Lenovo makes two Phablets that are similar, the 4G and the 4G plus. The latter is not bigger (in fact, it is a little smaller) but rather, has higher specs all around, making it a fairly expensive device. But the Lenovo PHAB 4G Phablet (regular) is practically free and is actually rather Phabulous.
The broadest definition of Phablet is that it is a kind of hybrid between a tablet and a phone. So, for example, the Nexus 6 is sometimes called a Phablet. That is the phone I use. It is very large (requires very large hands), so it has piles of screen real estate, yet it is a phone. But, the Nexus 6 is not really a true phablet by a stricter definition, because it acts like a phone, rather than a tablet, in those areas where they are different.
The Lenovo PHAB 4G Phablet is, as far as I can tell, an actual phablet with phone hardware and software and, of course, a place for an SMS card.
It actually has room for 2 SMS cards, and in this and other ways, is highly adaptable and international. Even though you can’t (probably) get this phone from any US carriers, you can still probably buy it an put the SMS of your favorite carrier in it (check here first). Or two SMS cards if you want.
Or, you can use one of the SMS holders to hold the SMS, and the other to hold a micro SD card, for up to 64GB of added storage.
The display is very large, and the glass front of the device continues out to the edge, with the display, within that area, having a 6.98″ diagonal. The phablet is thin, sturdy, light. The back is gripable rather than super smooth, so it is comfortable in the hand. I probably should put a case on this, but I’d almost rather not it is so easy to handle as is.
There is a normal headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry about that. And, a MicroUSB slot.
<li>The processor is a Qualcomm MSM8916 Quad Core 1.2GHz (with the ability to go to 1.84GHz)</li>
16GB eMCP ROM Storage. Note: This tablet uses stock android, so more of this 16GB is available than you might find on, say Samsung phones, which may use many gigabytes of storage for its own proprietary non-removable system software.
Capacitive touch display, 6.98 inch, 1280 x 720 (HD 720)
Dual cameras, very good quality, 13.0MP rear (with flash) and 5.0MP front.
SIM card slot can hold two SIM cards, Dual Standby
MicroUSBV slot in place of one of the two SIM cards, as an option (up to 64GB)
the Battery is 3.7/4250mAh, and the device comes wiht an adapter that handles 100-240 volts
There is a G sensor
Blue tooth and WiFi
Supports 2G + 3G + 4G high speed internet access
Unlocked for international use.
Comes with Android 5.1
The speaker seems exceptionally good, better sound than my Nexus. Also, the mic is pretty good, for dictation.
I am probably going to use this phone for two purposes. First, I’ll offload much of the funcitonality of my Nexus 6 onto this tablet, with its larger screen, etc. I’ve found that the Kindle Reader works really well on this, and the phone is just the right size and weight — Amazon should make a reader just this size and shape — so I’ll be reading non-text books (i.e., technology books, etc.) on this, when I can wrestle the device away from Huxley, who is reading his stuff on it as I write this.
Second, I’ll get one of those inexpensive short term phone accounts, like Ting provides (but probably not Ting) and I’ll use the tablet as a wireless hotspot for the family’s laptops and other devices, when traveling.
That second use will also allow me to use this Android phablet as a base for communicating with robots that have SMS cards. Once I get some of those.
I have always loved Lenovo products, going to back when they were made by IBM. I used only Lenovo laptops back in the day, and I still have a few of them laying around. Lenovo was bought by a Chinese company some time ago, but continued to make laptops. This phablet seems to be in the range of engineering quality I would expect for a consumer grade product made by this company. In other words, well made and solid.
First, for the record, I want one. But, since my current smart phone is a Nexus 6, I don’t need one yet. I’m fine for a while.
Google essentially invented Android, and the Nexus phones were pretty close to being Google phones, but they were not. They were simply very well designed and powerful smart phones that generally came with unadulterated Android, and likely to work best with Android because of Google’s involvement.
The new Google Pixel is an actual Google phone. So, this is a bit like the iPhone of the Android world, in the sense that there is excellent and carefully engineered hardware and software integration.
I’ve heard that you should avoid buying your Google Pixel from Verizon. Verizon is the only service provider that can also sell the Google phones as per the normal arrangement, and everybody seems to be assuring everybody else that this means nothing, that Verizon is not going to break the phone like some service providers do, with bloatware and such. Verizon will be including a few apps that are removable, Verizon claims they will push out Android updates the very moment Google puts them out, etc. etc. So may be it does not matter.
However, the Verizon sourced phone will, it appears, have the bootloader turned off by default. If you don’t know what the heck that is, then you probably don’t care.
If you buy the phone from pretty much anyone, you are getting an unlocked phone because that is how these phones roll, and you should be able to use it with Verizon or any other carrier (but check with the carrier first).
