Gemini Duo 7 3G tablet review

Gemini is a fairly new name in Android tablets, seeking to conquer the budget corner of the market. The JoyTab Duo 7 3G gives away plenty of clues in its name about its specifications. See also Archos 80 Titanium review.

Most noticeably, it has a 7in screen. There are also no prizes for guessing what the 3G suffix means: a SIM slot means you can stay connected on the move. Since you can make phone calls, technically the Duo 7 3G is a phablet, although it's really too big to hold against your ear. See also Amazon Kindle Fire HD review.

This makes it one of the cheapest 3G-capable tablets and you might be surprised that it also packs 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and front and rear cameras. See also: Lenovo IdeaTab A2107A review - a 3G Android tablet for £150.

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Design and build quality

Specifications alone don't make for a great tablet, though. Had we not seen the Archos 80 Titanium recently, the Gemini would have made a far better initial impression on us.Joytab Duo 7 3G

Unfortunately, the all-plastic construction lends a 'cheap' feel, which isn't helped by the fake-carbon-fibre back panel with its odd chrome-effect raised insert. Instead of adding style, it makes the JoyTab appear tacky.

The speaker grilles and buttons also look and feel cheap, and the theme continues with flimsy rubber covers over the SIM and microSD slots. At the top is a standard headphone socket which looks as though its off-centre placement is a mistake rather than intentional.

Joytab Duo 7 3G rubber coversJoytab Duo 7 3G headphone socket

Below the screen are four touch-sensitive buttons, menu, home, back and search. We've never been big fans of such buttons and, on the JoyTab, they can be frustrating as your thumb tends to activate them when holding the tablet in landscape mode. We accidentally tapped the back button far too many times during testing.

The final gripe is that there's a proprietary dock connector, meaning you need to carry the bundled cable around in order to charge the JoyTab (but at least it will charge over USB). Unlike most budget tablets, there's no HDMI output, nor any USB connectors.

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Software

Unlike some of Gemini's other tablets, the Duo 7 3G runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich rather than Jelly Bean, but an update is said to be coming soon.

Unusually, the home screen is fixed in portrait mode, so the JoyTab acts like a giant Android phone. Indeed, the sample we were sent had a shortcut to the dialler prominently on the home screen, but you're unlikely to want to use the Duo 7 3G as your main phone.  However, if you buy a hands-free headset, it could double as a phone if you can live with the size and can't afford to buy both a phone and a tablet (or an Asus Fonepad).

You get access to the Google Play store for apps, music, books, magazines, movies and TV shows, but there's no extra software or customisation beyond Gemini's updater app.

Gemini JoyTab running ICS

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Performance

Thanks to a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, the Duo 7 3G is pretty nippy and although we saw a bit of stuttering between home screens to start with, that disappeared and our experience was surprisingly smooth. The web browser loads pages quickly and there's no sluggishness when scrolling up and down.

Thanks to Flash support, you can watch videos on the main YouTube site, and other Flash-based sites are displayed properly.
If you're after numbers, we recorded an average of 2107ms in SunSpider (a slow result, but one that didn't translate to slow web browsing), and in Geekbench, the Duo 7 3G managed an average of 925.

This is also a fairly poor result but as we've said, the JoyTab doesn't feel slow in general use.

One area where the Duo 7 3G isn't great is 3D gaming. A result of 3.5fps in GLBenchmark is very poor, so don't expect to play anything beyond casual games such as Angry Birds on the JoyTab.

Next page: Cameras, Storage, Screen and Battery Life

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: cameras

If you're after a tablet to use as an occasional camera, it's best to avoid the Duo 7 3G. In fact, it's best to pretend it doesn't have a rear camera at all.

The 2Mp snapper is the worst example we've yet seen on a tablet. The quality of photos is appalling: colours aren't accurate, there's no control over exposure and - worst of all - there's practically no detail at all. It makes the Archos 80 Titanium's mediocre rear camera look like a class act.

Video is pretty shoddy, too. Captured at 640x480, the footage is reminiscent of phone cameras from a decade ago. There's plenty of video wobble, a low frame rate (12fps) and pretty poor audio, too.

