The often-higher price of Android rivals to Apple’s iPad leaves of us completely flummoxed. It’s difficult to fathom how the likes of Motorola, Samsung, Asus or Dell can expect to charge more than an established premium brand like Apple and expect to succeed. The crux of the argument for many consumers doesn’t rest on whether Android is technically superior to Apple’s OS – it’s this: why buy a non-Apple tablet unless it’s significantly cheaper?
So it’s great to see Hannspree, a brand better known for PC monitors and novelty TVs, put its debut WiFi-only tablet on sale for a touch under £250.
Weighing 750g (a tad more than both the Motorola Xoom and Apple iPad 2), the 10.1in HANNSpad supports Flash video on websites and can send 1080p video to a TV or projector via a HDMI output. But there are one or two signs that this is little more than an extra-large smartphone. For starters, there’s only 16GB of built-in storage (a further 32GB can be added via a microSD slot on the left, beside the HDMI output) and 512MB of RAM – but still, that’s no different to some models of the iPad.
The clincher is the HANNSpad’s use of the rather basic, phone-centric Android 2.2 Froyo operating system, here with a custom interface that might not be the slickest and quickest around, but still offers a thoroughly decent user experience, considering the low price.
Native apps on a home screen that lacks sharpness include news, weather, email, to-do, calendar, music, photos – there’s even an grocery app that lets you pickn’mix food from various aisles’. Unfortunately, Sainsbury’s isn’t waiting at the end of this graphically rather basic app to actually fulfil your needs – but you can email the resulting shopping lists to yourself.
A more apps’ tab sees search and settings functions next to an ebook reader app, calculator and App Center. Unfortunately we weren’t able to access the store, instead receiving (and not for the first time) the kind of error messages that iPad users would probably guffaw at.
It may appear esoteric at first, but the split keyboard on the HANNSpad is a thing of wonder; we found typing this review into its notepad facility a pleasure – though the way it deals with Gmail is surprisingly poor, showing either a list of emails or a list of folders, never both. It’s just not integrated well enough.
Video quality on the 1024×600-resolution (16:9) touchscreen panel is a mixed bag, with picture quality suffering immensely unless viewed head-on. Even then, it lacks sharpness on content such as hi-def video, while sound from the rear-mounted single 1W speaker is poor.
Not surprisingly, the HANNSpad doesn’t have the hardware clout to be upgraded to Android 3.0 Honeycomb – though Hannspree told us that a new version will launch in August/September 2011, and take Honeycomb into the mainstream market.
For now, we’re left with Froyo, and even the HANNSpad’s 1GHz Coretex A9 processor – which ought to at least add a dollop of speed – can’t save us from web pages that take too long to load, and a user experience that lacks any kind of wow factor.
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- Low price for an Android tablet.
- Lacklustre specs and and a so-so display.
Reasonably light and well made, the HANNSpad remains a decent value entry-level tablet that widens the market - but it's far from being an iPad-killer.
Whether anyone should buy into the genre before the Honeycomb OS becomes standard is a moot point - because Froyo, as employed here, is far from perfect. Not everyone can shell out £500 for the latest and greatest, but if the HANNSpad's major pro is the price, its cons include a poor viewing angles, relatively low resolution graphics, and an interface that's not nearly as polished as the iPad OS nor Honeycomb.