A few features of the Pixel:
The battery charges up for over 7 hours of use in about 15 minutes. The best camera ever put in a phone. Google provides unlimited storage for photos and 4K videos. Super gorilla glass 4 screen. Built in VR (so you get Google Glasses without the cardboard?) Super powerful processors and other guts. Finger print sensor. Pretty much everything any smart phone ever had.
The Phone has Google Assistant built into it.
The phone also has a normal 3.5 mm headphone jack! Which is the traditional headphone jack every electronic device made since 1754 has had, up until a few weeks ago when Apple forgot to include one in their new phone.
Thre are two kinds of phones, the Pixel with a 5″ display, and the Pixel XL with a 5.5 inch display. If you’re getting me one, I’ll take the larger one.
The phones come with either 32 or 128 gigabytes of storage.
I’ve been testing out the Teclast Tbook 16 Pro 2 in 1 Tablet PC. I think the emerging term for this kind of device is “2 in 1” because if configured one way it is a small notebook computer, configured the other way, it is a standard tablet.
First, a bit of philosophy. When Apple and others invented the iPod Touch and various Smart Phones, it seemed obvious that a larger version of such a device might be helpful. So they went ahead and invented tablets. And tablets are cool. But, as often happens in technology, extreme coolness came to stand in for “the next big thing” in all applications. In fashion, you know that “orange is the new black” or “black is the new white” etc., as though there was only one color allowed at a time. In technology, “tablets are the new notebook” and “notebooks/laptops are the new desktops” is a similarly misguided concept. For some individuals, with a certain range of needs and abilities, such a transition is possible. For others, it is not. those who believe standard tablets like the iPad can replace all technology are few in numbers.
But there are enough of them that when Apple decided to replace all computer technology, or at least, all semi-mobile or fully mobile tech, with tablets, that worked great until that small number (but still in the millions) all got their tablets.
Then the market became saturated, and everyone else needed their keyboard, because that is how many interface with their technology. And it is a good way to interface. Years have gone by now since one did not technically need a keyboard, and we still need the keyboards.
So, the result is the 2-in-2 technology. Even as Apple does away with the longest living and consistent technology ever developed for normal human use, the headphone jack, I promise you that Apple will be shifting towards the 2-in-1 technology if they plan to keep up.
I’ll provide some comparative data below, but here’s the gestalt. All microprocessors used today are fast and powerful, so all modern tablets have the computing power you need for, well, checking Facebook, handling email, and browsing around on line, which is most of what you do. All modern tablets have excellent high resolution screens. When it comes down to it, there isn’t a lot different between different tablets other than things like size, what kinds of do-dads you can plug into it, and the operating system.
Usually I don’t recommend specific outlets for specific devices, but at the moment, this outlet in China is trying very hard to give you what is essentially a 600 or 700 dollar 2 in one tablet for just over $200. So, I thought you should know.
OK, details on the Teclast Tbook 16 Pro 2 in 1 Tablet PC. When you boot up, you can chose between running Windows (full version) or Android (a nearly stock current version). When you are in either of these systems, using a link that is very similar to logging out, you can change to the other operating system. The change is essentially (almost) a full reboot, so both changing and starting from off take the usual boot up time for any phone or computer (well, much faster compared to the average desktop Windows computer).
The screen is large, and cinema shaped, and the overall build seems solid. There is a micro USB receptacle which allows you to expand out as well as charge if plugged into a charger. There is also a regular charting receptacle for a DC connector. The cable for that is provided, and you plug that cable into a USB charger brick or slot. There is an HDMI output as well, and a standard headphone jack.
I’ve tested all the plugs and outputs. We’ve shown movies and otherwise mirrored the device via HDMI to a TV. We’ve switched back and forth between systems. I’ve heavily used the Android system, and less vigorously tested out the Windows system. All this works great. We also dropped the tablet from a height of about 4 feet and that had no effect. (That was not on purpose.)
The tablet hooks via magnetic interface (and various contact points) to a nice tablet-width keyboard. The keyboard has multiple USB outlets. This allows you to use this 2-in-1 as a fully functional Windows computer.
Some of you may wonder why I would want to do that. Normally, I would not as I don’t use Windows. However, the only other Windows computer in the house is Amanda’s work laptop, and that is managed by her school and we can’t really use it. So, having a single, small, yet powerful Windows computer in the house is not a bad thing for that occasional need. For example, I have a small electronic device that needs occasional adjustment to the bios. It is possible to do it from Linux, but (because of the software provided by the manufacturer) easy to do it in Windows. So having a Windows computer hiding inside an Android tablet, for occasional use, is nice. If you do that, though, I recommend running the Windows system every now and then so the infernal upgrade process can keep up with the outside world and not hobble you on your first use after a year of non-use. (Not a problem for Linux.)
