Continuing our foray into low-price Android tablets, Chinavasion have sent me on a journey to the other end of the scale with their BrillianTab, a 7″ tablet running Android 2.3. This is a serious step up in tablets as it’s powered by a 1.2GHz, dual-core A8 processor with 512MB of RAM and boy does it make a difference! This tablet is seriously, seriously good for such a low price point. Click through for all the info and make sure to check out the hands-on video review to see how well it handles.
The BrillianTab is a very nice-looking unit, with a curved metal back reminiscent of the iPad, and power and volume buttons clustered near the top of one edge. There are 4 capacitive buttons on the face of the tablet; Back, Home, Menu and Search, as well as a power and volume up/down buttons along one edge. While the build quality is very high, there is a bit of glue visible around most of the bezel, but still the tablet feels solid, doesn’t flex or creak and it really feels like a proper tablet. (Click on photos to enlarge)
Inputs include a full sized USB port, microSD slot (32GB max), mini USB port, HDMI out, 3.5mm stereo socket, hard reset and power port for the proprietary power charger. There are two speaker grilles on either side and a webcam built into the bezel and that’s it for features, no Bluetooth and no GPS. Overall it weighs in at 365g (about 12oz) so its very easy to hold for long periods. The only slightly odd feature is the loud vibration motor, which is startling loud the first few times you hear it.
The reflective screen is a 800 x 480 capacitive multi-touch touchscreen with an orientation sensor and a thumb-wide bezel. Unfortunately the aspect of the screen isn’t correct in either orientation. In portrait mode the screen is too tall and in landscape it’s too wide. I found it a little jarring at first, but I stopped noticing it once I deleted the circular analog clock from the Home screen. I thought this would really bug me, but after a couple of days use I don’t even notice it any more. The screen is also lacking an oleophobic coating so it gets pretty greasy quickly, and the reflective black bezel doesn’t really help. However as it’s wifi-only (no 3G) this is pretty much an indoors tablet anyway.
The full sized USB port was a nice touch for larger file transfers and the HDMI-out worked very well and the included 1m HDMI cable was also appreciated. Wifi file transfers were slowish, 350MB taking about 7 minutes to copy over with mid-range signal strength.
Compared to a lot of low end Android tablets, the BrillianTab is a breath of fresh air on a cool clear, breezy day. It boots in 50 seconds, it’s responsive and is just a bare Android 2.3 ROM in all its non-laggy glory. The tablet ships with remarkably few apps onboard. There’s a Fruit Ninja clone, a lifeblogging video/audio app called Livo, Documents To Go, my fave file explorer ES File Explorer, some Task Killer apps and Gmail, and that’s about it. There aren’t enough apps to fill the screen which is a nice change.
I downloaded my usual list of suspects, Opera Mobile, the nifty Dolphin HD Browser, Facebook, Skype, Google Maps, Kindle and of course the reigning default benchmark for low-end tablets: Angry Birds.
I typically got around 3.5 hours of use on a charge. That was with surfing, playing Angry Birds, file transfers and watching videos and was pretty much in line with the Chinavasion spec. page. The multi-touch works in everything I tried, web pages loaded quickly, Google Maps is smooth to use, Angry Birds works beautifully and quickly and the movie player and photo gallery also worked well – most of the time (see Issues below). The wifi was rock-solid and didn’t drop out once in 5 days of usage, which was very impressive.
I guess the ultimate proof of the BrillianTab’s capability was that I was able to give it to my 4-year old daughter to use. She opened up Google Maps, zoomed, panned, pinched and generally threw the maps around with the care-free abandon only children can do. I added a drawing program which had multi-touch features and she scribbled and played with that with no issues at all. I can therefore declare the BrillianTab somewhat child-friendly.
Camera and Media
The camera, I’m sorry to say, is a bit gimmicky. It’s located in a great position and shouldn’t get thumbprints on it in portrait or landscape mode. It can take stills at 1600 x 1200 or movies at 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution but the shutter lag between pressing the button and taking the photo is approximately 4 seconds. No joke.
I couldn’t get the camera to work with Skype either. Video calling was enabled and it detected the camera, but there was no image. Video calling to the BrillianTab didn’t produce an image either. Simple voice calling with Skype was fine and wherever the microphone is located on the tablet it worked well.
The music player was the standard Android version which is unremarkable but worked well. I found the tablet speakers ok for listening to music, but they were borderline too soft for video. Headphones are your friend.
You can connect the BrillianTab to any monitor or TV via the HDMI port, and everything on the tablet will be mirrored on the screen. The only exception is video playback, it only displays on the connected device. Games, photos, YouTube and browsing is all displayed on both screens. There was a slight bit of overscanning on my TV meaning the edge of the image was trimmed off. Some TVs allow you to fix over/underscanning so your mileage may vary, but still very cool for showing off photos/videos or your MaD sK1Lz at Angy Birds.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all smooth sailing with the BrilianTab. At first the battery started playing up, the first few times I used it I could only get about 30 minutes of run time. Over the next few days I figured out that interrupting the charging cycle was the problem, unplugging it to move while it was charging seemed to upset it. So I ran it completely flat and then plugged it in to charge completely and everything seemed to be good again.
The other issue concerned the microSD and the built-in 4GB NAND storage. Occasionally the photo gallery just wouldn’t see the microSD card. Nothing fixed the problem except rebooting. These problems were just quirks, they only happened the first couple of days that I was using the BrillianTab and haven’t happened since.
The BrillianTab well and truly lives up to its name. It’s smooth, fast, very usable and the best low-price Android tablet I’ve ever used. In fact it reminds me of the Samsung 7″ Galaxy Tab, with just a bit less polish and at a quarter of the price. It’s lightweight, comfortable to hold for longish periods reading in bed and could do most things asked of it. The metal backing of the BrillianTab should ensure it takes a few knocks as well.
Whilst it did have a couple of quirks and could be a little unstable, rebooting fixed most problems and thankfully it boots quite fast. It’s a very comfortable size to hold for while and disappears into bags with ease, but be careful as there’s no case.
Honestly, for about US$190 the BrillianTab is brilliant and a complete no-brainer if you’re in the market for an unlocked Android media/browser tablet. The BrillianTab is very highly recommended.