Should I buy the Andy Pad?
The bold claim made by the manufacturer is that this device offers the iPad experience at a fraction of the cost. But the old adage 'you get what you pay for' holds true here. The Andy Pad is all about compromise, so don't expect the same level of satisfaction that you'd get from an Apple slate.
The resistive screen means multi-touch gestures are off the table, and the terrible 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera seems like a throwback to the early days of mobile-phone photography. The quality of the LCD screen is also questionable, with dull colours and poor viewing angles.
While the Andy Pad can't hope to challenge its high-cost rivals, it could, however, open up the tablet market to more consumers, in the same way that budget Android handsets like the Orange San Francisco have brought the power of smart phones to the masses.
The Andy Pad won't garner any envious glances from your iPad-owning mates, but then it's unfair to expect it to -- after all, it's almost a quarter of the price. Still, for younger, less demanding users, this budget tablet could be a solid, if unspectacular, purchase.
With Android 2.3 Gingerbread installed, the Andy Pad functions more like a phone than a tablet. This is because Gingerbread isn't technically built for this kind of large-screen device. Google has pushed out Android 3.0 Honeycomb as its official tablet operating system.
While it might seem odd to ship a device like this with a non-tablet OS, the Andy Pad isn't the first of its breed to spurn the Honeycomb route. It's worth noting too that Gingerbread still does a fairly decent job of providing a tablet experience, even if it is slightly rough around the edges. For example, the menu system consistently refers to the Andy Pad as 'your phone' rather than 'your tablet'.
Given that the Andy Pad is being produced by a small UK-based team, it should come as no surprise to learn that the version of Android running on it is relatively untouched. There are a few unique menu icons here and there, but the Android experience is largely unchanged.
Android veterans will be instantly at home with the Andy Pad. You get five home screens to populate with app shortcuts and widgets, and there's the usual app drawer and pull-down notification bar. The most noticeable change is the expanded dock at the bottom of the screen, which features shortcuts to settings, music, apps, wireless settings and the Internet browser.
The Andy Pad features a resistive touchscreen as opposed to a capacitive one. Resistive screens operate by using the pressure of your finger (or a stylus) to register input, and are generally considered to be yesterday's news as far as touchscreens are concerned.
Capacitive screens, like those on the iPad, iPhone and most flagship Android handsets, only require skin contact, and, consequently, they're much more precise. They also allow you to touch the screen in several different areas -- something that's essential for multi-touch commands, such as zooming in and out with a pinch gesture. Resistive screens like that on the Andy Pad are only capable of detecting one point of touch, so you won't be having any pinch-to-zoom shenanigans with this tablet.
Although the lack of a capacitive display is disheartening, we found the touchscreen on the Andy Pad to be generally accurate overall. You normally need only apply a very slight amount of pressure to register a touch, so swiping through menus isn't an issue, although occasionally it'll ignore your prodding, as you can see in our video review. If you introduce a stylus, the Andy Pad becomes much more pleasurable to use.
The image generated by the Andy Pad's 800x480-pixel LCD screen is disappointing, however. Colours looked washed-out and, even at full brightness, the display seems dim. Viewing angles are also poor -- tilting the tablet even a small amount turns the screen into a dark, ill-defined mess.
While it's tempting to compare the Andy Pad with the market-leading Apple iPad 2, it's an unfair match-up. The Andy Pad has clearly been constructed on a tight budget, and the case design shows it. It's entirely plastic, with not a trace of brushed metal to be found anywhere.
Despite the modest elements used in its construction, the Andy Pad doesn't feel cheap and nasty. At 356g, it has enough weight to feel substantial, but it isn't so hefty that you'd have to think twice before taking it on a long trip.
Thankfully, there's none of the creakiness one might expect from such a low-price product. The Andy Pad's casing is essentially two pieces of plastic fused together, and there are no unsightly gaps where the pieces join. Unfortunately, that means that the 3,600mAh battery can't be replaced, but that's hardly unique in the realm of tablets.
The Andy Pad has a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera that takes snaps at a 640x480-pixel resolution. Needless to say, this is only worth using as a webcam for video-chat programs. The photos it takes are of a dismal quality.
Memory and internal storage
There's 8GB of internal storage inside the Andy Pad's glossy plastic frame, and this figure can be bolstered using microSD cards. The card slot is found on the bottom of the tablet, alongside all of the other inputs. Cards of up to 32GB in size are accepted.
There's 500MB of application storage on the Andy Pad. You can make this figure go quite a long way if you use the operating system's ability to store a large proportion of app data on your flash or microSD storage.
The Andy Pad has 512MB of RAM. While we'd like to have seen a little more RAM in order to keep things running silky-smooth, it's still a decent amount when compared to other low-cost Android tablets, which tend to offer around half that figure.
The designers of the Andy Pad proudly proclaim that it comes with several applications and games pre-installed. While these might help you get off to a flying start when you open the box, most of them, including Flixster, Glow Hockey and Twitter, are available for free in the Android Market anyway.
By default, the Andy Pad uses the excellent SwiftKey Tablet X keyboard. This particular keyboard learns the way you type and can accurately predict your next word by looking at the context of the sentence you're typing. It's stunningly effective and makes typing a breeze, but, if you want to use the stock Gingerbread keyboard, then you can do so.
In keeping with the rest of the relatively unmolested Android 2.3 interface, the Andy Pad uses a stock Web browser. It's fast enough, and the tablet's single-core 1.2GHz processor makes navigation hassle-free. The power of the CPU also means that Adobe Flash support is included, which is one thing the iPad 2 can't muster.
Sadly, that pesky resistive screen means you can't zoom in and out of Web pages using a pinch gesture, so you'll have to make do with on-screen buttons and the trusty double-tap method.
The Andy Pad offers a pretty standard Android experience when it comes to things like music and movie playback. The stock media player is present and correct, and offers a reasonably decent selection of features.
Should you wish for something with more bite, you can download one of the many music and video players available in the Android Market. Some of these, such as the brilliant DoubleTwist, add in the ability to wirelessly sync your media library with your home PC.
The Andy Pad's size makes it a surprisingly successful portable movie device, and its support for HD movies is also encouraging, although playback of 1080p movies is skittish at times. If you're looking for a cheap way of keeping the kids quiet on long car journeys, then it's a good choice.
Connectivity and battery life
Although the Andy Pad has Wi-Fi support, there's no 3G connectivity. If you want to get online with this device, you'll need to either be in range of an open Wi-Fi hotspot or tether it to your smart phone, assuming your phone supports such a process.
One of the big surprises is the inclusion of HDMI out. Using an HDMI-to-mini-HDMI cable (not included in the box), you can link the Andy Pad up to your television set. If you combine this feature with a Bluetooth joypad and one of the many retro-gaming emulators available for the Android platform, you've basically got a portable games console.
The creators of the Andy Pad quote 6 hours of battery life. For once, this is actually near the truth. On a full charge, our tablet managed to get close to that figure, after plenty of Web surfing, movie watching and gaming playing. It fell slightly short, but we did have the screen on full brightness and the volume turned up quite high.
The Andy Pad makes plenty of compromises to achieve such a low price tag, but it's still well worth considering if you can't afford a high-end tablet. It would probably also make a perfect first tablet for youngsters -- something that the manufacturer seems to recognise, judging by the promotional material.
The Andy Pad's biggest competitor is probably its sibling, the Andy Pad Pro. This enhanced version offers a capacitive touchscreen, a revised case design and 16GB of internal storage, yet costs only £50 more.
Edited by Charles Kloet