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Orange Tahiti review: Orange Tahiti

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The Good Quite nippy; Portable form factor; slot for microSD card.

The Bad No Ice Cream Sandwich; Expensive overall; Unimpressive battery life; Lacklustre screen; lack of decent apps.

The Bottom Line The free-on-contract Orange Tahiti may look like a gift but you'll end up having paid over the odds at the end of 24 months. Your money would be better spent on a Wi-Fi-only tablet, especially if you already have a smart phone that can double as a 3G hotspot.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.5 Overall

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Following the popularity of its own line of smart phones -- such as the Orange San Francisco 2 and most recently the Orange Santa Clara -- Orange has been emboldened to launch its own tablet onto the market.

The Orange Tahiti is a small slate that will appeal to those who find bigger tablets such as the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 too large to wield comfortably. The 7-inch Tahiti looks like a gigantic smart phone. While it won't fit in a pocket, it will squeeze into all but the dinkiest of bags.

The Orange Tahiti will set you back £300 on a 30-day rolling plan or own it for free for £25 a month over two years.

Should I buy the Orange Tahiti?

If you're mad keen to get an Android tablet but aren't so fond of the idea of taking a £400-odd hit on your bank balance, Orange has cooked up a plan to tempt you with its own-brand Tahiti tablet, which is made by Huawei. Although it costs £300, you can get your hands on one for no up-front cost. Of course, there's a long-term catch because you'll be tied into a two-year contract at £25 per month. So the full toll is £600 -- a sizeable whack of cash indeed.

Orange Tahiti
Orange tempts you with an offer to get the Tahiti for free -- only to milk your wallet over the long term.

Orange is also offering the Tahiti bundled for no upfront cost with a smart phone on two-year contracts costing £41 per month -- with a choice of either the Orange San Francisco 2, the HTC Wildfire S or the Nokia C3 Touch and Type.

The total tariff in this instance works out at £984 -- which isn't terrible, considering you get two devices, but it's still not cheap. Worse, both devices have to share a 2GB monthly data limit. Since you're not going to be making GSM calls on your tablet, it isn't exactly generous, so don't expect to be able to stream hours of iPlayer over 3G every day.

You can, of course, use Wi-Fi to get your connectivity fix -- and Orange throws in 10GB-worth of Wi-Fi from BT Openzone hotspots to your monthly toll -- but if you're resorting to Wi-Fi, why tie yourself into a 3G contract in the first place? Buying a Wi-Fi-only slate is cheaper in the long run and you can always tether it to your smart phone (assuming your handset supports wireless hotspot functionality), so consider the options before signing on the line.

Size and weight

The Tahiti has a 7-inch screen -- joining the ranks of fellow small slates such as the BlackBerry PlayBook, Amazon Kindle Fire and HTC Flyer.

Orange Tahiti
The Tahiti is about as inspiring to look at as paint drying.

The look and feel of the Tahiti is very similar to 2011's HTC Flyer. Both have quite chunky metal cases that doubtless add to their weight. The Tahiti tips the scales at 390g, considerably less than the Flyer. It's also lighter than the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Kindle Fire but still feels weighty in the hand -- you'll certainly be aware when it's in your bag, even though it's only about the size of a slender paperback.

There's not much about the Tahiti's design to excite the eye. It looks like a metallic digital photo frame. The metal is quite slippery to the touch but there are two rubberised plastic triangles on the back -- one at each end -- to give you something to grip.

Build quality

The Tahiti feels sturdy, thanks to a relatively chunky form (10.5mm thick) and metal case. However, the screen has some flex to it when pressed -- if you push down hard enough, you get an oily-looking patch appearing on the surface of the screen, presumably as the glass comes into contact with the LCD. It's also possible to see a grid of dots across the display -- especially when viewing the tablet in sunlight -- which is a characteristic typical of cheaper screens.

The Tahiti's two physical buttons -- a power key and a volume rocker -- are made of the same metal as the case and are solid and responsive. The only flimsy-feeling part of the tablet is the plastic bumper that can be prised up with a fingernail to get to the SIM tray.

Ports wise, you get a micro-USB port, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a proprietary charger port. There's also a microSD card slot underneath the plastic bumper, next to the SIM slot, which lets you expand storage by up to 32GB (built-in storage is 8GB). There are two speakers on one of the sides, a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a front-facing camera for video calls.

Orange Tahiti
There's a wealth of ports and sockets -- including micro-USB, HDMI and a microSD card slot squirrelled away inside.

The rear camera protrudes slightly from the curved back of the tablet so it looks slightly vulnerable to getting knocked about. However, the plastic bumper it sits on has been raised up slightly around its edges to provide a very shallow protective lip.

Software

The tablet runs Android 3.2 -- aka Honeycomb -- a niche slice of Android, which Google tweaked specifically for tablets that previously had to make do with Gingerbread. You get five home screens to fill with your favourite apps and widgets, and if you long-press on the home screen, the tablet snaps into a split view that shows thumbnails of all five screens so you can easily navigate to the one you want.

Orange Tahiti
It may look like Android 4.0, but this is actually Honeycomb -- a tablet-specific flavour of Google's OS.

While Honeycomb is a big improvement over Gingerbread running on a tablet, which really was an awful experience as it was never designed to run on slates, it's not as fully featured as Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Android that runs across both phones and tablets and knits the OS back together again).

On the surface, Honeycomb looks much like ICS, with the same 3D flourishes on home screen transitions, and a Recent Apps menu that stacks up thumbnails of recently opened apps so you can close or switch between them. But there are differences -- such as tweaks to the settings menu, and the Face Unlock party trick you get with ICS that you don't on Honeycomb. You also won't be able to download Chrome for Android, which only works with ICS.

Apps are a weak point for Android tablets generally -- with relatively thin pickings when it comes to dedicated tablet apps that really make the most of larger screens. Apple likes to boast about the 200,000+ dedicated iPad apps that can be downloaded from its iTunes App Store. Android tablet users don't have anywhere near that number to choose from.

Orange Tahiti
Finding decent Android tablet apps is a quest worthy of Captain Ahab.

There are a fair few games that work well on this small slate format though -- including the ubiquitous Angry Birds, and the Pictionary-style social drawing game Draw Something. There's also a BBC iPlayer app for which you'll need to download Adobe Flash Player from Google's Play Store. You won't want to watch a full-length film on the Tahiti's 7-inch screen unless you don't have any other option, but it's fine for catching up on a TV show.

If you want to side-load media onto the tablet, you're better off using the microSD card route than getting to grips with Huawei's device management software -- which is fiddly and non-intuitive.

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