I've always held the opinion that any item of technology is inherently evil until I can find a use for it. This was the case with a mythical device my friends were calling a tablet, until I saw the benefits of studying using an EBook with built in references. Obviously an I-pad was out of the question, but the question remained; would a cheap tablet work well enough to justify the expense?
In the end I decided to risk getting a Vimicro Superpad from Ebay and have been slowly formulating an opinion ever since. Clearly the Vimicro Superpad is some kind of value brand; as its a 10 inch tablet that set me back less than £95, but to be honest I have been happy with the purchase ever since.
- Aesthetics -
The Vimicro Superpad has a fairly stylish look that disguises its cheapness from any naysayers out there. It has a black front and a curvy silver rear that has retained a shiny quality over many months. It has one sole square button on the bottom face and a few smaller buttons across the edge.
I also feel that by and large the plastic exterior feels quite thick and sturdy, but; if I'm honest, does not hold together as well as you'd hope. There are a few spots across the top that tend to click if you put pressure on them betraying the fact that the plastic exterior is not as sturdy as it looks.
- Functionality -
This tablet has a number of buttons along its edges to ensure that not everything has to be done through the touch screen. You have two volume buttons (up and down), a home button, a power button, and a menu button. They are placed in decent positions on the actual tablet and so prove easy enough to use if you have need to.
This tablet also comes with 2 USB ports for connecting to your computer; an Ethernet port for your wired internet connection, and a HDMI port for connecting to your TV. The HDMI port is not standard so you will need to buy a specially designed Tablet HDMI cable if you do choose to run it this way. Personally I don't see the point!
Oh yeah, it also comes with the standard charger port and headphones jack that you may actually get round to using.
- The Screen -
The Superpad screen has a soft rubbery feeling that makes it feel really fragile, but seems to hold up really well. It uses a resistive touchscreen so can be used even if you are wearing gloves, and works well with any cheap stylus you can find. You do have to press down quite firmly to get it to work, so this should be taken into consideration when considering a purchase. I personally find the amount of pressure required is fine, although Vicky (she has muscle degradation in her hands) finds it harder and often presses a little too hard in order to compensate.
The touchscreen is generally accurate once configured, but it can at times be frustratingly stubborn as you try to tap small items. For instance checking a footnote in an EBook can often be misinterpreted as a desire to scroll up a page, which is annoying. With a steady hand and a little patience however you can usually get the tablet to do what you need. I also find a stylus helps the accuracy immensely, so maybe it's just my sausage fingers.
One thing that really disappointed me is that the touchscreen is not multi touch sensitive, so using two fingers tends to confuse the tablet. This is not generally a problem, but it does mean that you cannot pinch two fingers together to zoom out, which makes certain games harder than they need to be. I doubt I'll ever get all of the Golden Droids in Angry Birds: Star Wars now!!!
In terms of a general display however you can easily tell that this is a fairly cheap tablet. The 1024x600 resolution can be a little grainy and the screen can be a little dull even with the brightness turned up to max. Once again this wasn't a real problem as I didn't even notice this until comparing it to my friends I-Pad 2. Yet if you're interested in watching Hi-Def movies; or if you have sight problems, then the tablet might let you down. From an average users perspective I can read both EBooks and PDFs on it just fine so I would certainly state that it's worth the money.
The exception to this rule is when I'm attempting to use the tablet in direct sunlight on a very sunny day. The tablet doesn't have much in the way of anti glare features, and so reflections on a bright day can make the screen appear extremely dim.
- Sound -
Actually I was quite impressed with the sound coming out of the tablet. There was a very slight tinny quality at times, but all of the music I heard was coming through clearly enough and had a decent enough volume for an individual gamer. I could even watch YouTube videos happily, so see no reason why I could not enjoy movies as well. With the ability to plug in earphones or an external speaker then you should certainly not experience any problems in the sound department.
- Inside -
This tablet runs on the android 4.04 operating system. An updated version of the operating system used on most touch screen phones. I personally have enjoyed using the android system as it has given me a little versatility in the use of my tablet that I might have missed otherwise. If you know nothing about technology however you should stick to an I-pad, as that has a far more user friendly operating system that does whatever you tell it too without questions.
Like most tablets this uses the built in android keypad for all of your typing needs. It is a very responsive keypad, and the keys are displayed in a large enough style to make typing easy without dominating the screen. It still has not convinced me that touch screen keypads are worth anything though, and I will be purchasing a separate USB keyboard should I decide to use the tablet for any in depth studying.
I was also plenty happy with the 8GB of storage as this gives me enough space to store all of the books and games that I need. An SD slot is available if you want to upgrade your memory, but for the people who use this type of tablet this is unlikely to be necessary.
- Extra info -
The Superpad has so far been compatible with every App that I have required. I was able to download a solid EBook reader that loads both PDFs and EBooks with ease. The tablet lays both out in a very aesthetically pleasing way (I prefer PDFs for reading and EBooks for studying) and even came with an option for underlining/bookmarking PDFs.
Games on it seem to work solidly enough. I have downloaded Angry Birds: Star Wars and that is a game that tests the touch screen's limits. Not being able to zoom out has caused me a few problems, but otherwise the tablet has been responsive and handled the game really well. I had a blast with it.
Internet functionality is pretty good too. The browser tends to be quite fast, and the download speeds very satisfying from my home Wi-Fi connection. It is only Wi-Fi enabled however, so you'll need to find hot spots if you want to use its online functionality when out and about. Although the ability to save webpages for offline reading is very effective, and can be used very easily if you're trying to show someone something you've come across.
Skype works just fine on the tablet. My sister in law used it to talk to friends from abroad and they gave no complaints about the picture resolution. I have otherwise not bothered with the camera function, but; like most tablet and phone cameras, the camera will take photos, but not in a high enough resolution for your precious memories.
The battery was another area that left me impressed. It'll easily last me through a two hour meeting, and I can often get lost in epic Angry Birds sessions for nearly 3 hours straight before I need to recharge. I can't imagine needing the tablet for longer than that, so this was good for me.
Finally the weight is an area that has concerned Vicky. Due to her muscle degradation she finds this tablet very heavy to hold for extended periods, and prefers the lighter I-Pad. Personally I cannot even notice the difference in weight, and even find the curved shape of this tablet makes it easier to hold.
- Overall -
So was I happy with the decision that I made? Yes. I've been able to use the pad for studying purposes with relative ease, and have had the added bonus of enjoying a lot of games on it. If you're a hard core technophile; or you need a tablet for serious business purposes, then getting a more expensive tablet would be preferable. For the average shopper on a budget though this tablet is a bargain and I would recommend it over the more expensive options.