Everyone likes a bargain. However, there's a fine line between a winner and a lemon. The $174 Ematic eGlide XL Pro II comes wrapped in Android Ice Cream Sandwich and features a number of ports that many tablets lack, including mini-HDMI. Plus, you get a 10-inch screen for $25 less than the smaller Kindle Fire. However, this slate fails to impress in every other way.
Click to EnlargeThe eGlide XL Pro II's rear panel is made from a glossy black plastic that is an extreme fingerprint magnet. The panel's edges are faceted, lending the tablet a jewel-like appearance. Instead of a rear-facing camera, the eGlide features a sliver rear speaker and a gray Ematic logo.
The 1.4-pound, 10.5 x 6.5 x .43-inch eGlide is thinner and lighter than the 1.6-pound, 10.2 x 6.9 x 0.5-inch Acer Iconia Tab A200. However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 weighs 1.28 pounds and is just 0.38 inches thick, taking the crown in both categories.
All of the tablet's ports (two mini-USB ports, microSD, mini-HDMI, a combination microphone-headphone jack, and a power jack) are located on the right. Black matte buttons for power and volume sit along the top right corner. The 10-inch glossy display is encased in a thick, black glossy bezel. The 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera is slightly off-center, favoring the right side of the device.
Display and Audio
Click to EnlargeAt 182 lux, the glossy 10-inch LED display on the eGlide XL is relatively dim and a not-very-sharp 1024 x 600 pixels. There was noticeable fuzziness in text on CNN.com and Joystiq.com. The Iconia Tab A200 delivered more vibrant colors on its 287 lux, 1280 x 800 display. And the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1's screen had even better contrast along with 424 lux brightness.
The HD YouTube trailer of "The Great Gatsby" yielded lackluster yellows, greens and reds against a faded black sky. The normally radiant yellow Rolls-Royce seemed lifeless, puttering along the street like a half-remembered figment in a dream. Even worse was the constant pixilation that distracted from the viewing experience. The only high point during the video was the generous viewing angles.
Audio from the eGlide XL Pro II was also unimpressive, falling short of filling a small room. At maximum volume, we strained to hear dialogue in the "Gatsby" trailer. There was a noticeable amount of distortion along the bassline on "No Church In The Wild." The guitar was the clearest component on the track as Frank Ocean's vocals on the hook sounded muddied and both Kanye and Jay-Z's rhymes sounded hollow and flat.
Click to EnlargeThe eGlide keeps things simple in the keyboard department, offering only the stock Android version. We're fans of the large black keys with their generous spacing, but we wish we could access alternate characters via long-press. Haptic feedback was also noticeably absent.
Google Voice Typing is also included, which is about 90 percent accurate in taking dictation for texts and emails.
Software and User Interface
Although the Ematic eGlide is running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the tablet is devoid of any Google-based apps. That means that staples such as Gmail, Search, Maps and the Play Store are nowhere to be found.
The typical five customizable home screens are present, waiting to be filled with all your apps and widgets. The apps page icon can be found in the top riClick to Enlargeght corner. Icons for Back, Home and Recent Apps sit in the ever-present black system bar along the bottom of the display. Pressing on the digital clock in the bottom left raises the notification shade. A large digital clock with the date can be found in the shade along with the current Wi-Fi network, battery life and Settings icon.
The eGlide features a smattering of apps and games. In lieu of the Google Play Store, Ematic substitutes its own store, which has a fair number of apps, but we really would have preferred the Play Store. We could sideload apps using a microSD card, but that could be somewhat of a hassle moving files between devices.
We gleefully squashed insects as we played "Ant Smasher" and gave our brains a workout on puzzlers such as "Bubble Burst 2" and "Connect Em."
Click to EnlargeDaily Paper delivered the news of the day from various publications, including "New York Post," "Chicago Tribune" and "Detroit Free Press." We also enjoyed perusing through Wattpad, which features works from undiscovered authors via user uploaded texts. However, the Kobo Reader app was the star of the show, delivering a robust supply of books along with 5GB of online storage.
In terms of productivity apps, there's Astro File Manager, OfficeSuite and Box on board, which enables secure file-sharing. We were impressed with the accuracy of the Ematic Digital Assistant. Sort of like a mute Siri, we were able to search for nearby restaurants and bars as well as send emails using only our voice.
Powered by a 1-GHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU with Mali 400 GPU, the Ematic eGlide XL Pro II doesn't offer very good performance. On Benchmark CPU, the eGlide scored 1,125. That's 1,627 points below the 2,752 Android tablet category average. The Acer Iconia Tab A200 and its 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual Core Mobile Processor notched 3,137, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and its 1.2-GHz Dual Core CPU registered 2,834.
During An3DBench, which measures graphics performance, the eGlide scored 6,532, far below the 7,197 category average. The A200, by comparison, scored a blistering 7,497 while the Galaxy Tab 2 10.0 delivered 6,779. To be fair, though, the Ematic is cheaper than these two tablets.
Despite the lackluster benchmark scores, we played a game of "Clouds & Sheep" with eight open tabs in the Web browser. However, it took the display's auto-rotate feature 4 seconds to react and pinch-to-zoom was rather sluggish. We also experienced a number of error messages when we attempted to access Display in the Settings menu.
Camera and Camcorder
Click to EnlargeLacking a rear-facing camera, we were forced to rely on the eGlide's 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera when we wanted to snap off a few shots or capture video. Although the camera is slightly off-center, we didn't experience much difficulty keeping ourselves onscreen.
Images were nice and bright with fairly good color accuracy in both natural and fluorescent lighting, but the sharpness was lacking. Our test video produced similar results, but we noticed some blurring as we moved the camera.
During the Laptop Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Ematic eGlide XL Pro II lasted 5 hours and 23 minutes. That's an hour and 33 minutes shorter than the 6:56 average. That Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 lasted 9:59 by comparison while the Iconia Tab a200 finished with 8:42.
Click to EnlargeJust because a tablet comes preloaded with Android Ice Cream Sandwich doesn't mean it's a tasty treat. The $174 Ematic eGlide XL Pro II has a slim design and good port selection, but it's undone by sluggish performance, short battery life and a dim, low-res display. Plus, the battery life is short.
If you're in the market for a 10-inch Android tablet, the $298 Acer Iconia Tab A200 is a much better deal. It offers a brighter, crisper display with longer battery life and outstanding performance. If you can live with a smaller screen, the 7-inch Kindle Fire offers a more robust selection of apps along with more speed. The eGlide XL Pro seems like a steal, but it isn't worth the money.