With Christmas looming, tablet PCs are coming out of the woodwork. Though Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab seem like the reputable tablet options, budget entries from Telstra and Optus offer food for thought, if nothing else. The Optus My Tab is specced like the T-Touch Tab, but we knew it was a different, better budget Android tablet as soon as we stabbed at it with our fingers.
Perhaps the best compliment we can give the ZTE-manufactured device is that it looks the part of a cheapish Android tablet. Its 7-inch screen sits within a piano-black bezel, which gives way to a plastic silver covering around the back. Emblazoned across the back of the My Tab is a large, friendly-looking Android as well as a second opportunity for Optus and ZTE to co-brand the handset.
The 7-inch centrepiece of the My Tab is a rather dull-looking TFT display which uses resistive touch technology for user input. For those in the know, this isn't a very appealing-sounding combination, though we have to say, this screen certainly serves its purpose. The touchscreen is surprisingly usable, requiring very little pressure to register a response. Its WVGA resolution adds to the underwhelming appearance of the images on the screen, but at the end of the day, it does its job of delivering information.
The tablet isn't too heavy either, in fact, at 350 grams the My Tab is the lightest of the 7-inch tablets we've come across to date. This is an important metric for comparing devices whose weight you'll likely support for long periods of time. The tablet also has a 3.5mm headphone socket, a micro-USB port and a microSD card slot fitted with 2GB of memory.
Like most of the prepaid Android handsets we've encountered in 2010, the My Tab is a fairly bare-bones Android experience. It ships with Android version 2.1 (Eclair), so it comes with a decent suite of productivity tools, like Gmail, calendar and Google Maps. There's also the stock Android music player, stock video player and WebKit web browser.
The My Tab supports the basic range of connectivity options with HSDPA wireless compatible with the 900 and 2100MHz frequencies, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and USB. We've been testing the unit with an Optus prepaid SIM card installed and the service has been good in the Sydney CBD (as you might expect), delivering 2-3Mbps downloads and a respectable 60- to 70-millisecond latency.
Even though the My Tab runs on a comparatively slower 600MHz Qualcomm processor, it manages to deliver a pleasant user experience. We're not going to go further than that and say we were blown away with the performance, we encountered a fair amount of animation jitter across the menus and home screens, but next to the Telstra T-Touch Tab, the My Tab is like a cheetah chasing an elephant. We ran the standard Android benchmarks and saw a decent 26 frames per second in Neocore and other processing benchmarks in line with older devices like the Xperia X10 and Motorola Milestone.
This performance is evident across the range of different apps available to users of Android 2.1. The web browser is snappy, though the resistive screen does mean there is no multi-touch gestures, like pinch-to-zoom, and there's no Flash support. We installed Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds to test gaming on the My Tab, which worked as you would expect them to, though Fruit Ninja did show some lag after longer sessions of play. There are some apps that really struggle too: RockPlayer is our "go-to" DivX and XviD video player and it was basically unusable on the My Tab. RockPlayer uses a software decoder to play files that the stock Android video player doesn't support and, unfortunately, the My Tab simply doesn't have the grunt to handle these sort of tasks.
The 2-megapixel camera is definitely a dud, taking terrible images time and again, but then we can't say we expected too much in this department. Even when we tested this camera under optimal lighting situations, the lens would find the hottest part of the image and create a photo-destroying lens flare.
Battery life was serviceable without being amazing, with up to a day and a half between charges when used for long sessions of web browsing and social network updates. However, My Tab did have impressive standby power, even with the 3G radios connected. Though the battery drain meets our expectation, charging the battery takes forever, with up to four hours or more to charge the 3400mAh battery pack. You'll definitely be keeping the travel adapter next to your bedside table to accommodate the long charge time overnight.
For AU$279 there are going to be some major sacrifices made in delivering a device like the Galaxy Tab, but for nearly a quarter of the price. Thankfully, these sacrifices don't impact too greatly on the user experience, and though in many ways the My Tab isn't a pretty machine, it certainly works as advertised. There's no one part of this device that truly blows us away, but if you're looking for a tablet for web surfing, gaming and music playback, the My Tab is an absolute bargain compared with the alternatives.
But be aware of its limitations too. The My Tab doesn't support Flash in the web browser, doesn't love to multitask (though it's technically capable of it) and isn't powerful enough to playback any of the HD video files you have lying around on your PC. We also wouldn't recommend it for phone calls unless you use a Bluetooth headset. Those who understand what this tablet can and can't do will get some very good use out of it.