The Datawind Aakash Tablet just arrived at our desk, and finally I got a chance to review the cheapest and overhyped tablet device. Take a bow, Datawind, for bringing out something for such a cheap price but take a punch from me at the same time, for making it in a way that we could easily sense the cheap make of its. Nevertheless, this proves that the making of a tablet device is possible for a cost below $50, and its India which has made it possible. Users and manufacturers rarely see some big gadgets in a price lesser than a 3-digit one. In the review below, I would be totally honest on each and every aspect about the Aakash Tablet, and before proceeding, you may read my previous write-up on why the Aakash Tablet sucks.
Note: This is the old version of Aakash, and the new version is yet to come with the name Ubislate+
The Design, Display and Form factor
Aakash Tablet is a neat device, agreed. But is it durable? I hardly would agree with that because the Aakash tablet which we received gave some rocking sound from inside the body when we shook the tablet side-to-side. But that might be the case with only our device, and others might be lucky to not hear such sounds and get disappointed. The tablet is light in weight, doesn’t look anything different than the 7-inch tablets (iBall Slide and Ainol Novo 7 are the two which come to my mind for being almost similar) but the sides aren’t any impressive. USB ports are what makes the design a bit uneven when seen from the sides, as they bring out a bulge on the side and this could have been avoided, had the screws and MicroSD card slot been kept beside, and not above those ports. But when holding the tablet in the normal standing mode with the logo on the top, the finger would just cross along the curve on the back, so I don’t see it uncomfortable.
The front is neat, gets some appreciation for not bringing out anything weird and promotional which they did on the back side. There is a Ubislate7 logo on the top left side, and apart from that there is nothing else than the screen. I don’t see any significance of a small cut in the bottom side. The back side of the Aakash tablet has a rubbery surface, which won’t hold any dust and doesn’t get any scratches unless you try to use any sharp point for the same. The top of it has the bulge as I said above, for the USB ports and from this side it looks a bit ugly. There is a big sticker near the bottom, with the name and some information about the tablet. The edges are sharp but that doesn’t matter much, and talking about the sides of the tablet there are two (why 2?) 3.5mm jacks for the headset, but am not sure why am I seeing two of them and both are located on the bottom of both the sides. The top has got two USB ports, and those are not the Micro or Mini USB ports which you see on the standard mobile phones or tablets. These USB ports are meant to assess in connecting any USB device or dongle (supposedly), and just above one of the ports, there is a slot for the MicroSD card. The left side has the port for charging and just below that, the switch for power/lock. You need to press the button with your nail tip, pretty hard to get the button function what it is meant to do.
What I didn’t like is the small screws on the top side which make the look totally different. And the display has a problem with the screen rotation, as the display is fixed in the landscape mode and although I had the auto screen rotate toggled on, it doesn’t rotate the screen. The screen is tough, needs a lot of hitting and pressing for the response, and I haven’t seen a poorer resistive touchscreen before this. Have used the resistive touch of Infibeam Pi tablet, and although the large screen I never saw a difficulty in dragging on the screen and it never had a discontinuity, while Aakash gets the user frustrated who wants to drag an app from one corner to the other, as the screen loses giving the response many a times.
Never figured it out, until I was trying to check why there was a slit of 1 inch in the bottom section of the front side, and finally found that it was the home key which has to be pressed hard for getting back to the home screen, so there is a physical key apart from the power key and this would not be noticed until you intentionally try to find whether the Aakash tablet has a home key provided, or if you already knew that the manufacturer has included the home key. Pressing the home key for a long time, would open a list of apps which are opened recently.
And yes, there is an option for the auto-rotate, but for no use. The accelerometer doesn’t seem to provide any function.
No complaints about the display quality, because this is what one has to expect from 800 x 480 pixel resolution and the screen is quite bright. If at all Datawind would have concentrated on the response of the resistive touch, I would have been a fan of its already.
Operating system, Interface, Apps and Battery
The Aakash Tablet comes with the Android 2.2. Froyo OS, and that looks neat but has a lot of unnecessary and non-functioning applications. Did the manufacturer ever check what they are trying to put in, when mingling up the hardware and software together? No Android market, No camera but a camera application right on the center home screen, No speaker but a music player. Many say that the best is to come in the next version of the tablet device. If that is the case, then what was the purpose of this version? a trailer?
