We love new and innovative technology. Well, we're supposed to love it at least. Truth is, there's a caveat. We only love new and innovative when it's executed well.
The Fusion Garage Grid10 tablet has a unique OS interface, but...OK, we won't bury the lead, here. It's not well-executed. Keep reading to find out why.
With a width of 10.8 inches when held in landscape view, the Grid10's chassis stretches slightly farther than even the Toshiba Thrive tablet's 10.75 inches; however, the Grid10 is only a bit heavier than the iPad 2, so it feels pretty light when carried around, but definitely awkward when held in both hands.
|Fusion Garage Grid10||Archos 101 G9||Toshiba Thrive||Acer Iconia Tab A500|
|Weight in pounds||1.48||1.44||1.66||1.38|
|Width in inches (landscape)||10.8||10.9||10.75||9.6|
|Height in inches||6.9||6.5||7||5.8|
|Depth in inches||0.49||0.5||0.62||0.49|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||1||1.2||1||0.9|
Part of the reason for the awkwardness is the Grid10's length, but its angular, pointy corners don't really help matters in the comfort area either and we have the bruises on our palms to prove it. OK, there were no bruises, but those corners really do start to dig into the palms.
The glossy black front bezel is unfortunately easily mussed up with fingerprints, as is the Grid10's glossy screen. Fortunately, the dark-gray textured back has a smooth, matte finish, saving it from more fingerprint untidiness.
The left side of the tablet hosts a headphone jack, a 40-pin connector (for power and connecting to a PC), a microSD card slot, and holes for speakers. On the opposite edge are more speaker holes, a Micro-SIM slot (unusable in our Wi-Fi version), and a power button with a white LED light on it.
Navigation is accomplished with a combination of tapping and gesture controls, with no home or back buttons (virtual or otherwise) available at all. Commands like home and back are handled with two-finger controls. The gestures start at the bezel and swipe in over the screen. Once you've gotten used to this it's pretty effective, although sometimes the interface requires a certain amount of deliberateness to the motion before commands will go through. This is fine with the tablet laid on a table, but otherwise, we found using two fingers to navigate made for a cramp-inducing experience as we attempted to hold the tablet with one hand and swipe with two fingers of the other. Navigating with one-finger gestures would have been easier, as the thumb comes in handy at times like this. Not so easily accomplished with two fingers. At the end of the day, while swiping can work depending on how it's implemented, we'd still rather have a quicker way to go back or get to the home page.
That brings us to Fusion Garage's Grid Launcher interface. The interface groups several categories of applications into different clusters. Instead of having to scroll through pages and pages of apps as you do in a conventional tablet interface, you instead pan around one screen to locate whichever cluster of apps you need. Adding new apps to clusters will expand that cluster's real estate, pushing other apps farther away.
You can collapse clusters, making them (obviously) smaller and a lot easier to find, but when clusters are expanded, finding the app you need becomes an inefficient and baffling experience as you pan over the virtual space of which you can only see a small fraction at a time. Luckily, there's a mini map in the upper right corner that helps you locate clusters, but if an interface needs a map to find things, then it's probably more complex than it needs to be. We recommend keeping clusters collapsed until you need to open them.
The interface does make for some unique ways of doing things (the cropping mechanic for pictures is one of the few well-implemented features), but overall it seems to be trying to fix a problem that isn't there. There is potential here for a new type of tablet interface that works well, but this one isn't there yet.