In the wake of Apple's breakthrough iPad tablet, dozens of obscure manufacturers have rushed to deliver low-budget alternatives running Google's Android operating system. In this race to the bottom, the Maylong M-150 (aka the Walgreens tablet) made headlines with a price tag that's less than $150 and a seemingly iPad-like design.
It's probably no surprise that the M-150 is a disappointing product; performance is sluggish, the user interface is screwy, and the screen is as ugly as it is infuriating. Still, as a case study in how to cripple a perfectly good operating system with clunky, substandard hardware, the Maylong M-150 deserves a formal CNET review.
The Maylong M-150 may look like the illegitimate offspring of an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tab, but this unfortunate device is a bait and switch in every possible way.
Just like the iPad, the front of the M-150 features just one button. Maybe we were naive to assume that Maylong's design homage to the iPad would trickle down to the practical function of each button, but that's not the case here. Forging its own path, the Maylong M-150 confounds users with button controls that use neither Android's nor Apple's prescribed logic. A button on the right edge works as a menu button, and the button on the front acts as the back key, leaving the home button to a small touch-screen icon in the upper-left corner of the screen.
Speaking of the screen, the clunky resistive display on the front of the M-150 is covered with a warped plastic that feels and behaves more like a gas station credit card terminal than a futuristic slate computer. If you want to get any typing done, you're best off using the included stylus. To us, though, having to use a stylus on an Android device is an automatic deal breaker.
All the icons and many of the apps for the M-150's Android 1.6 OS have been given a pointless makeover, making the whole graphical interface look like an oversize budget cell phone from the '90s. It's tragic, really, since the only thing the M-150 really has going for it is the graphic polish and interface familiarity Google brings to the table with Android.
Also on the bottom you'll find some speakers, a headphone jack, and a power adapter socket that works with the included wall wart. And don't lose it; you'll be recharging every few hours, even with just some light Web browsing.
For the asking price, we can't fault Maylong for not including many extras on the M-150. There's no Bluetooth, no support for cellular data, and Wi-Fi is limited to 802.11 b/g. Admittedly, we're a little confused by the extras it does provide, such as adapters for Ethernet connections and two USB host ports for external keyboards or USB thumbdrive content.
What kills us, though, are all the features that should work, but don't. For example, there's the dock connection that does everything except allow you to sync the M-150 to your computer. Not that it would matter much, since Maylong only blesses the tablet with 256MB of storage, assuming you'll provide the rest via microSD. When we tried loading a microSD card, it became lodged in the slot and required a razor blade to jimmy it back out (subsequent attempts eventually engaged the slot's spring mechanism).