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Old 11-20-2009, 06:41 PM   #1
celtica96
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A Review of the SmartDevices V7 HD Mobile Internet Device

***Now With Photos & Screenshots***

On Tuesday (November 17, 2009) I was delighted to hear about the availability of the new SmartDevices V7 from Alex at Eletroworld. He agreed to ship me one and let me use it for 20 days. Then, I would have to buy it or ship it back. I decided to take Alex up on his offer. Alex knows my weakness for the latest gadgets. The V7 was shipped by DHL and arrived today (Friday, November 20, 2009). Now that's speedy delivery!

The heart of the V7 is a Telechips TCC8900, a variant of the ARM11, with a clock speed of 600MHz. Also, it has double the RAM (256MB) and FLASH (2GB) of the Q7. The net result is that the V7 feels faster and more responsive than the Q7, which I also own. The main advantages of the V7 over the Q7 are the built-in HDMI port and the triple boot feature, which allows the user to choose among the Android, Linux, and Windows CE operating systems. The extra $50 for a V7 over a Q7 seems like a steal.

Like the Q7, the V7 ships without much documentation. The Quick Start Guide is in Chinese but has some diagrams. There is no discussion of the HDMI or other features of the V7. The V7 accessories include a charger and an HDMI cable. After unboxing, I hooked up the charger and gave the unit a few minutes to charge before turning it on.

The startup screen gives options for Android, Linux, and Windows CE. Alex indicated that the Android OS is not working properly due to some unknown conflict with Windows CE. When I tried to load Android, a message appeared indicating that SmartDevices is still working on this component. When I persisted in following this option, the device crashed. Wow! I really wanted to try FBReader under Android. Oh, well, I decided to move on to Windows CE and see what would happen. I rebooted the device, returned to the triple boot screen, and chose the Windows icon.

Windows CE loaded perfectly and displayed its quaint desktop. I confirmed that it's Windows CE 6.0 by checking the System Control Panel, which indicates Build 3122. For those who aren't familiar with the differences between Windows CE and Windows Mobile note that CE does not include Office Mobile. CE just includes the PowerPoint, Excel, and Word viewers. This version of CE is the "95%" English version with the rest of the system still using Chinese. I used Settings to change the Regional and Locale options to English (United States) but this did not seem to make much difference.

Overall, V7 performance under Windows CE is quite snappy. I was able to log on to my WPA encrypted network, surf the Internet, and open PDFs and PowerPoints without any problem. It's a good Windows CE device but a price tag of $250 requires more justification these days.

One of the things I looked for was a way to access the HDMI port under Windows CE. I searched for either an icon on the desktop, a program, a setting, or a control panel but came up empty. If there's a way to use the HDMI port via CE, then I missed it. I don't know whether or not HDMI support will be forthcoming for Windows CE. SmartDevices get this working and document it!

After this disappointment, I decided to try Linux. I had to power off the unit and turn it back on to get to the triple boot screen. Using the +/- and Function keys I selected the Penguin and waited for the V7 to boot. Linux loads quickly (it's Version 5 customized by SmartDevices). Tooling around on the desktop, I played with the dock and had problems with the Wicd Manager. I had to run Wicd five times before I could get it to talk to my wireless router. I'm not sure why this was a problem compared to connectivity under Windows CE, which worked flawlessly the first time. In retrospect, it may be that one of my other computer systems was interfering with the signal.

Under Linux, I found the tool for HDMI off the System Tools menu where GDebi and PCMan are located. It's called Tvout Gui. When it's tapped, a window appears entitled TVOUT with three settings--TVOUT Device, HDMI Resolution, and TVOUT Resolution plus an OK button. The default settings are TVOUT Device (TVOUT), HDMI Resolution (Auto), and TVOUT Resolution (Auto). The only other option for TVOUT Device is HDMI. Changing Auto to any of the other settings for HDMI Resolution and TVOUT Resolution did not help with any of the three LCD monitors I used to test the V7.

