Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Haipad M701-R Android Tablet


The Haipad M701-R Android Tablet is considered a knock-off of the Apple iPad, and I'll grant you that the silver one (like I got) does bear an obvious resemblance, but you could say the same of pretty much any tablet on (or about to be on) the market.

This tablet is manufactured by Shenzhen Laihanga Trading Co., LTD. in China, also known as Shenzhen Haina Digital Technology Co., LTD, also Haina Technology, and "Haipad" is their brand name/product line. The tablet itself is manufactured for other OEMs (with variable configurations) and is also sold as the G10, Apad E7002, Eken M7001, and probably others I've never heard of. They aren't all technically the same device - some have more or less memory, some have 2 USB ports, some have HDMI output, and the Haipad that I bought comes with an infrared remote. The individual OEM is also responsible for firmware updates, since the actual hardware configurations vary (that's a word of warning about applying the firmware update from one brand to another - you can potentially brick the tablet).

Specifications:
CPU: Telechips TCC8902 720 MHz with G-sensor
Memory: 256 MB RAM
Storage: 2 GB Flash built in, up to 32 GB via MicroSD card
Screen: 7" Resistive Touch Screen (WVGA 800x480 widescreen) supports 2 point multi-touch
Video: 3D Hardware Acceleration, 720p/1080p Full HD output over HDMI, 1.3 MegaPixel camera (front)
Audio: Built-in mono speaker (on back), built-in Mic, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
OS: Android 2.1
Ports: Mini-USB/OTG, mini HDMI
Network: 802.11 b/g WiFi, technically supports 3G modems (but not in USA)
Battery: Dual-Core Lithium-Ion 1600 mAh
Weight: 350 grams
Included Accessories: Leather case, IR remote control, HDMI cable, AC Power adapter/charger, USB Host cable, USB OTG cable, earbuds
Price: varies, currently hovering around $150 + shipping.

I also got a free 8 GB MicroSD card with it, but that was a store promotion.

The Good:

Screen
The g-sensor works great for changing the screen orientation, the screen is quite responsive and 2-point multi-touch pinching zooms in the browser (haven't noticed it working in any other apps).

I know Apple has done a stellar job of convincing everyone only the more expensive "capacitive" touch screens are worthwhile, but a "resistive" screen has its place too. First of all resistive touch screens have been around forever so they're quite inexpensive components - which keeps the overall cost of the device down. Secondly, you don't HAVE to use a stylus on them. They WILL respond to a finger press (yes, you have to press), but I'm a girl so I have long enough fingernails that I can navigate the screen without pressing hard or using a stylus. Of course it does come with a stylus if you need it, and if you plan to use handwriting recognition, handwritten notes, or sketching apps you'd actually WANT the precision of a stylus over your stubby finger.

Videos look fairly good in low lighting, but the screen has a very narrow viewing angle if you don't want color shifts/washouts.

USB
Mounting it as a USB device to my computer worked flawlessly in both Windows 7 and Mac Snow Leopard, USB hosting works for input devices and flash drives (basically anything that doesn't require drivers to use it, so digital cameras won't work as webcams but will work as external storage devices to get your pics onto the tablet), haven't done any firmware stuff yet because I'm not sure the available update is actually for my specific device.

Extras
The tiny remote control works nicely, HDMI output works for 720p and 1080p videos. The leather case is really basic. There are nicer ones out there, but it does the job. It comes with a stylus if you don't have any fingernails with which to navigate the screen, and there is a holder for it in the case but not on the device.

Networking
Connected to my wifi and the public access point at my college without issues, Android Market works, as does YouTube. It says it supports 3G and comes with a huge list of Asian and European services listed for that in the settings, but (as I expected) nothing for the United States since, by all accounts, no US 3G modems will work with any of these Chinapads.

3D Accelerated graphics
I checked the 3D accelerated graphics. Gears reports an average of 100 fps, and I've tried a 3D home screen that works nicely, I'd only recommend 3D games that are light on system resources (for example, Racing games are too choppy to play).

