Review: Chinese Tablet PC – The VIA 8650 – MID V7

Been wondering about cheap Chinese Android tablets? Are they worth it? Well, I just got one and I’ll tell you all about it. If you’ve been doing any internet research on Android tablets, you’ve probably come across some of the cheap Chinese tablets. They’re not knockoffs of branded tablet pc’s, but they do look similar to some of the more popular tablets like the Samsung Galaxy, or Coby Kyros, even the iPad, which seems to be the default look for a tablet. They range in price from $70 to $250 or so, and come direct from China, or Hong Kong, which is really part of China, but they do things a little differently there then on the mainland.

So back to the question are they worth it? In a nutshell, yes, some of them are. If you’re careful about where you buy and what you get you can find a decent tablet for under $100 including shipping. It’s not going to be an iPad, not even close, but it will browse the web efficiently (flash sites included), play games like Angry Birds (apparently the Android benchmark) and run the Android market. You’re (probably) not going to get a multitouch screen, or even a capacitive screen. It’s not going to be super fast, and the gravity sensor isn’t going to be awesome. Still, they’re useful and they’ll do most of what you want a tab to do.

I got mine from merimobiles.com, it took about 16 days to arrive, and arrived in good condition. I used Chinese post. It said e-reader on the outside of the package with the value of $40, which may be correct. A little note on this, it’s not good to try and fool customs. The duty you’ll pay will be much less than the fine you could face if you’re caught. I’m not a lawyer so don’t take this as fact, but as far as I could tell from the customs site, personal items less than $200 don’t have a duty in the U.S. It’s your responsibility to check your local laws.

 

The MID V7 Tablet PC Review

The tablet I got was a VIA 8605, a generic running the WM8605 chip at 800Mhz. Keep in mind that the apps with my Merimobiles tablet may be a little different than the apps with your tablet.  This tablet is also known as the MID V7, that seems to be the most common generic name.  In the box it’s got:

  • a 7 inch resistive screen Android tablet with Android 2.2 Froyo
  • 256 megs of RAM
  • 2 GB of internal storage, upgradeable to 16 GB with a microsd card.
  • A USB dongle, you plug it into the bottom and you can attact 2 USB devices, thumb drives, keyboard, etc, and there’s an ethernet connection on the dongle too.
  • It’s supplied with a 9 volt charger/power cord.

Build quality

It’s adequate. The case is plastic, and there was a little dent in one side. It also looks like dust was trapped in between the screen and it’s top protective layer. It’s not over the screen, so it doesn’t affect function, it’s a cosmetic thing, but quality control for a U.S. based tablet would’ve never let it get out the door. The dongle and charger are fairly light, they don’t have the “heft” or weight you get out of better products. I don’t expect that to be an issue, it’s just an impression of cheapness you get. Time will tell though.

The screen is a resistive screen, it’s got a little bit of “give” to it, typical of resistive screens, it feels sort of like the LCD screen on your laptop, as opposed to hard like a piece of glass. It’s surprisingly sensitive, and accurate with your finger. I didn’t need to calibrate it it was fine out of the box. Around the very edge of the screen it’s not quite as accurate, you might have to use your fingernail, but in general, it works well. It’s not a multi-touch screen, so for apps that need that feature there isn’t always a workaround. For example, it’s not possible to zoom out when playing Angry Birds, I’ve tried tapping, swiping and every combination, but just can’t get it to work. Tapping and zooming does work with some apps people have reported.

Installed Android Apps.

Ok, I’ll get this out of the way first, it comes with Angry Birds installed, it’s not in your games folder, but look at all your apps and you’ll find it. On your default desktop, you’ll find your internet connectivity controls, a browser, camera app, movie folder, docs folder, standard stuff. The camera app is decent, unfortunately the camera isn’t. You can do some simple editing, add some text or graphics, nothing fancy, but functional. It’s your basic set of music/graphics/productivity apps that pretty much every computer comes with.

Now if you get the exact same tablet, you’ll have the same apps, if you get your tab a different place than I did, you might have a similar but different set, so the next few remarks apply to this particular set of apps. The browser that comes on the desktop works, but not very well in my opinion. There’s another browser called My Browser, that’s installed, but it’s not the default browser. It’s much quicker, more intuitive, and has tabbed browsing, and all the things you’d expect from a computer browser. Use that one instead. The second big thing is the Android Market, the market on the desktop is some weird Chinese market, but the official market is on it if you look at all your apps. Don’t even bother with the Chinese one. It’s got some interesting looking games, but the few I’ve downloaded didn’t live up to their promise.

How Does the Tablet Run?

It runs pretty well. You can have a few apps open at a time, and it plays flash video just fine. Youtube works well, no skips or jitters, unless you’ve got a ton of other things open. Webpages load reasonably well, not as fast as my 1.2Ghz dual core laptop, but not slow enough to drive my crazy. It connected to my network no problems, and connects pretty quickly after being put to sleep. You’ll have a a 2-3 second delay after waking up, and then it’ll connect. It runs Angry Birds just fine, you’ll need to have the backgrounds turned off though. The screen looks ok, it’s not a world beater, but it’s fine. The motion or gravity sensor works ok, but it’s not really quick, not sure if it’s a mechanical problem, or software problem. I’ve heard people say that flashing the rom to Uberoid helps, but as it is, there probably aren’t too many games you can play using it. I’ve tried a couple, and not had much luck. The controls worked, just not enough to make the game really playable. If anyone has this same tab and knows of any leave some comments. I haven’t been able to get Netflix to run, I get really sped up audio, and a black screen, but the app does come up and run otherwise. Youtube works fine, I can watch videos with no jitter or lag (*edit* HD – not so well). If you try to open too many at a time, you’ll bog down.

The Wrap Up.

Is this tablet worth $100? So far I’d say yes. It plays video, browses the net, and makes a decent reader. You can play games, as long as they aren’t 3D, or require really sensitive motion control. The screen is decent, touch works well, and the build quality is adequate if not solid – I’d suggest getting a good case. Battery life is not awesome, a couple to three hours depending on what you’re doing.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Has official Android market
  • Runs Angry Birds
  • Decent screen
  • Flash 10.1

Cons:

  • Plastic case with some small defects
  • Battery life could be better
  • Slows with multiple apps open
*Update Dec, 2011*
My tablet was stolen after I’d had it a little over 3 months.  In that time my impression hadn’t changed too much, I will say that the lack of multi-touch did limit some of the apps.  I basically used it as a video viewer for my 2 year old (she was able to select videos and watch them) and as a book reader.  I also used to to carry around the house and browse the web, when I didn’t want to cart around the laptop.  At 7 inches it wasn’t the most awesome browsing experience but it was do-able.  I don’t know if I’d spend $100 at this point (Dec 2011) but I’d still spend $70, just to let the 2 year old watch videos and not have to worry about breaking it.  There are better tablets out there at the $100 price point, at this point in time.  In fact I’m starting to see the 8650 show up less and less around the internet.

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One comment

  1. Corrie

    Thank you for this review :) I have my tablet in the post been waiting 11 days for delivery now as I’m in the UK ,

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