I’m a little disappointed that a Chinese manufacturer does not have a Linux option. Linux is widely used in China, and I think it is the most popular system there. Also, at some point, I’ll try booting from a live USB with Linux. If that works, heck, I just might … well, we’ll see. And I’ll let you know. (This tablet comes with a severe warning to not mess with the OSs, but … well, we’ll see.)
The specs for the tablet:
<li>Android 5.1 Lollipop OS</li>
Microsoft Windows 10 64bit OS
Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 64bit Quad Core X86 Architecture 14nm Process 1.44GHz, up to 1.84GHz (Ultra-low-voltage platform and quad-core processing provide maximum high-efficiency power to go. Intel Turbo Boost Technology delivers dynamic extra power when you need it)
11.6 inch IPS 10-Point Capacitive Touch Screen with 1920 x 1080 Resolution (wide viewing angles, very nice color)
4GB DDR3L RAM
64GB eMMC ROM Storage
HDMI Output Expands Your Viewing Options
2.0 MP Front Camera for Photos and Face-to-face Chat (no rear camera)
Micro SD Card Expansion up to 128GB
I haven’t played around enough with the keyboard to say anything smart about that mode of use, but I’ll post on that later. Also I’ll note that ordering from this company was easy and shipping costs are very reasonable.
Now I want to put this in some context. Here is this 2-in-1 tablet in context of roughly comparable, in terms of overall size, etc. devices, listed from most expensive to least expensive. Notice the very steep gradient on price.
Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is a subscription service that covers children. I normally avoid subscription services of any kind. But, I have a six year old, and suddenly it made sense.
Huxley is very tech savvy for a newly minted first grader. Last night I was reviewing a new tablet that had multiple operating systems on it. He was building a robot or something and watching me at the same time (I was projecting the tablet’s image on a big screen). I said out loud, but mainly to myself, “How the heck to I change operating systems on this?” Huxley reached over and pointed at a button that did not look like anything that would do such a thing. I pressed it. It changed the operating system that was running. After the fact, I realize that it made sense. Huxley saw it right away.
The point is, I can’t really manage the problem of putting this or that app or this or that game or this or that book or this or that video on a Kindle Fire that Huxley has more or less full access to, without actually hampering his technological development and driving myself crazy. The FreeTime Unlimited service locks down an Amazon Kindle android account, i.e., on a Kindle Fire, for use by a certain kid for access to a certain and rather large range of educational or just plain fun do-dads, books, videos, etc.
In actual fact, Huxley knows how to hack the Kindle Fire I’ve set up for him, but he also knows not to do it. He basically understands that there are safe zones and less safe zones on the Internet, and on devices, and that he actually has access to all of it but is supposed to stay in the safe area. You can get a Kindle Fire for kids and put FreeTime on it (or get a bundle with all of it together) and lock it down so the kid really can’t get out of their space. I just chose, at this time, to not take that step.
So, the subscription service, in this case, stands in for my messing around with content on Huxley’s Android device.
So, what kind of content is there and how much does it cost? First, it costs less than five bucks a month, or if you already have Amazon Prime (which I do – see “Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial”), then it’s less than 3 bucks a month, for one kid (more for more kids). So, if you figure one or two Kindle books a month, one paid for app every few months, or the greatness of using all those “free” games but with the advertising gone (i.e., the paid rather than free game) to the tune of a few a month, etc., then this service is underpriced if they provide enough stuff.
And they do. It seems that a very large portion of the Amazon Kindle literature for kids is available for free. Even the Harry Potter books. The number of apps and games is huge. The video offerings seem to mirror what we already have on our ROKU and other places, but the truth is, we simply haven’t explored that to any great degree. It is not so much movies, but rather, shorter things like some educational TV shows and age appropriate stuff from Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, etc.
When I signed up two months ago, the first month was free. I don’t know if that offer is available now, but if so, it might be worth a look.
I believe it is also possible to put the entire thing on your TV via a Fire TV, and to access it on other Android devices or Kindles. I’ve not done that. I imagine that to use Android devices you have to install the Amazon system enhancement thingie that also allows you to watch Amazon prime streaming movies and such. I will be trying to put this on a tablet, within a user account for Huxley, just to see if it is possible. I’ll let you know how that goes.
To makes sure I’m being clear and accurate, here is what Amazon says about this service:
Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is an all-in-one subscription for kids that offers
unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games. FreeTime Unlimited offers unlimited access to over 10,000 kid-friendly books, educational apps, games, movies, and TV shows from top brands like Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, Electronic Arts, and many more.
A world of content for kids to explore within a completely kid-friendly environment
Promote reading and math with educational apps and thousands of books
Best-in-class parental controls – choose what content each child sees, and set educational goals and time limits
Personalize each kid’s experience with profiles, and let them watch where they want to – on Fire Tablets, Kindle eReaders or Fire TV
Great for kids between 3 and 12 years old
In FreeTime, the background color changes to blue, letting parents know at a glance that their child is safe. Kids only see titles that have been selected for them. Younger kids can search before they know how to type by using Characters – for example, tap on “Cinderella,” “Dinosaurs,” or “Puppies”.
