Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Velocity Cruz Micro R101 Android-powered e-reader / tablet

So I bought this thing... here's their little commerical for it:

So what do I think about it? Well it's more than an e-reader but less than a tablet. Some weird area in betwen. But the price was right, so I'll keep it around.

1. Well, my first and biggest complaint is the screen. It even says in the user manual, that the screen uses the old resistive touch technology instead of the newer heat-sensitive touch technology you get with things like Droids, iPhones, iPad, etc. So you have to push much harder to get your touches to register. And that filmy touch-sensitive layer makes the screen a little more cloudy and not so crisp.

2. So far I haven't been able to get an SD card to work properly with it. It has a standard size SD card slot. I currently only have micro-SD cards with adapters to make them full size. But trying them all in the Cruz, it just keeps saying "Card blank or unrecognized format. Do you want to Format the card?" I dont know if this is because it's actually a micro-SD in an adapter, but I would think it shouldn't matter. But then, if I say Yes, format the card (hoping this will make it usable with the Cruz), it just does nothing and never formats the card.

This isn't a huge issue since it has 4 GB internal and books are small, but 4 GB wont last long if I want to put movies on there.

3. This is the biggest complaint of Cruz owners: They dont allow the device to access the Android app market. Instead they only give you limited access to the "Cruz Market" with only a handful of lame apps. So the only way you're going to put good apps on it is if your techie enough to figure how to download them through other means (piracy, underground sites, etc) and manually transfer them to the Cruz via cable or SD card. Even then, the apps weren't written for the Cruz specifically so sometimes they wont install properly. I've had hit-or-miss success with this.

4. The only movie format it will play is MPEG. If you download movies a lot, you know the most popular format theyre in is Divx. So you have to run your movies through a converter if you want to play them on the Cruz. I did have luck converting them using Total Video Converter 3.11 (search torrents) to convert Divx to mp4, which the Cruz will play. But with a full-length movie, this conversion process takes a long time. *angry face*

5. It only comes with one e-reader app, the Barnes & Noble one. If you want to read epubs, guess what? You'll have to load a different reader app. I had to try 3 before I got one that would properly read epubs. I'd recommend getting the apps: "FBReader" and "txtr"

6. There's other little annoyances that I'll glob together in this bullet-point. You can add the typical Android widgets to the desktop... one of these being an analog clock. But the clock is off by an hour... yet the system time at the top of the screen shows the proper time! Why does it have one clock wrong and one right? It's not like there's any options to set the time on the analog clock, it's supposed to get the time from the system. So why is it getting the wrong time, when the system has the right time? Whaterver.

Also if you just put the device in standby, I'm finding in about 5 minutes it turns itself back on! Just barely... you have to take it into a dark room to see that the screen is just barely back on, but it is. And it won't seem to turn back off on it's own. So when Im done using it I have to totally power it down instead of just letting it standby so it doesnt kill the battery. This is annoying because it takes a good minute or so to boot back up.

Some of the reader apps take a good 30 seconds to open a book. Once it's open, you're fine, but expect an initial wait.

There's no way to access the battery. When it gets older and doesn't hold its charge as well, I'd like to be able to replace it, but no such luck.. looks like they took the Apple approach here.

- Well, it's got Android. The OS is powerful and fast.

- Battery life does seem to be what they boast, at least while it's new. They claim a half-hour charge gets you 10 hours. So far, it's delivering. I read some other review where someone said they even made it play a looping movie till the battery died, and it did last about 10 hours. Nice!

- Speakers aren't bad. Loud enough for one to hear a movie comfortably. Has an earphone jack also.

- Being able to read in the dark is a plus for me.

For the buck, it's not bad. But if I had known about the cons listed here, I'd probably would not have gotten it. Instead I wouldve spent a little more for a device with a heat-touch screen and access to the app market for starters.

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