Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My 7" Tablet Arrived

The Sowill OIOI S7 7" Tablet I ordered from Groupon Malaysia for RM468 (USD150) arrived yesterday and I was excited with my new 'toy'. Over the past months my iPad had become the 'property' of my grandson Andrew and my wife so when the offer came I thought I should try it out and if I don't like it I'll pass it to my grandchildren to use. As a person unwilling to throw good money into a purchase I'm unsure will have a lasting use I decided to carry out this 'experiment' of a relatively unknown brand. At the moment the most popular model in this mid size tablet range is Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000 which is now superseded by the Tab 7 Plus, and now the Tab 7.7 which are 3-4 times more expensive.

The S7 is China made (yes, even iPad is China made so we should not be biased) by Sowill (Shenzhen Technology Co. Ltd). Upon unpacking I found a small 18 page user manual which is not very informative and, excuse my prejudice, contain grammatical errors. Notwithstanding them I found the instructions understandable.

My first contact was when I held up the S7. It felt heavy (rated 410g or over 14 oz) on one palm. Its size is also big, 205 x 116 x 13.8mm (8 x 4.5 x 0.55 inch). For comparison the Tab 7.7 is 196.7 x 133 x 7.9mm and weighs 340g.

I had not expected the S7 to be in the league of the Samsung Tabs and certainly nowhere near to iPad and I was right. For that price I would be asking too much and like I said it was an experimental purchase. My main use will be to access my emails, check online news, browse YouTube, listen to music, share pictures and watch videos saved on my microSDHC card (can accept up to 32Gb capacity). The Sowill people does not term it as such, they still use the older term TF (transflash) card.

The S7 runs on Android OS version 2.2 (Froyo) which was the same as installed on my Galaxy Ace smartphone I bought 10 months ago (upgraded to 2.3 Gingerbread several months back) so I expect an easy learning curve. It was not to be because the proprietary architecture over the Android OS is different from the Galaxy Ace, is less user friendly so I took over 8 hours to learn its features and still learning. My initial disappointments were in the layout of the buttons and their design. The power and volume buttons on the top right edge were too close and recessed to give user a feel where they are. I think even a blind person will find it hard to locate them. In the dark this is definitely a problem. Secondly unlike the iPad which uses a slider to wake up the gadget, the S7 requires the power button to be pressed when it goes to sleep. And the volume max out too low. When I want to listen to a louder song I can't. And as expected the audio quality is average, the audio port is tight for the jack to be pushed in.

S7 has a nice camera of 2Mp resolution but it face toward the user which is to me useless. How do I take a picture if I cannot preview it on my screen which face the same direction? Seems the manufacturer wants the user to take lots of his own photos! If the camera layout is to serve as a webcam for video calls, the answer is no, the S7 does not allow Skyping or other messaging services. Sorry.

Screen resolution at 1024 x 600 is pretty OK. The S7 received many good reviews which is why I bought it. I suppose I was also influenced by the fact that it was the office tablet for the Universiade Shenzhen 2011, an international sporting event like the Olympics. The other worrying factor is the battery which drains out quite fast in less than 5 hours continuous use. Maybe others may find it acceptable but if you are stuck on a long flight without a chance to recharge the battery it will be a definite problem. The worst news is the battery cannot be replaced. Read the reviews HERE. If the S7 can last for 2-3 years I think it is a fair deal but if the battery dies well before that and out of the 1 year warranty period then too bad for the buyer.

Well, I am still getting used to the S7. Although I may be slightly critical I see it as a good introductory gadget for people who cannot afford the more expensive brands. For me my preference is for a bigger smartphone, like the 4.3" HTC Amaze that my son bought recently and the 9.7" iPad which after over a year is a very comfortable equipment to carry about, view and use. My next target, the iPad3 with 64Gb storage and 3G. Yeh!

PS. After I ordered my S7 Groupon offered other generic brand 7" tablets also from China. The price are around what I paid but the specs, especially the screen resolution, is poorer. I guess I should lower my satisfaction bar a little.

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