Personally, I think the entire search capabilities of FreeTime kinda suck. Don’t get it for the ability to search for things. Use Google for that!
While in FreeTime, kids do not have access to social media or the internet, and they can’t make in-app purchases.
FreeTime lets parents set daily time limits, or restrict certain categories – like games and video – while leaving unlimited time for reading.
FreeTime Smart Filters ensure that your child sees age-appropriate content within FreeTime Unlimited. We use input from Common Sense Media and from parents like you to ensure that pre-teens don’t get the baby stuff and little kids don’t see the scary stuff. Parents can also adjust Smart Filter settings to tailor the experience for each child.
With Learn First, parents can block access to games and cartoons until after educational goals are met. Using Bedtime, parents can control when FreeTime shuts down for the day.
Parents can create up to four individual child profiles, customize each child’s access to content from the parent’s library, and decide which FreeTime Unlimited titles will be viewable in each profile. It’s like giving each kid their very own, personalized tablet. Kids can’t exit FreeTime mode without a password.
If you have more than four kids within the age range of this product, it is possible that you are reproducing too fast. Slow down please.
Fairly new is the “child safe camera.”
Kids can take pictures and edit them by adding stickers, drawings, and more. Parents can view photos and videos taken by their children in a separate photo gallery, and have the option to auto-save to Amazon Cloud Drive.
This is not the kind of thing I normally do, but I tried it. It is not the kind of thing I normally like, but I like it. I wasn’t sure if it would go OK but we have been using it for a couple of months, and it has gone great. So, I’m telling you about it.
I should note that FreeTime Unlimited has been around for several years. If you google around to investigate it, as I did, you’ll find a lot of old and out of date information. Make sure you are looking at recent discussions.
Want to make your own robot? You can do this the easy way, or you can do this the hard way. Or, both, if you like.
The basic home made robot is a robot because it moves around, and the way that is usually achieved is with two independently powered wheels, a third wheel (or something) to balance the thing, an energy source, some logic circuitry, some sensors, and some sort of remote control.
You can learn how all these technologies work, buy the various parts, put them together, program it, and have your own robot.
The Makeblock DIY mBot V1.1 Robot Kit is just under a hundred bucks, and is a fairly high functioning robot. You have to build it after you get it, but that takes something like 10 minutes. My brother Joe kindly sent one to Huxley, and Amanda and Huxley built it together in short order while I waited and watched, ready to jump in if needed. I was not needed. (Amanda is a scientist and Huxley is a gear head, so of course this was easy for them.)
One of the important features of the Makeblock Robot is that some of the key assembly needed to make a robot of this kind is either obviated by design (I’ll ‘splain in a minute) or made very easy with the use of handy dandy cables.
Normally, to make a robot like this, you’d start with a controller board such as the Arduino Uno . These boards have little thingies to which you attach wires, but they are lined up and organized in such a way that you can also attach a “shield” which consists of pre-fab circuitry to do a specific thing. One kind of shield is a motor control shield. Others facilitate infrared communication, or blue-ray communication.
The core of the the Makeblock Robot is Arduino circuitry already married to, and on the same board as, a motor control and an IR communication circuit. To this are added (by you) a couple of sensor boards and a blue-tooth board. The sensor and blue tooth boards are separate because you may want to swap out the sensors or comm devices that come with the robot, later, when you figure out how it all works and want to do more.
The motor control parts of the board attach to the motors with simple cables. All of it screws together to a chassis, which holds the controller, the brain, some of the sensors, and the wheels.
There is also programming built into the device, so it can do stuff right out of the box.
The robot comes with a small remote, which can be used to send motion commands, and some other fun commands, to the robot via an IR system (just like a TV remote). (If you build one, point your other remotes at the robot and see if you can get a rise out of it by trying different buttons!)
A second mode is “object avoidance mode.” This can be initiated with an on board button, or via the remote. The robot has a sensor on the front that sends out an ultrasonic signal, and then receives it, using time to estimate, bat-like, how far the nearest object in front of it is.
As the robot approaches an object, it stops, and changes course.
This sensor system does not detect when the robot is at the top of the stairs. Repeat. This sensor system does not detect when the robot is at the top of the stairs.
A third mode is “line follow mode.” This involves a pair of sensors at the front of the robot, facing downwards. These detect certain color contrasts, and in so doing, can determine if the robot is over a line, and if so, using some fairly simple (built in) programming, the robot follows the line. The kit comes with a big piece of paper with a black figure eight on it.
You can try to make your own lines, but you will find that your human senses are not the same as the robot senses, so what you think is a contrasting line may not be what the robot thinks is a contrasting line. So, experiment.
And, if you don’t find the line following to be good enough as it is, buy a more sensitive sensor, and program the robot to follow lines using programming mode.