The SmartDevices V7 came with no instructions on how to set up or install HDMI functionality under any of the three available OSes. Here's how I got it to work. Hook up the supplied HDMI cable to the port on the V7 and the port on the monitor/TV. Power on both devices and boot the V7 into Linux. Open the Tvout Gui application and change the TVOUT Device setting from TVOUT to HDMI. The V7 Linux desktop appears in the upper left corner (800Hx480V) of your 1920Hx1080V display. The display on the V7 goes to sleep and the tablet acts like a large touchpad. The mouse cursor appears on the part of the monitor occupied by the V7 desktop. Move your hand across the surface of the V7 display to move the cursor on the 1920x1080 display.

This all sounds great but the reality is less rosy. First off, I don't want my high-resolution monitor to display the V7 desktop as 800x480 pixels. I want it to display as 1920x1080 pixels. Otherwise, it's not much value to me. Second, the V7 sometimes pops out of HDMI mode when sliding the mouse pointer around. I'm not sure but this may be a problem with the HDMI 1.3 protocol. The effect is jarring though. Third, not all displays are created equal. The V7 would only connect to the two monitors via their HDMI ports, not their DVI ports. The third monitor had just a DVI port and displayed a hash of the V7 desktop that was completely unusable. No amount of tweaking led to any improvement.

Okay, so the HDMI hookup is working and it's time to check out some video. I tried some WMV, MPG, and VOB files. All played via VLC on the V7 but with varying degrees of success. The VOB file is like those found on DVDs and was produced by a Sony DVD camcorder. It played very well. The WMV files played okay, too. The MPG file, however, had jerky movement throughout. The MPG was not a high resolution file but it was about 3GB in size and, like the others, played off a USB thumb drive (16GB). Next, I connected the V7 to an Acer T230H 1920x1080 display and started Tvout Gui. Once hooked up to the display, all video from the V7 caused the HDMI connection to crash. I'm not sure what testing SmartDevices did with this setup but it's alpha level at best and it should work much better than this. Perhaps a Linux expert could do better troubleshooting but there was no setting I found that made any difference. The HDMI setup always crashed when using VLC to play any of the files.

Would I recommend the V7? No. The main reasons to buy a V7 are the HDMI and the triple boot option. While the HDMI port works, it is very limited in usefulness. Android does not boot at all but Linux and Windows CE work just fine and are quite speedy. For $250 plus shipping, I expected more considering I can pick up a Windows 7 netbook this week at MicroCenter for the same price. Other buyers may have better experiences with the V7 but I'm going to return mine. My thanks to Alex at Eletroworld for letting me do a try and buy. I just wish all vendors were so helpful.

***Update 11/29/09***

Alex at Eletroworld is very confident that the problems I experienced with the V7 will be resolved shortly.
He asked me to hold on to the V7 and re-evaluate it after I install the yet-to-be-released firmware updates.
I agreed to do that because I want to treat SmartDevices and Eletroworld fairly.
I'll update this review after I get the updates and have a chance to test them.

***Update 12/03/09***

Today, Eletroworld put up a link to enable V7 users to download a version of Android 1.6 (Donut). Keep in mind that this version will be updated soon so the following is just a snapshot of a moving target. Warning: This release is not for the Q7.

Attached are some photos. The names of the files indicate the nature of the photos. Anyone who can translate Chinese should feel free to review the screen shots and post anything important I may have overlooked.

Overall, SmartDevice's Android 1.6 is still an engineering build and not a very usable one. The biggest disappointment is that it does not have Android Market. Also, I was not able to browse the Web even though I was able to connect to my wireless router. Finally, I'm not sure when SmartDevices plans on releasing an English (U.S.) version....

On a more positive note, it appears that HDMI output will be supported in this Android release. That's something that other MIDs only dream about.

I'm still highly impressed with what Covia was able to do with Android 1.5 on the Q5. If SmartDevices can get Android working on the V7 as well as the Covia Q5 version, I just may have to buy this V7!

***Correction 12/04/09***

"Finally, I'm not sure when SmartDevices plans on releasing an English (U.S.) version...."

