The Augen GenTouch78 Google Android tablet has only been available in the US for a few days, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at least half of the units sold have gone to hardcore early adopters and hardware hackers looking for a cheap Android tablet to play with. Case in point: a group of users have already discovered how to gain root access to the tablet allowing you to do things such as adjust the CPU speed.
There’s no support for overclocking yet, but by tweaking the minimum CPU usage settings you should be able to make the tablet run a little more smoothly or provide better battery life.
Another user took the back cover of the tablet to see what’s on the inside. Basically you only need to remove 7 screws to take the back cover off — which is a good thing, because as I discovered if you slide the microSD card in the wrong way it can get lost in the case. Removing the cover is one of the easiest ways to get it out.
On the inside of the tablet you can find a 2100mAh battery, a Telechips TCC8902 processor, which runs at 600MHz (even though Augen says the tablet has an 800MHz processor).
You can check out the dissection video below for more details.
While there are a lot of smart people looking at this tablet to see what it can do, it might be a little while before we see custom ROMs for the tablet. The recovery mode doesn’t actually let you access any of the functions in the recovery menu — which will make it difficult to load new firmware.
After using the tablet for the past day, I also have a few more observations to share:
- Web browsing is relatively pleasant, although some pages scroll more smoothly than others.
- Video playback is pretty good. While some users are having problems with the YouTube app, it works well on my unit and the tablet supports a number of local audio and video codecs including WMA, OGGVorbis, and Xvid.
- While I’d prefer to have the home, search, menu, and back buttons on the side or front of the tablet, it doesn’t take that long to get used to hitting them with your fingers while you hold the tablet.
- While some apps (such as the Aldiko eBook reader) will rotate the display, there’s no auto-rotate feature.
- Occasionally the audio stops working and you’ll hear loud static noises from the speakers. The only fix is to power down the tablet and start it up again.
- The “Factory data reset” option in the Privacy settings menu doesn’t do anything. So if you want to remove your Google ID from the computer before returning it or selling it you’ll want to go to the Accounts & sync menu.
- Typing on the resistive touchscreen display is still hit or miss. I might try installing Graffiti to see if handwriting recognition works better.
- There’s no way to adjust the screen brightness. It’s either all the way up or all the way off.
- There’s no volume control.
You can keep up on the progress of the GenTouch78 hackers at the SlateDroid and xda-developers forums.
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Brad, would you indulge three hyoptheticals with a simple “better”, worse”, or “just different”? How would your overall impressions to this point differ if this was ostensibly the same device (hardware, software, price, etc.) with the exception that it was packaged in the following form factor (equivalent to its current size):
* netbook without any touchscreen
* netbook with the current resistive touchscreen
* convertible netbook with the current resistive touchscreen
I think you’ve already made it clear that you’d like it more if it had a capacitive touchscreen.
It’s really not a fair comparison. A touchscreen tablet running Google Android is tough to compare with a netbook that has a keyboard and runs Windows or Linux.
That said, I’m hopeful that what’s happening in the Android tablet space is what happened in the netbook space two years ago.
Looking back on it, the Eee PC 701 was a horrible little computer. the display was too small, the screen resolution too low, and the keyboard was incredibly tiny. But Asus showed that you could make a small cheap laptop and it would sell. In the months that followed Asus and others improved on the design with better keyboards, displays, batteries, and other features — while keeping the price about the same.
While I don’t think general consumers are going to be all that happy with the Augen GenTouch78, it’s a device that some early adopters and Android enthusiasts might like — and if enough people purchase cheap tablets like these, it could drive down the cost of better Android tablets with higher quality displays, better button layouts, and faster CPUs.
Hmmm… I meant my original question more in the spirit of: what if the GenTouch78 itself suddenly sprouted a keyboard so that you had an alternative input mode (seeing as how the resistive touchscreen is a low quality one)? I was really thinking of an “apple to hypothetical-apple” comparison rather than pointing at some outside orange. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that tablets will always be nicer to look at (especially if you’ve never actually used one and you think they’re exotic) but something this size with a keyboard will be easier to use and therefore more useful for most people (I do believe that the keyboard will die one day, but that’s another rant…).
However, your response got me thinking. The eee 701 WAS a terrible computer. That said, you can pick one up right now for less money than many of these cheap Android tablets, and it seems better It’s similarly sized and shaped with similar heft and battery life. It can run a variety of operating system, can run real software, has a huge RAM ceiling, more expansive storage options, a real hardware accelerated 2d/3d graphics solution with freely developed and supported drivers, and tons of aftermarket accessories. It was built by Asus, a major force in portable computing, and runs on Intel, a major force in all of computing. It makes me wonder, does the eee 701 today represent an outrageous value in terms of computing, or is all of this low cost ARM stuff still way overpriced for what you’re getting (or at least can get elsewhere)? I really do think that the natural price point for a device like this is 50-80 dollars.
Even though I’m now having a conversation with myself, I just wanted to document something here. I just spent part of the morning researching reviews of the eee 701 from three years ago. It’s interesting to read these reviews with the benefit of hindsight. We know that the netbook of today is different from this original eee, but we also know that the original eee was at least successful enough to support the possibility of this evolution.
The pros and the cons mentioned in the reviews of the eee 701 are both illustrative, and the netbooks sold today have addressed the weaknesses and built upon the strengths. I’ve also read most of the reviews of these small Android tablets, and I’m just not seeing the kind of life that early reviewers saw in the eee. I encourage anybody who wants some extra perspective on the coverage of the emergence of cheap touchscreen slates to go take a look at what people were saying about the eee 701 (which as I pointed out earlier, is available for a comparable price to these devices).
One final thought, I think that if the eee 701 were re-reviewed today it would not be given as favorable reviews as it received three years ago, but that’s just because of all of the change that we’ve experienced since then because of this device. I’d be curious to read comments from anybody who has an eee 701 and one of these slates to compare to each other. Having personally never had any netbook or cheap touchscreen slate, I can’t offer that.
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