos and videos to the card. Then I pop the card out and into the tablet (I shut the tablet down first). The videos just show up by clicking on the video icon, or by navigating to the SD card, perfect - no fuss.
Processor/Memory/OS Speed - would we consider it slow?
Would this tablet actually be quick enough to keep the attention of my 2 year old? Or to just pickup here and there to check the weather, read, fantasy football scores, surf, run apps, etc?
- So far, the answer has been a resounding yes. It is a bit slower than my droid 3 phone when loading some apps and web pages (over WiFi), but just a bit slower and certainly not enough to matter.
- I was concerned that HD video playback on the screen might be choppy, slow, etc, but I'm shocked at how smooth it plays (only MP4s and AVI so far).
- It does come with android 4.0, fully loaded, nothing to do except turn the droid on
Battery life - I was very concerned, how long would the battery in a tablet this inexpensive last?
- I'm happy to report that the battery lasts around 3.5 hours of video playback or active surfing after a full charge. If you read ebooks in shorter sessions, this will probably be ideal. But if you read for hours and hours, you might not be thrilled.
- IT IS CRITICAL that you allow the battery to fully charge before turning on the tablet (at least 6 hours - NOTE THE INSTRUCTIONS WITH THE TABLET). Then allow the table to drain completely - to where it shuts itself off. Then, plug it in and leave it alone for at least 6 hours. Then let it fully drain again. Do this AT LEAST 5 times through normal use.
- Apple recommends "cycling" the battery on the iPod and iPad at least once a month, good advice for any device. They even have a link to schedule a reminder:
[...] (search for apple ipod battery maintenance)
- NEVER store a drained device, or leave it off the charger if it's fully run down. This puts it in a deep discharge state, and you might not be able to recharge it. See apple's recommendations (in iPod link above for "Long Term Storage")
- Other sites recommend allowing the battery to drain to 10%-20% before fully recharging to increase it's overall life.
- Do NOT leave connected to the charger long after fully charged, this will harm the battery
- But as a general comparison, the tablet battery seems to last as long as my droid 3, it'll last a full day or two of here and there use, sometimes longer.
- The battery does drain when left on standby. It probably loses 10% or a bit more overnight- It does disconnect from wifi when not in use, but I suspect we have some apps that turn it back on throughout the night for status updates
- We generally completely shut it down at night to prevent battery drain. It takes about 2 minutes to boot.
Apps - would this tablet have full access to the android "Play Store"
- YES! I've been able to download and run every app so far from the play store. There are no restrictions.
- We have Verizon fios, internet and DVR... and actually use the Verizon fios app more on this tablet for scheduling the DVR recordings, checking recordings and tv listings that we do on OUR REMOTE! Surprisingly, the tablet is easier than the remote. It's way easier to search, scan, scroll and record. I know, I wouldn't have believed it either. I now reach for the tablet to manage the DVR.
Charging - I had read some reviews about not being able to charge via the USB port
- So far, this is true. I've only been able to charge the tablet using the included, older style charger (the kind that charges a laptop for example, or a baby monitor, etc).
- Ironically, I had saved all my old cell phones and chargers over the last 10 years. Guess what? I'm actually able to use chargers from 10 years ago. But don't let this discourage you, the charger is a very common rating 5 volts at 1-2A. You can get this type of charger (universal) at regular wal-stores.
- Do NOT leave connected to the charger long after fully charged, this will harm the battery
HDMI playback to a TV
- I haven't been able to test this out because it is an odd size HDMI connector. It's bigger than a micro HDMI connecter but smaller than full size HDMI connector. But since this isn't a big need, I haven't researched it. The HDMI connector I use on my driod 3 is too small (small male end of the cable).
- We've used the tablet for video skype quite often, it's very convenient. My wife skypes me at the office when my daughter misses me during the day, or when she's crabby after a nap. It's quick, pretty decent and happens often because it is so convenient and free
- As other reviewers pointed out, the buttons are "real" buttons. You push them and they click. This is ideal for my two year old who grasps the screen when she holds the tablet. There are also screen buttons built into the android OS, we use both. But I really like having real buttons.
- At first I was going to get a microfiber cloth, whatever is best for these sensitive screens. But, with my two year old's sticky fingers, it would have been pointless. It is usually coated (splattered) with food, yet the screen just continues to respond as if nothing were on it. We just kinda wipe it off with a damp paper towel.
