Cambridge Sciences G7: One week in

It's now almost a week since I took delivery of my (finally working) Cambridge Sciences G7-II 7inch Android tablet so I thought I'd jot down some notes on how I've found it so far.

Overall, ignoring the "screen goes mental when plugged into the mains" problem, I'm happy with the device. I've been using it at those times when I've wanted something bigger and easier to handle that my HTC Desire HD but, at the same time, haven't wanted to pull out the Chromebook. It feels right in the hand (albeit somewhat heavy -- I can't imagine me ever using this instead of the Kindle as a ebook, for example) and, despite the fact that there's no feedback like I get on my phone, the screen is fine for typing on.
Overall, for the money, I'm happy with the purchase.
That said, here's a few niggles and observations:
  • The battery status seems to be way off. Even after a full charge it tends to only show 93% full. It then seems to fall very quickly then ease up a little. I often also find that when I turn it off and turn it on again the battery will come back as showing having a higher charge than when I turned it off. This then falls rapidly back to where it was when I turned it off. All that said, the battery status seems roughly right so I've yet to find myself caught out by a low battery I didn't expect.
  • Out of the box the auto-complete that's part of the keyboard doesn't appear to have a British English dictionary. Because of this the only auto-complete options you get when you're typing are things it can complete from the device's local data (application names, contact names, etc...). This is a bit of a serious issue but not one without a solution. Although it's essentially the same keyboard I installed Gingerbread Keyboard+ (which does have a British English dictionary) and have made that my keyboard instead. This is the keyboard I use on my phone anyway so not only does it solve the problem, it makes me feel more at home.
  • There seems to be a pre-installed copy of EF File Explorer that can't be updated from the Android market. Any time I try and update it I get an error saying it's incorrectly signed. Bit of a shame because I use EF File Explorer.
  • While I do appear to have and be connected to the UK Android Market with the tablet some apps seem to be missing. For example, the UK Amazon app (the one that lets you shop from Android) isn't anywhere to be seen. Same goes for the Box.net app.
  • While I haven't had any of the WiFi problems some have reported in the reviews on Amazon (I imagine those problems have more to do with their WiFi setup than a problem with the tablet) I have found that it can be a little temperamental at times. Now and again I've had to stop and start WiFi to coax it fully into life. I also note that, if the unit has fully turned off and I've then turned it on again, I have to manually start WiFi. Not a big deal.
  • From time to time it seems to fully power off after some time in sleep mode. I've not worked out if there's a reason for this, or if it can be changed. Neither does there seem to be a set time between being put into sleep mode and it turning itself fully off. This, again, makes for a mild annoyance because, most of the time, it means you can't just pick it up and do stuff -- there's a boot time you have to wait around for. While it's not terribly long (I've not timed it but I'd say around 60 seconds) it does mean it can take longer to get the tablet up and running than it can to get the Chromebook going.
And, so far, that's pretty much it. No show-stopper. Nothing that makes me hate it and want to send it back. It's not perfect, but then again it's around 1/2 the price of tablets that try to be.


Cambridge Sciences G7-II 7inch Android

I've been a pretty avid fan of Android since the early(ish) days. My first experience of Android was 1.5 on my HTC Magic (later updated to 1.6). I've toyed with the idea, on and off, of getting a tablet running Android. The last time I gave this some serious thought I ended up buying a Chromebook (a fantastic decision, I hasten to add -- I should probably write up my experiences of that so far at some point).

A couple or so weeks back I got an email from Amazon in which they included a pointer to this tablet. The spec seemed good, multi-touch capacitive screen, Android 2.3, and proper market access too. The price seemed right so I finally cracked and ordered it. It turned up a couple of days later and ended up being a bit of a disaster.
The first thing I noticed was that the screen just wasn't working at all. I couldn't type a thing. It was like every time I touched the screen it was registering many different touches. Worse yet, after a short while of trying to get things going (I was initially trying to connect it to my WiFi -- pretty much impossible given that I couldn't type the password because of the screen problem), the home app force closed and didn't want to play ball. A subsequent restart of the tablet had it just sitting on the Android logo on startup and nothing more would happen.

I sent off a message, via Amazon, to the vendor and, all credit to them, I got a phone call from their support guy within about 10 minutes. Turns out that the screen problem is really a mains charger problem. With the charger in the screen has all sorts of touch-sensing problems, with the charger out it works fine (subsequent testing shows this to be the case).

Between us, over the phone, we were unable to revive the tablet to get it to boot again so it was decided that I'd send it back to be looked at or to be replaced. As it happened, it finally sprung back into life a little later but, once it did, it refused to connect to WiFi. In fact, it wasn't so much that it refused to connect to my WiFi APs, it didn't even know how to do WiFi. It was like it'd lost its drivers or something.

Anyway, as requested, I returned the unit.

The process of having it returned and seen to took a little longer than I'd have hoped. I sent it recorded/insured and with a guaranteeddelivery of before 13:00 the following day but it didn't get delivered. According to the Post Office website nobody was able to receive it. The same happened the following day. Finally, after the weekend (this was the Thursday and the Friday that delivery was attempted), it showed as having been delivered on the Monday.

A couple of messages back and forth with the vendor didn't really get me any clear answers as to what was going on but, finally, yesterday, I got a message to say that a brand new unit was being shipped to me and should be with me today.
Sure enough:
This time, so far, so good. It still has the "on the mains the screen doesn't sense touch correctly" problem, and I've sent the vendor a note about that, but other than that it's working well so far. It seems pretty snappy, and I've had no problem installing apps from the Google market (including those that I've previously purchased for my phone). I've not used it much so far, other than setting up WiFi, throwing on some apps, sorting the sync with my accounts and so on. Mostly I've left it to charge. I'll see how it goes this weekend now and possibly write a little more about it next week (or before if it all goes horribly wrong).


It's been a while

Erm, yeah, erm, hello.... it's been a while hasn't it?

It's not that I've fallen off the net. Neither is it that I've given up on enjoying any of the subjects that this blog dealt with (mostly things to do with photography). Mostly I've let this blog lapse because things like twitter became so much bigger and it was easier to write about stuff there (albeit very short writing) than here.

A few things have gone on since I last blogged. I upgraded my dSLR (now using a 50D along with the 400D). I got myself a Polaroid and started playing with Impossible Project film. I finally got myself a rangefinder camera and had a play with that. I set myself up with a digital Holga setup, of sorts (it's the new use for the 400D). I've also found that my photography has slowed down. It's not that I've lost interest, far from it, but I have slowed down a little. Whereas I'd be shooting and uploading every week (to my main site, I still photoblog from the phone a fair bit), I might only do something once a month, or every other month.

The big change of late is that I got on to Google+. Oddly, having done so has made me think about writing and blogging again. Twitter was and is too seductive -- it's so easy to bang out something sub-140-chars and be done with it. Using Google+ has got me writing things out at a little more length again, and so made me wonder about this neglected blog.

I can't say I'll be posting here lots again, my Google+ stream will probably be the place where I wrote most. But I think it is about time that I look to using this for better-formatted bodies of text (along with images) and linking to it from twitter and G+.

Fingers crossed...