Next 10-inch Tablet November 2010

Budget touchscreen Android tablet

Next is the first high-street retailer to sell an own-brand tablet PC in an attempt to capitalise on the success and popularity of Apple’s iPad. The 10-inch Next Tablet runs Android and is being sold for £180 in the run-up to Christmas. Which? hasn't fully lab-tested the Next Tablet, but here are our first impressions.

Next 10 inch tablet

Unboxing and first impressions

The Next Tablet comes in an unimpressive white box, with just a fold out Quick Start Guide and power adaptor. And with Next claiming the Tablet offers a ‘great new way to experience the web, using the new Google Android OS and a touchscreen interface’, we gave the Next Tablet a first look review.

Next 10-inch Tablet First Look video

 

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First impressions aren’t positive. While it's design might mean it is mistaken for an Apple iPad, up close the differences are clear. While both are 10-inch tablets, the Next model betrays its low price with a rather too flexible silver plastic rear panel and plastic screen cover, compared to the glass and aluminium of the iPad.

The Next tablet has wisely taken its controls cue from the iPad. Buttons are located around the edge of the device and include a power button and volume controls. There’s a single circular button beneath the screen (when in portrait mode) that, rather than returning you to a homescreen as on the iPad, merely functions as a ‘back’ button, returning you to the previous screen.

The edge of the Next Tablet features stereo speakers, a microphone, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 2.0 socket, a mini USB socket, power input connector and a microSD card slot. The Quick Start Guide says that an adaptor enabling connection of an ethernet plug to the on-board proprietary socket isn’t provided, but confusingly our model arrived with one. There’s also a reset button that, based on our experience, you may need to use.

Touchscreen and user interface

The Next Tablet took around 40 seconds to start up and reach the Android home screen. This is where the limitations of the touchscreen became obvious. Rather than the superior, capacitive touchscreen used on the iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, the Next Tablet uses a resistive touchscreen, which has none of the finesse of its more superior rivals.

Rather than using a delicate finger swipe across the screen, or multi-touch gestures to zoom, the Next Tablet requires a definite prod with a finger to even register the touch. And it wasn’t particularly accurate either, prompting curses when we tapped an icon, only to be taken to a different screen or menu to the one we intended. In the end, we resorted to using a plastic stylus to navigate around the screen, although no stylus is included with the Next Tablet. Far from ideal, but at least it meant the Next Tablet was useable.

Some aspects of the device’s software seem unfinished. The alarm clock, for example, instead of displaying ‘M, T, W, Th, F’ for the weekdays it would repeat, showed ‘2,3,4,5,6’. Although we could browse the YouTube website, we couldn’t get any videos to play. And, the wi-fi connection wouldn’t reconnect automatically after the tablet was unlocked, so we had to wade through the settings menus to reactivate each time.

Android, Google and apps

The Next Tablet runs Android 2.1 that, although not the latest version, isn’t lagging far behind. Despite this, one of the biggest disappointments is it seems crippled by a non-standard version of Android. The biggest omission is access to the Android Market for downloading applications, of which there are now around 100,000. Instead, Next has opted to load its Tablet with an alternative, in the form of Slide Me Marketplace SAM 3.5. This offers a limited selection of apps, and we weren’t even able to find a Twitter app nor many of the most popular Android games.

In fact, the Next Tablet is also lacking most of the traditional integration with Google services that you’d expect from an Android tablet. There’s no synchronisation with Gmail or Google Calendar for example. All of this adds up to a sub-standard Android tablet experience, far worse than we have seen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The Next Tablet’s interface is confusing. The usual Android task and notification bar is present along the top of the screen, but this is also where key navigation features live, too. Icons for volume control, ‘back’, ‘menu’ and ‘home’ are all here, and we didn’t find it particularly intuitive to use them.

Battery life and storage

Battery life wasn’t particularly impressive in our initial hands-on time with the tablet, allowing just a couple of hours of web browsing between charges.

The device comes with 2GB of built-in memory plus a 8GB microSD card for storing media files, although this can be expanded with higher-capacity cards. The 10.1-inch screen has a different aspect ratio to the Apple iPad, and is approximately 22x 12.5cm, compared to the iPad’s 19.5x15cm. Our first impression of the 10-inch LED-backlit screen is that it can’t match the iPad for clarity, contrast or vibrancy.

Overall, we weren’t impressed with the Next Tablet. There aren’t many other tablet options available yet, and certainly no other cut-price models, although we’re expecting to see more in the run-up to Christmas and early 2010 from retailers such as Dixons.

Pros: Cheap introduction to tablets, large screen size

Cons: Infuriating user interface, non-responsive touchscreen, lacking basic Android features

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