Android Marketplace Works
A problem a lot of these off-brand/no-name tablets have is access to the official Android Marketplace. As an end-user I don't really know or care about the OEM's issues or arrangements with Google over the Marketplace, so long as I can get apps, which on this device I can.

As an eReader
It (thankfully) didn't come with any eReader software on it, so for eReader duty I have Kindle and Acrobat Reader installed, both of which work fine.

Generally I'm happy with it. It does most of what I expected it to do as a "media consumption" device. It definitely isn't an iPad, but it also cost a fraction of what an iPad costs, and once the Galaxy Tab, HP Slate, and Blackberry tablet are on the market this Haipad tablet will STILL only cost a fraction of others available on the market. However, in the low-end gray market you'll encounter devices that are poorly supported, missing features, and generally seem like a prototype that really wasn't ready to ship but they're selling it anyway.

The BAD:

Higher Screen Resolution
The screen resolution is set rather low - in fact it won't even display the names of files and folder in icon view when using the File Explorer and in list view it's nearly impossible to click on the first entry because the toolbar is so huge it covers it. The desktop looks really claustrophobic too. For a 7" screen the LCD density really needs to be changed to allow more stuff to fit! I gather there is no easy way to do that without rooting the device. I know there is a (pay) app for adjusting that - which still requires root - but it's probably something I'd set once to my liking and leave alone so I'm guessing there's a config file somewhere I could edit and do it for free?

Unmount USB Flash Drive Option
The good news is the USB host works and (with the provided adapter) you can plug a USB flash drive into the tablet. The bad news is there's no simple way to unmount it when you want to unplug it. On some other devices people have put them into "hibernate" to unplug, but there is no Hibernate option (probably because it was problematic, as it is on some devices). So the only options are to either risk data corruption and just unplug it anyway, warnings be damned OR to shut the tablet down and unplug the USB drive.

Menu bar "Back" and "Menu" Buttons
It already has a "Home" button on the menu bar, but it really could use virtual versions of the other buttons as well!

Camera is Reversed
This is a problem with Front Facing Cameras that has turned up on a number of Android phones. It is apparently a software issue, I think. There are some camera apps that offer a "mirror mode" that reverses the camera image on purpose (makes it easier for the user when video chatting I guess so your left hand isn't on the right side of the screen), but in this case that's not what's going on.

I know at least one of the phones that had this problem (HTC Evo) got an update with a "Mirror Mode" setting to fix it - but it really only mirrors the mirrored image, the native camera signal is still reversed. Oh, and I tried downloading a couple different camera apps and it appears the front-facing camera in this tablet is not being detected as one either? I don't really plan to use the camera much, if at all, but it would be nice to fix it if that's possible.

G-Sensor Partially Reversed (Sort of)
Now that I've put a couple of games on the tablet I've discovered my g-sensor is half-way reversed. When looking in landscape mode the top and bottom are correct, but the left and right are reversed (or if in portrait mode, left and right are correct and top and bottom are reversed), but this is ONLY in the games! The OS screens, settings screens, web browsers, Market, etc., (pretty much everything BUT games) detect the orientation correctly, except for a couple of non-game apps that will start in portrait mode and get "up" wrong initially, but once you get into the program they orient correctly. Which means if I used the g-sensor fix I also found at SlateDroid the games could be made to orient correctly, but then EVERYTHING ELSE would be wrong. I'm guessing that a lot of the basic apps (like browsers, settings, etc.) query the OS for the sensor data/calibration, but the games seem to have their own calibration setups (which all seem to automatically try to detect the g-sensor orientation, and inevitably get it wrong. Would be much better if you could just TELL them which end is "UP"). So I'm not sure if there is really a g-sensor calibration issue or not, or if it's just a software issue with the games I tried.

Barcode Scanning?

