A while back, I reviewed the Google Nexus 7 and thought it was very good value for money at around P14,000, especially compared to the iPad Mini.
Today, we’re looking at another 7 inch tablet from local mobile gadget company Starmobile that, at an SRP of P7,990 comes in just a bit over half the cost of the Nexus 7. Is it too good to be true?
A quick perusal of the spec sheet gives a clue as to why. While the Engage 7 is a very capable device, it is doesn’t come with cutting edge components. A dual core A9, for instance, versus the Nexus’ quad core Tegra 3, running Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jellybean. And only 8GB of storage versus the Nexus’ 16 or 32. Don’t expect a 3G cellular or NFC chip either.
But the 1280×800 display is nice, bright and sharp, the built in speakers are LOUD, there’s a decent camera on the back and another one up front for video chat, and it comes with Assisted GPS.
Touch input on the capacitive screen was occasionally hit-or-miss compared to the Nexus or an iPad, with a couple of extra attempts required now and then, but not inconsistent enough to really be called a problem.
The modestly specced Engage has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve that even the Nexus 7 (or any iPad, for that matter) can’t match. A microSD memory card slot for expandable storage up to 32GB. A dedicated DC power input and power brick in case you want to charge more quickly than what the standard micro USB cable can normally handle. A USB OTG cable allows for accessories, plus the connection of a 3G modem, to make up for the fact that there’s no SIM slot. And finally, a micro HDMI connector allows for direct output to a TV! Though I wish they had also bundled a micro HDMI-to-HDMI adapter – I really wanted to test this feature out.
At this price point I would normally recommend the Engage as a game machine / video player for the kiddies (the “electronic babysitter”) over a more expensive iOS device but I have to confess that the build quality on the Engage isn’t the most confidence-inspiring that I’ve seen. Any reasonable adult should have no problem with the light plastic shell casing, but I shudder to think how it would hold up against a five year old who decides to frisbee it across the room in a sudden tantrum.
Nonetheless, the Engage 7 HD and other competitors in this price range still remain an intriguing option for tablet-seekers whose budgets don’t extend into the five figure territory, as well as hardcore hobbyists looking for inexpensive solutions to their needs.
How so? Well, the plethora of good apps on the Play Store makes this tablet more versatile than its price would otherwise indicate. This would be a great unit for car audio/video/navigation installations, or as the front end of a home/office IP video camera security system, or as the remote control unit for a home theater system, which also happens to double as a torrent client. Or just slap an ePUB reader and a Kindle app onto it and you’ve got a device priced not too much more than an ereader,that does much more than just ebooks.
In conclusion: while the Engage 7 HD didn’t make me want to abandon my Nexus 7 outright, it did at least make me wonder if paying P14,000 for the Nexus was indeed the bargain I thought I was getting. If you’re looking for an inexpensive Android tablet, do check this one out.
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