The above statement is due to my inexperience with Android and inability to read Chinese.

Android is designed to support multiple languages. I found out how to switch to English (United States) by just tapping through the different screens. Now it's a lot easier for me to use the V7.

From the Android home screen on the V7, press the Menu hardware key and open Settings. Alternatively, open the Apps screen and tap the icon with the hammer and wrench. Scroll down to the 8th item. This is Locale & text. Tap to open. Open the first item. This is Select locale. Scroll down to English (United States) and tap it. You're all set.

Be careful in scrolling down the list. I inadvertantly hit English (Austrialia) first and had to try again to get English (United States). The touch screen on the V7 is a little more unpredictable than I like.
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Last edited by celtica96; 12-04-2009 at 11:57 AM. Reason: Add "HDMI Setting" Photo
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Old 11-20-2009, 07:04 PM   #2
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Thank you, celtica96. I had a feeling this might be the case. You might want to look at the Archos 5 Android IT. From what Chippy at UMPCPortal says, its a great little device that had problems at first, but firmware has fixed it. I'm also reviewing the W1060, which will have Android by end-of-year. It doesn't have HDMI out though.

Anyhow, I know the Archos 5 Android is smaller, but you might want to take a look.
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Old 11-21-2009, 03:10 AM   #3
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Given how much better the company's software for the SmartQ 7 got from the first to the 5th version, I'm hopeful about the software.

What I want to know is how the build quality of the V7 looks to be (especially compared to the Q7). I've heard bad things about the Q7's build quality, and if the V7 is better, I'll definitely get it, since all I need it for is a web table and an ebook reader capable of dealing with really larg PDFs.

Also, I've heard issues about hooking the V7 up to a PC since there's no miniUSB port. How well does connecting the V7 to a PC work.

Last edited by heron61; 11-21-2009 at 03:15 AM.
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Old 11-21-2009, 06:01 AM   #4
pan.sapiens
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Thanks for the review, celtica. I was thinking of getting one of these. You have saved me from making that mistake.
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Old 11-21-2009, 07:03 AM   #5
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I am now on the fence after reading this review, thanks for doing it.

Question, does the V7 perform fast for browsing the web and other apps?
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Old 11-23-2009, 09:32 AM   #6
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Hello,

can you say bit more about video playback ?
Is it capable of playback via external HDMI, can it decode HD mp4 clips ?
Have you been able to setup resolution for display via HDMI ?
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Old 11-26-2009, 09:04 AM   #7
yodor
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Hello ? You still review the V7 ?
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:19 PM   #8
rorang
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celtica96 View Post
On Tuesday (November 17, 2009) I was delighted to hear about the availability of the new SmartDevices V7 from Alex at Eletroworld. He agreed to ship me one and let me use it for 20 days. Then, I would have to buy it or ship it back. I decided to take Alex up on his offer. Alex knows my weakness for the latest gadgets. The V7 was shipped by DHL and arrived today (Friday, November 20, 2009). Now that's speedy delivery!

The heart of the V7 is a Telechips TCC8900, a variant of the ARM11, with a clock speed of 600MHz. Also, it has double the RAM (256MB) and FLASH (2GB). The net result is that the V7 feels faster and more responsive than the Q7, which I also own. The main advantages of the V7 over the Q7 are the built-in HDMI port and the triple boot feature, which allows the user to choose among the Android, Linux, and Windows CE operating systems. The extra $50 for a V7 over a Q7 seems like a steal.

Like the Q7, the V7 ships without much documentation. The Quick Start Guide is in Chinese but has some diagrams. There is no discussion of the HDMI or other features of the V7. The V7 accessories include a charger and an HDMI cable. After unboxing, I hooked up the charger and gave the unit a few minutes to charge before turning it on.

The startup screen gives options for Android, Linux, and Windows CE. Alex indicated that the Android OS is not working properly due to some unknown conflict with Windows CE. When I tried to load Android, a message appeared indicating that SmartDevices is still working on this component. When I persisted in following this option, the device crashed. Wow! I really wanted to try FBReader under Android. Oh, well, I decided to move on to Windows CE and see what would happen. I rebooted the device, returned to the triple boot screen, and chose the Windows icon.

