The Velocity Micro T408 tablet which I reviewed recently is a solid entry into the budget 7 inch Android tablet space. The company might not have the name recognition of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or the custom software that you get with a tablet from those companies — but that’s exactly why the T408 might appeal to some users. It provides a decent Android experience for $200.
But what happens when you take the same approach toward producing a tablet with a 10 inch display? It turns out you still get a decent tablet… but the overall package isn’t quite as compelling.
Judged on its own merits, the Cruz T410 certainly isn’t a bad tablet. It’s reasonably fast, the screen is responsive, and most Android apps will run just fine on the tablet. But if I had to choose between the T408 and the T410 I’d definitely pick the smaller tablet, despite its smaller, lower resolution display. Not only does it provide a better value for the money, but I found the smaller tablet a little more pleasant to use.
You can pick up the Velocity Cruz Micro T410 from Amazon for $299.99.
The Velocity Micro Cruz T410 tablet has a 10 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel capacitive touchscreen display. The tablet has a 1 GHz single core ARM Cortex-A8 processor designed by Samsung. It’s similar to the chip found in the original Samsung Galaxy S smartphone line or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 inch tablet.
The tablet has 512MB of RAM and features 802.11b/g/n WiFi, a front-facing camera, and a gyroscope. The tablet has 4GB of storage, but only around 500MB are available for installing apps, and about 2.5 GB of space is available for storing media and files.
Fortunately there’s also a microSD card slot for expansion, which means you can add up to 32GB of extra space for programs and data — although some apps cannot be moved to removable storage.
Right now the Cruz T410 ships with Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of Android 3.0 or higher. That means it runs a version of Android designed for phones rather than tablets, but Velocity Micro says that software updates down the road could bring Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to the tablet.
You don’t get the full Google experience with the T410. While it includes the basic apps that come with virtually all Android devices such as a web browser, calculator, and calendar, the tablet doesn’t come with the official Gmail, Google Maps, or Android Market apps.
Instead it comes with the Amazon Appstore for Android. That means instead of being able to find and download hundreds of thousands of apps with ease, you can download tens of thousands. The last time I checked, there were more than 400,000 apps available from the Android Market, but just around 20,000 in the Amazon Appstore.
Yes, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to app stores, and Amazon’s system is easy to search, easy to use, and provides an easy way to re-download apps you’ve previously purchased (whether they’re fee or paid apps). But there are just enough popular Android apps that aren’t available from the Amazon Appstore to make the third party marketplace a little more frustrating to use than the official Android Market.
Eventually I suspect someone will figure out a way to install a hacked version of the Andoid Market on this tablet — and I’m pretty sure it’s Google that’s decided not to certify the Cruz T410, not Velocity Micro that chose not to install the Android Market. But it doesn’t matter whose fault it is.
All that matters is that devices that ship without the Android Market are at a slight disadvantage because it’s harder to find and install some of the best apps for Android such as Dolphin Browser HD or Netflix (although there’s reason to believe that Netflix will be added to the Amazon Appstore soon).
The Cruz T410 has a 10 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display which makes the entire tablet about the same size as a typical netbook screen — and it has the same resolution as most netbooks.
But while that screen resolution makes sense on a 10 inch netbook it doesn’t work quite as well on a 10 inch tablet. That’s because a tablet isn’t just used in landscape mode like a laptop.
You may also want to switch to portrait mode to read a web page, view a picture, or read a book. And a 600 x 1024 pixel screen doesn’t work nearly as well for many of those tasks as a 1024 x 600 pixel screen.
The tablet also feels awkward to hold in portrait mode since it’s much longer than it is wide. The Android 2.3 keyboard is also clearly designed for smaller devices.
The keys are nice, big, and square in portrait mode, which makes typing with your thumbs easy. But when you hold the tablet in landscape mode the on-screen keyboard s stretched so that the keys are narrow rectangles that are uncomfortable to tap whether you’re trying to use your thumbs or all ten fingers.
Overall, I found the 7 inch Velocity Micro Cruz T408 much easier to hold and to type on, not only despite its lower-resolution display, but actually in part because of it.
On the other hand, most high-end Android tablets have 1280 x 800 pixel displays which are better-suited to 10 inch screens than the Cruz T410’s 1024 x 600 pixel display, because when you tilt the device sideways it’s still 800 pixels wide, which gives you plenty of room for viewing web pages or other content.
The touchscreen has a glossy finish which makes it a reasonably good fingerprint magnet. That’s not much of a problem when the backlight is on, but when you turn off the screen you’ll probably see a few smudges.
There’s a camera built into the screen bezel above the screen, as well as a few status LEDs.
On the left side of the plastic casing you’ll find a microSD card slot, USB port, and headphone jack. On the top edge there’s a power button and a volume rocker. That’s about it.
There’s a small microphone built into the bottom edge of the tablet.
The back panel is made of curved matte plastic. It’s not as pretty as the glossy black plastic on the front of the tablet, but if the whole tablet had the same finish, it wouldn’t show fingerprints as easily.
You’ll also find a small mono speaker on the back of the tablet. It’s reasonably loud and clear for a tiny speaker… you can use it watch a video or play a little music while you’re sitting alone in a quiet room, but I wouldn’t want to power a dance party with the tablet’s built-in speaker.
There are no physical home, back, menu, or search buttons on the tablet. Instead Velocity Micro has created a custom Android status bar that shows not just the time, battery life, and notification alerts, but also these buttons.
The custom toolbar works reasonably well most of the time, but it can cause problems in some situations. If you’re running a full-screen app, for instance, the buttons disappear — and when they reappear, they may actually cover part of the app you’re using. This happens to me constantly when trying to read eBooks using the Amazon Kindle app. The toolbar actually covers the top line of text, and you have to wait a moment for it to disappear before you can continue reading your book.
