Going into CTIA, who would have thought that the most newsworthy tablet launch would come from a Chinese device maker better known for mid-range Android tablets that are more often found overseas than in America?
Well, that is exactly what happened with the T-Mobile SpringBoard, a seven-inch Honeycomb tablet made by Huawei (pronounced “wah-way”) that was previously unveiled as the MediaPad and that leaves a very positive impression.
The seven-inch device sports the usual array of Honeycomb-tablet specs, including a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 16GB capacity, and a five-megapixel shooter. In terms of size and weight, the SpringBoard is a tad bit thicker than the iPad 2 (.4 to .34 inches, respectively), but at 14.1 ounces, weighs less than most owing to its smaller size, and it feels solid and well built. This certainly isn’t a budget device.
When it was announced, the MediaPad held the curious distinction of being the first device with Android Honeycomb version 3.2. It was later revealed that the main purpose behind the 3.2 update was to scale Honeycomb down for 7-inch screens, and also tweak it for other ARM processors outside of the NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset found in every other previous Honeycomb tablet.
What makes the SpringBoard really stand out is its display. The SpringBoard has a 1280 x 800 screen resolution, which translates to approximately 216 pixels per inch for its seven-inch screen. Most 10.1-inch Honeycomb tablets clock in with about 150 pixels per inch, while the iPad 2 has a PPI count of 132.
Of course, display quality is determined by more than just numbers, brightness and color reproduction also play a major role, which is why the iPad 2 still has one of the best screens to date. That said, the SpringBoard display certainly looks nice, at least on the tradeshow floor, where the harsh glare of overhead lights is a constant nuisance. It’s also great to see that the potentially stellar display won’t go to waste as the SpringBoard is one of the few Honeycomb tablets that supports Netflix streaming.
Coming to T-Mobile
It doesn’t appear as if the T-Mobile SpringBoard will shed its carrier partner and hit retail as a Wi-Fi-only device. Huawei reps commented that the SpringBoard would be a T-Mobile exclusive, destined for the carriers HSPA+ network.
Unfortunately, with a carrier comes a contract, which inflates the overall cost of ownership. Neither T-Mobile nor Huawei have announced pricing, but rumors suggest the SpringBoard will cost $199 at launch. Again, that’s a nice entry-level price point, but T-Mobile’s data plans start at $40 per month for 2GB.
The T-Mobile SpringBoard is slated for a holiday release, which could mean any time between now and Christmas. By then, some new tablets should also be in the pipeline, including some new Motorola Xooms, which could match the SpringBoard’s high-quality display, and the seven-inch Kindle Fire that will almost certainly cost less than the new T-Mobile tablet factoring in the contract.