Windows CE loaded perfectly and displayed its quaint desktop. I confirmed that it's Windows CE 6.0 by checking the System Control Panel, which indicates Build 3122. For those who aren't familiar with the differences between Windows CE and Windows Mobile note that CE does not include Office Mobile. CE just includes the PowerPoint, Excel, and Word viewers. This version of CE is the "95%" English version with the rest of the system still using Chinese. I used Settings to change the Regional and Locale options to English (United States) but this did not seem to make much difference.

Overall, V7 performance under Windows CE is quite snappy. I was able to log on to my WPA encrypted network, surf the Internet, and open PDFs and PowerPoints without any problem. It's a good Windows CE device but a price tag of $250 requires more justification these days.

One of the things I looked for was a way to access the HDMI port under Windows CE. I searched for either an icon on the desktop, a program, a setting, or a control panel but came up empty. If there's a way to use the HDMI port via CE, then I missed it. I don't know whether or not HDMI support will be forthcoming for Windows CE. SmartDevices get this working and document it!

After this disappointment, I decided to try Linux. I had to power off the unit and turn it back on to get to the triple boot screen. Using the +/- and Function keys I selected the Penguin and waited for the V7 to boot. Linux loads quickly (it's Version 5 customized by SmartDevices). Tooling around on the desktop, I played with the dock and had problems with the Wicd Manager. I had to run Wicd five times before I could get it to talk to my wireless router. I'm not sure why this was a problem compared to connectivity under Windows CE, which worked flawlessly the first time. In retrospect, it may be that one of my other computer systems was interfering with the signal.

Under Linux, I found the tool for HDMI off the System Tools menu where GDebi and PCMan are located. It's called Tvout Gui. When it's tapped, a window appears entitled TVOUT with three settings--TVOUT Device, HDMI Resolution, and TVOUT Resolution plus an OK button. The default settings are TVOUT Device (TVOUT), HDMI Resolution (Auto), and TVOUT Resolution (Auto). The only other option for TVOUT Device is HDMI. Changing Auto to any of the other settings for HDMI Resolution and TVOUT Resolution did not help with any of the three LCD monitors I used to test the V7.

The SmartDevices V7 came with no instructions on how to set up or install HDMI functionality under any of the three available OSes. Here's how I got it to work. Hook up the supplied HDMI cable to the port on the V7 and the port on the monitor/TV. Power on both devices and boot the V7 into Linux. Open the Tvout Gui application and change the TVOUT Device setting from TVOUT to HDMI. The V7 Linux desktop appears in the upper left corner (840Hx480V) of your 1920Hx1080V display. The display on the V7 goes to sleep and the tablet acts like a large touchpad. The mouse cursor appears on the part of the monitor occupied by the V7 desktop. Move your hand across the surface of the V7 display to move the cursor on the 1920x1080 display.

This all sounds great but the reality is less rosy. First off, I don't want my high-resolution monitor to display the V7 desktop as 800x480 pixels. I want it to display as 1920x1080 pixels. Otherwise, it's not much value to me. Second, the V7 sometimes pops out of HDMI mode when sliding the mouse pointer around. I'm not sure but this may be a problem with the HDMI 1.3 protocol. The effect is jarring though. Third, not all displays are created equal. The V7 would only connect to the two monitors via their HDMI ports, not their DVI ports. The third monitor had just a DVI port and displayed a hash of the V7 desktop that was completely unusable. No amount of tweaking led to any improvement.

Okay, so the HDMI hookup is working and it's time to check out some video. I tried some WMV, MPG, and VOB files. All played via VLC on the V7 but with varying degrees of success. The VOB file is like those found on DVDs and was produced by a Sony DVD camcorder. It played very well. The WMV files played okay, too. The MPG file, however, had jerky movement throughout. The MPG was not a high resolution file but it was about 3GB in size and, like the others, played off a USB thumb drive (16GB). Next, I connected the V7 to an Acer T230H 1920x1080 display and started Tvout Gui. Once hooked up to the display, all video from the V7 caused the HDMI connection to crash. I'm not sure what testing SmartDevices did with this setup but it's alpha level at best and it should work much better than this. Perhaps a Linux expert could do better troubleshooting but there was no setting I found that made any difference. The HDMI setup always crashed when using VLC to play any of the files.

