- Excellent display
- Great build quality
- Stable performance
- Lousy speakers
- Battery life only so-so
- Loaded with bloatware
The T-Mobile SpringBoard is an excellent device for the price (provided you agree to a two-year contract), and it offers an impressive display and build quality. Its only real flaws include a poor speaker as well as a subpar battery performance.
Admittedly, I didn’t think much of the SpringBoard leading up to its announcement earlier this summer. Its manufacturer, the China-based Huawei, is better known overseas, and its previous tablet efforts have been underwhelming.
It was then called the MediaPad, but its relatively impressive specs and the fact that it was the first device announced running Android Honeycomb version 3.2, forced me to reconsider. And I further reassessed the 7-inch tablet after time spent with the device, now officially dubbed the “T-Mobile SpringBoard”, at CTIA, where I found it to be a well-crafted device with a good-to-excellent display.
Can the T-Mobile SpringBoard hold up under closer scrutiny? Let?s find out…
BUILD & DESIGN
The SpringBoard doesn?t deviate from the typical 7-inch tablet design in that it is rectangular with black screen bezel and a handful of buttons and ports around the edges. It most closely resembles the original iPad with its aluminum build, relatively thick sides, and rounded back. It also borrows elements from the HTC Flyer/EVO View 4G with plastic panels on the short backsides of the device. One panel is removable and hides the SIM and microSD card slots. The other just surrounds the 5 megapixel rear shooter. The plastic panels add a nice but slight gripping point and are a welcome design choice.
The front-facing camera sits in the upper left-hand corner of the device when it?s held in landscape mode. This gives it the advantage of being useful with both orientations; I don?t know why all tablets don?t adopt that placement.
Along the short edges, to the right of the display are the 3.5mm audio jack and two stereo speakers. The opposite side houses the charging input, microHDMI out, microUSB input and on-board mic.
The power button and volume rocker are found on one long side, while the other has nothing but edge.
All told, it?s very comfortable to use, and at seven-inches, small enough to fit in a coat pocket or purse. I firmly believe that there is no correct screen size for tablets, just personal preference, so I encourage potential buyers to check out all screen sizes before settling on one.
The SpringBoard has a good weight to it, just enough to give the impression of a quality build, but it isn?t heavy. The same can be said for the cool aluminum chassis. I don?t know if I prefer an aluminum or rubberized body, but both are certainly preferable to sheer plastic.
I think a microSD slot, USB input and HDMI port (mini, micro, or otherwise) should be standard issue on all tablets, but sadly, they are not (I?m looking at you, Samsung!), so points to Huawei for including them. The micoHDMI input offers mirroring over a cable, meaning you can show off your SpringBoard screen on a large-screen HDTV (great for movies and work presentations), and Honeycomb 3.2 supports USB hosting. Users can plug in any USB mouse, keyboard or gamepad, and it will work with the SpringBoard, provided they have a microUSB to full USB adapter, which can be had for less than the price of shipping on Amazon. USB hosting also works for jump drives, but I couldn?t get it to run my external HDD.
Screen and Speakers
I was extremely impressed with the SpringBoard display after my brief time with it at CTIA. Aside from the Samsung offerings, Honeycomb tablet displays have been mediocre at best, so at the time I thought it may have just been low expectations.
I?m happy to say that the SpringBoard screen holds up under closer examination, as well it should. The specs are impressive. The SpringBoard has a 1280 x 800 screen resolution, which translates to approximately 216 pixels per inch. Most competing Honeycomb tablets have a PPI count hovering around 150, while the iPad 2 has 132 pixels per inch. But to be fair, those tablets also have larger displays between 8.9 and 10.1 inches, depending on the model. The similarly-sized 7-inch PlayBook, which has an excellent overall display, has a PPI of around 170.
Experts claim that the human eye cannot distinguish past 300 PPI, which is where most high-end smartphones are today. I?m willing to bet the next generation of tablets cracks that threshold as well.
The SpringBoard display has a wide viewing angle, but looks best when viewed head on. The glossy screen is very reflective in sunlight, and it?s also a fingerprint magnet; though, both issues are common with this generation of tablets. Colors tend toward the cooler tones, and text looks crisp, especially when zoomed in. HD video looks superb. The Galaxy Tabs and PlayBook have brighter displays, and I still think Samsung?s tablets have the slight edge on overall quality thanks to both its brightness and vivid color reproduction.
Unfortunately, the speakers don?t match the display quality. They are loud enough that an individual can hear movie dialogue without headphones, but the sound is garbage. Over headphones, everything sounds acceptable, but the speakers kill any fidelity. They are also poorly placed on the left-short side of the SpringBoard, but that problem is not unique to the SpringBoard. In fact, the only tablet to get it right to date is the BlackBerry PlayBook, which has the speakers on the front of the display, directing sound at the user.
Our T-Mobile SpringBoard review unit had the following specs:
- Android Honeycomb (3.2)
- 7-inch diagonal widescreen (1280 x 800, 216 PPI) capactive touchscreen
- Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 dual-core processor (1.2 GHz)
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB internal memory, expandable to 32GB via microSD
- Front-facing 1.3-megapixel, rear-facing 5-megapixel webcams
- 802.11 Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, HSPA+
- 3.5mm audio jack, microHDMI, microUSB, microSD, SIM, power pinhole charge input
- 7.48 x 5.08 x .41 inches
- .89 lbs
- Ships with charger, microUSB to USB cable, cable clamp
- Price at Launch: $179.99 with a two-year T-Mobile agreement and $50 mail-in rebate, $430 off contract