The Android operating system is showing up on several non-phone devices from tablets to netbooks these days. We’ve seen some decent marriages between non-phones and Google’s OS, but some implementations make us think that perhaps Android should stick to phones. One such case: the Camangi WebStation.
By itself, this device is actually pretty cool. It’s got a 7-inch screen, weighs 0.8 pounds, doesn’t tire out the hand or wrist, and is great for surfing the web. However, the 624MHz Marvell PXA303 CPU runs Android a bit sluggishly. And because the apps are limited to whatever Camangi has in their proprietary marketplace (with some exceptions), the device feels a bit confined. Such is the plight of emerging Android tablets (the Archos 5 Internet Tablet has much the same problem), so the WebStation isn’t alone. Still, its good qualities may yet attract tablet and MID enthusiasts.
Let’s take a quick look at what this tablet has to offer and check it out on video.
What We Like: Besides being very light, the Camangi WebStation fits comfortably in our hand both vertically and horizontally. Along the edges you’ll find volume control, the power/sleep button, a microSD card slot, plus ports for USB (one mini, one standard), power and headphones. The Home, Settings, and Back button sit on the front right face of the device and work just as they would on an Android phone.
The 7-inch, 800 x 480 screen is wide enough to fit the text column of most web pages, but we had to zoom out to see all of laptopmag.com or engadget.com. While reading eBooks we were able to see a full page of text at one time and switch between black text on a white background and white text on a black background (for night reading). The tablet has an accelerometer which rotates the screen when you move it from portrait to landscape orientation.
Music sounds decent on the external speakers and even better when we plug headphones in. We also like the Digital Frame function, which automatically scrolls through the pictures on the included microSD card.
Wi-fi is included and, though the device doesn’t have 3G built in, there is a 3G Wizard that will help when connecting a USB dongle for mobile broadband.
What We Don’t: As we mentioned, the device is sluggish, taking a few seconds longer to load apps and Web pages or respond to button presses than we like.
When we watched the included WebStation promo video it didn’t play smoothly, stuttering and hitching noticeably in many places. We weren’t able to test any other videos as only MP4 and 3GP formats are supported and the YouTube app wasn’t included.
The Camangi Marketplace has a handful of useful apps, including an NPR Podcasts manager, OI Notebook and OI File Manager. However, to get to the marketplace you currently have to click past two splash screens and to download you must register. It’s free, but an annoying (and unnecessary) extra step. Because the device doesn’t have access to the Android Marketplace for phones, users currently miss out on apps like Google Voice, Google Maps, Twidroid, Facebook, Last.fm and hundreds of others.
The resistive touchscreen made for a difficult user experience, particularly at first. The device responds best to stylus input (there’s one included) but not as well to the press of a finger. This was particularly evident as we attempted to scroll through apps, menus, or web pages and accidentally hit an icon, item or link while trying to just get past it.
So far, our first impressions are mixed. We’re looking forward to spending more time getting to know this tablet, as it appears to have a lot of potential. Look for a full review soon.