Argos is tired of cluttering up your coffee table with its goliath books containing everything ever made. It now wants to clutter up your lounge with its new tablet, the MyTablet. It's made by Bush, which is the brand Argos slaps onto all of its cheap electrical products, including TVs and DVD players.
The MyTablet is a 7-inch slate with a dual-core processor and a £100 price tag. With such a low price, Argos is going head-to-head with supermarket giant Tesco, whose £119 7-inch Hudl tablet recently earned a respectable score in our review. Let battle commence.
The Bush MyTablet is available now from Argos.
Should I buy the Bush MyTablet?
Almost certainly not. While at £100, the MyTablet is cheap, it's far from cheerful. It gains some points for its minimal, metallic design, but it rapidly loses them again for its godawful display, sluggish processor, software issues and odd design choices -- like making the SD card slot too deep to click a card into without poking it with a pen.
A better budget option is the Asus MemoPad HD 7. At £130, it's a little more expensive, but its high-definition screen and nippy quad-core processor more than make up for it. I highly recommend waiting however long it takes to save up the extra 30 quid, or asking your neighbours if you can wash their cars for a fiver a pop -- the upgrade is worth it.
The other option to consider is Tesco's Hudl tablet. It's £119, has a family-friendly (read: durable) rubberised body, a decent enough display and has helpful apps that take you through the basics of Android. If you're buying a tablet for the little 'uns to use, it might be the one to go for.
Design and build quality
The MyTablet seems to have taken a couple of design cues from Apple's iPhone 5. It has silver metallic back, with angular edges and a white strip on the back that's very iPhone-esque. It's nowhere near as luxurious as the iPhone though -- as you'd expect, given the cost.
The plain white front is uninspiring and the edges have a slight sharpness to them that makes it feel unfinished. You'll find the usual buttons around the edges -- a volume rocker and power button -- but their placement is unusual, which might take some getting used to. The Bush branding and camera placement suggests it should be held in portrait mode, putting the volume rocker on the bottom, with the power button on the left. In landscape mode, they're awkward to find.
You'll also find an HDMI port tucked into the edge, which is great for hooking the tablet up to a big TV. A 2-megapixel camera lurks on the back while a 0.3-megapixel camera is on the front for video calling. There's also a microSD card slot, which allows you to expand the 8GB of built-in storage. Crucially, you're able to install apps to the card, not just your music and video, meaning you don't need to worry too much about downloading huge files.
Annoyingly, the card has to be pushed very far inside which I couldn't do with just a finger -- I had to poke it in with a pen. It might not seem like a huge issue, but it suggests that a closer eye on quality control is needed.
It's 191mm long, 110mm wide and 9mm thick which is smaller than Tesco's Hudl. It's quite a stark design, clearly aimed more towards those of you looking for a smart-looking device, rather than the plastic, family-friendly stylings of the Hudl. It's inoffensive enough, but there's no question it looks cheap. Pop it in a case if you're heading anywhere with a dress-code.
The tablet's 7-inch display has a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, which is right at the bottom of what I'd expect to see, even on a budget tablet. Unsurprisingly, small text is not sharp at all and icon edges look rather fuzzy. Tesco's Hudl tablet has a 1,440x900-pixel display, which, while some way behind the retina iPad mini or new Nexus 7, was easily sharp enough for the essentials.
Its resolution is a moot point though -- the display seriously disappoints in every other respect. Colours are extremely drab and lifeless. It's not very bright. This is not a tablet that will help you enjoy Netflix shows in all their glory.
Its viewing angles are atrocious too. You need to stay pretty much square on with the screen to get the best view -- look at it off-centre and expect to see a miserably distorted image. The best I can say about this display is that it technically works, in the same way that I could technically compete in a sprint against Usain Bolt -- I'm doing the same thing, sure, just nowhere near as well.
Software and processor
It's running on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is a satisfyingly recent version of Android and mercifully Argos -- or Bush -- hasn't done much to skin the interface. You'll find a few pre-loaded apps like BBC iPlayer, Angry Birds and of course Argos' own shopping app, but the multiple homescreens, the app menu and the pull-down settings bars remained unchanged.
Tesco packed its Hudl with a bunch of apps to teach you the basics of Android and how to keep yourself -- and your kids -- safe online. If you're brand new to Android and nervous about taking your first steps, it's a good option to go for, but the Android interface on the Argos slate is simple to use, once you've had a poke around to learn what everything does.
It's not perfect though. I wasn't happy when the tablet asked me whether I wanted to load 'Launcher' or something called 'Themeinator' every time I tried to go to the homescreen. Seasoned Android users will be familiar with the ability to load different interfaces onto a tablet to give it a different look, but putting it as standard onto a cheap tablet that's aimed at novice users is ridiculous. Tapping Launcher and setting it to load 'Always' will at least stop it asking you every time.
It's powered by a dual-core 1.6GHz processor, which seemed to really struggle with making everything move. Swiping around the homescreens was sometimes jerky, and opening apps and menus was at times subject to irritating delays. I found tweeting and posting pictures of my handsome face to Facebook was easily manageable, but don't try and keep multiple apps open in the background -- it doesn't handle it well.
I noticed a couple of software bugs as well. Some apps would unexpectedly quit -- indicating a gasping processor -- and on one occasion, the Google Play Store would continually keep taking me back to the page for Angry Birds, as I tried to navigate through my apps. This only happened once, so I'm not concerned that it's a fatal flaw, but it again suggests it's nowhere near as polished a tablet as you'd hope for.
Argos reckons you can get around 5 hours of use from the tablet, which isn't a particularly impressive figure, but it should keep you entertained on your commute. I found the battery life dropped quite quickly when playing demanding games, so I'm not convinced 5 hours is easily achievable unless you're very careful about how you use it.
If you make sure to keep screen brightness down and avoid anything intense like video streaming, you'll find it'll last a bit longer.
Argos might want to wipe the smug smile from Tesco's face, but the Bush MyTablet certainly isn't the way to do it. It is cheap, but you absolutely get what you pay for. Its awful screen is one of the worst I've laid eyes on in a long time, and its underpowered processor gives a really unpleasant experience. One to avoid.