Last few weeks have seen a number of low-cost tablets coming into Indian market. The idea is that in India where a computer is still a luxury, an affordable tablet could help masses connect to the web and help them enjoy the wonders of digital world. It sounds logical. But reality is more nuanced. We had looked at some of these low cost tablets and were largely unimpressed.
Micromax believes that in Funbook it has a product that might not cost a bomb but is good enough to offer a compelling tablet experience. We are using the device for the last several days. To know how it fares in our rigorous tests, read on…
Build quality & hardware
Just like other budget tablets in the market, the Funbook has an all-plastic build. But it is put together well. Design elements like faux aluminum coating on back cover make it look good. The tablet has a 7-inch capacitive screen with a resolution of 800×480 mega pixels. The compact size, rounded edges and weight of around 350 grams make it very portable.
Micromax has placed three buttons – options, home and back – under the screen even when the same functions are available through virtual buttons in Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich(ICS) that powers the tablet. It looks like waste of space though some users, especially first time tablet users, may find physical buttons comforting. A mini USB port, which supports pen drives and 3G dongles when used with an adapter, which Micromax is bundling with the tablet, is placed at the bottom along with 3.5mm jack, charging port, HDMI and microSD card slot.
Funbook is powered by a 1.2Ghz Cortex A8 processors. For graphics duty, it has two Mali 400 GPUs. Theoretically, this means that when it comes to processing 2D and 3D graphics, the tablet has half the power of Samsung Galaxy S2, the best-seller Android phone that has 4 Mali 400 chips. There is 512MB RAM, a VGA front camera, 4GB internal storage and support for up to 32GB microSD card. While benchmarks never tell the whole story about a device, we ran two on Funbook for some, ahem, fun. It scored 2446 points in Antutu and 1722 points in Quadrant.
Is it fun?
Aware of the competition in the low-cost tablet market, Micromax is positioning the Funbook a little differently. Unlike most low-cost tablets, the Funbook is powered by ICS. (Though we must add that HCL’s U1 and Zync Z990 also run ICS). This means the Funbook has a slightly better user interface compared to other tablets.
Then, there is Micromax’s big push for making sure that the Funbook users have access to content. The company believes that students are especially likely to benefit from the tablet and hence tied up with study material providers like Pearson, Everonn, and Vriti. It’s not only about studies, though. The tagline for the Funbook is “pass bhi hoga, timepass bhi hoga”. To cover the “timepass” part, the company has worked with firms like BigFlix and Zenga, which will provide users access to Bollywood and other video content at a small fee.
Does this content make the tablet useful and fun?
In some ways it does. Funbook is a better preposition compared to devices from the competitors. But in a category where getting a usable device is a challenge, it is not saying much. Despite it’s low price, the tablet is not a slam dunk!
Before we talk about where the device falters, let’s highlight what it does best. Media playback is superb on the tablet. It plays all popular video formats in a resolution of up to 1080P with ease. This means that connect it to a TV through HDMI, and you have a very nice media player. Also, the speaker on Funbook is loud and sounds nice. This is something we can’t say about many tablets.
Casual gaming – Angry Birds and stuff – gave no trouble to the tablet. At the same time, its weight, or lack of it, makes it a nice e-reader for occasional reading.
In our use we found the Funbook to have a largely decent performance. We are saying ‘largely’ because there were occasions when we faced lag, at times crippling, while navigating around the user interface. Web browsing turned out to be a disappointing experience as the tablet found it hard to deal with full-fat pages. Multi-tab browsing slowed the tablet and pinch-to-zoom never worked smoothly.
But the deal-breaker is the screen. The capacitive screen not only has a very low resolution of 800×480 pixels, which makes for a somewhat dull display, but also very poor viewing angles. The poor screen on the Funbook means that the users are likely to find it difficult to read, browse or watch something on it for long durations.
To be fair to Micromax, we must add that screen is one component that none of low-cost tablet makers has got right. But we had high hopes from Micromax. The USP of low-cost tablet makers should not be affordable. Their USP should be affordable and good experience. Of course, as reviewers it is easy for us to say this. Cutting price while still maintaining quality is not easy. But this is where innovation comes into play. Releasing a tablet with cheap parts is not difficult. The challenge is to release a low-cost tablet that provides decent experience at an affordable price.
Pass or fail?
Let’s sum it up. There is lot to like in Funbook. Build quality is decent, it’s portable and the performance in video playback is stellar. Battery life is also good with the tablet lasting around seven hours with moderate use (gaming, video playback, browsing etc). Then there is the case of content. Though it is limited and the presence of YouTube negates the need for much of the entertainment stuff, it is nice to see a tablet maker trying to make sure that users have access to content.
Yet, drawback in the form of low-quality screen and poor web browsing experience means we can’t recommend it. Even at the price of Rs 6,449.
That said the low price does make Funbook a decent option for one particular segment of consumers. If you don’t have a computer or a smartphone – this means you are probably reading this article from a cybercafe or from your office – and want a computing device on the cheap, Funbook could fit the bill. Support for a 3G dongle means it can keep you connected to the world and its ability to access pen drives is sure to come handy.
Students, especially those in colleges, will also find some value in Funbook. Once again, the reason is same. It’s the device to get if you don’t have access to anything better and want to stay connected without spending a fortune on a good smartphone, laptop or iPad. Just don’t expect it to be ‘cheap and best’.