I usually don't partake much in Black Friday. I figure, if I need something I probably already have it -- and any shopping I do is always confined to online purchases (in my view, anyone who tramples over another person just to save $50 on a cellphone is nuts and best avoided).
I was tempted to take part in Black Friday this year, however, by the lure of the cheap tablet -- in this case, the Double Power Technology (I know -- who?) T-711, a 7-inch tablet running Android 4.0 for just $59.
I am just not ready to pull the trigger on the iPad Mini yet (nor does my wife see any need to when she's still wondering why I just HAD to have that iPhone 5 only two months ago), but I did want to have a 7-inch tablet available for my daughter to bang on when she turns 1 early next year.
I was also curious about the 7-inch size for everyday use, so the deal made sense. I found a video on YouTube of a guy opening the box and playing with the tablet, and it seemed responsive without much lag. I placed my order.
The T-711's specs seemed appropriate for the money -- a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB internal storage with an SD card slot to increase it by 32GBs. The screen, with only an 800x480 resolution, was the only thing I was worried about. As soon as I powered it up I knew I was right to be worried. The screen is terrible, with text so fuzzy on some apps it's nearly unreadable. Call me a resolution snob if you wish, but this screen is essentially the quality of a decent calculator.
That wasn't the worst of it, however -- I quickly discovered that touches on the screen didn't always register. That was a much bigger problem. Your touch not only had to be precise, but you even had to put a little weight behind it. It made me instantly appreciate that much more how smooth and responsive iPads and higher-end Android tablets are.
OK, so the screen was lousy, but at that point the tablet was not a complete train-wreck. It runs a modern OS (though I assume I'll never see an update for it), and there were plenty of "good enough" apps on the Android platform to make it usable. I was ready to cut it a break, but then the battery died ... after a little more than an hour.
An HOUR, people.
Of all the sacrifices I was prepared to make to use a cheap tablet, I wasn't thinking in terms of having no battery life whatsoever. At a minimum, any smartphone or tablet needs to make it through the day with regular usage on a charge. I tweaked some settings in Android, started using a task killer, turned the screen brightness down as much as I could stand, etc., and have since been able to squeeze about 90 minutes out of it.
In the end, it proves the old adage that you get what you pay for. That $60 would have been much, much better served going toward a Nexus 7 or iPad Mini. I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with a use for this tablet, and so far all I've got is using it for Netflix on the treadmill -- because if it should go flying off, hit the ground and shatter into pieces, at least I'm only out $60 ... and out of my misery.
Morgan Bonner is pre-press manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.