Or buy two robots, attach a ballon to each, on the other end, a balloon popper, and have robot wars in your house. Like this:
Or set the robot up to count time (an hour or two) and then drive around the house holding a giant feather for a while. The cat will like that. I’m pretty sure you can also get an IR sensor more sensitive than the one on board, or a motion sensor, so the robot can actually go and find the cat using body heat or motion. And so on and so forth.
The mechanics of connecting together parts are said to interface or interact with Lego Technic.
Since this is an Arduino based device, the programming can be done in the native Arduino Language (called Sketch, a form of C). But MakeBlock provides MBlock, which is a form of Scratch. (I have two reviews of Scratch books here.) This form of scratch lets you use scratch like programming blocks, and the drag and drop elements, etc. but then translates the scratch program in to sketch. You can use this system in a cloud based form on any platform, and the offline editor currently works only in Windows and on a Mac. (It is possible to run it on Linux, according to what I’ve read, but I’ve not tried it yet.)
You don’t have to know programming to build this robot and have fun with it, but a little bit of programming is easy to do, and this is perhaps one of the best ways for a kid to learn some hardware and some software skills.
You will have to decide which tablet is best for you based on your specific needs, and no general review is going to give you that information in a useful way. But, among the many tablets there is a handful that rise to the top and should be looked at either to consider purchasing or to use as a benchmark against which to measure others.
Here is some guidance to help you decide which Android tablet are in that category, and that you should consider. Note that I look briefly at a very inexpensive option here (not included in the list below).
Most of these are higher end tablets for general use, but there are some notable exceptions. Because of the timing of when new technology comes out, many of these tablets are older models that have not been replaced yet with the newer models, and prices might be starting to drop for them.
First, the Nexus 9 is essentially being replaced by the Pixel, but the Nexus 9 is still an excellent tablet. So, look here for special deals.
Second, have a look at the Lenovo tablet which combines a projector and a tablet. This could be exactly what is needed for certain folks.
Third, note that some of the tablets either come with keyboards or have keyboards as an accessory.
Fourth, do look at the giant tablets (the last two, below). These are a little strange, but may be exactly what you are looking for.
Finally, if the main thing you are going to use your tablet for is reading Kindle books and watching films (mainly from Amazon) do look at the Amazon tablets. I’ve put two examples here, but you will also find a link below comparing them.
Some of the key specifications for these tablets are in a table at the bottom, but click through to get more information.
Google Nexus 9
Approximate price: $350 and up, look for deals.
Classic top of the line, not really replaced yet by Google Pixel, but it will be. Will be supported for the near future. Probably a good value right now because it is a great tablet with a dropping price. Sock Android OS. Generally, a Google Nexus product is going to run Android better than anyone else. Easy to hold because of material used to make the back.
From the makers: “This 10.1” Android tablet stretches the limits of display technology. The highest resolution, the brightest screen and the most vivid colours make Xperia Z4 Tablet the best viewing experience you will hold in your hand.”
Nvidia Shield Tablet K1
Approximate price: $200–250 and up, depending on options.
Inexpensive, good for gaming, has GeForce. Many versions of this tablet exist depending on what you specify. This is a specialty tablet mainly for gaming, not necessarily the best choice for general use. Long battery life. Not a large amount of onboard storage. (The stylus from earlier models is gone.) Maybe one of the best values given quality and price if you are looking for this type of tablet.
From the makers: “The new NVIDIA SHIELD tablet K1 is a high-performance Android tablet that transforms into an amazing gaming machine with the SHIELD controller and GeForce NOW™ game-streaming service.”
Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro
Approximate price: $600.
Powerful processor, great display, good cameras, bulky design, a bit of bloatware. Built in projector, which might make this an excellent choice if you give a lot of presentations in places where there may not be a projector. Ver unique design, with a hinge-stand to help the projector work. This is probably the perfect tablet for some people.
From the makers: “The YOGA Tab 3 Pro boasts a revolutionary integrated projector that turns any room into your very own theater. Experience a new way to enjoy videos and movies. Use the rotatable hinge and super bright 50 lumen output to project an image of up to 70” (178cm) on any wall or ceiling.”
Dell Venue 10 7000
Approximate price: $270 – 400 depending on storage specs.
Comes with a keyboard. Standard Android OS. Heavy, but sturdy. Wraparound front speakers. See also Dell Venu 8. This is a very good tablet, out does earlier Dell models. Probably has a great battery life.
Dolby Atmos audio-enhancing technology. Highly modified OS, including parental controls. The Amazon App store is not as good as the Google Play store. Mainly a media tablet, and of coruse, great for reading Kindle books.
Huge: 24 inches. There are other sizes as well, and the 24 inch version may be hard to get, leaving you with the smaller 20 inch version. Said to have a pretty good screen. Very kid-friendly, parental controlls, stock Android OS, will not fit in your pocket. Probably best for specialized uses such as in schools.
