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Old 02-19-2010, 03:38 PM   #1
razzer001
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Device: A700
Skytone A700 MID Review



Review with pictures on our blog

I received the Skytone Alpha A700 just before Christmas, since then till about 3 weeks ago i was testing and using the device on a regular basis. I am still not 100% convinced that i should take the time to OEM this, but i hope feedback from all of you may help me make up my mind.

Specifications:

Operating System Linux 2.6 Preloaded
Display 8.9Ē TFT LCD true color
LCD resolution 1024 X 600
CPU MIPS 500 MHz 32bit
Wireless Built-in WiFi (802.11b/g)
Memory 128MB DDR2 (up to 256MB Optional)
Media MPEG1/2/4,H.263,H.264,WMV9,RMVB
Media Storage SD/MMC card slot (support SDHC)
Input Device Touch Panel, Directional keys
S.S.D. Storage (Solid-State Drive) 2GB up to 32GB optional
Audio Built-in Mic/speakers,Mic/earpiece jack
USB Output USB 2.0◊1/Mini 2.0◊1
Broadband Wireless(Driver Built-in) Optional:3G,EDME,CDMA,HSPDA

When i received the A700 it came in quite a large box, it had a carrying case, video out cables and a charger. I was a little surprised to receive the unit without the internal battery installed, i had to open up the A700 and install the battery, wasnít to thrilled about that. The battery, 5500mAh, is quite large and heavy, itís what really adds to the overall weight of the A700. Unlike similar devices, such as the SmartQ Q7, the A700 only last about 4hrs of continuous use and the battery does drain when not in use, so you have to keep the charger handy with you if traveling.

On the A700 model there is 2GB of internal SSD memory, but there is also a SD card slot on the bottom of the player. There is a stylus pen port with stylus pen, but i didnít use the pen to much, never been a stylus pen fan, infact i lost the stylus pen quite sometime ago.

The build quality, although quite solid, might be seen by some as being a little crude, the finishing isnít the best that i had seen, but it in no way really add negatively to the player. I actually think the build quality and the form factor kind of grows on you.

The 8.9″ resistive panel and screen:

The screen has a lot to be desired for, in comparison to other similar devices, like the Q7, the A700 has much poorer viewing angles and the touch panel does add some distortion to viewing at angles. The screen when looked at directly is very nice, its also quite easy on the eyes, certainly a bonus when using the device for reading. Itís pretty much the first time i have seen a 1024 x 600 resolution screen on a Chinese player, images do look nice, but i have seen screens with better clarity and that had a lower screen resolutions, i guess Skytone went a little cheap on the screen. Itís also no wonder that such a high resolution screen would be a power hog and being one of the main components that drains the battery so fast.

The actual touch panel, although resistive, is sensitive enough that you can comfortably use the player. Itís certainly no iPod touch, but compared to the Q7 i find the touch screen to be more responsive, but this could be in part that the OS isnít dragging down the performance of the processor unlike how Ubuntu is on the Q7.

The linux OS:

I find probably the best thing about the A700 is the linux OS that has been implemented on it. Unlike SmartQ which just smacked Ubuntu onto their player, Skytone has made a more simplified linux OS. The UI is broken down into seperate categories, each with their own set of programs, all of which are popular programs for linux. I think this layout if a great approach, right when you first turn the player on, you can easily find the program you want to use, this is certainly not something that is as easy on the Q7. People who are less familiar with linux would have no problem using this device as the UI is very straight forward.

Although there are preloaded applications on the A700, there is a app installer also, BUT being that this is a MIPS processor there are more limited programs for this device than an ARM device like the Q7. I havenít tried to install any programs so i canít really comment on how the installer works on a device like this.

eBook and PDF reading:

I will right away admit, i do not do a lot of eBook reading, i do read, but i just prefer reading off paper than from a screen, so please excuse if this section is a bit thin, i am sure others on Mobileread will have be able to really give the lowdown on the A700 eBook and PDF capabilities than i will.

The A700 does come with one eBook reading app, FBReader and one PDF app, ePDFviewer, both function well on the player. This is where i really liked the form factor, holding the A700 with the screen rotated to portrait just made this seem really ideal for reading on, it even feels more natural when you use the pleather case. One nice thing that may have made this into an even better eBook reader would have been some physical buttons like the Q7 has for flipping pages.

I was not able to find any MIPS based comic book reader, so some people maybe disappointed that there wonít be any comic book app, which is a real shame as reading comics on this would have been quite a delight.

