Datawind has travelled down a long and controversial path to officially launching the commercial version of the Aakash tablet, the Ubislate. And they did seem highly excited about it, repeatedly claiming: “This is not a product launch, this is a revolution.” But are such hyperbole justified for a product that is so late to the game that it has left many who pre-ordered with a bad taste in their mouth? Will it really trigger a digital revolution among the masses, or will it fizzle out into the dark annals of public memory? We go hands-on to find some answers.
Encased tablets side by side
Let’s start with the specs, both the Ubislates, 7+ and 7C are pretty much identical, save for the resistive screen on the 7+ and the capacitive screen on the 7C:
- 7.0-inch display with an 840×480 pixel resolution
- 800 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor, with a graphics accelerator and HD video processor.
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS
- Memory: 7+: 256mb RAM with 2 GB internal flash storage / 7c: 256mb RAM with 4 GB internal flash storage
- Memory expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card
- One full USB 2.0 port
- GPRS with Wi-Fi a/b/g
- Rated with 3 hours of battery life with a 3200 mAh battery
As far as hardware goes, both Ubislates feel sufficiently sturdy, with a matte plastic finish that feels pretty good in the hand, and does not betray its price. There were a few visible compromises though, such as the microSD card slot, which has been fashioned in such a way that the card juts out of the main body of the tablet and goes only about halfway in. We can easily imagine a fall breaking the microSD card, or even the internals of the slot itself. Coming back to the physical body of the device, it lives in that middle ground of thin and fat that is quite ergonomic to hold and we were quite pleased with it, considering the price.
The tablet , powered on running the Android 2.3 OS
On the software front, they ran a stock version of Android 2.3, modified a bit to run with on-screen touch buttons, which are one of our major gripes with the tablet. The touch buttons basically live on the notification bar, and thus, one can imagine how small and finicky they were. More than half the time during our hands-on we would not be able to make them work and they didn’t exactly spell intuitive. There was also a physical Home button, which was sufficiently springy, but a bit oblong and hard to notice.
Another one of our gripes is the exclusion of all Google services from the device. Instead, Datawind has opted to go for Yahoo integration as far as mail is concerned and GetJar for apps, neither of which are as well-made or all-encompassing as Google’s own Gmail and Play store. Also, surprisingly, the 720p HD playback on the screens was quite pleasant, a little slow while seeking, but all in all a solid experience.
Carry pouch for the tablet
Touch sensitivity was altogether a different ball-game. The resistive screen on the 7+ was one of the more sensitive resistive panels we’ve seen, and reminded us more of the Nokia N900 than a cheap Chinese iPhone clone, which is always a good thing. But, it was still aeons away from a capacitive panel, and that’s where the 7C came in. But, alas, the touch sensitivity was limited by the hardware at play here and though we didn’t think that the 800 MHz processor would be a bottleneck, it is our suspicion that it’s the limited amount of RAM that is responsible for the lag. Again, considering the price, it was still quite acceptable.
An optional case that doubles as a keyboard
There was a recurring theme with our first hands-on of the fabled Ubislates, there seemed to be many compromises, but the price absolutely blew them away. At ŕ¤°2,999 for the 7+ and ŕ¤°3,999 for the 7C, our complaints with the devices failed to gain ground. For the price, they offer a good value-for-money proposition and it would be interesting to see how well they do in the Indian market and whether they are able to bring out a digital revolution. Consumers that have pre-booked the Ubislate 7+ should start receiving them shortly and retail availability would only start once all pre-bookings have been fulfilled. Delivery of the Ubislate 7C on the other hand will start near the end of May.
Image credit: Harshit Passi
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