Most helpful critical review
323 of 332 people found the following review helpful
EDITED: Not As Happy Now
on January 3, 2011
EDIT: After having this tablet for over a year now, I'm reducing the star rating from 4 to 2. After buying and reviewing this tablet originally, I bought a Samsung Transform phone, which runs Android 2.2.2. After having a direct comparison, this tablet started showing its flaws. While I still stand by my original comments (which remain unedited below), there are some significant issues that I found unsatisfactory:
* Software Limitations - This turned out to be a big one for me. When I bought this tablet, I noted a wide variety of file support. However, as time has passed, this device's fairly early Android O/S doesn't support a lot of newer apps. Also, while finding .apk files to install software on the internet is easy, the complete lack of Android Market/Play Store support is a major disadvantage. Also, you can't upgrade the Android O/S on the Cruz, possibly on account of my next point:
* Hardware Limitations - I can't weigh this too heavily, simply because tablets are a one-shot device that can't really be upgraded (though I believe that day is coming soon). In any case, The Cruz's 528mhz processor (compared to my Transform's 800mhz processor) definitely trails behind. Both devices have 256mb of RAM, and the Transform's performance totally clobbers the Cruz.
* Usability - Since my purchase of the Cruz, I have also purchased a low-rung Kindle. I purchased the Kindle when the price dropped, and I won't read on another platform ever again. I've had experience with the Nook readers (both color and virtual paper display models), and the elegance and functionality of the Kindle is far superior. I was shocked at how pleasurable and simple the reading process is on the Kindle, as compared to the Cruz, which is clunky and slow. The gripe I had with Kindle's more narrow format support is easily remedied with the free open-source software Calibre, which organizes your library and converts formats. With the Kindle, pages turn faster, the text is easier on the eyes, and the reading process is far more transparent than on a tablet. I find that to be the case with color readers in general, including the Kindle and Nook, but the Cruz makes it very obvious you're doing other things besides reading when you use it.
I'm still fairly happy with it as a portable media device and a mess-around toy for internet browsing and such, but the execution of this device could have been a lot better. I still recommend it, with the caveat that you understand what it can and can't do before purchasing it. I still find uses for it.
Originally, I was going to title my review "Excellent eBook Reader", but that would be selling the Cruz Tablet short. Although I primarily use my Cruz Tablet as an ebook reader, it is actually a multimedia device with internet capabilities. This is a stark difference to conventional ebook readers, who usually tack on features like MP3 playability almost as an afterthought. The Android operating system effectively and elegantly addresses six key features: ebooks, internet, music, movies, pictures, and games & apps. I will break each down:
eBook Reader: The Cruz was an obvious choice for me as an ebook reader for three reasons: PDF, TXT, and HTML support. Of course, there are apps that allow you to read the major ebook formats as well (Kindle, Nook, etc), but given the abundance of ebooks that use the three standard formats mentioned above, the lack of support for these formats on any reader is, to me, unacceptable. These formats have been around for many years and are excellent formats for ebooks. When an ebook reader supports only its proprietary format and maybe one of those three, that sends a message to me that they're interested in the money of their constituency, not their ease of use or satisfaction. In any case, the Cruz supports all major formats for ebooks, and reading on it is a pleasure. (*****)
Internet: The Cruz supports true internet connections, meaning 802.11x wireless connectivity. The included browser is sufficient for most applications, but does not support Flash, meaning no youtube, etc. A previous reviewer recommended the 3rd-party browser Skyfire, which I have installed successfully for that purpose. Aside from that, there is not much else to comment on. The web is at your fingertips, as the tired old saying goes. (****)
Music: With the ability to read numerous formats and create playlists, it's a good fill-in for an MP3 player if you only want to carry one device. Media of all types (ebooks, movies, music, etc) are stored on an SD card, which I find more convenient than limiting. The size of the device does not behoove you to ditch your standard MP3 player, but considering all of the additional functionality of the device, it'll make you think long and hard about it. (****)
Movies: This device reads MP4 format for video. While I prefer other codecs and file formats for compressed video, you can get a reasonably good-looking and -sounding full-length movie down to just over a gig with the right software, making this a very enticing feature of the tablet. (***)
Pictures: Photo support is pretty standard these days, and the implementation of photo galleries and desktop pictures is what you would expect. Nothing about this feature stands out, but on the other hand, nothing is missing. (***)
Games & Apps: A lot of people have griped about a lack of official Android Market access on this device, and while those complaints are valid and realistic, there is an abundance of software you can install on your Cruz from many resources. There are third-party marketplace apps ready to be installed, and finding apk software bundles on the 'net is a cinch. Installing is as easy as dropping the apk on your SD card, browsing to it using Android's Astro file browser, then launch and install. I have run into a few applications that don't want to cooperate, but the vast majority of apps and games I have installed have been problem-free. Keep in mind, however, it does take some know-how and creativity to find apk's without Android Market, but it is not difficult. (****)
Overall, I'm compelled to give this tablet four stars overall. The tablet takes a bit of getting used to, but is easy to use and makes taking media with you wherever you go a snap. The fact that the tablet features a user-replaceable battery is also a perk, considering some manufacturers (who shall remain unnamed) like to stick it to you in that area.
Naturally, this tablet will garner a lot of comparison to the iPad. However, this notion is strictly apples-to-oranges in its nature of comparison, though I will say that I prefer the ability to choose and install software rather freely with the Cruz, an option not as immediately available to iPad users.
I do not wish to make this a soapbox review about the evils of Apple equipment; I will be the first to admit that Apple makes good, sound, reliable, and accessible equipment. However, for reasons stated above (as well as reasons not stated in the review pertaining to Apple), my purchase of the Cruz was not just a matter of settling, it was a matter of preference.
I love this product. After using it as much as I have (for all sorts of things), I just shake my head while I look at the Kindles and the Nooks with bemusement. They seem to me like a dial watch: "What, all it does is tell time? Isn't this the 21st Century, the Information Age?" ... Okay, that may be taking it a bit far, but there is certainly a gap in functionality between these new tablet devices and ebook readers.