Qooq Tablet review

The Qooq cooking-focused tablet is an interesting addition to the high-tech kitchen, but a too-high price renders it a luxury item rather than a must-have. A plain old tablet with a stand and some quality Web recipes makes a much more versatile cooking companion.
Photo of Qooq Tablet

Whenever I want to cook a recipe I find online, I take my iPad into the kitchen, prop it up precariously against my Jonathan Adler flour and sugar jars, and get down to business. Then, without fail, right at the moment when my hands are covered with eggs and flour and I need to know what to do next, the screen turns off. And cookbooks aren’t much better. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used one of those same jars to keep a book propped open to the right page, only to accidentally close it as I’m trying to nudge the page down with the back of my wrist. So while a dedicated tablet for the kitchen might sound superfluous, it also makes sense.

At a glance, the Linux-based Qooq tablet ($399 direct) looks like it should fill the bill perfectly. It’s a splash-proof tablet with a built-in kickstand to prop it up to the perfect viewing angle. It also gives you access to thousands of recipes from more than 100 European chefs. But the best part is the well-made instructional videos, which can help even the most novice home cook get some pretty impressive culinary creations onto the dinner table. Unfortunately, the tablet is way too expensive, and you have to pay to access recipes on top of that. The build quality is nothing to write home about, and aside from the recipes, you get very little additional functionality. The Qooq is an interesting tablet, but you’re getting Big Mac-quality for a prime rib price.

Design and Features
The Qooq measures 10.63 by 6.3 by 0.98 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.89 pounds. That’s a little heavier than the 4th generation Apple iPad, but the Qooq is mostly meant to be used while propped up by its kickstand, so the weight isn’t a big issue. The majority of the tablet is made of shiny red plastic, and there’s a curved metal foot with a rubber stopper on each corner of the device. The back features a built-in metal kickstand that tucks in neatly when not in use.
The Qooq is splash-proof, but the overall design feels rather cheap; there’s a seam that runs down the middle of each side of the tablet, and it tends to gives way if you grasp the sides tightly. Additionally, a detachable rubber port cover on the left side of the tablet is difficult to keep closed. It protects your 3.5mm headphone jack, Ethernet, SD card, and USB ports, so it’s disconcerting that it never quite stays shut. The right side of the tablet features a rubber Power button and volume controls. Overall, the design reminds me more of a ruggedized children’s tablet like the Fuhu Nabi 2, rather than the luxury kitchen assistant it aspires to be.

The Qooq features a 10.1-inch capacitive TFT LCD with 1,024-by-600-pixel resolution, which is definitely on the low side of average for this size tablet. Text and images look grainy, and you need to keep the brightness dialed all the way up to see everything properly. Colors are dull, and the screen is rather reflective, though it does offer decent viewing angles. It’s responsive to the touch, though scrolling through menus is often slow and choppy.

There are no cameras here like you’ll find on most other tablets. There aren’t any downloadable apps, either, like there are on Android and iOS tablets. What you see is pretty much what you get, and aside from recipes, what you get are clock, notepad, radio, timer, and weather apps, a Web browser, email support, and music and video players. The Qooq was able to play back all of our video test files at resolutions up to 1080p, but it only plays back MP3 files for music. The tablet’s front-facing speakers are unimpressive in sound quality, and volume is fine, though it can get lost behind running water or a searing pork chop.

The Qooq is a Wi-Fi-only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz band. Interestingly, you can also get the tablet online via Ethernet cable. You only get 1.5GB of available built-in storage, but there isn’t much content for you to store, and you can keep music and movies on an SD card. The battery should last for four to five hours, but only half that if you’re watching video.

The dual-core 1GHz Cortex A9 processor is a bit behind the times, and animations and scrolling often feel slow. You feel this mostly while using the Web browser; recipes are reasonably responsive.

Recipes and Pricing
All those features aside, you’re probably interested in the Qooq for the recipes, and it that regard, it mostly delivers. The Qooq gives you access to 3,681 recipes from more than 100 chefs (at testing time). More recipes are added regularly, especially as new chefs are added. Different recipes are highlighted on the Cooq’s home screen, and you can search for recipes in a number of different ways.

If you know exactly what you want to make, you can just type it into the search bar. The Qooq allows you to search by recipe name, ingredient, technique, or chef. But it’s also fun to just browse through the tablet and see what’s there. Recipes are broken down into several different categories, from seasonal dishes, to new recipes, to dish type (like appetizer or entrée), and even theme. Themes include recipes for various holidays, recipes geared towards health, and recipes that are quick and easy, among others.

