- Excellent video codec support
- Poor screen quality
- No Android Market
- Resisitive touchscreen
- Review Price: £119.95
This 7in tablet packs-in features we previously wouldn’t have expected to see in a £125 device. It offers a 1GHz processor, Android 2.3 Gingerbread and 4GB of internal memory, plus a couple of neat extras not seen in most other Android tablets.
Its battery is user-replaceable because, just like an Android smartphone, you can pop off the back cover and pull it out yourself. This gives Storage Options the chance to flog you some additional batteries and coloured back covers, on top of the standard glossy black. These covers come in packs of two and retail for a reasonable £14.99. Battery packs are also well-priced, at £19.99 a pop.
This design means that the miScroll doesn’t have the natty aluminium body of the previous Scroll tablets though – you have to make do with plastic here. Build quality is respectable at the price. The battery cover is held on with a full 11 clips, giving it a tight seal all the way around the body. At 12mm thick it’s not ultra-slim for a 7in tablet but the simplicity of the all-black design mimics more expensive tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook in a way that’s sure to trick some friends into believing you’ve spent more than you have.
Connectivity is handled with a more conspicuous nod to aesthetics than Archos’s rival 70 tablet too. The mini HDMI, miniUSB and microSD slot are hidden behind a flip-out plastic panel, leaving just the power socket and headphone jack to clutter-up the bottom edge. The power button and volume controls sit on the right edge, but these too are inconspicuous, finished in the same glossy black as the rest of the body.
This finish picks up fingerprint instantly, and will be transformed into a smudgy mess within minutes, but it’s a decent-looking device. It’ a pity the back has been emblazoned with a superfluous set of feature icons. The front of the miScroll tablet is home to a trio of three old-fashioned clicky soft keys – the Android standard of Back, Menu and Home, there to help you navigate through Android’s virtual halls alongside the 7in resistive touchscreen.
An impressively up-do-date feature of the miScroll tablet is its Android 2.3 software. We’re used to seeing budget Android tablet rock up with ancient editions of the OS, complaining that their light coffers wouldn’t extend to the bus fare to get them to the store shelves in a timely manner, but for now at least this tablet is as de rigeur as Lady Gaga (and if Gaga isn’t hot news anymore, neither will Android 2.3 be).
The downer is that Android 2.3 Gingerbread isn’t officially a tablet OS. It was designed for smartphones. Basic navigational compromises are less significant than you might imagine on a 7in screen, when Android 3.0 Honeycomb is meant to devices with screens of 10in and above. You have home screens. You’re free to fill, or litter, them with widgets, and Android’s notifications system will keep you informed of any new updates – emails, status updates and other such modern day flotsam – from third-party apps.
You won’t get these apps from the Android Market though, because it doesn’t feature on the miScroll tablet. It’s a casualty of trying to run a smartphone OS on something that’s not a smartphone, and it seriously limits the usability of this device. A miniature Scroll app store is pre-installed, and covers basics like Facebook, Twitter and TuneIn Radio, but offers almost nothing compared to the Android Market – a mere few thousand apps.
You’re not left entirely stranded on an app-less island beyond this though, as Android lets you install apps manually, and there are plenty of freeware websites that you can browse through using the built-in browser. Still, this demands more patience and effort than many are willing to give, especially when every cheapie Android smartphone has access to the Market.
The miScroll tablet uses a resistive touchscreen, instead of the more popular capacitive type. This senses pressure rather than conduction, and therefore doesn’t respond to very light touches. Compared with an iPad, this makes the tablet feel clumsy and unresponsive. It benefits from use with a stylus, but none is included here.
A limitation of the resistive panel used here is that it doesn’t support multi-touch, ruling-out the popular pinch-to-zoom gesture. Matched with the iffy responsiveness of the touchscreen, this leaves browsing feeling compromised and slow, although the actual speed will depend on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection. There’s no 3G connectivity packed-in here.
On most fronts, the miScroll Android tablet offers fewer features than its higher-price rivals. However, it’s way above average in video codec support. It’ll play MKVs, Xvid and DivX files among others, and thanks to its 1GHz processor it can handle HD content with ease. It refused to play very high bit-rate content, but will breeze through most content downloaded from the web.
The video player software is painfully basic though, with no resume, picture customisation or advanced playback options. You don’t have much more control than starting, stopping and dragging the progress bar to navigate through a video’s run time. A little more gloss would have gone a long way here, as it fast becomes one of the tablet’s key strengths.
The mini HDMI output lets you output this video playback to a TV simply and easily (no cable is included), and the 4GB of internal memory will store 2-5 movies at standard definition quality. Plug in a healthy-sized microSD card and this figure will increase dramatically though.
Watching videos on the tablet itself isn’t as successful. The miScroll’s screen isn’t of very good quality, with poor viewing angles leaving the picture looking very dim and bereft of shadow detail if viewed in the wrong way. When held at the optimum position, the picture quality doesn’t compare with that of more expensive tablets, as the resistive touch layer acts a quality-reducing barrier between your eyes and the pixels. Top-end tablets have set a very high water mark for screen quality though – easily eclipsing laptops, netbooks and most computer monitors – and we think the miScroll’s screen is good enough to watch the odd movie or TV episode on.
From a full charge, the tablet’s internal battery will last for three hours when playing video – comfortably enough for a movie and a US-style TV episode but not quite enough for most double bills. For longer trips away from a charger, extra batteries are available from Storage Options direct for £19.99. Plugging this onto the price starts to push the miScroll’s cost up close to more capable rivals including the Archos 70 and Storage Options’s own capacitive touchscreen Scroll model – every tenner counts at this price.
Budget tablets are starting to shed some of the compromises that can make them such a pain to use. The miScroll is still weighted-down with a few too many. The 1GHz processor is meaty enough, but the poor screen, resistive touchscreen and lack of apps don’t merit the money saving when far better sub-£200 alternatives like the Archos G9 80 are already on the horizon.
The Storage Options miScroll tablet may be one of the cheapest Android tablets around, but the penny-saving cuts make it too much of a chore to use. The resistive touchscreen, mediocre display and lack of the Android Market drain the fun out of what should fundamentally be something fun to play with. Unless your budget really can’t stretch any further, you’d be better off saving up more money and opting for one of Storage Options’s more expensive models, or the upcoming Archos G9 80.
Score in detail
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