Tried starting the Aakash by hard pressing the power button, but it never started until I connected the tablet to the charger and did the same. The tablet showed a battery percentage of 45% left as soon as it started, so am not sure of why it didn’t start. For those who feel it could work for a couple hours while traveling, and charging it won’t be necessary then have to keep this in mind, without the charger connected the Aakash didn’t start at all.
When the Aakash is being charged, the battery indicator always fluctuates, showing a charge percentage of 30% and then in 10 minutes, would go show that the tablet is completely charged, and once you disconnect and reconnect the charger it would show something else, sometimes even low battery. So mind you, don’t depend on the battery at all and do not trust the charge indicator. The small battery blob on the notification panel shows something different always.
While charging the Aakash tablet, although the screen timeout is set to 30 seconds or 1 minute, I didn’t see the screen getting off automatically even after 10 minutes. Have to manually lock and turn off the screen when charging the tablet device.
The home screen and lock screen both show a message of “No service”, which is in intention to show that there is no network availability. I don’t find a reason behind showing that message, when the users have no option of inserting a SIM card and the network availability can be seen only when a USB dongle is used, though I didn’t test that out yet. Who would want to use a USB dongle to a tablet device which has a 366 MHz processor, which seems less even to run the normal operating system of the tablet.
One would get frustrated while trying to type something in the Aakash tablet, because it doesn’t memorize what you typed and takes time for each letter typed. You need to type one character after the other and keep a check of it because the touch isn’t accurate and many a times when you try to select one alphabet, it would automatically select the alphabet present in the upper list of alphabets in the keyboard. The letter “L” being just above the backspace, it would come very often when you actually try to remove any text while typing.
The Notification panel is neat at least, with the top left showing the date, the right side having the battery indicator, sound profile, time and the back key. The notification panel dragged down, would open a service message “again” to show that there is No service available, and just below that would be the list of notifications, which I suppose would be of least importance because you won’t receive much notifications on this tablet where there is limited connectivity, and very limited app usage.
Applications: The Aakash tablet comes with a load of preloaded applications, which are meant to serve the user with a lot of experience, but Datawind didn’t realize that they are packing all this in a tablet which has such a basic processor and they have included even the apps which are not of any use in this tablet. One of them is the Camera app which comes on the center homescreen, with no camera at all in the Aakash. A few apps which are heavy and don’t function well in the Aakash tablet are the FDroid, Speech Recorder, Ubimail, Androffice, Jorte, Messaging (How would one messahe without an option to have a SIM card). Even the most basic usage of the tablet without an app usage going on, is taking the whole of the memory to run the Launcher, Android Keyboard, Calendar storage. Some of the useful apps that Aakash has got is the mail, clock, documents to go, notepad, browser, units etc. Music player is present but no speaker, then what would be the point of the player?
Heating up – A big problem that starts just within 10-15 minutes of continuous usage, or even a continuous charge of 30 minutes. The maximum heat is felt on the back side, at the area around the sockets for the USB ports, and in the center back area where the processor might be located. Pun intended, this tablet should have had a fan to cool the system down, which tries to work like a computer but delivers like a calculator and nothing more than that.
The right corner line in the landscape mode has three shortcuts – Browser, Apps, Phone. The browser and apps list shortcuts are pretty advantageous and well placed, but what was the need for the Phone application? how does one make calls by dialing a number in this tablet?
Wi-Fi is what would help you connect to the internet, but the range is very good. A Wi-Fi router which had 80% strength at a distance showed very low power in the Aakash tablet, showing a 25% network strength, which indicates that the reception of Wi-Fi is not that good. Wi-Fi didn’t search for networks automatically next time until I toggled the Wi-Fi off and on again.
There is no other option of connectivity, and you would not see any other operating system than Windows recognizing the MicroSD card as an external storage, if you have the card inserted in the Aakash and have the tablet device connected with the computer.
There are still many things to be thoroughly reviewed and tested before a conclusion is made, but so far the Aakash tablet lacks many features which could actually give the users a good experience while using it. The tablet has a worst speed and can’t handle at least a couple of applications running together. The design can’t be called a real bad one because the manufacturer tried to fit in some external slots which they felt, might come to some advantage for the user. The operating system is pretty neat but the unnecessary stuffing of apps which don’t function, doesn’t make a point. Touch response is the worst one would experience in the Aakash tablet, and if this isn’t improved in the next coming version of the tablet, this is just a purchase of 3k going into nothing. The battery doesn’t stay for more than an hour, and even on the standby mode you would feel that the tablet is a little heated up, thanks to the continuous running processor which hardly manages to run the operating system normally.