Although it’s a new update to an existing Homesurf 7in tablet, the 705 uses Android 2.1 – a version of the OS that feels so old it could get a mention in the Bible. What does it lack that FroYo 2.2 and Gingerbread 2.3 have? It won’t let you install apps to SD, is a lot slower, doesn’t offer full Flash support (not that the CPU here could handle it anyway) and a slew of other features that wouldn’t apply to this tablet anyway – because it’s just too basic.
The version of Android 2.1 used here hasn’t been tinkered with by Binatone a great deal. There’s a nav bar at the top of each home screen, which also tells you the remaining battery life, the time and any recent notifications. Aside from this, it’s a barebones Android install.
Very few apps are pre-installed too. There are video and music players, an ebook reader and browser, but the Google-branded apps that come with most Android smartphones are missing here. There’s no Gmail, no Google Navigation, and Maps is AWOL. As is – most crucial of all – the Android Market.
To try to make up for it, the Binatone Homesurf 705 has an APK installer app (Android apps come as APKs) and the Gigastore app store. This is a poor replacement for the official Android app store, offering hundreds of apps rather than hundreds of thousands. Navigation is often frustrating and the interface is not attractive. The Android Market is just starting to get over its long-running problems, but Gigastore is worse than the Market ever was.
(centre)The APK installer – not pretty, is it?(/centre)
After having rejected Gigastore, we decided to take the manual route with the Homesurf – downloading APK files ourselves. Using this method we got a handful of popular Android apps installed, including gaming favourite Angry Birds Rio. Unfortunately, it runs as fast as a one-legged grandpa in an egg-and-spoon race. You couldn’t count the frames per second the tablet achieved on your fingers, because you’d have to slice a digit in half. It’s that slow.
Perplexed by this poor performance, when other budget tablets like the Time2Touch tab have power to spare, we benchmarked the Homesurf 705 using the AnTuTu tool. It achieved just 580 points and its CPU clocked at 311MHz – the budget Time2Touch HC701A scored 2870 points. This tablet may cost less than its rivals, but it’s also a lot less powerful. To put this processor speed into context, the very first Android phone to hit shelves, the T-Mobile G1, had a 528MHz chip. And wasn’t very fast.
General navigation through the OS is mercifully faster than Angry Birds. There are brief pauses, but navigation is more often slowed-down by the touchscreen rather than the processor. More on that later.
Still, usability is maimed by the lack of app power. You have just 200MB of storage to install apps, doing so is tricky thanks to the lack of a proper app store and using anything more taxing than a tax calculator will be a dead loss anyway. There’s no GPS either, so you can’t use the Homesurf 705 as a cheap in-car navigation tool. Good god, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing? Not quite…