An android tablet a day keeps the apples away.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Asure posts first Eken M003 Review (That I can find) – Though it’s not good news!

Introduction + 'M003' first look

« on: May 26, 2010, 01:44:10 PM »

A bit about myself: I've been a linux user for over 17 years, cross-compiled for ARM and MIPS cpus and SoC solutions, ported kernel modules and so forth.  Using Symbian when it first came out, i was quickly converted to Android as system of my choice when my girlfriend obtained a HTC tattoo 4 months ago, and got my Desire quickly after that.
I've been following these tablets closely for some time, and had the idea to do a group buy with some colleagues that also had interest. As my job involves business with Taiwan and China, and out of experience, i ordered an M001 and M003 to sample first. And, now they have arrived.
The M001 we all know, love and hate. First, the CPU spec we're getting is way off. This thing is underclocked and a lot too. The /proc/cpuinfo gives that away clearly. If the bogomips is a proper indication, and even if that is half the speed of the cpu actually runs, it's still not the advertised 600 Mhz. The ~175 Bogomips is really too slow and even if it's running Android it's not up to the task. I can't honestly buy these and have my co-workers enjoy themselves..
The cpu speed is probably calculated in true '90's style calculate the total bits'. (400Mhz ram + 200Mhz cpu? ah! 600Mhz!) It's all just advertising.
So, the M001.. i've flashed a few of the custom roms, and speed improves a bit, but not really useable. Irresponsive touch screen being the most annoying, but it's all because of the slow cpu. The screen itself is pretty good on static-non moving screens or entering text, but the underlaying OS struggles to scroll the screen, do fades, react to wipes etc.
Since there was no market, i loaded Aptoide on it, and blackdroid repo, and off i go running all sorts of apps.
(Mind you, there's a lot of waiting as Aptoide gets its long list of goodies from blackdroid.)
I put the Opera 5 beta on it, and that's a pretty fast browser if you need one, probably better than the standard Webkit browser because it appears to use a lot less memory. Speaking of which, after a bit of mucking around, there's ~5mb left, which is also too little, showing us that 128MBytes really is not enough when combined with a slow cpu.
Another little gem is 'bTunes' if you can find it, turns the little bugger into an ipod-like mediaplayer.  Now i was getting somewhere.. As long as you don't need to wipe on the screen (even with 'longer' fingernails) bTunes is very useable even with larger music collections. You could hot-glue the M001 to a stand, and have a nice music player with pretty display, at a low cost.
Still, the device is a cheap gadget, but on all the sites you see it, it's shown as a really powerfull MID, running Android.
Some sellers speed up the presentation movies they put on YouTube to get around the slow display, and it appears to just be selling because of the Android buzz that's around. I forget to mention the ongoing license-violations, which at this point in time even hurt the potential of the device since good developers could maybe get a little more power out of it. (Perhaps with the eken source of u-boot and 'wload' the cpu can be set faster.. i did not dig deep enough into that yet.)
If you've read this far, you probably wanted to know about the M003 ?
The good: Bigger screen.
The bad: Same as M001, but some worse design flaws..
1. Screen
Did you read about the M001's screen/plastic cover coming loose from heat ? The same thing will happen to the M003 but only worse. The silver edge of the plastic cover on the M001 is ALL over the top of the M003. This is actually stuck to the touchscreen in the factory and extends over the plastic (white) top part about 2 CM on each side. But, where it extends over the screen, there is a layer of double-sided 'sticky tape' to hold it into place, but it's not sticking very well even as i just took it out of the box. There's bumps and creases around the edges, and if you were to take a credit card and wedge that in, you could screw that up even worse. Perhaps when i do a teardown Smiley
2. Reflection + responsiveness
Since they used that plastic sheet over the whole top part, with shiny silvery 2cm edges, the reflections are off the charts. I've seen better touchscreen designs where the screen itself is not 'behind' another 2mm of plastic, so it probably also screws up the response of the screen. (Most of the designs i've seen, you directly touch the 'touch film' so to say.)
3. Ports & SD card
There's a micro SD card port on the M003, and a USB host port. You can stick in your fat32 card or USB stick and play media from it. A strange type of connector on the bottom is probably for some sort of docking station. It's not a SD card slot, and not an ipod/phone/pad type.
Edit: i took a close look, it _is_ an apple port, but it's mis-aligned during production, and at an angle, and i can't fit the apple plug inside it!! Another $100 down the drain ?
4. Accelerometer
This one's broken or really bad/cheap.. it screws up bTunes constantly as soon as i move, since bTunes thinks i am shaking the unit.. aargh!
5. Heavy
The unit is much heavier and difficult to hold for longer times than the M001, so if you have a choice and really really want one of these things, i advise to buy the M001 instead, and not expect too much Smiley
It appears to be running the exact same OS that is on the M001, so custom roms should probably work.
The M003 unit is really shabby, and even a working ipod port, wouldn't fix the extreme cosmetic mis-steps they took with this one.

I would advise potential buyers not to buy the M003 unless they are looking for a photoframe that also accidently runs Android, and need something to keep them busy for a few days/hours.

Don’t forget: It’s virtually certain this is the Dealextreme 8inch tablet! Just as well DX seems happy to take orders but not ship ‘em – after reading this, I don’t think I want one unless the Custom ROMS end up meeting their full potential.


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