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SEP

Android X5A Tablet First Thoughts

Posted by Lester Madden under Gadgets

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For the last few months I have had this craving for an iPad. I have no particular need, I just fancied surfing the web without a laptop and trailing power cable while watching TV. There are a few things that annoy me about the iPad, I wont go into them all but needless to say paying £500 for a device that does less than a netbook is just silly, as is no flash support. So I started investigating the world of Android Tablets.

If you are buying an iPad the only choice is, memory size and whether you want 3G. Android Tablets you have to worry about the OS version, chip speed, connections, whether it has access to the market place (not all do) and memory. To confuse matters even more, device go by many different names as they get rebranded.

After a lot of research I opted for an X5A which is a 7” device featuring a Telechip 8902 processor (based on ARM11 apparently). According to what I read, it’s the fastest Android device on the market right now. It also runs Android OS 2.1. The device also has a HDMI out so I can connect it directly to my Plasma TV and watch movies, YouTube videos or surf the web. Note that the HDMI is HDMI out, you can’t connect to your xBox. Battery life seems to be pretty good, I have only had to charge it once so far.

Many complaints I read from users of other Android tablets were about buttons that didn’t work. For example, the home button did nothing, so if you were browsing the web and wanted to go back to the desktop you would have to press the back button repeatedly. The X5A has buttons for home, back, and menu and they all work just fine.

However, if you’re planning on buying one, here are some of my random gripes on the device.

Screen

The touch screen is not that great. It requires a decent touch to register input, you are not going to enjoy typing emails on it. Scrolling is a real pain as it requires so much pressure that the device often mistakes the input for a button press and loads what ever program you happen to have ‘not’ selected. It comes with a stylus which is retractable, the problem is tapping the screen requires so much force that the stylus retracts. I own an iPhone and there is no comparison in quality of the screen.

Speed

While researching the device prior to buying I found a lot of other users saying that this is the fastest device available. I haven’t used any Android devices before and would have to say that its pretty slow. Clicking an icon results in a 1 second period where you are wondering if the device is doing something or if you didn’t use enough pressure. I can only wonder what other ‘slower’ devices are like.

Youtube

Youtube works ok, video plays full screen and look great on the device. The speaker is enough so you can hear the audio at a good level. It’s really annoying that you can’t change the volume level once you start playing a video, you have to close the video first, change the volume then restart

There is also something strange about the Youtube search. To test I tried searching for the IT Crowd which is a UK comedy. The device returns Youtube content for 1 and 2 minute clips as well as various parodies, not the full length videos I am after. There is a setting to affect the timescale of the search but it doesn’t seem to do anything, always showing the newest videos first. To find what you are after you need to be really specific with your search. Otherwise trying to scroll though the list to find what you are after will result in you inadvertently starting several videos in your futile attempts to scroll the list

While on the subject of Youtube, connecting the HDMI cable up to your big screen plasma TV enables you to watch videos. You’ll need to switch to the relevant 1080p output and remember to change it back after you’re finished or you’ll get no Youtube picture on your device. I only tested this briefly and found that the sound seemed to alternate between the TV and the device. That could be a result of my internet which has been playing up recently so I’ll need to try this again when I have more time.

Android Market

Obviously a big selling point, surprisingly a lot of Android tablets have problems connecting to the Android Market and to begin with I had problems with an error message complaining about being ‘unable to establish a reliable connection’ to the Google server. I solved the problem by doing a factory reset. If you are going to do this then unless you read fluent Chinese, write down the menu options to switch the device back into English because as soon as you do the factory reset the device boots back to Chinese.

Flash support

Flash support is something I wanted as I like the games on gamesforwork.com. The X5A doesn’t support flash, but you can install the Skyfire browser that does, the X5A is also upgradeable to Android OS 2.2 which has flash support. In reality though, the device doesn’t have the processing power required to load flash games and flash games at gamesforwork.com don’t load.

Verdict

I paid £150 for the Android X5A to satisfy my iPad craving. I knew that there would be no comparison between the two and ultimately wanted something I could use to surf the web and do a little email without having to boot a laptop.

I got something that is pretty good for surfing the web, once you learn to live with the level of pressure required to tap the screen, but will never be used to do any real email. It’s not as polished as the iPad. There is a world of difference between the two and I could not give this to the wife to use. Some things will annoy the hell out of you, like the fact that some things are landscape, others are portrait and auto rotation doesn’t really work. I don’t regret buying it, but I am glad I didn’t buy one for the wife as well. She would not see it as an iPad replacement.

