Binatone is no stranger to the Android tablet space, having graced us with the HomeSurf 7 tablet last year. However, the Binatone ReadMe Mobile is something altogether more unusual. It’s an Android tablet geared towards ebook reading that offers a physical qwerty keyboard, laid out in landscape orientation unlike the Kindle’s portrait take on the form.
Budget Android tablets are commonplace, but few of them revert from the norms of a shiny black body and resistive (or, if you’re lucky, capacitive) touchscreen . At a glance, they’re designed to offer you everything an iPad or more expensive Android tablet does, but on closer inspection they invariably fall apart. The Binatone ReadMe Mobile is a little different. Part ereader, part Android tablet, it doesn’t have a touchscreen – instead relying on a Qwerty keyboard and a small, joystick-like cursor controller.
Whether deliberately or not, the Binatone ReadMe Mobile subverts a number of Android tablet norms, not just by using physical controls instead of a touchscreen. It also uses a matt screen rather than a glossy display, seen in the vast majority of Android tablets, and virtually demands to be used in a landscape orientation. Glossy screens supply a slightly more vibrant image, but are extremely reflective – making them virtually useless for outdoors applications. This ereader-tablet hybrid isn’t quite as reflection-free as an Amazon Kindle, but it sits happily between a Kindle and iPad 2 in reflectiveness terms.
It’s perhaps not right to compare the Binatone ReadMe Mobile to these two kings of the e-book reader and tablet markets though. It looks and feels like a budget device, which it unmistakeably is at just £129.99 for the 2GB edition.
It offers a 7in screen, but with a middling TFT panel under the surface, viewing angles are less than perfect. Tilt the ReadMe backwards, when watching a movie perhaps, and contrast shift will rob shadow detail from anything on-screen. It’s something common to almost all laptops (expensive and cheap) too, but the IPS screen of the first Apple iPad raised the bar significantly for colour-screen tablet devices like this. That said, performance is significantly better than the budget Archos Arnova tablet we looked at earlier this year.
The keyboard is also affected by the Binatone’s ReadMe Mobile’s budget origins. It offers s definite clicky action, but still feels a little cheap. We can’t help but wonder whether the keyboard might confuse this gadget’s message too. While the market-leading ebook reader, the Amazon Kindle, offers a keyboard, it’s arguably something that’s not a "frontline" key part of the device – the eInk screen and integrated Kindle Bookstore are.
To get the most from the Binatone ReadMe tablet, you’ll have to adopt something of a DIY approach. It doesn’t give you access to the Android Market. Instead, you have to rely on the web browser and the Gigastore app store. We didn’t get to see how many apps were on offer, but we image there would be fewer than the AppsLib store seen Archos tablets – and the interface did not impress. The lack of a touchscreen could cause some serious compatibility problems within apps too. Stay tuned for the full review to see if it can play Angry Birds.