The Ematic Genesis Prime is the very definition of a "budget tablet." This $79 slate, which runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has full access to the Google Play store, may seem compelling next to the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 or the Google Nexus 7, but unfortunately you get what you pay for in the form of a low-res screen, poor battery life and mediocre performance.
Click to EnlargeThe Ematic Genesis Prime sticks to the classic tablet design, a basic rectangle with rounded corners and edges. The 7-inch display is framed by a small rim of matte plastic while the entire back of the device is shiny plastic that became quickly marked by fingerprints as soon as picked it up.
The tablet is light, only 9.6 ounces, but we actually felt that a little more weight might make this device feel more solid and sturdy. Measuring 7.4 x 4.8 x 0.4 inches, the Ematic Genesis Prime is smaller and significantly lighter than the 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inch, 13.9-ounce Kindle Fire HD 7. The Coby Kyros is taller and narrower, measuring 7.5 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches and weighing more at 10.2 ounces.
The tablet has a fairly minimal number of ports and buttons, with a power button on the left side of the top rim, a microSD slot to the left and a headphone jack beside that. The left rim of the device has the microUSB port and the speaker is located on the back in the bottom right corner. Surprisingly missing are physical volume controls; instead, the device instead uses buttons coded into the user interface to make sound louder or softer.
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The Ematic Genesis Prime's 7-inch display has a resolution of just 800 x 480, matching the resolution of the Coby Kyros, which also has a 7-inch display. The difference in quality between the Genesis Prime and the 1280 x 800 Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD 7 could not be more stark as even the shortcuts on the Ematic tablet's home screen appeared blurry and dull.
The Genesis Prime's screen was also quite dark, measuring just 166 lux, just below the 174 lux of the Coby Kyros. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a beacon compared to these two tablets, measuring a bright 436 lux. The category average for all tablets is 376 lux.
These limited specs were particularly apparent when we watched the trailer for "The Avengers," with all the windows on the buildings in New York seeming to blend together. Colors looked muted and everything seemed to have a slight blue tint. Viewing angles were also terrible, with the image fading to black even when we tilted the device slightly in any direction. Although it was a close call, we found the Genesis Prime's display to be worse than the Coby Kyros.
When using the device in bright light, we could easily see the lines of the display's digitizer, which run vertically when the device is held in landscape mode. Individual pixels were so apparent that we thought we were looking at a Seurat painting instead of an Android UI.
The rear-facing speaker on the Ematic Genesis Prime played crisp and clear sound, but the volume just wasn't quite loud enough. At its highest setting, the volume was still fairly weak and didn't quite fill our testing room.
During our testing, we played Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" and the beat was clear, despite the low volume. We had to be careful not to cover the back-mounted speaker as we held the device, because it was too easy to muffle by accident.
Keyboard and Interface
Click to EnlargeThe Genesis Prime boasts Android 4.1 Jelly Bean but don't expect the same slick interface that graces the Google Nexus 7. Notifications are accessed by tapping the clock in the menu bar rather than appearing as a drop-down drawer, like on the Nexus 7. Additionally, there's no shortcuts bar at the bottom of the screen, which means users can't pin their favorite apps to the bottom of any home screen.
Besides these few differences, the Genesis Prime runs a stock version of Android, which is fairly bare-bones. There are five home screens that can be filled with apps and widgets, but unused screens cannot be removed. There's a Google search button, along with a Google voice search button, always available in the upper left corner of the home screen.
Google Now is also available on this device, although it's a bit tricky to open. Holding the on-screen home button reveals a circle in the bottom middle of the screen, which must be dragged upward to launch Google Now. This makes Google Now a two-step process rather than the simple press, hold and drag of other Android Jelly Bean devices, like the Nexus 7.
The Ematic Genesis Prime includes the stock Android keyboard, which features large keys with plenty of space between letters. There's no dedicated number row, users must instead tap a Numbers and Symbols button to get a numeric keyboard. There's also a voice input button, which works even without Internet connectivity, and an emoticon button for quick smileys. It was fairly easy to use the on-screen keyboard, although performance lag meant that characters usually displayed shortly after we actually tapped the button.