(Next page: Conclusions)

The recipes themselves are well-written, and are presented with an intuitive interface. When you choose a recipe, you get a photo of the finished product on the left side of the screen, and information like difficulty level, cost, cooking time, and calories on the right. There’s also a note from the chef, as well as the ability to view an instructional video if there is one available (more on that in a moment). Tabs at the top of the screen cycle through different portions of the recipe, including preparation, ingredients, and utensils.

Everything is very organized. In preparation, for example, you are given directions for what to do before you start cooking, and everything is broken down into individual steps, which makes it simple to follow even a tough recipe. One of my favorite features is under ingredients; you can choose the number of people you plan to cook for, and the necessary amount of ingredients is adjusted on the fly.

Some recipes include video instructions, which are very helpful. In each video, a chef walks you through the recipe step-by-step, in a way that’s engaging, but slow enough to follow along. English has been dubbed over these videos, and you can still hear the original soundtrack in the background, which is somewhat distracting. And, in a move that is decidedly not Food Network-friendly, I didn’t see anyone wash their hands after handling raw meat.

The Qooq was originally offered in France, and many of the recipes here have a distinctly European flair. For instance, you’ll find curried lentil terrine and American style monkfish listed under comfort food, which is a far cry from the fried chicken and mac and cheese I was expecting. (Also, fried carrots with licorice and fresh cilantro? I’m an adventurous eater, but that sounds like a gastronomical experiment gone awry.) And while none of those recipes really got me salivating, there were some unexpected choices that did. Have you ever heard of a bagel turkey burger, for example? Neither had I, though the Qooq lists it as being from the United States in origin. But the recipe, which is a cross between a bagel and a hamburger, with avocados and creamy chive cream cheese, sounds absolutely delicious, in a dorm room kind of way.

There are other helpful features as well. The Qooq provides recipe suggestions based on your preferences, as well as the feedback you provide on the recipes you attempt. There’s also a weekly meal planner, automatic shopping lists, and you can even create entries for your own recipes if you’d like to do so.

The problem is pricing. You get 30 days of unlimited recipe access as well as 100 credits when you first use the Qooq. The cost of an individual recipe ranges between 2 to 8 credits. You can buy 20 additional credits for $4.90, 50 credits for $9.90, and 110 credits for $19.90. You can also pay $9.90 for one month of unlimited access, $99 for one year, or $169 for two years.

Those are some hefty premiums. It’s like buying a cookbook, but not being able to look at the recipes until you pay an additional fee. And while the Qooq’s recipes are a lot more detailed than much of what you’ll find on Web, I’m just not convinced they’re worth it. You can find countless variations on every recipe out there online, but here, you only get one, and you have to pay for it. If unlimited recipe access were free, and more were added on a regular basis, the Qooq might get a slightly higher rating. But as it stands, this very limited tablet is just way too expensive.

Conclusions
If you want to spend $400 on your kitchen, you’re probably better off buying a gadget like, say, a KitchenAid stand mixer. The Qooq is a great idea, but the tablet itself feels too flimsy, and the recipe pricing too steep, to justify the $400 price tag. If you already own a tablet, download some apps like Epicurious, buy some kitchen accessories like the Belkin Chef Stand + Stylus, and voilà, you too will have a splash-proof, propped-up tablet, and you won’t have to pay for any of the recipes you find online. Not only that, but once you’re out of the kitchen, you’re also likely to have a much more versatile device.

Don’t have a tablet? Then you’re far better off buying an iPad and the aforementioned accessories and calling it a day. Because once you factor in the recipe pricing, a new fourth-generation iPad will still cost about the same amount as the Qooq will. But if you’re looking for something less pricey, the 8.9-inch Amazon Kindle Fire should fit the bill. It also offers a much higher build quality than the Qooq, a sharp 8.9-inch display, and plenty of apps and services from Amazon. Even when you’re out of the kitchen, it’s a compelling media device in its own right.

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Specifications
Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility 2.4GHz
Screen Resolution 1024 x 600 pixels
Operating System Linux
Dimensions 10.63 x 6.3 x 0.98 inches
Weight 1.89 lb
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 8 GB
Tablet Type Slate
Additional Storage SD
Processor Speed 1 GHz
Bluetooth No
Screen Size 10.1 inches
CPU AMLogic Cortex A9
GPS No

Verdict
The Qooq cooking-focused tablet is an interesting addition to the high-tech kitchen, but a too-high price renders it a luxury item rather than a must-have. A plain old tablet with a stand and some quality Web recipes makes a much more versatile cooking companion.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc