Beware the Black Friday electronics

Beware the Black Friday electronics

Ars Technica ran an aptly timed article today called How to talk your family out of bad consumer electronics purchases. It’s definitely worth a read, to steer you away from bad Black Friday electronics.

There’s a great tip in the article. If a doorbuster item has a model number that isn’t available the rest of the year, you don’t want it. That’s a good rule.

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The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: It’s a nice inexpensive tablet

I’ve been messing with an Asus Memopad, the 7-inch version. I think it’s a well-built, good-performing tablet for $149, and when you can get it on sale for less than that–and this is the time of year for that–I think it’s a great tablet for the money.

It’s not a high-end tablet. It has a 1280×800 screen, a quad-core 1.2 GHz Mediatek processor, a middling GPU, and 1 GB of RAM, and importantly, it includes a micro SD slot so you can add up to 32 GB of storage to it. The specs are all reasonable, but not mind-blowing. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about it are that it’s not a Nexus 7, but it’s 2/3 the price of a Nexus 7, too. When you compare it to other tablets in its price range, the worst you can say about it is that it holds its own. Read more

A new Hisense Sero 7 Pro ROM

I’ll get back to the Android questions momentarily, but here’s an interesting development: randomblame on XDA-Developers has managed to develop a working Jelly Bean 4.3 ROM called Jelly Time for the Sero 7 Pro, even without kernel source.

As one would expect, the workarounds are causing some issues, but even with the limitations he’s working with, the reports have been very good. I’ll be trying it out on my Sero 7 Pro as soon as I have a bit more time.

Why there’s scarcely any aftermarket firmware for Hisense Sero tablets

Are you curious why there’s no Cyanogenmod for the Sero 7 or Sero 7 Pro tablets? Or why there’s only one aftermarket ROM for it, released way back in May, with no updates?

I realized why this week. Hisense has not yet released the GPL source code for the tablets. And without developers being able to look at the kernel source, you’ll see very little, if any aftermarket firmware for these tablets.

I know a few people have posed the question via Hisense’s Facebook page. Here’s a sample letter. Read more

Hisense pushes out a Sero 7 Pro update

My Hisense Sero 7 Pro asked to update itself this morning. The update billed itself as a stability update. Indeed, afterward, it still reports itself as running Android 4.2.1.

That said, I’m all for a stability update. My Sero 7 Pro sometimes has issues coming out of sleep mode, so I let it update. Whether it makes a difference will take a while to figure out–I tended to have the issue once or twice a week. A day is too little for anything but a first impression, and my first impression is that this was a very low-profile update. But mainly I’m happy to see that Hisense seems to be supporting the tablet with updates. Not every update needs to make a big splash.

I found a reasonably good, inexpensive keyboard for the Sero 7 Pro

I bought a keyboard this week for the Hisense Sero 7 Pro. It’s a universal keyboard/case made by Afunta, and I paid $12.50 for it. I took a chance on it, and now you don’t have to. Its spring-loaded jaws nicely accomodate the Sero 7 Pro, and the keyboard works with the Sero 7 Pro with no issues. Plug it in, wait a moment, and it starts working, replacing the onscreen keyboard when you need keyboard input, basically turning your tablet into a convertible. It has a micro USB connector, unlike many 7-inch keyboards, so it works with the Sero 7 without an adapter. It’s odd that most keyboards seem to have full-size USB connectors but most 7-inch tablets have micro ports.

I wouldn’t want to type at length with the keyboard, but it’s much nicer than using an onscreen keyboard on a 7-inch screen.

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The $99 Android tablet of 2013: The Hisense Sero 7 LT (or Lite)

So when I decided to bring myself into the current decade, tablet-wise, I opted for the $150 Hisense Sero 7 Pro, though I was certainly curious about its $99 little brother. Unfortunately, information on the Sero 7 Lite hasn’t been as easy to come by–people are understandably excited about getting a Nexus 7 clone for $50 less that actually includes two desirable features that the real thing lacks. This must be what it felt like to be in the market for an IBM PC/XT when the Leading Edge Model D came out in the summer of 1985.

But of course I was still curious what $99 can buy today, so I’m glad that Ars Technica gave it a look. Read more

More thoughts on the $150 Hisense Sero 7 Pro tablet

Steve Aubrey wrote in with a link to a useful site dedicated to the Hisense Sero 7. It collects all the useful information that’s surfaced from xda-developers and other sites, including custom ROMs, rooting instructions, and where to get accessories.

He asked if I recommend rooting. The short answer: Yes, if you know what you’re doing. If you’re willing to read the prompts when an app requests root access and understand what it’s asking for, then sure. If you just blindly click yes to everything, then no, by all means, leave the tablet stock.

But if you know what you’re doing, one nice thing you can do is install a firewall, so a rooted Android tablet can be safer than an unrooted one. Have fun wrapping your head around that slice of counter-intuitiveness.

Let’s talk about my impressions of the tablet itself.

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The good-enough $99 Android tablet

Last month, low-end television maker Hisense introduced two new 7-inch Android tablets. The $149 Hisense Sero 7 Pro is a fairly close clone of the Google Nexus 7 that adds an SD card slot. With its quad-core processor and 1280×800 display, a lot of people are excited about it. Overall, the reaction I’ve seen on xda-developers has been very positive. The $99 Sero 7 LT, which is decidedly below the Nexus 7 in capability, hasn’t gotten as much attention.

But I found this teardown. Their verdict: Nothing to get too excited about, but it’s good enough for the average user most of the time, much better than the other sub-$100 tablets on the market, and as good as or better than most of the sub-$149 tablets on the market. The two weak spots are the wimpy camera and weak battery.

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