With everyone from Samsung to Augen joining the tablet gold rush, the market's being hit by an avalanche of Android-powered slates. CherryPal's 7-inch CherryPad America C515 targets value-conscious consumers with its $188 asking price and (theoretical) Android Marketplace support, but does this low-priced device cut too many corners?
At 8 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches and 1.2 pounds, the CherryPad is considerably larger and heavier than the Archos 7 Home Tablet (8 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches, 13 ounces), Samsung Galaxy Tab (7.5 x 4.7 x 0.5 inches, 13.6 ounces), and the Augen GenTouch78 (7 x 4.5 x 0.6 inches, 12.4 ounces). However, it still fit easily in our bag and felt light enough in our hands.
The metallic back and sides give the device a more sturdy feel than competitors such as the GenTouch78 and reminded us of an iPad. The CherryPal logo emblazoned on the back looks particularly sharp. However, the classy looks don't continue on the front. The CherryPad's thick black bezel dwarfs the screen, and the large air gap between the display and the digitizer screams "budget." The all-matte, black look of the Archos 7 is much more stylish.
Worse still, the screen isn't very durable. CherryPal was kind enough to send us a replacement after our first review unit's screen cracked while being transported in a laptop bag. We would suggest investing in a 7-inch case.
Unlike the horribly cheap Augen GenTouch78, which has weird back-facing buttons, or the Archos 7, which has on-screen buttons only, the CherryPad has physical home, settings, and back buttons on the front of the chassis where you'd expect them. However, unlike most recent Android devices, it lacks a dedicated search button.
In addition to the front-facing buttons, you'll find the power button and volume/up down rocker on the tablet's right side. Forget about video conferencing or taking pictures, because the CherryPad does not have a camera on either side.
The CherryPad has a spring-loaded microSD card slot on its bottom side, but it doesn't come with a card. You'll have to bring your own if you want to supplement the tablet's 2GB of internal storage. Instead of a micro USB port, the CherryPad employs a proprietary docking station port and bundles two wires, a docking port to USB cable and a docking port to wall charger cable. Unfortunately, if you lose either of these cables, you may have difficulty getting a replacement.
Display and Sound
The 7-inch, 800 x 480 screen provided sharp images, but with muted colors. Even at 100 percent brightness, pictures seemed extremely dull, though things looked a bit more colorful when we were sitting in a dark area.
Video playback was smooth and noise-free, both when we played a standard AVI file off our memory card and when we played a 720p trailer of Skyline from YouTube. Despite the dull colors, viewing angles were decent enough for a second person to peer at the screen a 45-degree angle.
The single mono speaker is one of the worst we've ever heard on any mobile device. Both when playing videos and when listening to an MP3 of The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now," the sound was tinny to the point of vibrating. We would shy away from the max volume setting.
One way in which CherryPal manages to achieve its $188 price tag for the CherryPad is by using a resistive, rather than a capacitive touchscreen. While capacitive technology requires only a light touch because it uses the electrostatic energy in your fingers to register a tap, resistive technology requires you to push the screen down with a moderate amount of force.
Unfortunately, on the CherryPad the amount of force required is enough to be annoying. While not as difficult to use as the Augen GenTouch78, the CherryPad's touchscreen required a fair amount oomph to register our input.
Using the Android virtual keyboard we were able to type with a fair amount of accuracy, but only when we were extremely deliberate about our taps. Even then, we found ourselves making a fair amount of typos where we tried to tap one key and got the letter from an adjacent one instead. We also had several instances where we tapped on-screen buttons, only to find that our touch hadn't registered and we had to tap again.
OS and Software
The CherryPad comes pre-loaded with Android 2.1 and a standard set of Google apps, including Gmail, the Android E-mail client, Google Maps, Google Talk, and YouTube. There's also a rudimentary photo gallery program called 2DGallery, an app sideloading program called App installer, and a basic voice recorder.
Unlike other Android tablets such as the Augen GenTouch78 and Archos 7, the CherryPad has the official Android Market installed so you can download any of its more than 200,000 apps. Well, at least that's the goal. While we were able to download a few apps after starting up the CherryPad for the first time, after a few minutes, we lost that ability. Each time we picked an app, the Market would say it was starting to download, but the progress bar wouldn't advance.
After checking the CherryPal support forums and seeing dozens of similar complaints from users, we performed a factory reset on our CherryPad and started from scratch. After the reset, we were able to download apps again, but only for a few minutes before the problem started again. CherryPal told us they are working on a solution to this problem and should issue a patch within two weeks.
E-mail and Messaging
Like most Android devices, the CherryPad has two different e-mail programs. Its Gmail application allows you to send, receive, and manage messages from multiple Gmail and Google Apps mail accounts. Its other app, simply labeled "Email," allows you to send and receive messages from any number of POP, IMAP, or Exchange accounts. In addition to the mail programs, there's also a Google Talk client preloaded.
The CherryPad comes with the stock Andrioid 2.1 web browser installed, though users are free to download alternate browsers such as Dolphin HD, Opera, or SkyFire from the Market. Because the tablet only uses Android 2.1, it does not support Adobe Flash, though CherryPal says it is working on an update to Android 2.2.
In our tests, the stock browser downloaded pages quickly and rendered them accurately. Using our office Wi-Fi connection, Laptopmag.com loaded in an average of 7.7 seconds. NYTimes.com loaded in 9.5 seconds and Cnn.com rendered in 13.4 seconds.
In anecdotal use, the CherryPad seemed really sluggish. Whether we were launching apps, scrolling through settings menus, or trying to play videos, everything was slow to start. Periodic hesitations of a second or more were commonplace as we navigated around the OS and software. Worse still, we experienced several strange incidents when we tried gaming or playing YouTube videos.
When using the YouTube application, several times we accidentally tapped on the wrong video (due to the inaccurate touchscreen) and rather than waiting for the video to start playing, we hit the back button as a clip was loading. When we hit the back button the screen turned black with just the status bar showing and we had to hit back and home again several times before the CherryPad would let us go back to the home screen. We also found that, when we paused a video or a video paused itself because of buffering, we were often unable to restart its playback and the entire screen would freeze for a few seconds and stop responding to our taps.
When playing Angry Birds, we encountered serious graphics issues. Several dialog boxes and other graphical elements displayed as blank white boxes. However, if we didn't need to read the instructions in the boxes, we were able to play the game.
Despite its poky real-world performance, the CherryPad's 800-MHz Telechips ARM11 CPU and 256MB of RAM provided decent performance numbers on synthetic benchmarks. On Linpack, the tablet scored 4.3, a tad better than the 3.7 turned in by the Augen GenTouch78 and even a tad faster than the Dell Streak (3.9). However, phones such as the Motorola Droid X (8.2) and T-Mobile G2 (28.7) fared a lot better.
On math benchmark Nbench, the CherryPad scored 1 and 1.8 on its memory and integer tests. Those numbers were about on par with the GenTouch78's (1 and 1.2), but way behind Android phones like the Droid X (2.9 and 4). On the graphics-centric FPS2D benchmark, the CherryPad averaged 59fps, which was actually above the 48 fps average for phones, but a little below the 65 fps provided by the GenTouch78.
Cold booting from a power off state took a sluggish 58 seconds. As with all Android devices, waking from sleep was nearly instantaneous.
In our first attempt, the LAPTOP Battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 40 percent brightness, crashed after running for 1 hour and 51 minutes. At that point, the system's battery was at 70 percent of capacity. If we extrapolate those results, we estimate that the battery would last between 6 and 7 hours. We will rerun the test and update this review with the final results.
CherryPal backs the CherryPad with a one year warranty on parts and labor. The company provides limited phone and online support.
The CherryPad's $188 price may seem low, but even that amount of money isn't pocket change that you can just throw away on a product that you won't enjoy using. Even assuming CherryPal can get the Android Market working again on this device, the sluggish performance and frustrating touchscreen would make this tablet a poor value at any price. If you're looking for a low-cost tablet, you may want to consider the Nook Color eReader (which isn't a tablet but can surf the Web for $249), go for an iPod touch, or shop around for an affordable Android slate with a more responsive capacitive screen. Ultimately, you're better off saving up for a Galaxy Tab or an iPad.