Would I recommend the V7? No. The main reasons to buy a V7 are the HDMI and the triple boot option. While the HDMI port works, it is very limited in usefulness. Android does not boot at all but Linux and Windows CE work just fine and are quite speedy. For $250 plus shipping, I expected more considering I can pick up a Windows 7 netbook this week at MicroCenter for the same price. Other buyers may have better experiences with the V7 but I'm going to return mine. My thanks to Alex at Eletroworld for letting me do a try and buy. I just wish all vendors were so helpful.
Hello,
I have just received my Smartq v7 & I am very excited I must agree this is a toy for technical people who like to tinker . Nothing works out of the box you got to go over every setting auto setting don't trust it, SmartQ provides no documentation on the device in english. LINUX works but is not ready for the general public i give it a 60%. my experience with the SmartQ is as follows so far 2 days in.

Windows CE 6.0
video: not working
mp3: not working
wifi: WEP open will not obtain an IP address via DHCP
Bluetooth: untested
stability : very stable
HDMI: no
tvout: no
Usability: 60% key board pop up blocking the view of windows no snap on top of text box.
USB to PC: yes

LINUX
softwer repository: No
video: is working very well I seen the videos for the smartQ7
mp3: work in VLC
wifi: WEP open works & via DHCP with some playing around with the settings
bluetooth: will conect to device A2DP profile is not working!
stability : very stable
HDMI: no I get a black screen on the device & the monitor no vidio out put
tvout: yes with standard ipod composite cable will work.
settings in VLC need to be set to TV OUT. Do not have the TV OUT G.U.I open while VLC is running.
VLC has it's own TVOUT interface. leave the tvout gui set to HDMI or els it will afect the quality of yor TVOUT playback.
Usability: 60% key board pop up blocking the view of windows no snap on top of text box.

ANDROID
NOT REALLY FAIR TO JUDGE THE PERFORMANCE OF ANDROID: clearly states it is a dev build.
I was able to boot in to the Android OS by going to settings on the boot menu & reducing the video memory. It also helps if you plug it in to the AC power when boot in to android. None of the drivers work, no access to the SD/wifi/Bluetooth cards ether. only USB access is available to android. I must say that android is the OS that belongs on this device it is the most polished for this form factor. I wish SmartQ added a button to rotate the screen or built in an accelerometer

Last edited by rorang; 11-26-2009 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:44 PM   #9
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I have tried the V7, it is put in the same housing with Q7, the video is very nice in the Linux OS, I got the 1080P run! this is the best ARM device for video I have got.

Unfortunately when it come to the Speed of PDF, Internet browsing, I feel somewhat painful, it is too slow and online flash can not be seen, I just feel it same as Q7........have guys met this like me?

The wince and Android I guess it need some more time I will look it with more time.
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Old 11-27-2009, 03:17 AM   #10
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Video Review

Please can you give more details about internet browsing what is working and what not. Does it have firefox installed ?
Can you say more about the linux distribution is it ubuntu ?
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Old 11-27-2009, 12:22 PM   #11
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Your Questions (Mostly) Answered

I left on Thanksgiving vacation after posting the above review and now have some time to respond the questions posted here.

@coldsun
I'm glad you liked the review. I'm not an Archos fan but perhaps the Archos 9 will change my mind when it finally ships.

@heron61
Without taking apart both the V7 and Q7, my opinion on the build quality is that they are equivalent. I think the build quality is acceptable, not exceptional. They use exactly the same form factor and the V7 housing is identical to the Q7 with the exception of the HDMI port and the change from mini-USB OTG port to full-size USB OTG port. See the photo above showing the V7 on top of the Q7.

