• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
  • Editorial Calendar 19-20
BW Businessworld

Tablet Economics

Photo Credit :

Ask for a tablet recommendation and I'll tell you the iPad is still the tablet to beat, nearly two years after its launch. Of course, the iPad does tear out an iPad-sized hole in your wallet, that's for sure. Which is where the new breed of Android tablets - many priced well below the Rs 15,000 mark- come in. Are they downright fantastic deals or are the compromises they make to achieve such phenomenal price points too much to suffer? I looked at the Reliance 3G Tab and the Beetel Magiq to answer just this.

Reliance 3G Tab
On the face of it, with the 3G Tab, Reliance seems to have pulled one out of the bag — build quality and finish is pretty good (even though its mostly plastic) and the device is portable enough to slip into most small bags.  It ships with Android 2.3— a relief in that there are just far more apps available for this version than their tablet-only Honeycomb version. Where the device excels, and more so keeping the price point in mind, is that it features a multi-touch enabled capacitive screen, which makes interacting with the device a breeze. Granted, this screen isn't very high resolution - at 800x480 pixels, it has less pixels than the year-old Galaxy Tab P1000, but the use of the capacitive display makes a lot of difference to everyday use and sets it apart from a lot of similarly priced tablets.

Performance wise, the device packs in an 800 MHz processor and 512 MB of system memory (RAM), and you get storage expansion by way of memory card slot (upto 32GB). The package may look ordinary for a tablet more so when we're regularly talking up dual-core smartphones, but the device manages admirably, handling movie playback and web browsing pretty well. Know its limitations though — the device does stutter if you try to do too many things all at once, or if you try to playback high-definition video. The device has its obvious shortcomings in the camera department, and the 2-megapixel shooter at the back comes without an LED flash or auto focus, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Battery life is good for a day's use with 3G on and some browsing, emails and calls - yes, this device can make calls too! As can be expected, the device is locked to the Reliance network, so you cant just use any SIM you have. Also, bear in mind the device doesn't have a built-in microphone (at least not one I could discern) so you will have to use your own wired or Bluetooth headset for your calls.

An interesting application which came bundled with the device is the Reliance Mobile TV app, which is rather nifty as it lets you watch most of the major TV channels on a subscription basis. Use it in an area where you get good 3G coverage, and this app really shows off the capabilities of your Reliance 3G connection.

Priced at Rs 12,999, the device delivers…and how! Consider this — despite largely similar specs, this device is half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab! Since it's SIM-locked, Reliance is offering the 3G Tab with different tariff plans which are heavily discounted packages that include the price of the Tab and annual 3G rental. Clearly, Reliance's play is to make this device an attractive means to get onto their network and pay for data, and while you can buy the Tab without a data plan, I'd recommend at least the basic data plan to get the most out of this experience.

Beetel Magiq
With the Magiq, Beetel has dipped under the psychological Rs. 10,000 barrier to offer a somewhat unconventionally shaped 7-inch tablet. Hold it, and you'll understand — it feels somewhat like a stretched out phone. Running a 1 GHz processor with 512 MB of memory and 8GB storage, the Magiq packs in the kind of specs that would be hard to find even on smartphones in the same price range. Impressive! You also get a SIM card slot to add 3G and voice calling capabilities, plus the micro SD card for storage expansion.

The display, much like the Reliance tablet, packs in 800x480 pixels of resolution, and while it is bright, it uses the older resistive type of touch panel. Talk of killjoys — the lack of response from the screen takes a lot away from this tablet, and even though it's packed to the gills performance wise, you walk away from the tablet feeling just a tad unsatisfied. There are times when the screen just didn't respond with the kind of urgency you need it to, and it left me wondering whether adding a low end capscitive screen might not have been a better option. Granted, it would have taken the price into the Reliance Tab category, but I'm fairly sure people are willing to pay for a vastly improved experience… and conversely, rule against a sub-optimal one with their wallets.

Next up, it packs in Android 2.2 running a custom skin - why Beetel didn't choose to go with 2.3 with the vanilla Android skin is beyond me. What bothers me - and this is true of most Android devices across the board - is that there is no clear upgrade path being spoken of to get to the next version. Maybe most users will live with it, but when your clear differentiator is the pricing, a stock UI on a higher version of Android will not hurt your chances one bit.

On the features front, there are two cameras, both two megapixel, one at the back and one in the front. As expected, the image quality is acceptable only in well-lit situations. You can use the front facing camera for video calling, something that one wishes the Reliance Tab had factored in as well. You also get A-GPS for navigation and location-based services, and WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G round out the connectivity options.

With the Magiq more than the 3G Tab, the big question is — is the low price worth it? If you've experienced capacitive touch screen devices, you will wonder how we tolerated touchscreens before them. But to many who haven't used touchscreens at all, the compromise may not be as severe. In fact, its poor battery life and bulk may be bigger reasons to proceed with the Magiq with caution.

Reliance 3G Tab
Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 12,999

Beetel Magiq
Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 9,999

Perfect Progeny
It could easily be mistaken for a Nokia N9, except that the Lumia 800 is the first "real Windows Phone" borne out of the marriage of Nokia and Microsoft. Packing in excellent hardware specs, a radical minimalist design and the latest Windows Phone 7.5, the Lumia is all about new beginnings at Nokia. Expected in India around the year-end, can't wait! Watch this space.
Price: $600

technocool at kanwar dot net
[email protected]