Kalahari’s Gobii tablet reviewed

Naspers-owned e-retailer Kalahari.com is launching its own-branded 7-inch Android tablet next month. We review the Gobii tablet. By Nafisa Akabor.

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Kalahari.com, the e-retailer in the Naspers stable, is introducing a 7-inch Android tablet to complement its number-one selling product, the Gobii e-reader.

The Gobii 7″ WiFi Touch Tablet is a 7-inch colour LCD e-reader that plays music and movies. It’s a Wi-Fi-only tablet that doubles as an e-reader, plays movies and music, has a camera to take photos, lets you check e-mail and shop using the bundled Kalahari.com app.

The e-reader was launched to support Kalahari’s e-book offering, although the device is open and e-books can be bought from other sources as long as they’re in a supported format.

It appears Kalahari is trying to model its low-cost tablet offering on Amazon’s low-cost Kindle Fire HD. Both are 7-inch models and include content from partners. Could this mean that in the future, Kalahari will push more content from other Naspers-owned companies like MultiChoice? Your guess is as good as ours for now.

The Android 4.1.1-powered Gobii, which will be available sometime in February, is narrow, just about fitting in one hand. It has dimensions of 185,7mm x 113,5mm x 8,2mm. On the top, you will find a mini-USB port and volume keys and, at the bottom, a 3,5mm audio jack, microphone, HDMI-out port and charging point. The bottom left houses the power button and a micro-SD card slot above it. The tablet weighs 278g and feels slightly heavy for its size, but it’s sturdy.

The positioning of the buttons and ports is slightly awkward, though. We found ourselves pressing the wrong buttons.

The Gobii has a 7-inch IPS (in-plane switching) high-definition multi-touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1 280×800 pixels. The whole touch experience on the device is not smooth, though, and feels like there’s a slight delay when scrolling — possibly a function of the 1,3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Sometimes the tablet takes a few tries before it registers that you’ve pressed something, but it’s not unsurprising for a device in this price bracket.

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The tablet ships with 8GB of integrated flash storage, but this is expandable to 32GB using a card. The front- and rear-facing cameras are both two megapixels — and the images they produce are not great, with most of them appearing somewhat blurry. You are able to change white balance and select night mode, but that’s as far as options go. It doesn’t even have an autofocus feature. It does support video recording at a low resolution, but you’re better off giving it a skip.

There’s basic Wi-Fi, though its antenna doesn’t seem particularly good as latching onto a strong signal proved difficult. There’s no support for 3G.

On an empty battery, the device needs to be charged for about six hours before using it. When we plugged in our test unit, it took a remarkable two-and-a-half hours to register any charge at all. Unless there was something faulty with our review unit, the Gobii takes an unusually long time to charge.

Extra goodies
Kalahari plans to include some extras in the box to entice users to buy the Gobii tablet. The review unit included a R120 e-book voucher for use on the Kalahari website as well as two R100 vouchers, one for 5rooms.com and the other for style36.co.za.

The tablet comes preloaded with apps such as Dropbox, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, ES File Explorer and basic utilities.

What’s surprised us is that the Google Play store is missing from the device, while two other Google apps come pre-loaded: the standard Google search app, and a separate Voice search app. It’s not clear why the Play store is not included, but it appears that Kalahari has deliberately not preinstalled it. This cripples the functionality of the device and on this basis alone we cannot recommend it.

As an e-reader, the Gobii does what it needs to. Navigation is not dissimilar to a Kindle. However, the touch functions sometimes take a while to register, or require several taps before performing a function, which can get frustrating. The software supports a range of formats such as e-pub, PDF, Fb2, TXT, RTF, CHM, DOC and XLS formats. Once you load your own library onto the device, it will appear in the eReader application.

It also supports a range of audio formats including MP3, WMA, MP2, AAC, M4A and WAV and on the video side MP4, DIVX, XVID, MPEG, H.264 and FLV.

The Gobii is expected to retail for R1 399, including vouchers to the value of R320. It has a 12-month warranty. All in all, the quality of the Gobii is proportionate to its low price. You’ll get what you pay for. But without the Play store, it’s a deal breaker. Avoid.  — (c) 2014 NewsCentral Media

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