Velocity Micro Cruz T408

Velocity Micro has been producing low cost Android tablets for the last year or so, but the company’s latest tablets are some of the best yet. They feature capacitive multitouch displays and Samsung 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processors. Most important, they’re actually reasonably fun to interact with.

The company loaned me a Velocity Micro Cruz T408 tablet and a Cruz T410 tablet for review purposes, and I wanted to post some initial impressions.

The T408 features an 8 inch, 800 x 600 pixel display that’s inset a little from the bezel. The T410 has a larger 10 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display with an edge-to-edge look, which means that the screen material (I think it’s plastic) covers the bezel as well as the display.

Update: The displays are LCDs with glass — although there may be plastic over the T410 screen.

The larger screen also makes the T410 a little larger and heavier than the T408, but otherwise the two tablets are nearly identical. Both feature 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, accelerometers, microSD card slots, and front-facing cameras.

Both tablets also run Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Neither comes with access to the Android Market. Instead you get the Amazon Appstore as well as some other preloaded apps including an Angry Birds title and Amazon Kindle eBook app. There are some things I really like about the Amazon Appstore — such as the way it allows you to purchase an app once and then download it on any device simply by visiting the “My Apps section.” Unfortunately the Amazon Appstore still has just a tiny fraction of the apps available from the Android Market.

The good news is that the Cruz tablets have handled almost every third party app I’ve thrown at them so far, whether those apps came from the Amazon Appstore or not. You can try transfering APK app installer files from another Android device or try downloading apps from other third party app stores such as SlideMe or GetJar.

The tablets feature volume and power buttons — but that’s about it for physical buttons. There are no buttons for home, menu, or back functions. Instead there’s a persistent toolbar at the top of the screen with soft buttons for those functions. These work reasonably well, but sometimes it’s awkward to reach all the way to the top of the screen. The menu icon also looks an awful lot like the icon for opening the full list of Android apps, which caught me off guard at first.

I really like the 8 inch model so far. Sure, it doesn’t have the fastest processor around or the highest resolution display. But it’s small and light and works pretty well for reading eBooks, surfing the web, or playing games.

I need to spend more time with the 10 inch model before I really make up my mind — but so far the unusual screen shape and resolution is throwing me for a curve. While 1024 x 600 pixel displays are common on netbooks, it’s an unusual combo for an Android device  and it makes the tablet feel a bit too long to use comfortably in portrait mode.

More importantly, while the two tablets are nearly identical in most respects, the 10 inch model costs $100 more than the 8 inch tablet.

The Velocity Micro Cruz T408 is available for $199.99 while the Cruz T410 runs $299.99.

At about $200, the T408 is priced similarly to the Amazon Kindle Fire or Lenovo IdeaPad A1 and it fills a similar niche. But at $300, the Cruz T410 seems a bit expensive for a tablet running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

I’ll have more details and full reviews once I’ve spent more time with the tablets.

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One reply on “First look: Velocity Micro Cruz T408 and T410 tablets”

  1. The 10 inch reminds me of my Arnova G2 10, except the Arnova is cheaper, and the fact my Arnova has an edge to it where it comes in contact with the bezel.  The beauty with a 10 in model for me is that I know if I hold it in landscape mode, I will always be able to easily read the text of any PDF file without difficulty, without having to reflow the text which screws up formatting. 

    Of course for most people the 8 inch model may be fine for that  as well. However, on the 7 inch models I owned which also had 16:9 aspect ratios, holding it in landscape position didn’t have quite enough real estate for my tastes, with certain pdfs.

    That said, for reading web pages, books, and general use, I would prefer a 8 inch model with a 4:3 aspect ratio over a 10 inch with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

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