Geek Lifestyle and Culture
4th July 2012 15:12:00
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Gemini JoyTAB 9.7 inch tablet review

The Gemini JoyTAB range of tablets are firmly aimed at the budget end of the market. We have their near-10-inch tablet for review - the hasty cut and paste job on the box clarifies that this is an iPad-identical 9.7" unit. We actually prefer this size and ratio to the 16x9 10.1" that most other Android tabs are saddled with - it's better proportioned in both landscape and portrait orientations, and while it's nearer to 4x3, movies look fine.

The JoyTAB is powered by a 1GHz single-core ARM processor; as with most of the other current Chinese imports it's backed up with a Mali 400 graphics chip to take on some of the more demanding heavy lifting. Even with this two-chip combination, games struggle - even simple efforts such as Angry Birds Space stutter and zooming in and out is a worryingly juttery experience. Full screen 3D works - Temple Run looks good in screenshot form, but doesn't offer a truly playable experience with poor frame rates; given this is one of the least taxing 3D games on Android you can imagine what more advanced 3D games looks like.

Video playback is decent - handling 1080p with only the occasional glitch. The HDMI 1.4 output means that we can take advantage of this full resolution on large screen TVs making it a reasonable portable media solution. The 16GB onboard memory isn't bad and you can add an additional 16GB by way of a SD card giving plenty of space for additional media. Unfortunately, as yet there still isn't a decent implementation of iPlayer on the Android tablets; dropping out to the iPlayer website which, combined with the unstable and largely unsupported mobile flash often leads to crashes.

The speakers are weak - very tinny and harsh with almost no discernible bass to speak of - even so, it's no worse than any other budget tablet at the same price, but the likes of the iPad and premium Android tabs really do put this to shame. Paired with external speakers via the headphone jack at the bottom of the device (in portrait mode) is obviously a different story. On the plus side there are TWO speakers and they're positioned at opposite sides of the device in landscape orientation so we do have the benefit of a true stereo experience - a tablet rarity!

Web browsing works well with the stock browser however we recommend upgrading to the latest version of Chrome as it offers a much better experience - especially for multi-tab browsing and general page rendering. How long before Chrome becomes the Android default? Productivity apps are fine; the limited processor thankfully doesn't really negatively affect them although keyboard input is sluggish at all times. The usual Android caveat that good tablet apps are a rare beast applies, but those that do tick all of the boxes work well.

We would say this is a good introductory tab for older kids, although we can't help thinking that the smaller variants may be preferable in this instance as they'd be more portable and would likely offer a smoother experience. Younger children would be better suited to one of the dedicated devices such as the Archos ChildPad.

The JoyTAB offers a 2MP rear camera and a 0.3MP front facer. The camera can record also record 720P video. Image quality is woeful in all respects - low light shots feature so much noise as to be almost unviewable and outdoor photography leads to washed out, weak colours and much grain. The front facer is just about adequate for video chat via Skype, but that's it. Video recording seems to be of a low framerate too.

The screen is decent - offering a 1024x768 resolution, it's never going to be an iPad beater but the IPS screen is clear enough for most use. Browsing the web is fine and most software and games look good enough. This isn't anywhere near the quality of the ASUS Transformer Prime - the colours lack punch, even at maximum brightness, but compared to similarly priced competition, this is decent. The viewing angles are good - you need to be at quite an oblique angle before the screen is completely unviewable and colour definition remains solid no matter which angle you view from.

The 3600mAh battery isn't too impressive - we managed three hours from fully charged to dead with wireless on, maximum brightness and a looped HD video playing. The real killer is that recharging from dead took around twice as long. Obviously with more conservative, realistic day-to-day use, you'll be looking at 5-6 hours between recharges; you'd be lucky to get a full day of productivity and the extended recharge time means this could be a problem.

The JoyTAB is a well made tablet; it is solidly constructed and feels very much like any other similar sized premium tablet. We'd say it feels more expensive than it is. The positioning of the volume buttons (a rocker would have been preferable) so close to the power button is an irritation, but one we can overlook. The camera is poor, but this isn't high end photography kit anyway and the Android experience is sluggish. The latter is the real problem - Ice Cream Sandwich has the potential to be a stunning OS, but it does require that the hardware it runs on has enough power to show it at its best; if not we end up with something that looks lovely while it's not being used but is first ugly and then frustrating in real world use. In all honesty, every one of the budget tabs would have been better off using Honeycomb which would have been a much smoother proposition given the limit nature of the hardware.

We can overlook Android's tablet limitations at the budget end of the market. It's a beautiful OS, but the lack of tablet-specific apps makes the premium devices hard to recommend when they're so closely priced to Apple's monolith. Up until the Google/ASUS Nexus 7 announcement, we could almost recommend this as a budget tablet, but when we have a MUCH more powerful piece of hardware around the corner that looks, feels and sounds better at a lower price point the market for low-spec Android tabs has become a lot less forgiving. This JoyTAB may be bigger, but for most the 7inch Google tablet is going to be far too much of a no-brainer to make this (or any other low spec import) a recommended purchase.

We Like

Good construction
Screen is better than most in class

We don't like


It's a sluggish experience
Colours aren't too impressive
Sound is weak
5
About Colin Polonowski
As the publisher and technical lead of The Digital Fix, I occasionally contribute to all areas, but in general leave the specific area management to the people who know what they're doing. I am the main contact point for anyone who wants to discuss advertising, licensing, syndication and anything else at a business-level.