Tabulet Beat 2 is the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) tablet released in early Q2 2012 in Indonesia. It’s a product of local Indonesian brand, Tabulet that promised to deliver good user experience with the combination of engine similar with the one used on iPad 2, HD screen resolution of 1024×600 px on an 7 inch screen, and Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) operating system.
Among its interesting feature is the ability to read files from external hard disk, and its ability to play a wide range of movie formats, making it a perfect partner for gaming, as well as for HD movie viewing. As a standard feature, it is also equipped with micro DVI port which means you can view the screen on DVI enabled TVs (LCD, LED, Plasma).
With all the promising good user experience, how does it do in real test?
p.s.: I won’t dwell into the more technical parts and system performance of the device as what they can do on the user experience part matters more. However if you’d like to compare technical specifications, please find one at my previous article, copied from Tabulet’s own website.
User Experience: Unpacking
The package came in a neat looking cartoon box and tape-sealed bottom edge. There’s no cut-off part on the top part of the box, making gripping the box for opening it is a bit tricky, though not posing a serious challenge.
Inside the box there’s a white frame made of thick foam, with the table stored in the middle, under a protective thick plastic wrap. Removing it, then you’ll find the device wrapped inside another frosty plastic bag. The device looks elegant with its iPad-ish white color.
Removing the device is easy as there is a cavity on the frame enough for user to put a finger in and lift the tablet up.
User Experience: Physical appearance & Feel
The tablet feels solid and is quite light; the body is rigid, while the screen looks brownish. The feel however, is quite rough and very plasticy, with the impression is that it will be easily scratched.
It’s a great relieve then, to find out that this device is also shipped (mine at least) with a complimentary elegant brown leathery casing; it even smells leather. It has a magnetic-base lid closer, a good build, padding, density, stitching, and it perfectly fits the Tabulet Beat 2.
The look is minimalist with the logo appear only at the back of the device — again so iPad-ish but is a welcomed change, considering its previous model has “tabulet” logo printed quite blatantly on the front side of the device.
User Experience: Interacting with the device
Startup is a breeze, the logo of A9 processor first showed up, followed by both logo of Tabulet and Android’s green robot. Up until the device is ready to use, it takes about 30 seconds.
The one difference with Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) compared with older Android versions is that it incorporates three buttons on screen: back, home, and application switch, making interacting with the device quite button-less. There’s also a menu and back button accessible on top of Tabulet Beat 2, as well as the volume up & down which doesn’t really give a good experience: it’s hard and quite shallow hence clicking requires some effort.
I also discovered that while the leathery casing helps protect the device really well, it’s bulkiness has made touching the screen near its sides is very challenging. But if that’s the price I have to pay to compensate for the increased physical protection, that’s quite cheap, considering the number one enemy of tablets is falling face-down: there’s no cure to broken and cracked screen.
User Experience: Using the product
The device gives good feedback and touch is very responsive. There’s no lag in action, and movement is quite smooth.
Sound quality using built-in speakers lack the fidelity quite terribly; using its provided earphone helps improve the sound quality but on general it’s nothing to be desired of.
Picture is clear and colours are vivid. It ables to view photos in good outcome, and it plays HD movie smoothly right from the external hard disk using its provided USB cable. The connecting part could be a bit messy though, as most external hard disk will require extra power to operates normally since the tablet’s USB only provides small current of electricity. Tabulet Beat 2 overcomes this issue with using a twin-headed USB port; one for connecting the hard disk to the tablet, and the other is to provide extra power using Tabulet Beat 2’s own power adapter.
Plugging in the micro USB cable though, is very unconvincing as it’s very tight, hard, giving you the doubt that you might just break it if pushing/pulling it too hard.
Battery & Power
As with the battery, if you are playing an HD game the juice will be depleted in about one to two hours, while charging could take up to five hours for full charge. Better have your tablet plugged in if you are using it to play or runs good games or complex application.
It still uses a pin-like power socket, which from my experience with other tablet models poses less durability than USB type power plug. However the voltage has been synchronized to mimic USB’s common voltage of 5 volt DC means it’s usable to power the external hard disk as well, or on worst case easier to find a charger replacement. I can even recharge its power using a generic brand car adaptor with matching socket.
Connecting is also easy: using its provided USB to micro USB cable adaptor, plugging it gives you the option to use the device as an external disk, enabling it to be read and write just like a USB drive on Windows based computers.
As with connection to external monitor via HDMI port, I’m still having trouble since it fails after several attempts and currently consulting with Tabulet’s customer service.
HDMI out is working fine upon connected with my 22 inch LG monitor at the office, while it fails to connect with my 24 inch Samsung LCD TV back at home. However the tested working mode is only the 1080p while the 720p fails.
FYI my Samsung LCD TV at home is already HD ready, and previously it connected fine with my older tablet running Android 2.2 Froyo using the same HDMI cable.
While (in)compatibility issue was expected, the more shocking truth that quite letting down is that Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) upon connecting through HDMI exhibit a really different experience compared with Android 2.2. Froyo: while Froyo duplicate the screen, ICS blank the tablet and change it function as a touchpad! While it closely mimicking a desktop computer with mouse pointer, clicking is very hard (touching two points on the tablet simultaneously), and there’s only a single pointer available hence making a HD gaming on big TV screen impossible, and many apps relying on multi-touch will also fails. In my opinion it’s a sad downgrade from a full user experience into usable only for movie or still picture shows.
I haven’t yet however, figured out if this is an Android 4’s fault or the Tabulet Beat2 ROM’s.
Surprisingly the tablet’s 2 MP camera also works well; there’s a good UI to operate and adjust the camera, including its zoom level (digital zoom), and the quality itself is quite satisfying for casual uses.
As with compatibility Tabulet 2 can play some applications designed for earlier type of Android, however sometimes it fails at running some applications that runs well on other devices with similar technical specification.
User Experience: Conclusion
Tabulet Beat 2 is a quite nice tablet with good user experience, though it lacked some features and interaction is not all smooth; they’re lies on a less major concerns. Has it mached iPad 2 look and feel? Hardly. Does it worth it weight in price? Absolutely! This wonderful device is sold in Indonesia with the price around 1,5 million rupiah, or about 160 USD; that’s a quarter price of iPad 2. It has a price of a generic Chinese brand’s tablet but with the much needed after-sales support that none of the Chinese brands have.
Here’s the round-up of pros and cons, along with some points I didn’t elaborate in details:
- Plasticy-feel body
- Hard to press control buttons (power, navigation, volume)
- Pin-like charger type
- Screen prone to smearing, including from finger prints
- Audio quality is so-so
- No Bluetooth
- Micro USB port is very tight
- HDMI connection runs well on some monitors, fails on others
- Upon HDMI connection, tablet turns into touchpad single pointer
- Some application designed to support other devices with similar spec fails to run
- Smooth running user interface
- Very responsive touchscreen
- Quick execution of commands (navigating, opening application, opening file)
- Connects to your external hard disk!
- Plays HD from external hard disk smoothly
- Its built-in player is capable to play MKV videos!
- Dual Camera (2MP back, VGA front)
- The camera result is quite nice (surprisingly)
- The camera has 180`panorama taking mode
- Good visualization on screen
- Hi-res screen (1024 x 600 px)
- Has DVI out
- Already includes elegant & thick leathery casing
- Android 4 – Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) out of the box, reducing the headache of compatibility issues
- Already includes connecting cable for external hard disk: USB to Micro USB cable which includes power inlet for external power source to power the external hard disk
- Thin and light
- Costs only about 160 USD
- Service centres available nation-wide (though my best guess is that they will be repaired in one centralized location)