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Giving JooJoo a second chance

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell offers his critique and hopes for the Fusion Garage JooJoo tablet.

Photo of JooJoo logo next to reset tool.
Not even the fancy reset stick could revive my JooJoo tablet. Let's hope an upcoming software refresh will iron out the kinks. Donald Bell

Last week, the folks at Fusion Garage sent me a JooJoo. The device, formerly known in tech circles as the Crunchpad, is a touch-screen tablet with an HD-capable, 12.1-inch screen and a home-brewed Web browser compatible with Adobe Flash. An ambitious product from a start-up company, the JooJoo is the David to Apple's iPad Goliath.

Unfortunately, after only a few days out of the box, my JooJoo died. A trouble-shooting call with Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan Wednesday confirmed that my JooJoo was beyond a phone-assisted fix and a replacement would be shipped out. Given a choice between an immediate replacement or a two-week wait for a unit running updated software, I opted for the latter.

Selfishly, as a reviewer, I take no pleasure in reviewing products twice. If a device isn't ready for prime time, I'm not going to revise my entire review every time a firmware update comes out.

For the JooJoo's sake, let's hope the upcoming software update is truly substantial. In the 24 hours I had with the JooJoo before it went belly-up, the experience left plenty to be desired. Let's just say that Engadget's assessment had me nodding sympathetically. Managing and closing Web pages is a glitchy experience, the unique two-finger scrolling often had me selecting page links accidentally, and the product's flagship feature--Flash support--offered spotty performance.

Fortunately, it seems reasonable to expect that these issues can be ironed out with a software update. Some of my other criticisms of the JooJoo, however, are tied to the hardware. Foremost among them is the fact that the device is just plain heavy at 2.4 pounds, compared with the 1.5 pounds of the Apple iPad. Even while sitting down it's exhausting to hold for an extended period of time.

Placing the JooJoo on a table or flat on your lap illuminates another hardware criticism: poor viewing angles. Compared with the IPS screen technology used on the iPad, the JooJoo's screen is only practical to view straight-on. It's a shame--especially with its movie-friendly wide-screen aspect ratio--that the JooJoo is too heavy to prop up for a feature-length film and the viewing angles are too poor for two people to enjoy simultaneously without having to sit in each others' laps (not that we frown on that sort of thing).

Hardware complaints aside, as CNET's token optimist I'm still hopeful that Fusion Garage can steer the JooJoo out of the ditch. That said, to truly compete against the similarly priced iPad, Fusion Garage is going to need to do more than fix a few bugs. For any potential JooJoo buyers out there, I'd recommend checking back in a few weeks before making an investment.