Review : HCL Me Android Tablet [Skip This Device, If You Can]

2011 is said to be the year of the tablet, and nobody wants to miss out on all the buzz that this device segment is creating. You can find android tablets from Chinese manufacturers for as low as 5,000/- rupees, running on out dated versions of Android 1.6. I thought that this would be an impetus for branded manufacturers to take these cheap knock offs and replace them with better devices that actually generate some sort of user interest. Today we look at one of the latest offerings from India’s own PC manufacturer HCL.

A look at the specs sheet will give you a brief idea of the hardware capabilities of the tablet

  • 7 inch resistive touch screen
  • 800MHz ARM11 processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 2GB iNAND built in memory , expandable upto 8GB with Micro SD card
  • 0.3MP front facing camera
  • Comes pre-loaded with Android 2.2 Froyo, no word on future upgrades.
  • Accelerometer ( no GPS )
  • WiFi b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • USB 2.0 host slot
  • 2400mAH Li polymer battery ( 6-8 hrs of usage )
  • Approx price Rs14,000/-

The first time I laid my hands on the device, it seemed to fit perfectly in my hands ( I must say i have a soft spot for 7 inch devices), with a comfortable form factor and rubberised feel. The device has 5 buttons on its face and the switch on button at the top. It also has a volume rocker on the side. The devices wasn’t switched on at the time and gave me high hopes, but as soon as I switched the device on, all the hopes and expectations of finally seeing a quality Android based tablet had been dashed.

The device screen quality is what struck me first, the colours seemed washed out, even indoors the screen resolution and display quality failed to deliver a decent viewing experience. To add to the woes was the touch screen, a resistive touch screen just does not cut it on a tablet. Simple dragging gestures on the screen were a pain, and don’t even get me started on the click and drag features of the touch screen. The poor touch response  eventually made me sick of the hardware.( Take a look at the video and you will  notice.)

Talking about speed and responsiveness of the device, there are no positives here as well. The device sports a 800MHz processor but only 256MB of RAM. If you get your hands on this device you will notice the lags that there are, and this is a brand new tablet with very few apps on it, imagine one with that is loaded with apps. Talking about apps, the device has something called HCL app store and no android market pre installed.

The speakers on the device seemed to perform quite well with decent sound quality with average sound clarity but good volume. The camera on the front is 0.3 MP which is Ok i guess for video chat over Skype, but since this device has no 3G capabilities, video calling is limited to third party VOIP apps. The device does not feature a standard micro-USB port and uses a proprietary one from HCL. Although i was excited about the proposed USB host port that will allow you to use a keyboard or mouse in the device, I could not test it there. Also the availability of just one USB host port means that you can use only one device, a mouse or a keyboard but not both at the same time. Read as disappointment again!

Overall if you ask me whether you should buy this device for almost 15K (or go for Notion Ink’s Adam tablet)? The answer is a resounding NO. For the price the hardware that you get is almost out dated for tablets, we have phones in the same price range with better user experience( although no the same screen size , but still). Add to that severe handicaps like the awful touch screen and no Android Market. This device sinks to the bottom of our wanted gadgets list.
Check out how bad the touch screen is

Also see: Of Infibeam Pi, Android Devices and A Call to Bring “Better” Chinese Imports

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