The recent launch of the Apple iPad has fueled a hunger for keyboardless tablet browsing appliances, and who better to feed such a hunger than your favorite ODM manufacturers in China. Armed with the availability of the relatively free Google Android OS, those guys have been churning out many an Android tablet with various functions and looks. (Check some out here!)
I've recently acquire one such Android Tablet, it's called the eFren and is an Android 1.5 powered tablet
made rebranded by local company Mi-Store.
Yes, it looks like a extra large iPod.
Here is their brochure for the eFren. (Presented to you by Zoom.It!)
So... what can you expect to find from a company that couldn't even put the correct URL of their website on the brochure? (The Mi-Store website URL is www.mi-store.com.my, the brochure says www.mi-store.com )
Pretty much a standard job of just ordering a couple of thousand units from China and slapping your company logo on it. As a web browsing tablet the eFren is pretty decent.
Also because this thing only has Android 1.5, it can't run Flash on web pages so you can't use it as a portable Farmville device.
It has the following ports running on the side where the On/Off button is... oh yeah... that center button? That's the on/off button. Yup... that's what you get for trying to copy the iPad in design and functionality.
You get a mic, Micro SDHC slot, a USB client port, HARD power switch, another USB client port, headphone jack, and the charge port. The first problem that the eFren has is that it CANNOT CHARGE FROM THE USB PORTS. I tried with my 5V2A charges and various cables and none of them delivered juice to the eFren contray to what their support people are saying on the Facebook Page.
One good thing about the eFren is that it comes with a PROPER USB OTG cable (What does PROPER USB OTG cable mean? Check here) So you can connect thumb drives to the eFren and consume files from it. It DOES NOT have enough current to power a hard disk, so only low power devices. It's supposed to be able to recognize a few USB 3G Modems and use them for internet connections, but I don't have one ready on me to try out that feature. Seems to be hit or miss based on the feedback from the Facebook page though.
If you look back to the eFren brochure on top you'll see them touting their WIDE RANGE of media support. Well.. I can tell you that it plays RMVB files PRETTY WELL, that's probably due to the fact that if you want your device to be able to survive in the Asian market you NEED to have RMVB support nailed down. The eFren is not able to play 720P content smoothly, and here the deception of an OEM Chinese device shows, the eFren contains a DEMO clip with the filename of "Coral Reef Adventure 720P.avi" allowing the salesman to show potential customers that the eFren plays 720P video properly. But... in reality the file's video resolution is just 848x480 and has some pretty weird video/audio bitrates. Check it out in the video below.
The brochure as well as the YouTube video below mentions that H.264 is supported.
The video is PARTLY TRUE, the E-Fren's video player CAN open MKV files. But when I gave it an MKV file with a H.264 stream, I heard audio but I see no video. (For those of you unfamiliar with how video files work, MKV is just a container, inside the container you can have video and audio streams of different types of encoding, H.264 just happens to be what they usually use with MKV files) Given that they've proven they WILL lie with the Coral Reef video, I'm pretty sure the MKV file played here probably doesn't have a H.264 video stream.... hmmm.. maybe it's an RMVB file in an MKV container? UPDATE : I threw a 480P H.264 video into the thing, and it can be played, so it means that H.264 support is there.. but fickle, so be warned.
Now, misinformation like this is pretty much PAR for these kind of products. So there's no use crying foul over something like this. Given that it has a pretty decent web browser, and a pretty decent RMVB player if those are the 2 main functionalities you were looking for. I would have told you the eFren is a pretty good choice, since you're buying a low quality rebadged product which might break down at any moment, buying it locally instead of online means you can replace it... hopefully.
It's small, it's portable, it surfs the web. Normally I would have said "If you find the price satisfactory, and it meets your requirements go ahead and buy it!" But this time I'm just gonna flat out say DON'T BUY THIS!
Not because it doesn't run Froyo, not because of the lies of video support. But because the eFren shipped with a TERRIBLE design flaw.
You can't set the screen brightness to MAXIMUM.
At close to maximum (95% on the brightness bar) the screen is pretty decent, but you'll need 100% brightness if you want to even TRY to use it in direct sunlight. At 100% brightness the screen actually looks quite good.
At 100% brightness the screen flickers like hell on battery power!
Now that's just ridiculous! You'd think that when they accepted the good they went through a proper phase of testing to make sure something as simple as setting brightness to 100% would work properly. What pissed me off more was that when I was shown the device at the store I saw the sales person fiddling with the screen brightness, at first I thought it was because the device had a low battery charge and he just dropped the brightness so it could be used for a while. But after I found this flickering problem I guess it's highly possible that HE KNEW ABOUT THE PROBLEM and choose to conceal it.
And because of this simple little problem I must say that "No, the Mi-Store eFren IS NOT WORTH the RM599 price tag!"
Just wait a bit more if you're looking for a web surfing MID, Froyo devices should be hitting the market soon and maybe they'll work better than the eFren.