Lots of Android apps have corresponding QR codes you can scan off a monitor to download and install them, and QR codes are showing up in a lot of other places (with things like the URL of a company site or a person's business card data). I've tried four different barcode reader apps and none of them have worked.

First of all it's tricky because it's a front-facing camera, and it takes mirrored pictures which I'm not certain makes any difference (I've found conflicting information about that, since apparently some scanners can compensate if they detect the registration squares are in the wrong positions - like if you were scanning the QR code upside down, but that would only rotate it not sure about flipping it). Even if they are mirrored, I downloaded a couple QR codes, flipped the images in graphics software and then tried to scan them off my 27" flat panel monitor and they still didn't register with any of the scanning apps. I've also noticed that the camera takes over-exposed washed-out pictures, so maybe there just isn't enough contrast for the app to "see" that there is a code there?

All those things could easily be fixed in a firmware update, but there's one glaring issue that can't:

Recessed MicroSD Card Slot!
Ok, I'd have to open it up and figure out how (or even if) it would be possible to modify things so the Micro SD card seats all the way. It currently sticks out about 5 mm. There may simply be no fix for this and I'll just have to be careful not to break the card.

Would I recommend buying one?

At this stage of the game I'd say probably not. There are some low-end tablets due to hit the market soon that run Android 2.2 "Froyo" and have capacitive touch screens, and are from companies/sellers in the United States. Granted the projected prices on them are about double what I paid for my Haipad M701-R, so if price is your primary concern these low-end, gray market resistive screen tablets running slightly out-of-date versions of Android may still appeal to you. Be aware, though, that you can't just upgrade Android devices like you can a desktop OS! You're pretty much at the mercy of the OEM to release a firmware update, and many of these low-end Chinapads don't have the technical specs to run any later versions of Android.

12 comments:

OffWorld Girl said...

It might be possible to get *some* G3 cellular network USB modems to work with this tablet. First of all the firmware update is supposed to add better support, but there are also instructions on how to get it working (I don't have a 3G modem so I can't verify any of this myself). Full post over at SlateDroid: http://www.slatedroid.com/hsg-x5a-x6-pandawill-g11/9982-[haipad-m701-r]-3g-successfully-d.html

OffWorld Girl said...

Haina Technologies (the maker of this tablet) have confirmed that - even though there are GPS settings available in the OS - there is NO SUPPORT for any USB GPS devices, the tablet doesn't have drivers for one. So don't bother trying.

OffWorld Girl said...

http://www.haipad.net/DownloadShow.asp?ID=7

This is a link to the info page on the Haipad website for the latest firmware update. I haven't tried applying it to my tablet yet, but it IS by all accounts the correct firmware for the M701-R (as evidenced by the notice about "remote control" in the description) even though it says it's for the M701. It apparently can also be applied to the M701 - you (obviously) just won't get a remote control out of the update, but it doesn't hurt it to have drivers for one.

thegookster said...

Any ideas when 2.2 will come out and with what specs

OffWorld Girl said...

Haipad just released an Android 2.2 for this device, but it's an incomplete firmware that disables a lot of functionality because the drivers aren't loaded. They should have waited until it was finished and really shouldn't have released it at all (yes, it's THAT bad). But now that it's out there, hopefully the rom cooks will speed up getting it finished. But it's definitely NOT ready for regular users yet.

thegookster said...

yeah think I'll pass on 2.2. I have the same model as you. Remote version with HDMI output, however when I try to mount to pc via their usb cable, it scans for software - find nothing and 2 drive pop up, but are unusable. I have tried on Windows 7 and XP. Also android market no longer works. I was downloading for about 2 weeks, then all of a sudden nothing downloads - just stalls on "Starting downloads". I haven't made any changes to the original firmware. any ideas?
thanks
Decembe

Lingerie-2-Order said...