- It takes a lot of abuse. We dropped it in mud on a hay ride (fell out of the diaper bag, screen down of course), I picked it up and basically wiped off the screen on my jeans in one quick motion. No scratches, nothing. I don't get how it could be this durable at $80. It's been dropped about 1-2 feet many times. Nothing worse than that, but it would break if dropped by 4 feet or more. No doubt.
Instructions are lacking, although good on battery advice. Read my battery comments please - very important!
- I opened the box and immediately plugged in the tablet, let it charge for 6 hours straight (the screen tells you it's charging, big battery icon that cycles like a progress bar for a few seconds when you first plug it in)
- Then disconnected it from the charger and held down the power button, it booted up
- After booting, I swiped the screen to unlock it
- Clicked on "settings" (lower right icon)
- Clicked on WiFi, selected my home network, entered the password, clicked save.
- That was it, I was on the internet and immediately started downloading apps from the play store (there's already an icon setup) and started surfing (there's a browser icon also already setup)
Issues so far:
- I noticed that a small slice of visible screen does disappear under the frame, so that the last letter is sometimes cut off when reading. Not really a big deal, just not perfect
- Battery life at 3.5 hours could be longer. A coworker has an ipad2, it lasts at least twice as long as this tablet.
- We had one lockup so far, the app just froze still indefinitely. So we tried holding down the power button to reboot for a long time, but nothing happened. I connected it to the charger then held down the power button again, then it rebooted. Haven't had the issue since.
- Pretty bad glare in sunlight or sunny day, not sure if this is true of all tablets. I sometimes have the same issue on my phone (droid 3) but the phone seems to handle it better.
- We just haven't had any of the negative experiences that other reviewers have mentioned. I suspect that at this price, there could be a bunch of dud units out there, maybe we were lucky and got one built on a Tuesday and they got ones built on Friday haha.
This is a crazy value for under $100 (I paid $76). We were basically looking for a first time tablet experience and were quite blown away. If you're looking to try out a tablet, or want a backup tablet, something durable or something you're not worried about kids breaking, etc. Just buy this, don't hesitate, I can't say enough about it.
===== Update 11-8-12 =======
Quick summary: It's been a few more weeks since my review, we've downloaded more games and still no issues. Battery life is holding steady with everyday use and abuse (see below).
I thought the toddler abuse had finally chiped the bezel and a bit of the screen in the upper left hand corner when in landscape mode (top side). I was very concerned because a coworker had dented his orginal iPad when getting off a plane. He tried to gently push the dent back in, then cracked his screen (he did have a warranty plan though, so he was able to get an iPad 2 for like half price).
So I was very hesitant to even touch the chip on mine, but I couldn't resist. Good news! False alarm! it was cookie frosting. I had noticed it when I was cleaning almost dried, but tacky pancake syrup from the buttons (with a damp q-tip).
As I turned the tablet at an angle to the kitchen light, there was so much food and stuff splattered on the tablet that it was virtually unreadable at that angle. Then I had an idea - to post toddler food/experiences the tablet has been compatible with so far. So here it is:
Toddler food and tablet compatibility listing:
- Oatmeal, gerber baby (splattered, spoon shaken or sneezed on), used damp cloth. But if it dries, it makes for a textured screen experience when drag/dropping and swiping (not all together bad). Mostly expect smaller droplets when sneezed.
- Cheerios & milk, mostly chewed. (when sneezed, droplets are finer than oatmeal, but have a larger, more distributed blast radius)
- Yogurt: "Yo-toddler" (Stonyfield, organic, several flavors), Yoplait "gogurt" sticks - both wipe off fairly easily, but have impressive blast patterns when sneezed. Chobani Greek yogurt - this one is the heavy hitter, even when sneezed - chunks are still respectable and opaque, so you'll probably be forced to wipe it off right away due to visibility.
- Mac and Cheese, Kraft Note: noodle parts are vitually impossible to grip once on screen, expect to chase them around, smearing more the whole time. Forget trying to actually pick them off. (try to wipe off before dry if possible, otherwise dampen lightly, don't scrub).
- Syrup with french toast bits. Creates surprisingly stubborn swipes when dried, it kinda stops your fingers at a dead stop when drag-dropping (haven't tried light syrup or real maple). I was able to use a damp q-tip to get syrup out of small gaps around buttons.
