But how far did you think $99 would get you?

Novo 7

Ice Cream Sandwich, and a 7-inch tablet -- two things that (for me) that go great together.  We got our 7-inch Ainol NOVO7 tablet fresh off the boat, and we're having a look at "The first Android 4.0 tablet in the world."  We really don't expect much from these no-name tablets -- especially one that retails at less than $100, but the intrigue of Ice Cream Sandwich running natively on one made it too hard to resist.

Hit the break, and let's have a look.



Youtube link for mobile viewing

The first thing you see when you open the box is a note from the manufacturer:

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for your order of the NOVO7.  The NOVO7 Ice Cream Sandwich is the first tablet with Android 4.0.  At present, the NOVO 7 we delivered to you is the first lot, the software of which still needs improved.  Later on, we'll update the software and you can download from our official website

Part of me wants to just give a big, bold 64-point warning to stay away -- mostly because of the software and its unfinished state.  We all know how "later" ends up turning out "sometimes, if ever."  But if Ainol does get the software in order, this won't be a bad little tablet.  It's MIPS-based, with an X-Burst 1GHz CPU and Vivante GC860 GPU at 444MHz.  The performance is actually quite nice -- much better than any previous craplet we've seen.

The hardware seems solid enough, the and 7-inch screen has great color and is bright, although the viewing angle and 480x800 resolution is relatively poor.  The ports and SD card slot all work, including USB host on the mini USB port.  No GPS receiver or Bluetooth radio, but then again it's a $99 tablet.  There's really nothing I can fault the hardware for. 

Specs:

  • 1GHz MIPS Ingenic JZ47xx Xburst CPU
  • Vivante GC860 GPU at 444MHz
  • 512MB RAM
  • 7-inch 800x480 capacitive touchscreen
  • 8GB internal storage, support for up to 32GB microSD cards
  • HDMI port
  • 0.3MP camera
  • miniUSB port with USB host ability
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wireless

What is MIPS, you ask? It stands for Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages -- a RISC 64-bit processor architecture, specially built for embedded devices with further reduced instructions, thus coming with a lower cost. In other words, it runs hot, fast and loose.

But the software is horrible.  The build shipped on the device is an engineering version, which means many (as in many) apps won't appear in the Market, and as I found out when trying the Amazon Appstore, side loading is broken -- try to load an apk file of any sort, and you're told the apk installer has crashed.  The software is partially in Chinese (as expected), including the U.S. English keyboard's function keys.  The word unusable comes to mind. 

Yes, it's only about a hundred bucks or so (before shipping from China).  Yes, it's the first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet.  Those are powerful lures, but for now, don't be tempted.  We're going to file this one away and keep an eye on Ainol's website.  Hopefully that update comes soon, and with enough improvements to change our minds.

Novo 7  Novo 7

Novo 7   Novo 7

Novo 7

Novo 7   Novo 7

Novo 7

Novo 7  Novo 7

 

 
There are 23 comments

canucknnv says:

I don't want to sound Ainol but I won't be purchasing this

Did nobody think to install Astro? That is, if it's available?

That would require a working apk manager and installer, which this thing does not have.  You can't sideload, with any method.

camilozano98 says:

adb install ... .apk

Which requires the apk installer to work.  It's not going to happen until something gets fixed in the software. 

bobert says:

I'm glad to read an actual review of this tablet. I almost recommended it to someone that just wanted a dirt cheap tablet that works... almost.

bigbill25 says:

What is MIPS? It's a company. One that sells embedded processor architectures to companies, just like ARM.

http://mips.com/

Think Intel vs PowerPC. It is impressive that ICS is working so well on a completely different processor. Go little Dalvik engine!

--Bill

voiceonly says:

MIPS used to be in the old Sun Graphic Workstations in teh 80-90's I believe.. great processor, just didn't take off as Intel had a big strong hold.

ilanrab says:

MIPS used to be an important company. It created advanced hardware/processor designs, that many companies licensed and built. In the 1980's, in particular, they were well known. In the 1990's they faded away. From the looks of it, they are coming back. I wish the MIPS folks great success. Some well known companies, that used MIPS architectures, include Silicon Graphics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Graphics), with their advanced 3D graphics workstations, and Digital Equipment Corporation (with the DecStation).

Cheers,
ir

technomom says:

Rootable? ROMable?

http://forums.androidcentral.com/tablet-chat/146055-novo7-system-dump-instructions-fix-android-market.html#post1524679

This one is already rooted in the shell.  Can't have a "normal" root without building a RISC/MIPS version of the su binary.  What we have now is built for arm.

Market is now fixed, working on fixing the apk installer. 

I dig the tattoo Jerry! I knew you were my favorite on AC for a reason. ;-)

romiust says:

I wonder how good the honeycomb versions of this tablet are then, we will have working apk? If so maybe that's worthy. Still considering getting this! I really want 100 dollar tablet.

heathroi says:

I got one with honeycomb. Isn't bad for 140 shipped. Wifi seems bit slow and display isnt for high end apps to it but isn't a waste of money as a secondary thing.

hldc1 says:

Classic case of "you get what you pay for." A company that can't even spare $20 to get someone to proofread the "thanks for buying our product" note is just another sign of danger.

15israellai says:

I'm really not sure if they have guys that speak "standard" English there...You know, the Mainlanders usually produce Google Translate-like English

meany105 says:

Thanks for the mini-review, I was considering buying this tablet but was worried about the MIPS processor and it's compatibility with most market apps.

I was also considering the Ramos W6HD as it also runs on ICS but has an ARM cortex A9 and a 1024x600 resolution screen

Mista_J says:

I have this very tablet. The one I have came with Honeycomb, but after 1 day I updated it to ICS. I have sideloaded Youtube, and Facebook to it as well as a few other apps. The ones that I sideloaded work great. The honeycomb version came with Astro, that I backed up with ES File Manager, which also came installed with Honeycomb and ICS. They all work great and this is a pretty good tablet. I'm glad I ordered it.

Mista_J says:

You can find a different build for ICS at www.merimobiles.com

Danrarbc says:

So if the software is the issue what if CM9 came out? :p

MTKnife says:

The real issue with this tablet is not the ROM but the MIPS processor. The Honeycomb version works just fine, but a lot of apps (from what I've read, those that don't rely solely on Java) simply won't work because MIPS uses a different instruction set than the ARM used by the processors of other Android devices, and it's my understanding that no amount of tinkering with the ROM will fix that--developers will have to code for MIPS. Ainol also makes a Novo7 Advanced, though (the one here is the Basic), with similar hardware other than an ARM Cortex A10 CPU, and though it's a bit pricier and doesn't have ICS yet, it's been so popular that it's sold out most places.

bsharitt says:

When I first heard about this I though that I could get past the MIPS processor and the limited RAM for $100, but I knew there has to be a bigger caveat. 800x480 on a 7" screen? To say that's not good is quite the understatement. And here I was wishing the 1024x600 was 1280x800 on my current 7" tablet.

gmatht says:

Does this support ezPDF, or other PDF annotation software? Also did you get flash to work?