Following in a now familiar path of advertising similar features to the Apple iPad, but at a lower price, we find the Advent Vega 10in tablet PC breaks no new ground, only itself
With Apple dominating in the tablet PC market, some companies just can’t wait to jump in and claim some of the lucrative action. Even when their products are not ready for release.
Such is the case again with the Advent Vega. After the Apple iPad it’s the most talked about tablet in the UK today. Why the buzz? Simply price – at £250 this 10in Android tablet appears as a positive bargain next to Apple’s £429 iPad.
The Advent Vega takes the same basic form as the iPad, then cheapens it each direction in order to reduce the price tag.
Where the original has a glass multi-touch IPS screen rich in colour and viewable from any angle, the Advent Vega has a budget plastic TN screen with weak colour when used face on.
That’s at its best – when tilted by a view degrees as you naturally do when holding it, the screen can fade to black tones and become an unviewable mess.
Resolution is comparable to iPad, but at 1024x600 instead of 1024x768 pixels, we see it’s taking a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.
Add in the Advent Vega’s 10.1in screen size specification, and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen this before: this is a standard-issue netbook screen, with capacitive touch for fingertip control.
On paper this panel may seem larger than the iPad's; but the Advent Vega’s screen is actually a little smaller, at 281 sq cm, where iPad gives you 288 sq cm.
Flip the Advent Vega over and we find a plastic back, gently curved at the edges, and prone to picking up scratches when placed on the desk.
Advent Vega Features
There’s a flap on the right of the Advent Vega which hides some useful looking connectors. First is a microSD card slot, with Advent throwing in a 2GB card to give basic storage.
Next to that there’s an unusual full-size (Type A) USB 2.0 port. An included A-to-A USB lead in the box lets you plug the Advent Vega into a PC and access its flash storage, although we couldn’t get it to charge from USB.
The mains charger in the box is a 12V power supply, suggesting that the Advent Vega requires more power to charge than the 5V/0.5A available from USB 2.0.
If you plug the Advent Vega into a PC –Windows, Mac or Linux - you can drag-and-drop music, video and photos into the relevant folders to use them on the tablet.
There’s also a Windows-only program provided, Advent Transfer Companion, for the process.
The third option under the flap is HDMI. We tried connecting the Advent Vega to a monitor, and saw a mirrored version of what was on the tablet’s own screen. It looked to be at the same limited resolution too, with interface elements looking very pixellated.
Worse, the speed of the entire device slowed so much it effectively became unusable when connected via HDMI. A restart of the Advent Vega tablet did not help.
On the bottom edge of the Advent Vega is some form of Apple-like dock connection port, although no cable nor explanation is included with the tablet.
Using the Advent Vega
In contrast to most Google Android phones, the Advent Vega does not have the usual fixed Home and Back buttons on the front panel below the screen.
But Home and Back buttons are embedded within a modified version of the standard Android user interface (UI), and there’s a small and fiddly silvered-plastic Back button on the top right edge of the Advent Vega too.
Some operations feel quick, like first opening the web browser; others very slow and jerky, such as scrolling up and down the webpage itself.
Like ViewSonic’s ViewPad 7, the Advent Vega cannot be used properly in portrait mode, as the home screen UI doesn’t rotate when you hold the tablet upright.
As the Advent Vega is installed with Google’s Android 2.2 operating system, designed for mobile phones, it has the option for a plugin to give what’s optimistically called ‘Flash compatibility’. So websites that use Adobe Flash to advertise at you or entertain you with embedded videos will work with this device.
Or at least, that’s what we’re told to believe.
In fact, Adobe Flash on every mobile devices we've tried is, at best, very poor; at worse, useless.
This Android tablet is a closer fit to the 'useless' category. We found sites that use large amounts of Flash advertising, such as www.pcadvisor.co.uk, could take minutes to load, if at all.
Interestingly, the designers of this Advent Vega must have known that Flash would be a problem, as they kindly included a click-to-enable system like Flashblock or ClickToFlash, such that you must finger-click some individual Flash boxes in a webpage to load content.
This didn’t help make Flash video any more enjoyable when is was playing though. The BBC iPlayer video we tried was dreadful, with lipsync so far out that male and female dialogue was transposed with comedic effect.
We have just discovered that Advent will be removing Flash plugin from further models of the Advent Vega at Dixons Stores Group (DSG) shops such as PC World and Dixons. DSG is now admitting that it installed a version of Adobe Flash that ‘has not completed the required certification tests by Adobe’.
In a prepared statement, DSG continued: ‘We will be providing a seamless and free-of-charge download of the certified version as soon as it is available. This download will also be available as an update to users who have already obtained the Advent Vega which includes the uncertified Flash Player 10.1.’
There isn't an app for that
Also absent from the Advent Vega is the usual Google Android Market app. Without this in place, it becomes very hard to supplement the limited number of apps already installed.
The Advent Vega includes a forward-facing webcam. Unlike Apple's fully functional FaceTime app for video-chatting on the iPhone 4, there are currently no reliable counterparts in the Google Android app world for video calling.
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