The X5A is not going to replace my laptop but will probably become that device I travel with in the future to stay in touch.

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Reader's Comments

  1. Luciano |

    Look for Asurom 1.0 beta for the device. You will change some opinions on the device once you flashed that firmware.

    Regards,
    Luciano.

  2. Martin Bird |

    Hi Lester – I recently bought the same and share your experience.
    Unfortunately I bought it for my daughter, (after giving her an iPad to play with for a week!). The idea was to use it as an ebook, but the youtube function is so good, that has become its main use. I do think it does both these very well. I have downloaded a dev tool kit and hope to create a couple of widgets to address the orientation and volume control issues.

    If it falls into dis-use in a few months then I may flash it with another android version to see what more it can do. But it has found its slot in our family in the technology stack that goes Desktop -> netbook -> x5a -> PSP/Blackberry.

  3. Lester Madden |

    @Luciano – I’ll look out for the Asurom firmware

    @Martin – I tried to palm the X5A off on my wife. She used it for about 3 minutes and hasn’t touched it since. Currently its sitting on the floor under the TV where it has been for about 3 weeks. I’m surprised you got on with the YouTube features. My primary goal was to be able to catch-up on serials like Shameless. The trouble is they don’t show up in the search. I assume its some weird regional setting that says the device is not English, therefore all the Channel 4 programs wont show up.

    For me the device is pretty much a dead duck, I’ll try the firmware Luciano suggested but don’t hold out much hope.

    Incidentally, I had the opportunity to play around with the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That is one sweet little tablet, and it supports flash. It’s on my list of things to buy.

  4. Steve |

    I bought this tab a couple of days ago and it barely functions without added pressureon the screen. Everytime I log on i have to switch off and on my Broadband receiver because the X5A WIFI would not connect me automatically. It isn’t that fast either and takes a while to download things. The youtube facility does not work or is rather limited. I have abdandoned it and will be returning it to the vendor shortly. I guess it delivers for its price but it would be better if wasn’t seriously over-hyped as the best Android tablet cos clearly it isn’t.

  5. Lester |

    @Steve

    I share your disappointment Steve. I read a number of reviews before I brought it and everyone said how amazing it was. It’s a crock as far as I am concerned.

    I’d like to return mine, but I don’t know where it is. Nor do I care.
    Heap of junk.

  6. Stacy |

    My boyfriend bought me the tablet for Xmas and I was so excited. The only problem is that the wifi isn’t working very well, even when I’m right next to the router. I’m trying to avoid sending it back. Does anyone have any ideas on how to fix this?

  7. dooooog |

    @ Stacy go to this site; http://buyadroid.blogspot.com/2010/08/hsg-x5a-7-android-tablet.html

    it’s where a lot of people buy their tablet.
    there is a section where it says “CLICK HERE” it’s where you can download the latest firmware. It has instructions and everything so that’ll probably help you.

    Also, if you go to slatedroid, there is a whole forum for this one tablet. there is lots of support there.

    goodluck.

  8. Arup Basak |

    Glad to hear that this worked for you. I have this X5A also. My problem is this, even after factory reset, my device doesn’t supports youtube. clicking on play gives that browser cannot find something like vnd.youtube….
    And I cannot install applications, there are not any marketplace icon, nor I can online install them, while try to online install, the browser says, cannot find market://….. something.
    The audio and Video playback is very good. HD videos don’t even halting.
    If you know some troubleshooting, then please let me know.

  9. Lester Madden |

    Hi Arup

    The reason you have no market place icon is because you are using a build that doesn’t have the market place present. You’ll need to reimage your device from the link above mentioned by doooooq. (http://buyadroid.blogspot.com/2010/08/hsg-x5a-7-android-tablet.html)

    Make sure you chose an image that has the market as I don’t believe it can be installed separately.

  10. stacy |

    @dooooog

    I went to the link, but I couldn’t download the firmware. It said it wasn’t supported by my device. Any other ideas?

  11. Protip |

    “Screen

    The touch screen is not that great. It requires a decent touch to register input, you are not going to enjoy typing emails on it. Scrolling is a real pain as it requires so much pressure that the device often mistakes the input for a button press and loads what ever program you happen to have ‘not’ selected. It comes with a stylus which is retractable, the problem is tapping the screen requires so much force that the stylus retracts. I own an iPhone and there is no comparison in quality of the screen.”

    Protip says use your nails! :)

  12. Anonymous |

    There all lies I have one for real

  13. Arup Basak |

    Thanks a lot. But it didn’t worked.

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