Also to note, screen rotation on the A700 is made easy with a built in app that will let you flip the screen which ever way to please, no need to mess with any settings, again another example of why the A700 UI is very user friendly.

Video and Audio:

Forget it. This is where the A700 performs poorly, any video files that are around 800◊480 resolution (and even slightly lower) will playback choppy. It comparison, i would say the video playback on this is probably worse than the older generation RK2706 media processor.

Audio quality is hardly anything to brag about, but its not totally crap, but seeing how there isnít even a stand alone music player you really wouldnít be trying to use this to listen to music.

Internet browsing:

There is both Firefox and Midori preinstalled, which is quite a good thing as both seem to excel in different uses. I found for the most part that Midori ran the fastest, pages just tended to load faster and the program seemed not to eat up the A700 resources to much. Firefox on the other hand was a bit of a memory hog, but i found pages looked nicer through firefox than on Midori.

I did compare the A700 to the Q7 and i found page loading times to be about the same, but with the A700 being faster on a few occasions. The A700 didnít stand up too well against my Nexus One, but then again The A700 is fine for some casual browsing, but its not going to replace your netbook anytime.

TV Out:

The A700 supports both VGA and composite video, Skytone does supply a special cable. The video quality isnít shattering but its good enough that you would probably want to use this feature.

The TV out works as you would want it to, it basically makes your TV into a PC, hook up a wireless mouse and keyboard and you add an entire new level of functionality to this device.

Other apps:

Firefox, Midori, app for streaming Youtube, Pidgin, Sylpheed (email), Flash player, GQView (image viewer), Mediaplayer, Calculator, PCMan (file manager), Paint brush, Sky Tar, Software installer, Wireless network manager, 3G and GPRS manager, AbiWord, FB Reader, Gnumeric (excel), Notes (notepad), StarDict (dictionary), ePDFviewer.

Overall:

I know i like this device, but is it worth the price tag, even if i were to OEM it, the end retail price tag would be between $200 - $230, which is still quite a bit of money. I feel that if this were released last year then it would really have been a stand out device, but right now weíre just on the cusp of seeing every major PC manufacturer to come out with their own table device, the A700 may seem a bit dated. Even compared to the V7 the A700 maybe lacking, but the biggest selling point for the A700 is the user friendly interface, it very straight forward and easy to use.

So does this make for a good buy, well its very debatable, i will certainly be watching this discussion to see if it would be worth to OEM this.

Lots more pictures on my blog post
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Old 02-19-2010, 03:39 PM   #2
razzer001
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I'll try and have a video review up in a few days.
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Old 02-19-2010, 04:36 PM   #3
Houndx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by razzer001 View Post
I was not able to find any MIPS based comic book reader, so some people maybe disappointed that there wonít be any comic book app, which is a real shame as reading comics on this would have been quite a delight.
I was wondering when I saw the original specs if finding apps compiled for MIPS would be a problem since it's a Linux device. It's been a problem for Windows CE from the beginning.
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Old 02-19-2010, 07:21 PM   #4
cbone
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The big question is: can you add your own software to this device?
Next question is: what can be done about that battery life issue? It shouldn't be draining power when it's off like that.

$200-$230 is helluva cheap. At that price, these should be an easy sell.

If you want to just straight-up view video, there are cheaper, faster alternatives readily available, so I wouldn't let that stand in the way. Those people would just buy one of a bazillion MP4 players and be done with it.
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Old 02-23-2010, 11:59 AM   #5
razzer001
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[QUOTE=cbone;797377]The big question is: can you add your own software to this device?
Next question is: what can be done about that battery life issue? It shouldn't be draining power when it's off like that.
/QUOTE]


According to skytone, the battery life is 'acceptable' for such a large device. To be fair the main thing that is killing the battery is the screen, i think some adjustments to the brightness may give for a bit more life. I asked them about placing an even higher capacity battery in, they said it wasn't possible.

I do want to point out that as i had to install the battery, i can confirm that the battery on this thing is huge, both in physically and in capacity.

I should show you a picture of the A700 in its case and held landscape, it has a very appealing look as an ebook reader.
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Old 03-02-2010, 05:35 AM   #6
Romskiy
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What languages are supported?
Whether there is a support of Cyrillic fonts?
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Old 03-02-2010, 05:40 AM   #7
frank.w
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From your description it sounds deficient in many areas - If it were me, I'd wait until I found something I could fall in love with.

- Frank
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