Jexaa JexTab 812HD Android tablet review

Budget multitouch tablet with Android 2.3
Photo of Jexaa JexTab 812HD Android tablet
£199.99

The JexTab 812, a self-branded tablet from budget IT specialist Jexaa, promises much: an eight-inch high-resolution display, Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread,’ and a powerful processor under the hood for under £200. Can it really deliver?

Core specifications
The JexTab 812 is based on a CR-8002HD chassis from Chinese OEM GoldenCreel. As such, it includes a Rockchip 2918 ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 1GHz – which is where our first complaint could be found. Jexaa’s own specifications claim a 1.2GHz clock speed, which is simply not the case. While we were told that a clever overclocking system installed into the Android kernel would increase the clock speed automatically from the default 1GHz to 1.2GHz as required, in-depth investigation showed this to be untrue.

The remainder of Jexaa’s claimed specifications seem accurate enough: 512MB of DDR2 memory and 4GB of storage were both present and correct, while the multitouch display does indeed run at an impressive 1024×768 for high-resolution goodness – matching the resolution of the iPad 2, interestingly enough.

GoldenCreel certainly hasn’t skimped on the connectivity in its design, either: the tablet boasts a mini-USB port for data transfer, a full-size USB port for peripheral devices, a mini-HDMI port for video output at up to 1080p, a TransFlash slot for memory expansion, and a 3.5mm jack. A 3-megapixel camera on the rear and a 2-megapixel camera on the front make up the last few features crammed into this budget device.

First impressions
Getting the JexTab 812 out of the box – which is simply marked as an ‘Android Tablet PC,’ as befits the device’s OEM nature – is a mixed bag: the front of the device is impressive, with the large screen surrounded by a smart black bezel before hitting a brushed aluminium fascia, but picking up the device reveals a nasty surprise: a thin, plastic back that flexes under your touch.

It’s a shame that GoldenCreel opted to cheapen the device in this way: had it been aluminium all over for a few pounds more, it would have been an altogether more impressive device. The back spoils the gadget in another way, however: in use, it flexes enough to cause distortion to appear on the screen, which is distracting to say the least.

The JexTab 812 includes Android 2.3.1 ‘Gingerbread,’ rather than the Android 3.2 ‘Honeycomb’ variant of the higher-end tablets. That’s not particularly bad news: ‘Gingerbread,’ while designed for smartphones, includes many upgrades and enhancements missing from older Android versions, and it’s nice to see a budget tablet with a relatively up-to-date version of Android.

Resolution woes
However, it comes at a price: Android 2.3 is simply not designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio, or a high display resolution of 1024×768. Although GoldenCreel could have solved the problem with a custom skin, it instead opted to install an almost unmodified version of ‘Gingerbread’ – and it shows.

The stock Android keyboard, for example, is completely unusable. Each button is crushed down to a fraction of its normal size, making it impossible to hit one of a group of three or four keys. Many Android apps also fail to work correctly, expecting to find a wider aspect ratio or lower resolution than the JexTab 812 offers.

While a copy of ‘BetterKeyboard’ is included to resolve the issues of the stock Android keyboard, it’s not much better. We found ourselves using a USB keyboard plugged in to the JexTab’s USB Host port in order to enter text – hardly a workable solution in a portable device.

Browsing
One of the biggest selling points of the JexTab over its rivals is support for Adobe Flash content within the browser, thanks to the inclusion of the more comprehensive ARMv7 instruction set in the Rockchip CPU. Sadly, it simply doesn’t work.

Each time we visited a website that hosted Flash content, the browser quit. We tried rebooting the tablet, upgrading the version of Adobe Flash installed, and even using an alternative browser, but nothing would resolve the issue.

That’s a major flaw: Flash support is one of the biggest features Android has going for it over Apple’s iOS platform, and to have it promised as part of the core feature set of a tablet but for it not to work is pretty dire.

General browsing performance – when we didn’t accidentally stumble across a Flash advert that closed the browser – is also pretty poor, something which is reflected in the Vellamo benchmark score of just 321 for the device. Scrolling a content-rich page is particularly painful, with the CPU clearly struggling to keep up.

Watching
It’s not all bad news, however: the HDMI output of the device works well, and video playback was impressive – provided one of the device’s supported content types was used. The high-resolution screen – for when you’re not using an external display – is bright and clear, although it does suffer from relatively poor viewing angles and bad banding on certain colours.

The cameras, sadly, are a write-off: despite their apparently high resolution, the quality of video and still footage is terrible, and with no flash in sight you can forget indoor shots. Using the front-facing camera for video chat is also awkward, as in our review version it was tilted away from the user such that the tablet needs to be held at an angle in order for the other person to see you.

With the maximum internal storage available from the OEM hitting 8GB, it’s also difficult to take advantage of the device’s video playback capabilities without investing in a TransFlash card. With that said, the USB Host port does come in handy here: it’s possible to connect the tablet up to an external hard drive or USB flash drive to access additional storage space.

Bundled software
Impressively, the JexTab 812 includes access to Google’s Android Market and the full suite of Google apps, including Gmail and Google Maps. With no GPS included in the tablet, however, this latter feature is unused – and during testing we found plenty of software that either refused to install or failed to work correctly, thanks to the tablet’s non-standard aspect ratio and extremely high resolution.

The status bar is slightly modified from a stock Android install, largely due to the lack of physical buttons on the device. As a result, you’ll find shortcuts for Home, Back, and Menu across the top of the screen – but you won’t be able to access them from a full-screen app like a game, which is a pain.

Build quality
Overall build quality on the device is, sad to say, poor. The impressive brushed aluminium front isn’t carried over onto the flexible plastic back, and we found the power button sticking more often than not.

There have also been some poor last-minute design decisions made at the GoldenCreel factory, with what was clearly intended to be a volume rocker remapped to ‘Esc’ and ‘Menu’ to counter Android’s reliance on physical buttons to exit apps.

The tablet also needs to be charged from the included 9V power adapter, which is a real shame: other tablets in a similar price range manage to charge using the mini- or micro-USB connector, meaning you don’t have to lug a power brick around with you.

Perhaps the most worrying issue was, however, heat: both during use and during charging, the rear of the JexTab became very warm to the touch – to the point where it became uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time.

Company: Jexaa

Website: http://www.jexaa.co.uk/

Positives
  • The high-resolution display is initially impressive.
Negative
  • Performance is poor, as is the build quality.

Verdict

If the JexTab 812 was priced at the £100 mark, it would be easy to overlook its various flaws. At nearly £200, however, it’s an impossible device to recommend - despite access to the Google Market, which many budget tablets lack.

For a few pounds more, it’s possible to get the - admittedly smaller - Samsung Galaxy Tab, which outperforms the JexTab 812 in every respect. As a result, we’d recommend you steer clear of this particular example of the Android ecosystem.