I like the idea of the tablet computer. I like messing around inside things. I like Android. And I'm paid badly. So it should come as no surprise that I didn't buy an iPad, but instead opted for a cheaper, more open option: the 10.1" Zenithink ePad (aka the ZT-180).
Purchased from eBay UK, my ePad came with a pouch that I never use, a power brick not intended for the european or UK market, a plug adapter to make aforementioned brick useful, a pretty tacky micro-usb to ethernet adapter, a paper-cut dispensing manual and a cool magnetic box. Seriously, the box must have been about 5% of the total cost.
So the device itself! If you are like me, the first thing you will notice is the resistive screen. Bleh. But moving to the edge, things pick up.On top is a micro SD slot, some hard buttons and a micro usb port with a networking glyph beside it. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this is where the tacky white ethernet dongle goes. To date, I haven't bothered with it. Continuing on we have power input, a micro usb port with "OTG" beside it (On The Go?), a normal usb port, headphone jack, reset pinhole, mini hdmi port and a microphone. Back to the front panel, there is a webcam, a iOS-like home button and a hole presumably for an LED.
Turning it on confirms a few things. The mysterious hole does indeed hide an LED and a bright one at that. Someone has stolen the internet explorer logo and embedded it in the bootloader. Lovely. Actually, sarcasm doesn't translate well here so let me rephrase: that's not lovely, that's stupid. I don't want to think about Microsoft products when I boot my Android tablet! Next, we see the little android mascot guy and a blinking cursor, followed by the Froyo (Android 2.2) logo. So it's running a fairly modern version of Android, a good sign. And once we get into android proper... well, the experience is ok. If you have used an iPad, you won't be impressed. But an iPad is between 2 and 4 times as expensive so what can you expect realistically? The touchscreen is a bit iffy. Plugging in a standard USB mouse or keyboard works very well, thankfully. Wifi works, but the range seems poor. Maybe a better antenna is in order. My battery seems to top out at 70%, what's that all about? And the estimated discharge time seems to fluctuate madly. For €150 I'm not expecting a 10-hour battery, but still... A test picture taken with the webcam confirms that yes, the webcam is garbage.
The Android Market works perfectly, surprisingly. I had heard that support wasn't great on the android tablets. But it's a welcome addition. Especially as it let's me easily find and download benchmark tools. Wifi Analyzer tells me that the signal from my router is -90dB where my Lenovo laptop reports -55dB so that seems bad. Linpack for Android tells me it runs at 9.492 MFLOPS which means very little to me. CPU Benchmark reckons the processor is 933MHz and not the 1GHz advertised. No surprise there though. Hardware is IMAPX apparently.
And finally some more dry stats. Android System Info tells me I have 720.92MB of internal memory, 2428.3MB on an internal SD card, 374MB of RAM, my processor is a zt180 imapx200, battery is a Lithium Ion at 5 degrees celsius, there is some kind of fake or broken phone module, processor again is ARMv6, screen resolution is 600 x 1024, there's some sort of low-precision MEMSIC sensor for tilt control and that's about it before I get totally bored.
So that's the Zenithink. Apart from the slightly suspect components, it's not too bad. The screen is big and clear enough if you are looking head-on. It's not exactly slim but not too heavy either. I'm quite looking forward to cracking it open and having a poke around inside!
Hardware mods >