“Made especially for children and their parents, the nabi Big Tab HD™ line features a massive 20” and 24” HD display, built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, 16 GB of on board storage, Android 4.4 Kit Kat, integrated parental controls and over 400 kid-focused, parent-approved features through nabi’s Blue Morpho OS. Unlike other tablets that are designed to be personal devices, the Big Tab is made for sharing and collaboration in learning, playing, creating and communicating. It features family fun experiences including Two Play (classic 2-player board games), Game Room (arcade games like air hockey), Showtime (popular movies and TV shows), Story Time (interactive bedtime stories), Big Canvas (drawing and editing videos) and more.”
Another giant tablet (older model) to check out in case you are looking for one of those.
This is essentially a TV. From the manufacturer: “Knowing how you watch TV, we designed the biggest ever Android-powered full HD screen that’s large enough to double as a beautiful TV and light enough to be portable.”
I’m just passing this information on, I’ve not handled this device. But the price and performance seem like such a sweet spot that I am compelled to tell you about it. Let me know in the comments if you have experience with this item.
The Dragon Touch M8 2016 Edition 8 inch Quad Core Tablet is a competitively priced high quality tablet, with excellent reviews. It costs 80 bucks. A while back, I asked if you should buy a $50 Kindle Fire Tablet. I concluded that maybe you should, because it is cheap and if the main thing you are doing with your tablet is grazing your Amazon Kindle booklist, it is actually idea. The Dragon Touch M8 (2016) is larger (8 inch display), and runs basic Android (different from the fire) and while a bit more expensive, it is also cheap.
Click through to see the specs. . It is a quad core with 1gb of ram, has a memory card slot for an extra 32 gigs of storage above the built in 16 gigs, GPS (that requires, I think, wireless), blue tooth, an HDMI plug, which might make it ideal for carrying around to give presentations (though you might need a ).
Scanning the reviews on Amazon, it seems that the bad reviews are about individual tablets that are broken in some way. The good reviews are pretty glowing. There are some complaints about the forward facing camera, but this may arise from the fact that at least in some tablets, this camera has a separate protective film on it that some may not have removed.
This tablet is not going to be as good as an iPad or a Google Nexus 9. It may be noticeably slower, especially with high demand apps like some games. But, if you simply can’t afford a tablet this may be a good choice, or if you want a second device for specific purposes that are not that demanding, you can probably skip some mid-priced pleasure (like going out to eat or something) and totally justify the purchase.
This is a review of the Kindle Fire with 7″ Display and Special Offers by Amazon. In short, this is a tablet/eReader that a lot of people will want, as long as certain needs are extant and certain expectations understood. I have one, and I’m very happy with it. It would take very little convincing for me to get a second one.
One of the main reasons to give serious thought to getting one of these is the fact that it will put you back a mere fifty bucks.
Don’t expect a brilliant tablet for fifty bucks. You may want a nice full blown Android tablet, or if you prefer, an iPad. That will cost you several hundred dollars, and may be worth it. The Kindle Fire reviewed here is not that.
This Kindle tablet has a processor that is slower than the faster processors, has a screen resolution about 20% lower than good quality typical tablets, and moderate but not overwhelming graphics capability. If you are going to rely on a tablet, use it all the time for all the things one might use a tablet for, get a Google Pixel C or, if you don’t have $700 bucks, the also awesome Google Nexus 9.
Don’t get the Kindle Fire with 7″ Display and Special Offers to be THE tablet in your life. But, if you read Kindle books, and you want an eReader that is tablet-like (rather than electronic paper), consider a device that is 50% as fast as something that is so fast you can’t tell how fast it is, 80% as crisp, but only 10% of the cost. Seriously, at $50, instead of $400 or $700, this is worth consideration.
I don’t actually own an up to date super tablet. Rather, I have a phablet, a super phone (one of the most powerful out there) which is huge, and acts like a tablet well enough. For watching videos and reading eBooks using the Kindle reader, I have an iPad 2, which is essentially brain dead as a tablet (since it will not run the newer operating systems in any realistic way) but works OK for these two tasks. Adding the Kindle 7″ eReader, which happens to be an Android tablet, made a lot of sense for me, especially because the iPad 2 actually doesn’t work all that well as a Kindle reader.
Upsides and downsides
The display is fine. I tend to read with larger than average font size, and in that area I don’t see any problem with the display resolution. If I had some masochistic need to read books in a tiny tiny font, I’d want a super high resolution display, but that is not me.
When I put my finger on the display, say of a web page, and scroll, I can see some jumpiness on the screen that I would find annoying if this was my main way of using the internet or doing other tablet or computer related things. But the Kindle eReader not scroll, it pages. And, by the way it pages fast, like it is supposed to, not when it feels like it, like the Kindle Reader operating on an old iPad 2 does.
