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Andy Pad review: Andy Pad

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The Good Cheap; robust design; microSD card slot for storage expansion; HDMI port.

The Bad Resistive touchscreen; doesn't run the tablet-optimised version of Android; terrible camera.

The Bottom Line The Andy Pad suffers from some pretty serious faults, but it's currently the best option if you're seeking a low-cost Android tablet. If you're new to the tablet world or seeking a child-friendly slate, it's worth considering.

6.5 Overall

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The Andy Pad is a 7-inch tablet that runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. With 8GB of internal storage and a resistive touchscreen, it'll set you back £130 from the Andy Pad website.

Should I buy the Andy Pad?

If you've been jealously eyeing up the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 but can't afford either, we imagine the cheap and cheerful Andy Pad will be quite a tempting prospect.

The bold claim made by the manufacturer is that this device offers the iPad experience at a fraction of the cost. But the old adage 'you get what you pay for' holds true here. The Andy Pad is all about compromise, so don't expect the same level of satisfaction that you'd get from an Apple slate.

The resistive screen means multi-touch gestures are off the table, and the terrible 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera seems like a throwback to the early days of mobile-phone photography. The quality of the LCD screen is also questionable, with dull colours and poor viewing angles.

While the Andy Pad can't hope to challenge its high-cost rivals, it could, however, open up the tablet market to more consumers, in the same way that budget Android handsets like the Orange San Francisco have brought the power of smart phones to the masses.

The Andy Pad won't garner any envious glances from your iPad-owning mates, but then it's unfair to expect it to -- after all, it's almost a quarter of the price. Still, for younger, less demanding users, this budget tablet could be a solid, if unspectacular, purchase.

Interface

With Android 2.3 Gingerbread installed, the Andy Pad functions more like a phone than a tablet. This is because Gingerbread isn't technically built for this kind of large-screen device. Google has pushed out Android 3.0 Honeycomb as its official tablet operating system.

Andy Pad Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Honeycomb lovers beware. The Andy Pad runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, rather than Android 3.0.

While it might seem odd to ship a device like this with a non-tablet OS, the Andy Pad isn't the first of its breed to spurn the Honeycomb route. It's worth noting too that Gingerbread still does a fairly decent job of providing a tablet experience, even if it is slightly rough around the edges. For example, the menu system consistently refers to the Andy Pad as 'your phone' rather than 'your tablet'.

Andy Pad menu
Revised menu icons give the Andy Pad a child-like appeal, and the pre-installed file manager makes organising your content easier.

Given that the Andy Pad is being produced by a small UK-based team, it should come as no surprise to learn that the version of Android running on it is relatively untouched. There are a few unique menu icons here and there, but the Android experience is largely unchanged.

Andy Pad Android Market
The revised Android Market looks great when viewed in landscape mode on the Andy Pad's 7-inch screen.

Android veterans will be instantly at home with the Andy Pad. You get five home screens to populate with app shortcuts and widgets, and there's the usual app drawer and pull-down notification bar. The most noticeable change is the expanded dock at the bottom of the screen, which features shortcuts to settings, music, apps, wireless settings and the Internet browser.

Screen

The Andy Pad features a resistive touchscreen as opposed to a capacitive one. Resistive screens operate by using the pressure of your finger (or a stylus) to register input, and are generally considered to be yesterday's news as far as touchscreens are concerned.

Andy Pad versus Andy Pad Pro
When placed alongside the Andy Pad Pro (left), the screen of the standard Andy Pad looks even worse. 

Capacitive screens, like those on the iPad, iPhone and most flagship Android handsets, only require skin contact, and, consequently, they're much more precise. They also allow you to touch the screen in several different areas -- something that's essential for multi-touch commands, such as zooming in and out with a pinch gesture. Resistive screens like that on the Andy Pad are only capable of detecting one point of touch, so you won't be having any pinch-to-zoom shenanigans with this tablet.

Andy Pad screen
The Andy Pad's screen is one of its weakest elements. It's not bright enough, and colours look washed-out and drab.

Although the lack of a capacitive display is disheartening, we found the touchscreen on the Andy Pad to be generally accurate overall. You normally need only apply a very slight amount of pressure to register a touch, so swiping through menus isn't an issue, although occasionally it'll ignore your prodding, as you can see in our video review. If you introduce a stylus, the Andy Pad becomes much more pleasurable to use.

The image generated by the Andy Pad's 800x480-pixel LCD screen is disappointing, however. Colours looked washed-out and, even at full brightness, the display seems dim. Viewing angles are also poor -- tilting the tablet even a small amount turns the screen into a dark, ill-defined mess.

Design

While it's tempting to compare the Andy Pad with the market-leading Apple iPad 2, it's an unfair match-up. The Andy Pad has clearly been constructed on a tight budget, and the case design shows it. It's entirely plastic, with not a trace of brushed metal to be found anywhere.

Andy Pad rear
The rear of the device is made of glossy plastic, with a vent for the speaker.

Despite the modest elements used in its construction, the Andy Pad doesn't feel cheap and nasty. At 356g, it has enough weight to feel substantial, but it isn't so hefty that you'd have to think twice before taking it on a long trip.

Andy Pad reset button
Curiously, the Andy Pad has a reset button -- this basically reboots the tablet on the rare occasions when it crashes.

Thankfully, there's none of the creakiness one might expect from such a low-price product. The Andy Pad's casing is essentially two pieces of plastic fused together, and there are no unsightly gaps where the pieces join. Unfortunately, that means that the 3,600mAh battery can't be replaced, but that's hardly unique in the realm of tablets.

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