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Review: Next 10″ Android Tablet

We received the Next 10″ Android tablet on Wednesday and have spent the last couple of days playing with it. This isn’t going to be a massively in depth review as I really wanted to like this, but without giving away the ending there are just too many flaws to be able to recommend it.

Let’s start with the positives. This is a light 10″ Android 2.1 tablet with a 1024x600px display. It has a 1.0GHz LNX ARM processor, 256MB Ram, 2GB on board storage and an included 8GB TF Card (32GB Max). There is a USB port supporting peripherals such as a keyboard, Ethernet (via adapter), G Sensor supporting auto-rotation, and 802.11b/g WiFi and Next are selling this for £180.00.

The top of the tablet has a small unidentified hole, the right side contains the MicroSD slot, power button ethernet adapter port, up and down buttons that look like volume controls but are actually for forward and back navigation. On the bottom is the power input (proprietary – no mini or micro USB charging here), a mini USB connector (for firmware updates) a Full USB connector for accessories, headphone socket, reset hole and microphone hole. The left side contains 2 speaker grills. There is a round button in the centre bottom of display which is configurable but by default works as a ‘back’ button.

The home-screen comes preloaded with some widgets like News & Weather, Music, Gallery and YouTube. Unlike many cheaper imported Android tablets, Android Market is loaded on this, and browsing and find Apps to install was straightforward, the on-screen keyboard works well in either portrait or landscape mode. I installed the Facebook App, TweetDeck and updated Google Maps to include Latitude in minutes. There is no GPS (or cell radio) so Latitude will only work where it can determine location by WiFi Hotspots.

Although there is no cellular radio, the icon oddly still appears in the taskbar at the top, and the Next Quick start guide states this “is for future use” so it would seem likely Next plans a 3G version of the tablet.

The web browser is good and works well, others (like Opera) are available via the Market if you want to experiment, but the built in one loads pages fairly quickly and embedded YouTube videos seem to play successfully. However without a capacitive screen (more below) there is no ‘pinch to zoom’ feature – the zoom in or out screen options also only appear when you scroll up or down slightly. There is thankfully text re-flow in the browser though which helps.

And now on to the bad points.

The build quality is very poor, the whole tablet feels flimsy due to the all plastic construction, and creaks when the slightest twist is applied to it. The screen sites flush with the bezel but you can press around the edges and it will noticeably depress in about 1 or 2mm from the bezel, and this movement makes gripping the tablet with 2 hands feel even more fragile.

The screen is resistive, which once you are used to capacitive screens is nigh on impossible to return to. Simply swiping between home-screens or scrolling in web pages in the browser are extremely hard, you have to apply an unfamiliar amount of pressure to get the screen to respond, and in the web browser in particular you nearly always end up ‘selecting’ an image or a link where you start to press rather than being able to scroll. Text selection and highlighting is naturally also extremely difficult.

The tablet doesn’t seem to turn off! Leaving it from an ‘on’ state it will eventually turn the display down, but never off. The blue led is constantly on and the screen is actually still active with the locked and dimmed home screen. Pressing the power button prompts if you want to turn the device off, and if you do it shuts down completely! There seems to be no ‘standby’ mode at all.

Also as soon as you get onto a dark screen, the screens lack of fingerprint resistant coating becomes apparent, you’ll need to regularly clean it if you want to be able to view past the smudges on dark backgrounds.

There was a time when £180 would seem acceptable even for an average Android tablet device, but things have moved on, and with the arrival of the Commtiva N700 (which I’ll be reviewing next) for only £120 more including a 3G radio and capacitive screen the market for the Next Media Tablet should remain small.

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