Gemei G9 Android Tablet Hands-on
Leave it to the chinese
I got the ASK 731SP SmartPad about a year ago, and a recent trip to Hong Kong enabled me to get my paws on a more recent device. The Gemei G9 show just how much has happened on the Android tablet market the last year - for about the same price, you now get a much faster and cooler-looking unit. Read on for more.
SmartPad vs G9
The first thing you notice is the screen. While the SmartPad was pretty small with its 7 inch display, the G9 is considerably larger, sporting a 9,7 inch display with a 1024x768 pixels resolution. In fact, the G9 is almost exactly 2x the size of the SmartPad. Here are some other key differences:
- Faster CPU, 1.5GHz vs 660 MHz
- 16 GB internal memory vs 4 GB
- Two cameras, rear 5MP and front-facing 1.3MP (vs none)
- Android 4.0.3 vs Android 2.1
Ports and buttons
Apart from standard stuff - MicroSD slot, headphone jack, USB port, charging port - the G9 also has a USB host port and an HDMI port. I have tried getting the HDMI connection to work but I keep getting nothing (please post a reply if you happen to have any idea why).
Strangely, the volume rocker and back button stopped working a few days ago. Luckily, they are not critical as you can use soft buttons instead, but it sort of makes you wish for world wide warranty for a short while.
The USB host function allows you to hook up a keyboard or mouse to it. I tried a USB hub and was able to connect a mouse, a keyboard and a USB stick - and it all worked!
Web browsing and general usage
The TL; DR version: Install Opera Mobile!
The built-in web browser is slow at rendering web pages, sometimes not rendering at all, and frequently crashes. I tried Dolphin but saw no improvement. Opera Mobile works much better though. It generally feels very fast and light-weight. Strongly recommended. That said, I still don't quite get why the stock browser works so poorly on this device.
Generally, the tablet handles the GUI rendering just fine and the interface is snappy and is fun to work with. However, the tablet occasionally tends to hang for short moments when too much is going on. It has even led to the unit rebooting by itself a few times. Stability is serviceable but not great.
The Android market, or Google Play, offers a lot of applications. I first tried out two that did not work on the SmartPad: Angry Birds and Skype.
I went for Angry Birds Seasons first. Much to my delight, it installed and played just fine, no complaints at all and a big step up from... nothing.
Next was Skype. This, too, installed and ran. Much to my surprise, the front-facing camera even worked. Not perfectly, mind you - the other party could see you, but the colors were way off; magenta and cyan with large bars running through it (it does not do that when using the camera for shooting). Sound was ok though so it definitely passes in my book.
- 3D games don't seem to work. I have tried running a few but none of them have worked so far, crashing on start. No biggie for me but still a shame. I did see a video of someone playing Shadowgun on the device though so it should be possible in some cases.
- Package file invalid error sometimes occurs when downloading an item from the market. Exiting, killing and restarting the market app seems to do the trick.
- Not compatible with your device is another common message. Some apps don't seem to show up or don't want to install. TuneIn Radio for example. Downloading and installing the APK-file from elsewhere works though, and the app runs.
I doubt anyone will buy this device as a DSLR replacement, but since it has two cameras, let's at least try out one of them. Here are some shots with the rear camera:
While the quality may not exactly be top-notch - buttons not working, flimsy USB cable, and the occasional crash - the tablet is still fun to use. Zooming and panning is fast, the screen is big and while no rocket, it's considerably faster than the SmartPad. For around 1800 Hong Kong dollars/175 EUR/230 USD, you do get a lot of tablet. If you don't mind a bit of fiddling and tweaking, and can accept a few flaws, you will have fun with this.
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