This is not the ancestral unadulterated Android operating system. And, let me say, that in my opinion, your phone and your main tablet (if you have an Android tablet) should be plain vanilla Android, and not some storage-killing absurdly designed version of the Android operating system like this one. And, the Kindle tablet I’m talking about here is not that. It is an Amazonoid version of the Android operating system.
I think you can install Google Play Store on this tablet, but it does not come by default. Rather, you use the Amazon app store. The Amazon App store is roughly as annoying as the Amazon Prime Video interface, in that it never occurred to anyone at Amazon to organize things in a way that makes sense. But, you can actually get much of the software the Google Play Store has, that you would ever want, on Amazon once you dig past the games and fluff. Also, many apps on the Amazon App store are free-er or cheaper. And, if you buy stuff from Amazon generally you may occasionally be getting credits (=money) that you can use for buying things like apps.
If you like Amazon Music (I don’t use it) or audio books, or Kindle eBooks that talk, etc., then this this tablet should serve you well.
The interface is a bit different than a regular tablet. Again, if you are looking for The Tablet to do Your Stuff, the interface will be a bit annoying. But if you want a machine that handles mainly ebooks or some other Amazon products like music, movies, etc, then this interface will be excellent for you. The interface scrolls/pages up and down within a given realm of stuff, and back and forth to go between apps, books, video, music. etc. (see the picture above). Amazon related things are bigger and up top. Once again, this device is best for, and good at, interfacing with Amazon.
And yes, generally, you can install and use Android apps of various kinds, so you can have a web browser, calculator, etc. etc. You can use this as a tablet, but the best use is probably to do some tablet-like stuff along side your Amazon focused stuff.
The cameras are mediocre.
The tablet has a descent amount of storage. You can add a micro-SD card. You can not put Amazon books on the micro_SD card but you can download movies from Amazon Prime to it for watching off line. You can have some (many, most) of the apps run off the card. You can put photos and videos you take with the on board cameras there as well. The micro-SD slot will handle a 64 gig card.
One area I intend to use this device is for bird books. Bird books are too small on a phone. Tablets are too big to carry around in the bush, or on a boat. But bird books that are either apps or that are actual e-books work well on this larger-than-a-phone device, which is still easy to carry it around. I am not likely to drop the Kindle Fire into a swamp. But if I do, I’ve dropped a $50 device, not a $500 device, into a swamp.
But is it a piece of crap or a well built machine?
The tablet seems well built. Maybe it will survive being dropped in to a swamp. We’ll see!
I looked through many of the comments on the device on Amazon, to see what other people thought of it. The comments were divided mainly into two categories. Most were saying pretty much what I’m saying here, that the tablet is great for it’s specified uses, given the price. A smaller number of comments hate it, but it seems like almost all of those comments are about broken tablets. So if you get a broken one, it will be, well, broken. Send that one back!
This could be great for kids
I’m just starting to experiment with this, but it has promise. You can set up individual accounts on this Kindle so different people in your family can organize their books and stuff separately. But even more interesting, you can set up a kid version of an account, that is isolated from the rest of the system by a passcode.
I will be setting up an account for Huxley, to see if it works for him. He only barely reads so far, but there are kid’s games and learning tools that he will enjoy. The screen size of this Kindle is the same as his LeapFrog device, and he is quickly outgrowing the LeapFrog. Also, this may be a good transition into regular reading, since it can have regular books. I have mixed feelings about getting a kid reading into eBooks right away, but for some things it will be appropriate.
And that is probably why I’ll get a second Kindle Fire 7″. For the kid.
There are a few other reasons to own an Android tablet that have little to do with normal uses of tablets. Like running an Arduino Android shield. I assume the Kindle Fire will work for that, and if I ever do that I’ll let you know!
The Special Offers
Obviously this is not a $50 tablet. It is probably a couple hundred dollars worth of tablet made cheaper by the fact that Amazon wants you to be a Kindle user, and Amazon eBook reader. Then, on top of that, this version of the table throws on ads, otherwise known as “special offers” to bring the price down to fifty bucks.
So, what are these special offers? There are only two things you need to know about them. First, they only show up on the home screen when the device wakes up after being turned off. Second, you can elect to limit them to be family/kid friendly. I’ve not chosen that option and have not seen anything non-kind friendly, so that may not be necessary.
The Special Offers are easy to ignore unless you are totally paranoid and walk around saying “you are the product, you are the product” all the time. If you are already reading eBooks, and using the Internet a lot, you are already part of the Borg and this tablet will change nothing.
But, if you want to get rid of the ads or not have them to begin with, you can just pay $15.
Should you buy a Kindle Fire 7″ tablet with special offers for fifty bucks?
