You’ll likely encounter this little 7-inch Android tablet from American Sunrex, a Taiwanese manufacturer and reseller, under various monikers in discount electronics stores online and, perhaps, in electronics aisles of drug stores. We received our evaluation unit vitalASC ST0713 directly from American Sunrex, who tells us that it carries a suggested retail price of $189.99. That’s less than most Android tablets, including the EFUN Nextbook Next5, which costs $200 and features a single-core CPU, a resistive touchscreen (meaning you need to apply pressure), and a stripped-down version of the Android Market.
For its part, this Sunrex tablet boasts a dual-core CPU, a capacitive touchscreen (responds to a light touch), and promises the full Android Market for apps. Though, we could not confirm it will actually have access to the Market when the tablet reaches consumers, as our eval unit was clearly a pre-production model and the Market app was inaccessible. Given Google's hesitancy to grant Market access to just anyone, the app just might be wishful thinking on Sunrex's part.
Despite that, it’s a functional Android tablet, though the dual-core chip struggles when attempting to stream video and the Wi-Fi signal is fair, at best. With its sleek, lightweight design, however, it makes an affordable introduction to the Android platform as long as you don't stray too far from your router.
BUILD & DESIGN
The defining characteristic of this Sunrex tablet is its white plastic backing, which wraps around the sides and frames of the display. The display glass extends over the black bezel to the white edging, creating a seamless-looking appearance. Along the bottom edge in the black bezel reside four touch-sensitive buttons. From left to right, they are: Home, Menu (of commonly used functions), Search, and Back. To the right of these four controls is a low-end 0.3-megapixel camera that takes grainy, washed-out photos. There is no rear-facing camera.
Unlike the EFUN Nextbook Next5, the Sunrex tablet is sleek and thin. It weighs only 0.8 pounds and measures 4.6 inches wide by 7.6 inches tall by 0.5 inches thick. It looks and feels more like an over-sized cell phone than tablet.
With a SIM card slot on the left side, it can be used as a phone. Another TabletPCReview staffer couldn’t get it to work with an active Verizon SIM card, but in my pretend phone calls to get a feel for its use as a phone, I felt like a toddler trying to hold a cell phone. Next to the SIM card slot is a media card slot that can read Micro SD and MMC formats. On the bottom edge, you’ll find a mini-HDMI port, a mini-USB port, a headphone jack, and the power connector. Along the bottom of the right edge resides the power button and a volume rocker. There is a reset button on the back, which did not work on our review unit. Again, we clearly reviewed a pre-production device, as also evident by the hand-written corrections in the user manual.
The display measures 7 inches on the diagonal and features a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 800x480 resolution. The resolution is fairly fine, given the size of the screen -- icons appear sharp, and text is crisp and legible.
The tablet ships with an AC/DC adapter, miniUSB male and female cables,and earbuds.
American Sunrex Android tablet specs:
The Sunrex tablet runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) and is based on the 1GHz dual-core Arm Cortex A9 processor, which Sunrex pairs with 512MB of DDR2 memory. It also features 4GB of NAND flash storage. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The tablet feels peppy; applications load quickly and run smoothly, and touch commands feel responsive on the capacitive touchscreen. Browsing the Web also feels natural; pages load with only a short delay and are easily navigated on the 7-inch display. Most mobile versions of sites are displayed in one column when in portrait mode and two columns in landscape mode.
Video is handled by a pre-installed YouTube app, and here is where the limitations of the processor and memory are felt. While audio comes through without a hitch and with decent clarity and volume, the accompanying video was very choppy. Fearing the weak Wi-Fi signal (more on that later) was the culprit, I stood next to my 802.11n router and still couldn’t smoothly play YouTube videos.
I live in a small house and have my router upstairs in an open area right at the top of the stairs. I have no trouble getting a strong Wi-Fi signal from Windows laptops, a MacBook Pro, an iPad 2, and iPhone 3GS from anywhere in my house (again, this shouldn’t be all that surprising given the size of my home). This Sunrex tablet, however, struggled to hold a signal as soon as I ventured downstairs. Where other devices would have three and four bars of signal strength, the Sunrex would give one bar at most (in between dropping the signal). The weak Wi-Fi signal is perhaps the chief drawback of the Sunrex tablet and a potential deal-breaker unless you dwell in a tiny apartment or dorm room where you can't stray too far from your router.
In contrast to the Wi-Fi, battery life is strong. I didn’t run a battery-drain test, but I worked on this review off and on all day, and the tablet ran from 7:00 AM to just past midnight. Granted, I wasn’t using it continually, but over the course of the day, I estimate that I used the tablet for a good six to seven hours. The battery monitor, however, is a bit wonky. It was difficult to discern how much battery life remained. The small battery icon in the upper-right corner of the screen appeared to be at 100 percent for the majority of the day, before it dropped a notch. The next change in battery status occurred late in the evening, when it warned me I had only 15 percent remaining. Less than a minute later, the tablet shut off – not exactly a helpful or accurate warning.
For students and other budget-conscious tech buyers, the vitalASC ST0713 tablet manufactured by American Sunrex is an affordable option for dipping your toes in the Android waters. The overall design is more impressive than the price might indicate, but its struggles with streaming video and holding a Wi-Fi signal detract from its appeal. Unless you spring for a SIM card and actually get it to work, or spend your day camped out next to your wireless router, you may grow frustrated with its weak Wi-Fi signal.
Software & Support
* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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