Click to EnlargeWhile we appreciate Google Chrome as the default Web browser, we were less than impressed with our Internet browsing experience, because pages loaded so slowly. Laptopmag.com took 21 seconds to fully load while ESPN.com made us wait 18 seconds and NYTimes.com took a painfully slow 33 seconds.
The browsing experience was also hindered because it wasn't always apparent whether a tap was registered or not. We found ourselves clicking links multiple times because nothing appeared to happen the first time we tapped. This was frustrating when we tapped the close button on a popup ad but accidentally tapped the link itself. We then had to wait for the new page to load in order to go back to the website we originally wanted.
The Genesis Prime has full access to the Google Play store, giving this tablet access to more than 850,000 apps. This is a big perk compared to the Coby Kyros, which has a limited app store called SlideMe, with only 200,000 apps. Unfortunately, not all of the apps in the Google Play store will run smoothly, given the Prime's limited processing power.
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Click to EnlargeThe Ematic Genesis Prime sports a 1.1-GHz ARMv7 with 512MB of RAM, which didn't quite support a smooth browsing experience. In real-world testing, this tablet was sluggish all around. We often weren't sure if a tap had been registered because there was noticeable lag in response times. It took 13 seconds for the YouTube app to load after we tapped the icon. Settings loaded faster, in just 2 seconds, and Kingsoft Office took 5 seconds to load.
We were able to play the water racing game "Riptide GP" with no problems; our character responded well to our tilts as we navigated the course, scoring first place. However, when we tried "Blood & Glory: Legend," the application kept crashing as soon as the gameplay started.
We also had numerous problems with display orientation switching. We often found ourselves switching the tablet from landscape to portrait mode and then shaking the device in order to get the screen to switch. Even then, it didn't always work. A couple of co-workers could never get this device to switch between orientation modes.
Our benchmark testing also showed the machine's limited performance. The Genesis Prime had a spectacularly low showing on the Geekbench test, notching 179 against a category average of 2,511. The Google Nexus 7 scored much higher with a 1,405.
Click to EnlargeThe Quadrant test had similar results, although not quite as extreme. The Genesis Prime scored 1,346 against a category average of 3,240. This score was easily beaten by both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 (2,167) and the Google Nexus 7 (3,357).
An3DBench also proved challenging for the Genesis Prime, which scored a 5,903, well shy of the Coby Kyros' 7,109. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 managed a 7,783 and the category average is 7,375.
While Ematic claims that the Genesis Prime includes 4GB of flash memory, only a small portion of that space is available for use. Storage space is split between two sources: internal storage and internal SD card, with the former offering a total of 504MB of free space and the latter 1.29GB of storage space, which is about 1.8GB total. Fortunately, this can be expanded using an external microSD card that's up to 32GB.
A front-facing VGA webcam on the Ematic Genesis Prime allows for video chatting and self portraits. The camera is located on the right, rather than in the center of the top of the device, so we found it more comfortable to take pictures when holding the device in portrait mode rather than landscape. Colors were bright and vivid, but the low camera resolution lost many of the finer details of the picture, such as any text and images on the computer in the background and individual items on the desk behind us.
The built-in camera application has a ton of features, thanks to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but many of the features don't necessarily make sense with a front-facing camera. Panorama mode is front and center, but we found it difficult to take a panoramic picture when we couldn't see the display. There are also a bunch of different color and balance adjustments, which help capture a better image, although final results are truly stunted by the VGA camera resolution.
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The Ematic Genesis Prime had a dismal showing on the Laptopmag.com battery test, lasting just 3 hours and 16 minutes of continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. This is less than half the time of the Coby Kyros (6:41) and well below the tablet category average of 7:05. However, you'll probably throw the Genesis Prime down in disgust long before its battery runs out. Both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD lasted around 7.5 hours.
Click to EnlargeIt may be tempting to settle for a $79 tablet like the Ematic Genesis Prime, especially when the device runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. But the overall experience left us feeling so frustrated with the slow performance and blurry screen that we couldn't concentrate on the content or apps we wanted to use. We strongly recommend investing the extra money and opting for the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 or Google Nexus 7. If those tablets are still a little too pricey for you, try the $150 Asus MeMO Pad, which provides better, though still limited, performance.