The front camera is a 0.3Mp webcam and is good enough for web chats, but little more.

Sample photo from rear camera:

Gemini JoyTab rear camera St Pancras

100 percent crop of the image above:

Gemini JoyTab rear camera St Pancras 100 percent crop

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Storage

In common with many budget tablets, storage is one area that's been trimmed back to save cost. The Duo 7 3G has just 4GB of internal storage, but you can install up to a 32GB microSD card to improve matters.

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Screen

Thanks to the use of an IPS panel, the JoyTab's screen is better than you might imagine. It's not the brightest or most colourful we've seen, but it has pretty good viewing angles and contrast. Viewing angles aren't as good as most IPS displays we've seen on tablets, though, and there's some light leakage at the edges.

The main problem is its low resolution of 1024x600 pixels. This means there's not a great deal of room for web pages to be displayed, and most 7in tablets have a higher resolution these days. It's not a deal-breaker, but certainly something to be aware of.

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Battery life

Inside the Duo 7 3G is a 5800mAh battery. That might sound respectable if you know about milliamp hours, but in our looping video test, the JoyTab lasted a paltry three hours and 40 minutes before requiring a recharge.

Granted, that's at full brightness and with Wi-Fi left turned on, but in the same test, the similarly priced Kindle Fire managed almost six hours. The Archos 80 Titanium lasted just over four hours.

Gemini JoyTab Duo 7 3G: Bottom line

There's no doubt that the JoyTab Duo 7 3G offers a lot for your money. It's near impossible to find a tablet at this price which gives you 3G connectivity, Bluetooth and GPS. Most, including the Archos 80 Titanium, leave these features out.

Also, unlike other 3G tablets, you can make and receive phone calls and text messages on the JoyTab, provided you supply the appropriate SIM card.

However, build quality leaves a lot to be desired and you don't get USB or HDMI ports. The screen isn't as good as the Archos' either, nor is battery life.

If you need 3G at the lowest price, the JoyTab isn't a terrible choice. If it's GPS you're after, it's well worth spending a little extra on a Google Nexus 7.. But if you can live without such frills (and Bluetooth), Archos' 80 Titanium is the one to buy.

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Gemini Duo 7 3G: Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9
  • Memory: 1GB DDR3
  • Storage: 4GB built-in, upgradeable with microSD card up to 32GB (approx. 36GB total)
  • Display: Capacitive 5-point multitouch 7in (1024 x 600) IPS LCD
  • Connectivity: microSD, SIM slots, proprietary dock connector
  • Audio: built-in speaker, built-in mic, 3.5mm stereo earphone jack
  • Network: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, 3G
  • Sensors: GPS, gyroscope
  • Cameras: front 0.3Mp, rear 2.0Mp
  • Battery: 5800mAh
  • OS: Google Android 4.0 (Upgrade to 4.2 Jelly Bean due soon)
  • Dimensions and weight: (W/H) 190.2mm x (H/W) 120.5mm x (D) 11.5mm / 276g
  • CPU: 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9
  • Memory: 1GB DDR3
  • Storage: 4GB built-in, upgradeable with microSD card up to 32GB (approx. 36GB total)
  • Display: Capacitive 5-point multitouch 7in (1024 x 600) IPS LCD
  • Connectivity: microSD, SIM slots, proprietary dock connector
  • Audio: built-in speaker, built-in mic, 3.5mm stereo earphone jack
  • Network: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, 3G
  • Sensors: GPS, gyroscope
  • Cameras: front 0.3Mp, rear 2.0Mp
  • Battery: 5800mAh
  • OS: Google Android 4.0 (Upgrade to 4.2 Jelly Bean due soon)
  • Dimensions and weight: (W/H) 190.2mm x (H/W) 120.5mm x (D) 11.5mm / 276g

OUR VERDICT

If you need 3G at the lowest price, the JoyTab Duo 7 3G isn't a terrible choice. If it's GPS you're after, it's well worth spending a little extra on a Google Nexus 7. But if you can live without such frills (and Bluetooth), Archos' 80 Titanium is the budget Android tablet to buy.

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