My Cheaper-Than-Free Android Tablet is Somewhat Worse Than an iPad
December 9, 2015 Leave a Comment
I like deals. Even for things I don’t especially need. So when an online retailer offered an Android tablet with several offers that would end up netting me $35, of course I jumped. I don’t regret it, but it’s not for everybody.
The deal involved several steps, including signing up for a year of a software subscription, two mail-in rebates, and a checkout promotion. It was something like $110 price tag – $25 checkout promotion – $70 software rebate – $50 tablet rebate = -$35 net cost. So it’s not like stores are just handing out tablets with cash stuffed in the boxes, but after a bit of rigamarole, I made a bit of money and had a Hipstreet Flare 3 tablet to show for it.
Its built-in storage is small, only 8GB, but the microSD card slot makes up for that. Its 1GB RAM and 1.3GHz quad-core processor are similar to entry-level or mid-range Android smartphones: perfectly adequate. The tablet’s performance is rather smooth for all but the most demanding apps and games.
Compared to mainstream Android tablets, the Flare 3 has nice touch response and holds a battery charge quite well. Its wall charger plugs into a dedicated power port, but the micro USB port can charge the device as well (albeit more slowly). There are even a few unadvertised extras in the box, like a pre-applied screen protector film and a breakout cable providing a full-sized USB port – known in the biz as an On-The-Go or OTG cable.
The front and rear cameras are frankly garbage, with shoddy performance that harkens back to the flip phone days. I wasn’t expecting any better, given the low resolutions detailed in the tablet’s specs, so I wasn’t disappointed there.
Where the Hipstreet Flare 3 fails spectacularly is its display.
At only 1024 x 600 pixels, the screen is already less impressive than a first-generation LCD desktop monitor. Still, it’s no worse than the first few iPads, which had about the same number of pixels per inch in a slightly larger area.
A display with low pixel density doesn’t have to be awful, but this one also suffers from terrible color reproduction and a hideously narrow viewing angle.
Next to my Google/LG Nexus 5 phone (2013, 1920 x 1080) and an iPad 2 (2012, 1024 x 768), you can see the ugliness of the Flare 3’s screen. It’s … dim? bluish? low-contrast? grainy? washed out? I’m not even sure. It’s actually a little harsh to look at. Various color-filter apps only made it worse.
Tilting the screen makes the problem even more pronounced.
How are you supposed to read anything on that? Bleah. Even the edges of the screen start to bleed into obscurity when I’m staring straight at the middle.
And yet – this thing cost me negative 35 dollars. It’s completely unfair to compare it to an iPad, even a three-year-old used one of the kind that still regularly sells for more than $150.
And that’s the crux of any Android vs. Apple debate. On average, yeah, Android phones and tablets kind of stink compared to iPhones and iPads. But that’s because Android devices occupy a lot more market segments, and the cheapo ones drag down the quality of the platform as a whole. Compare products at similar price points and you get a much fairer fight.
Is this thing as good as an iPad? Of course not. Is it worth the price I paid? Absolutely.