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.
The Fusion Garage Grid10 is available with 16GB of flash storage and takes advantage of a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and 512MB of RAM. It also has 802.11n Wi-Fi, support for Bluetooth 2.1, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, GPS, and memory expansion via MicroSD.
The Grid10's single, front-facing camera is disappointing, not only because it's the tablet's only camera, but more importantly because it's only a 1.2-megapixel camera and that is demonstrated in the low quality of its pictures.
The sound from the dual speakers can be scratchy when playing music, although the volume can get fairly loud. Good, I guess, if you're into scratchy sound.
Heartbeat is the Grid10's notifications center for recent activity, downloads, and calendar events, and a shortcut to recent apps. Swiping from the left bezel toward the right pulls up Heartbeat. However, when downloading apps the only indication that something is being downloaded is the pulsing light on the left side of the screen, and only by manually bringing up Heartbeat can you see what is being downloaded, how far in the process it is, and where you can access the file.
The Grid10's unique take on bypassing the lock screen adds an extra level of optional security. First off, unlocking the lock screen can be accomplished by making any character on the screen; however, the interface can be configured to only unlock based on a personal pattern or signature of your choosing, providing an extra level of security. If you have trouble remembering how to write your signature--or at least remembering the way the tablet remembers the way you write your signature--you can back it up with a password that will unlock the tablet if the signature fails three times.
Attempting to get movie files, or any files we didn't download, onto the tablet seemed unnecessarily convoluted. We couldn't simply connect the device to the USB port on our laptop and transfer the files that way. Unfortunately, it's necessary to transfer the files from the laptop to the microSD card and then to the tablet.
The Grid10's operating system, GridOS, shows signs of instability even after being updated with the latest firmware, and periodically the Grid Launcher would give us an error message instead of opening an app. Also, there's a noticeable delay when launching apps or accessing the settings. The camera app, for example, takes about twice as long to launch as the camera apps on the Toshiba Thrive 10 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The screen brightness, even at maximum, is fairly low compared with most tablets and the right-side viewing angle is incredibly narrow, with the screen darkening severely after only a couple inches' movement off from center.
Weirdly, although the Grid10's screen display rotates to be upright when the tablet is held in most orientations, it won't rotate to match if you hold it in the upside-down horizontal position.
Although on other tablets we're able to connect to our test Wi-Fi network and surf the Web with ease, the Grid10 was initially slow when connected to the same network from the same distance, and after leaving the tablet idle for a few hours, it was necessary to turn Wi-Fi off and then back on to get it to work again. Also, although we surfed and accessed e-mail smoothly and without incident on other tablets, we had trouble doing the same on the Grid10, even though it was clearly connected to the test network. We're not sure whether to attribute this to the Wi-Fi hardware or software, however.
Anecdotally, we used the Grid10 moderately for 4.5 hours and the battery had already dropped from full to under 20 percent, as it drained like nobody's business.
|Tested spec||Fusion Garage Grid10||Archos 101 G9||Toshiba Thrive||Apple iPad 2||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1|
|Maximum brightness||271 cd/m2||247 cd/m2||337 cd/m2||432 cd/m2||336 cd/m2|
|Default brightness||92 cd/m2||111 cd/m2||131 cd/m2||176 cd/m2||336 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||0.53 cd/m2||0.5 cd/m2||0.24 cd/m2||0.46 cd/m2||0.3 cd/m2|
|Default black level||0.19 cd/m2||0.23 cd/m2||0.1 cd/m2||0.19 cd/m2||0.3 cd/m2|
|Default contrast ratio||484:1||494:1||1,310:1||926:1||1,120:1|
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)||511:1||482:1||1,403:1||939:1||1,120:1|
Though innovative, Fusion Garage's Grid10 tablet ultimately is severely held back by the user interface of its GridOS. This complex, inefficient UI, with its ridiculously unnecessary two-finger swipe navigation, is clunky to use, performs sluggishly, and feels unfinished. There is potential here, but not enough warrant recommending this tablet.
Also, the Grid10 has terribly spotty Wi-Fi connection rates and an insultingly low-quality camera, and is really uncomfortable to hold. The fact that Fusion Garage is charging $300 for this tablet is offensive. There are much better ways to spend $300 on a tablet. If $300 is all you have, our advice is to wait until you have more and buy something from this list of the best five Android tablets.