Here’s the Twitter version of this Review:
The Coby Kyros is a bargain at $160. While not in the same league, It’s one third the price of an iPad and is comparable to the Galaxy Tab.
Now, on to the full-length version:
The onslaught of the cheap Android tablets is upon us. The iPad is clearly a runaway success, and is the first device to show the value of the tablet form-factor that has been around for nearly a decade. It turns out that what was missing was a proper, finger-based UI, and the miniaturisation and battery improvements that seem to inevitably come over time.
If 2010 was the year of the iPad tablet, it looks as though 2011 will be the year of the me-too Android competition. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is commonly seen as the first real iPad competitor, with the RIM PlayBook and a yet unannounced WebOS-based tablet from HP also coming soon. These are the big players, the “real” competition to the iPad. The other side of the coming tablet market is made up of small players crowding the low-end. The Coby Kyros, along with products from Archos, Augen, and a slew of other fly-by-night companies are covering this well.
Me, I bought an iPad and returned it. At $550 plus tax, it came to $621 for the low-end model. While it seemed like a nifty device, at that price, I couldn’t justify it. To my way of thinking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is even worse. It has a smaller screen, an inferior OS, lower screen resolution, and costs more than the iPad. Here in Canada, it is $650 ($734 after tax) with no contract, $499 on a two-year $40/month contract. Plus tax. Ouch.
Enter the Coby Kyros MID7015. It was $160CDN plus tax, so $180 after tax. This makes it less than a third of the low-end iPad and 1/4 of the price of buying a Galaxy Tab outright. For that kind of money, I was willing to try it out. Here’s what you get:
- A decent pure Android 2.1 OS
- 800MHz ARM11 CPU
- 256MB of RAM
- 7″ 800×480 resistive screen
- A carrying case, stylus, charger, cable
The overall build-quality of the Kyros is great. True, it’s not as slick as either the Tab or the iPad, but it’s surprisingly close. It doesn’t feel like a cheap device. The screen is glass, the back is metal, it weighs about a pound. It’s about the same size as my Sony e-reader (PR 505) and is virtually identical to the Galaxy Tab. In fact, I would go as far to say that, aside from Coby’s plain logo at the top, it actually looks nicer than the Tab. It has just three buttons for the interface: A combined Home/Menu button at the side, a silver Back button on the front bottom, and a power button on the bottom side.
The underside also has a USB port for plugging in to your PC, a headphone jack, a MicroSD slot, and HDMI port, and a plug for power.
Rather than the Tab’s 7″ 1024×600 capacitive multi-touch display, the Kyros has a resistive 800×480 single-touch display. It’s not as nice, there’s no getting around that, but it is bright, surprisingly responsive, and still looks great. Like iOS, the Android OS scales the display, so the Tab’s higher pixel density, while visually pleasing, doesn’t offer any real functional improvement. If you look very close on the Kyros, it’s a bit pixelated, similar to how the iPhone 3GS looks compared to the iPhone 4.
Having extensively used both the iPad and Kyros, I would say that the pixel density appears similar, while the iPad has a 10″ IPS display, versus the Kyros’ smaller lower-quality display. It needs to be said again, though, that the Kyros display is surprisingly good. I have seen many bad LCDs, this isn’t one of them. It’s also the best resistive screen that I’ve ever used. I would say it is about as responsive as the Nokia N800 screen.
Driving the Kyros, is an 800 MHz ARM 11 CPU. I’m not sure what the graphics chip is, but it is clearly OpenGL-accelerated. At 800MHz, it’s much faster than the LG Eve (528MHz) that I use for testing. It’s fine. Not brilliant, but fine. The overall experience is not without lags, it’s certainly slower than the A4 powering the iPad. I haven’t used the Tab extensively. From what I’ve seen of it, it’s faster than the Kyros, but is still much slower than the iPad.
Given the price of the Kyros, it far exceeded my, admittedly low, performance expectations. Games run reasonably well. There are lags in the UI, but I haven’t seen an Android phone that doesn’t suffer from this. From my usage of the Kyros and a Nexus One, I would say that the performance is comparable. I blame the lag more on Android 2.1 than I do on the Kyros. For the price, you won’t do better.
The Kyros also only has 256MB of RAM. This means that running many programs slows the entire experience down quickly. If you plan to use one program at a time, this won’t be a problem. Still, there’s no doubt that the Kyros would have benefited from more RAM.
Like the iPad, the Kyros lacks a camera. It would never have occurred to me to take picture with a tablet, so I don’t see this as much of a drawback. A small front-facing camera would have been nice, I suppose.
The Kyros also lacks a GPS. Again, this is similar to the low-end iPad. I’m not a GPS fan, so I consider this a plus, especially given that something keeps turning the GPS back on on my LG Eve, thereby providing someone with more information than I intended, and killing battery life in the process. Down with Location Services, I say.
As should be expected on a device of this class, wireless is 802.11b and g only. One unfortunate piece of hardware missing with the Kyros is a Bluetooth adapter, so you can’t pair it with a keyboard. Needless to say, I didn’t write this with the tablet’s on-screen keyboard.
Bonus: A great case!
The included simple black case from Coby was an unexpected bonus. It’s remarkable to me that at $160, Coby can include a decent quality case and cleaning cloth. The case isn’t leather, but it works very well and looks fine. It is a perfect match to the device, though I may remove the latch.
This section will be fairly short. The Kyros runs stock Android 2.1. It ships with the very capable Aldiko eBook reader. This gives you ePub and PDF reading ability.
The Kyros doesn’t ship with the Android Market by default. Instead, it come with AppsLib. This is also used by Archos. As I understand it, this is due to licensing costs. I’ve read that with some tinkering, you can add the full gapps (Market, Gmail, Maps etc.) I haven’t done this yet. I may, I may not. It’s not a trivial thing to add, but it’s possible. In the meantime, AppsLib is OK. I think a lot of people received Android devices as gifts, though, as the AppsLib market has been up-and-down, apparently due to volume.
Android 2.1 isn’t the newest release, but it’s new enough. I have 2.2 running on my LG Eve, and I don’t see much of a difference. If you want something newer than 2.1, it looks like there are many people actively hacking the Coby Kyros. As mentioned, the Market can be made to work. Work is progressing nicely on a Cyanogenmod port, people are looking to add a Bluetooth stack, etc. Basically, the Kyros is the best of the cheap tablets at the moment. As such, there are many people working on it. The future looks bright for tinkerers. This was one of my reasons for purchasing this device. My LG Eve would be a terrible Android device if not for the active OpenEtna community. My guess is that the Kyros will have something similar in the coming months.
So, that’s the Coby Kyros. It isn’t without flaws but it’s remarkably good for the price. If you’re looking for a low-end Android tablet I don’t think you’ll do much better. If you’re a tinkerer, you’re in for a treat.
- Great price
- Solid build quality
- Pure Android OS 2.1
- Good size and weight
- Comes with a case, cloth
- Decent selection of programs installed
- Good performance
- OpenGL acceleration, so games are doable
- Resistive touch screen
- No Android Market by default
- Not Android 2.2 or 2.3
- No Bluetooth, so no keyboard
- 256MB of RAM
- No cameras
- Not as polished as an iPad or Samsung Galaxt Tab
- Fast enough, but still sluggish
- Sketchy support?