I’m reccomending this this Kindle Fire tablet and eReader for a lot of people, noting that the risks of being wrong are small, and there are many potential uses. If you have a need for a Kindle reader right now and aren not committed to ePaper, even better. If you lack a larger tablet or you have a tablet that sucks anyway, yet another reason. If you have a concern that your expensive eReader is going to be trashed because you are going on a long and dangerous trip or spend a lot of time in swamps, get one. If you want to experiment on your child with a tablet, this is a good way to do it cheaply. If you are hobbyist who wants an inexpensive Android tablet this may (or may not) be good. (If you take it in that direction, let me know how it goes).
Looking at just the specs, the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks like a good phone. That’s why we got one!
But there are a few things you need to know that may impact your decision. These problems lead me to not recommend this phone.
First, the Android Lollipop version that Samsung produces is a much modified version of the basic Android operating system. Nothing useful or interesting is provided, but the “miscellaneous” storage, which for most normal Android Lollipop phone takes up about 300 – 400 megabytes of space, takes up several gigabytes of space, in order to have these features. So when you compare the storage capacity across different phones, subtract several gigabytes from the Samsung Galaxy S4’s specifications, because you can’t use that storage space and there is no way to fix that.
The features you get are elusive. The rather cool right swipe to the google page is not available to you as per normal. The list of applications installed will have two parts, each alphabetical, so you have to look in two places to find installed apps. I can’t see any useful features that have been added.
Second, the phone might be broken. Obviously this may vary from user to user. The first phone we got was broken. Verizon, the carrier we were using, had a new Samsung Galaxy S4 sent to us. Except it was actually a reconditioned used phone. It was broken. So Verizon sent another new one. This one was also a used, reconditioned phone. And it was broken.
Asking Verizon to allow us to switch to a different phone cost us about 10 hours of time dealing with technical support and led us nowhere, since Verizon does not actually back up their retail arrangements. Samsung was very unhelpful, and even rude, with their technical support. This resulted in us being stuck with a model phone with less than specified storage space, and what may end up being a string of broken used reconditioned phones that will work for a few days and then break, unless we get lucky and get one that is not borked out of the box.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 allows you to buy an SD storage card and install that. This is not a good solution to the lack of storage problem, as many apps can’t really make use of the SD card. Many apps will allow you to move data to the card, but in some cases, this causes the app to not work properly, and the data moved to the SD card is minimal. The only real use of the SD card is to have your camera app(s) put their pictures there. Also, you may be able to convince your phone to move the download folder there.
Of course, if you select the Samsung Galaxy S4 and have the same problems we’ve had with the brokenness of it all, then you will have to reconfigure all this stuff to use the SD card every time you get a new iteration of Broken Phone.
The technical problems with the phones have included a sim card holder that does not work (so the sim card is not recognized), a wireless/bluetooth antenna that does not work (if you check around on the Internet you’ll find this to be a very common problem with the Samsung Galaxy S4), or the 4g not working (for unknown reasons).
So, in short, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy S4 for several hundred dollars. Or you can hold a sharpened metal rod over a flame until it becomes white hot and drive it into your eyeball. Same effect, the second option is cheaper.
I don’t recommend the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Many people have had great experiences with other Samsung smart phones. And some of those phones look great. However, you need to know that if something does go wrong with one of those phones, and you have to deal with Samsung technical support, they will treat you like dirt. That would keep me away from Samsung products in general. Having said that, maybe some of the other companies are just as bad. Feel free to relate your own experiences along these lines in the comments section below.
Android Lollipop is the new Android OS, and it is a good one. If you want to get a new Android phone, you will probably be happier choosing a one with Lollipop already installed.
This is not to say that phones with the older Android OS, KitKat, won’t or can’t be upgraded to Lollipop. Nor do I suggest they will be. It is a bit of a mystery. At some point, I assume, some older models will not be upgraded. One might assume that if you get a new model phone that still runs KitKat that you’ll be upgraded eventually, but that is not 100% certain.
We are looking into a new phone, we use Verizon, and I just spent several minutes looking through all the Verizon phones to see which ones have Lollipop already on them. The number of Verizon phones with Lollipop has gone up quickly over the last few weeks, and I assume that will continue. But as of now, early June 2015, this is the list:
Google Nexus 6™ HTC One® M9 LG G3 LG G4™ Motorola Moto X™ (2nd Gen.) Motorola Moto X™ (2nd Gen.) – Designed by You Samsung Galaxy Note® Edge??????? Maybe not Samsung Galaxy S®6 Samsung Galaxy S®6 edge
This is based on what Verizon specifies on their web site in the US. I don’t know if this will apply to what you find in stores (many Verizon stores have only a subset of the total number of available phones, though I assume you can order these phones either at a store or on line). Again, the situation is changing rapidly, but this is what I found today, and having gone through the trouble, I thought I’d save you the time!
If you know of any additions or corrections, or information from other services, please feel free to indicate this in the comments below.