One heavenly glimmer of light pokes out from the purgatory that is using the Binatone Homesurf 705 - video playback. This tablet will play just about anything, including DivX, Xvid, MKV and FLV. Several no-name tablets offer similar capabilities, but such abilities are far from the norm. Most £300 Android tablets will play far fewer video types, including top models like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Quite why such a disparity exists remains a mystery.
Playback performance is pretty good too, given the lowly power of the processor. Our 720p test files play with just a slight stutter, and SD content posed no problem. 1080p MKV files refused to play entirely, but using such high-quality files on such a low-res screen is pointless anyway.
The Binatone Homesurf 705's 7in display has an 800x480 pixel resolution. That's less pixel-rich than the 1024x600 panels that are used in Honeycomb 7in tablets like the Acer A100, but matches the original big-name Android tab, the 2010 Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Whether it's sharp enough or not is the least of this screens worries, though. The quality of the panel is quite terrible. It's dim, viewing angles are very poor and the resistive touchscreen leaves the Homesurf with a speckled finish. This mottling effect is common to just about all resistive-screen tablets to some extent, but it doesn't help the 705's case. Blocks of solid colour suffer from this problem quite badly.
The resistive screen also significantly hampers navigation - and browsing in particular. It relies on direct pressure rather than conduction, so doesn't respond to very light touches. Without a stylus to hand, navigation soon starts to feel laboured and slow - especially if you're used to the lightning-fast response of a decent capacitive-screened smartphone or tablet.
Using resistive tech also rules-out multi-touch. In the browser, you're reliant on a zoom button rather than the pinch zoom gesture we know and love. The slick, organic feel of the best web-browsing devices is missing here. Factor-in the lack of mobile internet and Flash support, and things are once again looking less-than-rosy for the Binatone tablet.
However, battery life is better than average at this budget price point. We tested the tablet by playing a DivX video on loop until it drained dry and found the Homesurf 705 lasted for just over five hours. It doesn't have the juice to keep you entertained for the duration of a long-haul flight, but it exceeds Binatone's own figure of four hours for video. It's just a pity this is the only factor that Binatone undersells. The battery is not user-replaceable, the back cover firmly rooted in place.
Binatone's strategy with the Homesurf 705 is obvious - to make a sub £100 tablet that looks the part. Aside from the Binatone logo, which we're not big fans of, it hasn't done too badly in this respect. Pick the thing up and switch it on, though, and everything starts to fall apart, along with the notion of value.
If you need a budget tablet, we implore you to spend a little more on something like the Archos 70 or Time2Touch HC701A, and that's only if your budget won't stretch to something that won our recommended stamp, like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Like the ultra-budget Archos Arnova 10 before it, going cheap will cost you dearly.
It's dead cheap and doesn't feel too bad in-hand, but almost everything else about the Binatone Homesurf 705 makes it a chore to use. The processor is slow, the screen quality terrible and the software is ancient - and that doesn't even factor-in the flat-out missing features like cameras and GPS. Do not get hooked-in by the sound of the £99 price tag. It is a Siren's song.