- Cake and cookie frosting - leftover buttercream-like/thick (not the thinner whip-cream type frosting). This was hand smeared on, it's kinda oily, so we used the same cleaner we used on our plasma tv. It's also been 'tested' with ice cream cake - easier to clean off, but dries wicked fast, kinda remarkable actually.
- Goldfish crackers, partially chewed. Chunks can be more or less carefully 'flicked' off
- Homemade dehydrated bananna chips. Your gonna want to get these off before they fully dry. Homemade dehydrated fruit tends to remain flexible, (like raisins) pending how long ya leave it in for. But if left out long enough, it hardens up well.
- Sweet-n-sour chicken breading (take-out chinese). I swear this stuff could be used as heat shielding on the space shuttle. It does leave a greasy residue
- Hay-ride mud (I wiped it off on my jeans, not recommended but didn't cause any scratches)
===== Update 12-19-12 =======
I happened to walk by a display that had both the latest Asus and a Galaxy 7" tablets. I was dreading this eventual day... would I of wished I had ponied up the extra money for a brand name tablet? So I picked up the Galaxy and held it... wow. The difference is immediately clear... the screen quality and resolution is breath-taking. Apps load almost instantly. You can tell by the first touch that you're hold high-end electronics - that cool metallic feel.
WELL... probably because daddy was so interested in it, my 2 yr old suddenly wanted it. Instantly I found myself saying, "oh-no honey, this one might break" and handed "her" (the AGPTek) tablet to her - without a single worry. She's been using (beating) it for months now. That's when it completely hit me that I made a 100% right choice buying the AGPTek.
The AGP loads 'almost as fast', the screen looks 'pretty good' and I can buy two for the price of one the high-end tablets. This tablet (AGPTek) still does everything I ask of it, and I think the battery life is actually increasing - it was always more than enough, but seems even longer life now. We're still thrilled with it.
===== Update 4-23-13 =======
I honestly can't believe I'm back to update this review. I had purposely lowered expectations when I bought the tablet to "well, if it lasts a few months I'll be happy". Ya know... I'm thinking this thing is gonna fall apart in a month.
But here I am, still shocked. I just can't believe it's STILL running just as good (maybe better battery life now) than when I bought it. I mean, I figured the software and apps would at least be phased out at some point. Nope.
The goal was really to just figure out if first, a tablet would have any real place in our lives and second, would a 7" tablet be big enough. Well... answers are yes and yes. But despite my "intentions" on upgrading to an expensive, name brand tablet... I just can't justify it because we're all still so stinkin' happy with this one.
So I'm going to put the hundreds I saved (and would of spent on a fancy tablet) towards a big swingset. This tablet is like part of the family now anyway.
Cripe, it's been over 6 MONTHS of daily 'abuse' mostly by my 2-1/2 year old daughter. Now she mostly plays free princess coloring and dress-up apps, moving on from her favorite free drag-n-drop puzzles. Before that, we packed a few micro SD cards with videos for trips. I mean... she learned how to use a table on this tablet -and- it seems like my 1 year old son might too (read on).
It's taken on even a new life as we allow my 1 year old son to watch a few videos of relatives (shot with our sony digital camera) a few times a day. We used to be careful to put it in a sleeve when traveling - now we just toss it in the diaper bag.
But for me presonally, my most frequent use for it is as a remote for our DVR, it's still easier to use than the remote for scanning, searching and setting up shows to record (I'd use it for more, but wife has it all configured for her accounts, etc).
Wife still totally uses it for everything (email, weather, games, surf, babysitter...)
From my initial review, battery life actually improved to about 4 hours of video on a full charge. I'm probably breaking all kinds of device rules here, but I kept using it after it warned me that there was only 1% of the charge left. Yup, it lasted at least another 25 minutes.
I think one reason it's lasted despite the pounding of a two year old and a one year old now is that it's made of plastic. The few times it has been dropped, it just kinda bounces versus flat out breaking.
So here's the BIG BONUS for us... it uses the same charger as our baby monitor (motorola). I know this sounds silly, but we plug the tablet in during the night when we bring the baby monitor back upstairs then we plug in the baby monitor during the day when using the tablet. The wife laughs at me but this is a total two-fer. Love it.
Anyway... just thought I'd share this update for those folks that actually read to the bottom of this ridiculously long review. Hope it helps!