I swung by the Augen booth at CES this year because I wanted to take a look at the new tablets they announced for the show. Given how we felt about the Gentouch78 — the infamous $150 KMart tablet — I wasn’t prepared to be impressed. However, after meeting with the company president and seeing some of the new products coming out this spring, I have formed a tentative optimism. Particularly around one particular model: the Gentouch Espresso Doppio.
This tablet shares many of the features we saw around CES this year — 10.2-inch display, Android 2.2, ARM processor, etc. — but the interesting part comes when you look at its other half, the Doppio base. Docking the tablet here essentially turns it into a netbook as it snaps into place above the keyboard like a traditional screen, and the whole unit opens and closes like a regular notebook. Does this sound familiar? It should. Because it’s the same basic concept and design that we saw on the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid.
Unlike the U1, the Espresso’s base is not a computer in its own right. However, it’s not just a keyboard and extra ports, either. Inside there’s a battery that lasts 10 hours and a 160GB hard drive. The tablet itself dual boots Android and Ubuntu. Having a desktop OS on the unit alongside the mobile OS has its advantages. For instance, Android can’t access the hard drive, but Ubuntu can. And it’s easy to print from Ubuntu, whereas with Android that can be a challenge.
The Espresso also has a few other features that differentiate it from the U1. For instance, the tablet can access both operating systems whether its docked or in tablet only mode. That means you can use the keyboard with Android, something the U1 can’t do.
Though Augen didn’t commit to it, they did tell me that the hardware configuration matches the specs required for Android 3.0. Unlike most major tablet makers, Augen isn’t waiting for Honeycomb. The release date is set for sometime in April.
The Espresso Doppio was on display in Augen’s booth, but not for touching. Instead, it sat enshrined in glass at the center. We didn’t see it running software or even get a chance to touch it. So my excitement is only theoretical. The bottom line is that, right now, Augen is probably best known for the mistakes made around the Gentouch78 tablet. The company president did say that he listened to all the feedback and is determined not to make the same mistakes again.And I’ll be as happy as anyone if this turns out to be true.
The Espresso Doppio, like a few of the other tablets Augen had on display, look good on paper. But a promising spec list doesn’t guarantee an awesome product. Dare I hope that that this hybrid — due to arrive in stores by April — will at least approach usability? Does Augen at least deserve a second chance?