Hi Off world girl I think you may have already found out that the usb flash drive can be unmounted on this device. I am pretty sure that you do it via the menu bar at the top but if you have noticed you press the menu bar and then almost immediately the extra pop up pull down bar that appears seems to quickly disappear. It is not very useful for it to do this. But this is where if a usb device is mounted it shows up. I did an update of the device (so many) and one of them made it so I cut press the right side of the rocker button to be presented with a bottom menu bar which i could then press notifications I believe that would also show usb devices that with a quick click should enable to unmount. There is an update for this now 2.2 android for MID701 but it is not hot shit and the one dated 9/12/2010 is the better one but I am thinking the one after this will be much improved with market installed. With 2.2 mine works like the roadrunner meep meep but there are a few difficulties so I suggest wait for the next one in line. If you go to the haipad site via google chrome it can translate the site so you have an idea where to press. There is a English option on the site but like the guides for these pads in English, it is like trying to develop a car that runs on air, too difficult to understand and make out.

Lingerie-2-Order said...

Forgot to mention the site address http://www.haipad.net sometimes the site is down due to huge demand.

Talking of demand if you need any new gear for Christmas festivities check here: http://www.lingerie2order.com you may like what you see.

Lingerie-2-Order said...

Message about how to flash: With this apad I too found it very difficult to flash. You have to find the fwdn program which enables you to flashe the hardware, you need to turn off the m701 haipad or generic with the on off switch, get your fingers ready on the three buttons being the rocker switch both sides and the round button with the curved cornered square on it. Press all three at exactly the same time whilst doing this and juggling five juggling balls you then turn the thing on with the on off switch. It will then precede to load and should automatically load the driver required for your pad as long as the device is plugged in via usb (you don't need to enable these on the apad or anything). It is quite difficult to hold all of these and requires some dexterous fingers. I used my thumb from my left hand over the rocker switch, my other thumb over the circle square cornered shape button and then with your index finger you can use this to switch on with the little switch located on the side of the unit. If you have kept your hand on these buttons long enough, no more than 20 seconds in general you should either have a blank screen, a flower artistic type screen or a christmas effect screen (dependant on the software ready to load I believe). Once at this screen this screen will say so that if you need to you can re-insert the usb cable try to re-install a usb driver or try to see if on a second time of putting in the cable it shows you the nand partition on the fwdn program. If you see the nand partition and the other partition on the right hand side of the fwdn program then you have got past the worst hurdle. I didn't say this but the fwdn program need three files loaded to work correctly with the apad, add these first, .img .fai .rom files usually found in the root of the firmware driver you downloaded. It is not rocket science but for those that just want an update can seem like so. Once you have added the three files above you can then click on start but not forgetting to select the drop down box that mentions "Low format whole memory before download", as it mentions it will format, so if you have a screwed up download of the firmware you will be stuck with a box that doesn't do much. You can reflash with an older firmware to get it up and running again. After the process is finished in fwdn it the box should change to green on that program and then you can simply switch off with the off button, switch on and restart. Good luck. With only recovery images and rooting the box this is another journey in to the rocket science museum and I still haven't figured this out on this box. One step root my arse!!

OffWorld Girl said...

I've successfully flashed my tablet with the "small text" rom, which also fixed the endless "temp" files being written to my SD card. It's not 2.2, but it's a better 2.1 than shipped on the tablet.

As for unmounting the USB drive, I either have to just unplug it - warnings be damned - or power down my tablet to unplug the drive. When it mounts the drive it says "Preparing SD device" in the notification bar. After that there is NOTHING in the notification bar, and the drive itself is mounted under /scsi/ not /sdcard/ and if I go into Settings>Storage it doesn't show the USB drive at all, so there is no option to unmount it there either. Very annoying.

I get a lot more in-depth about this stuff over at AndroidTablets.net, which I highly recommend to anyone who has one of these things.

bevmgnaj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bevmgnaj said...

hi...i want to know if this haipad tablet is highly guaranteed brand?
nice to hear you soon..thank you