Another problem is that the toolbar is always at the top of the screen– but your hands are usually going to be closer to the bottom, since you probably don’t hold the tablet from the top. That’s why starting Android 3.0 Google moved the status bar and on-screen buttons to the bottom of the screen.
It didn’t bug me very much that the Cruz T408 had buttons at the top of the screen because it’s not a very large tablet, so your hands don’t have to travel very far to tap on the buttons. But the T410 is a much larger device, so it can be uncomfortable to reach up from the bottom to tap the home or back button. This is especially problematic if you’re using the device in portrait mode.
The Velocity Micro Cruz T410 measures 10.8″ x 6.8″ x 0.4″ and weighs about 1 pound.
I’m not going to bother writing a software section in this review because I’ve already touched on the app store situation and the custom toolbar that comes with the Cruz T410. For the most part the software is identical to what you get with the Cruz T408, so just check out the software section of that review if you want to read more.
I will note that the Cruz T410’s 1024 x 600 pixel screen resolution is a little more common than the 800 x 600 pixel resolution on the smaller tablet, so some apps which don’t like displays with 4:3 aspect ratios may work better on this 16:10 screen. On the other hand, since the tablet comes with Android 2.3 instead of a tablet-optimized version of Android, it basically runs smartphone apps on a tablet-sized screen. You won’t find many apps with multi-pane views to take advantage of the larger display.
While the Cruz T410 doesn’t ship with the Android Market, you can sideload apps — which means that if you can get your hands on the installer files for applications that aren’t available from the Amazon Appstore, most Android 2.3 and older apps should run reasonably well on the tablet.
Velocity Micro’s 7 and 10 inch tablets are also virtually identical in terms of overall performance. That’s not surprising since they both have the same processor and the same amount of RAM. While they don’t have the fastest processor on the block, it was speedy enough to run most of the apps I tested.
I also ran a handful of benchmarking utilities which test the theoretical performance, and the Cruz T408 and T410 scores on each were pretty much indistinguishable.
For instance, the CF-Bench test evaluates overall CPU and graphics performance on Android devices. The two tablets achieved pretty much the same scores on this test. Not surprisingly, their scores were also pretty close to those notched by the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0. It’s a 5 inch Android media player with a similar 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 single core processor.
On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 scored almost twice as high as the Velocity Micro Cruz tablets on the same test. That tablet has a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor and 1GB of RAM.
For the next test I threw in scores for the HTC Flyer as well. The Flyer has a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display and a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon single core processor.
The SmartBench test gives you two scores — one for overall performance, and a second for gaming performance. The key difference is that the gaming score evaluates graphics performance. In this test you can see that the Cruz T410 was near the bottom of the pile in both tests.
That said, the tablet is more than fast enough for most casual games such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or Fieldrunners HD. It might not keep up with some of the latest titles which require bleeding-edge 3D graphics acceleration though.
All told, the Velocity Micro Cruz T410 offers the kind of performance I would have expected from a top-of-the-line Android tablet last year. Instead it was released as a budget tablet a year later. That means there are a number of devices on the market that are much more powerful, but it doesn’t mean the Cruz T410 is painfully slow.
I had no real problems playing casual games, switching between apps, streaming music or movies, or surfing the web with the tablet. My biggest problems had to do with its unwieldy shape and size and the awkward keyboard and navigation button placement.
While I prefer the Cruz T408’s smaller size (and cheaper price), there’s one area where the Cruz T410 bested its smaller sibling: battery life.
I only managed to get 4 hours and 1 minute of battery life from the 7 inch tablet. The 10 inch model has a higher capacity battery which lasted for 6 hours and 3 minutes under the same conditions.
I tested the battery life by adjusting the display settings so that the screen brightness was set to 100 percent and configured so that the display would not dim or turn off after any period of inactivity. I then streamed music over the internet until the tablet ran out of juice.
When the battery capacity dipped below 4 percent, the WiFi automatically turned off, but the tablet ran for another 15 or 20 minutes before shutting down.
Since it’s likely that most people would use the tablet with the screen brightness set at a lower level, I ran the test again with the brightness at about 50 percent and this time the battery lasted for 6 hours and 48 minutes.
The Velocity Micro Cruz T410 is a 10 inch tablet that features nearly identical specifications to the T408. The main difference is the tablet’s larger, higer resolution display and higher price tag. The Cruz T410 costs $300 while its smaller sibling is just $200.
That extra $100 is hard to justify given the tablet’s limitations — and its competition. While high-end tablets from Samsung, Asus, and other companies have starting prices of $400 and up, we’re regularly seeing older tablets with better specs than the Cruz T410 go on sale for prices around the $300 mark.
In the conclusion of my Velocity Micro Cruz T408 review I wrote that while the tablet was a pretty good device it’s hard to find a reason to recommend it over the competition. But there’s not much reason not to buy a T408 tablet.
If the Cruz T410 had the same low price tag, I’d say the same thing about this tablet. But for $300 you could certainly do better. Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread doesn’t work as well on a 10 inch display as Honeycomb, Velocity Micro’s software for on-screen buttons are awkward to use on the large display, and the performance isn’t quite what I’d expect from a $300 device.
It’s a little sad that there aren’t really many 10 inch tablets in the $300 range right now, but if you’re looking for a budget tablet, I’d say you’re better off with the $200 Cruz T408 right now… or if you want the larger screen you could spend a little more money and pick up an Asus Eee Pad Transformer on sale for under $400.
Heck, if you head to Best Buy on Black Friday you might even be able to snag one for $250, which means you’d get a tablet with a faster processor, higher resolution display, and Android 3.2 Honeycomb for $50 less than a brand new Velocity Micro Cruz T410.