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:
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.
- 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.