Using the right USB cable, I have had no problems working with the V7 in USB OTG mode. It's fast and trouble free. The screenshots I've added were transferred using the USB OTG cable connection. I'm using a MicroCenter 16GB SDHC card on the V7 and Windows 7 on a Gateway P-6831FX laptop.

@pan.sapiens
I'm glad you found the review useful.

@moggler88
The V7 is at least as fast as the Q7 but not anywhere near a desktop/laptop PC experience.

For example, Midori loads Chippy's site, umpcportal.com, reasonably fast (under 30 seconds). Of course, Midori won't play Youtube/Flash video directly.

The V7 may be able to run OpenOffice but it ships with AbiWord, FBReader, Gnumeric, etc. It's the same as the Q7 software set. Again, the V7 is as fast or faster than the Q7 but not so much faster that timing them side by side with a stop watch is worthwhile.

@yodor
I'm sorry I didn't respond as fast as you would like. Remember, this is Thanksgiving week in the United States and some of us have family obligations....

At your suggestion, I tried a 262MB mp4 file today with a resolution of 320x180. It took about 5 minutes to transfer using the USB cable connection discussed above. It runs fine on the above laptop using VLC. VLC plays it about as well on the V7 with very slight jerkiness in high motion scenes. Higher resolution videos may run into greater problems. I had to crank up the audio to the maximum to hear the sound track well enough.

No, Firefox is not installed. Midori is the browser shipped with the V7. The Linux distribution is Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop.

@all
Thanks for reading and sharing your insights!
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Old 11-29-2009, 10:29 AM   #12
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Communications From Eletroworld

Alex at Eletroworld indicates that SmartDevices is aware of the V7 problems and is working on them. (Perhaps SmartDevices rushed too much to get the product out the door in time for holiday shoppers.)
He is very confident that a firmware update will resolve the V7 problems, asked me to hold on to the unit, and test it again after I install the update.
I agreed to do this because I want to be fair to Eletroworld and SmartDevices.
Afterall, the V7 is a new product.
I'll keep everyone posted on how things go.

Also, Alex mentioned some special December 2009 pricing for the SmartDevices lineup. Now, that's good news. Watch out Wirelession W1060/A81! Here comes the price war.
I'll post about it after I get more details.
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Old 11-30-2009, 12:59 PM   #13
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Torn

Quote:
Originally Posted by celtica96 View Post
Alex at Eletroworld indicates that SmartDevices is aware of the V7 problems and is working on them. (Perhaps SmartDevices rushed too much to get the product out the door in time for holiday shoppers.)
He is very confident that a firmware update will resolve the V7 problems, asked me to hold on to the unit, and test it again after I install the update.
I agreed to do this because I want to be fair to Eletroworld and SmartDevices.
Afterall, the V7 is a new product.
I'll keep everyone posted on how things go.

Also, Alex mentioned some special December 2009 pricing for the SmartDevices lineup. Now, that's good news. Watch out Wirelession W1060/A81! Here comes the price war.
I'll post about it after I get more details.

I'm torn between the V7 and W1060/A81 and was hoping to have one (or two) by year end. After reading your review of the V7 and ColdSun's W1060 review, it doesn't look like either will do at the moment. I think I'll go with whoever has a good android build first, whenever that may be. Oh, and a price drop could be very persuasive.

Keep the review updates coming celtica96 and ColdSun!
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:24 PM   #14
akd
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Thanks for the review as I was also considering the V7 as well as the Archos 5. I really love the look of the V7 but am interested in the Android on the Archos 5. The search for the perfect device shall never end!
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Old 12-03-2009, 05:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckle View Post
I think I'll go with whoever has a good android build first, whenever that may be.
So far, SmartDevices has a bootable release of Android 1.6 but I'm not sure where the W1060 stands.

That said, the SmartDevices release is not ready for end users. See my comments and photos for 12/03/09 posted at the end of the V7 review above.

I'm hoping that both companies pull out all the stops and get the best possible Android performance from both platforms because that will make everyone a winner!
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