T-Mobile's Springboard tablet offers a speedy 4G connection and solid hardware, but the attached two-year contract could prove a deal-breaker for some customers.
the era of the cheap tablet is now fully upon us.
month, Amazon will deliver the $199 Kindle Fire, just as archrival Barnes &
Noble offers up its Nook Tablet for $249. Samsung is readying the Galaxy Tab
7.0 Plus, which T-Mobile will start selling Nov. 16 for $249.99 with a two-year
mobile data contract. And Research In Motion's 7-inch PlayBook continues to
sell for a reduced price.
inevitable that tablet prices would dip. A similar phenomenon grips all
consumer technology once various competitors start flooding the market with
their own versions of a particular product. The question is whether any of
these new devices can substantially erode the Apple iPad's dominating share of the
Springboard, built by Huawei, might not prove to be that iPad-killer, but the 7-inch tablet is a
solid entrant into the market nonetheless. T-Mobile is selling the device for
$179.99 (after mail-in rebate) with a two-year data plan.
As tablets go,
the Springboard offers a bare-bones Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) experience.
T-Mobile declined to skin the user interface with design bells and whistles in
the manner of Samsung's TouchWiz or Amazon's outright reimagining of Android.
The display boasts a crisp 1280x800 resolution, and the 1.2GHz dual-core
processor is more than adequate for most users' application and multimedia
Apple CEO Steve Jobs once famously denigrated the 7-inch tablet size as
inferior to larger touch-screens, there are benefits to being able to hold your
device in one hand and tap with the other. The Springboard is relatively
lightweight, at 1.34 pounds, but (thanks in part to its slightly curved
metallic backing) doesn't feel cheap.
Springboard features a 5-megapixel rear camera, paired to a 1.3-megapixel
front-facing aperture. For those wishing to take the occasional on-the-fly
image, this is sufficient. Compared to the 8-megapixel lenses available in an
increasing number of smartphones (and older point-and-click digital cameras),
it falls a bit short.
insists that Springboard is good for seven hours of continuous use and 12 days
worth of standby time. After a few days of testing by eWEEK,
there seemed no need to question this number. In addition to
some pre-included applications from Netflix and other content providers,
Springboard users can rely on Google services for music, email and the like.
For those who like to store their media on a local hard drive (helpful for when
you can't get a signal), the device offers 16GB of onboard memory, upgradable
to 32GB via the microSD card slot.
prove more exciting is the Springboard's 4G connection, which makes the tablet
a truly versatile (and speedy) companion while on the road. WiFi-only tablets
feel hobbled by comparison. But that connection requires a two-year contract;
given the rapid-fast pace of the tablet market, the Springboard could prove
badly outdated long before the contract expires-a risk that some users might be
willing to take, for that price. Others might find themselves less
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