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We just couldn't resist trying out the Coby Kyros. It wasn't the $250 list price ($150 street) or Android 2.2 operating system that lured us in; it was the screen. We've seen plenty of 7-inch and 10-inch tablets pass through CNET, but never an 8-inch. We figured maybe Coby was onto something.
Design and features
Unfortunately, the first thing you'll notice about the Coby Kyros is that the screen is unforgivably bad. When it comes to budget tablets there's a lot we can forgive (minimal storage, plastic construction, poor battery life), but when you cheap out on a tablet's screen, we have to draw the line. The Kyros' resistive screen requires a forceful touch (a plastic stylus is included) and is covered in a sheet of plastic that is easy to scratch. What's worse is that the LCD panel and the resistive plastic covering are spaced so far apart that the screen appears as though it is underwater. As a result, viewing angles are mediocre, e-book text is washed out, and outdoor viewing is nearly impossible.
If you can look past the Kyros' screen (and you shouldn't, since it's the foundation of the entire tablet) you'll notice a 2.1-megapixel camera above the display and a home button below it that is flanked by buttons for search, back, menu, and browser. Yes, Android fans, Coby threw a dedicated browser button in among the conventional Android navigation. Having it there is convenient, in theory, but in practice we wound up triggering it by accident more often than using it deliberately.
On the right side you'll find a power button and volume rocker--fairly standard stuff. The back offers a pair of stereo speakers. The bottom edge, though, is where all the action is. Here's where you'll find the microSD memory card slot (which accepts up to 32GB of extra storage) and the always-reassuring "reset" hole. The bottom also holds the power adapter input and headphone jack (which we confused for each other more than a few times), a Mini-USB sync port, and a Mini-HDMI output that supports up to 1080p video output. How it is you plan on acquiring 1080p movie content and loading it onto a tablet with only 4GB of storage (2.9GB usable) is entirely up to you to figure out.
Included with the Kyros is a USB sync cable, a USB host adapter cable (which works with thumbdrives, but not external keyboards), a pair of earbuds, a plastic stylus, and a wall-wart-design power adapter for recharging. Be sure to keep that charger handy, since the Kyros is rated at 6 hours of Web browsing at the default brightness (which, as you might guess, is fairly dim).
The Coby Kyros runs Android 2.2, aka Froyo, but it's not the Google-sanctioned version of Android you've seen on products like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Dell Streak 7. Instead, you're getting the open-sourced Android experience that is common to most of the low-end tablets and e-book readers, such as the Archos 7 Home Tablet, Velocity Micro Cruz Reader, and Maylong M-150. As such, there's no Google Market, no Google Maps, no Navigation (not that there's GPS anyway), no Google Books, no Google Talk, no Gmail, no Google Calendar...you get the picture. It's not a device for Google fans.
What you do get are the standard Android Web browser and general e-mail and gallery applications, along with the same AppsLib app market found on Archos tablets. As app stores go, it's pretty thinly stocked. If you're going to use a device like this, we recommend taking the extra time to install the Amazon Appstore app, through which you can browse and install a wide selection of free and premium apps.
The good news is that the version of Android loaded onto the Kyros is not as heavily altered as we've seen it on similar budget tablets. Overall, the navigation, onscreen keyboard, settings, and other tried and true aspects of Android have all been kept intact. Unfortunately, the root problem of the inferior screen weighs down on the whole experience. For example, accurate typing really demands a stylus, which for many is an automatic deal-breaker. The screen's lack of multitouch support also means that pinch-to-zoom gestures are a no-go, which makes photo and Web browsing a chore.
Aside from its cool name, the Kyros doesn't have much to brag about. The screen is cruddy, the battery life is mediocre, the camera quality is subpar, and the Android experience is dated and lacks Google's core apps.
If the Kyros has one cool trick, it's the HDMI output. The execution isn't perfect, though. For example, when you connect the Kyros to a monitor or TV, you'll notice the home screen is mirrored on the external display at its native 800x600-pixel standard-definition resolution, running black bars down the left and right of the display. The HDMI's full 1080p output capability is only realized when playing back video content (and, in our case, making a few manual adjustments to the attached display). Does it work? Yes. Will you want to bring along that bulky power adapter to prevent the tablet from running out of steam halfway through your movie? Absolutely. The Kyros is rated at only 4.5 hours of video playback using default settings, and cranking out 1080p video over HDMI probably wasn't the best-case test condition.
Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)||Maximum brightness (in cd/m2)||Default brightness (in cd/m2)||Maximum black level (in cd/m2)||Default black level (in cd/m2)||Default contrast ratio||Contrast ratio (max brightness)|
We have no doubt that there will eventually be a great tablet priced between $150 and $200. The Coby Kyros, unfortunately, isn't there yet. With a screen this bad, it's not even in the ballpark. If you're looking for an all-in-one touch-screen device and you're on a budget, check out the Archos 70, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, or the Editors' Choice Award-winning Apple iPod Touch.
Update, October 10 at 12:53 p.m. PT: CNET Labs' battery life test results were updated.