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T-Mobile SpringBoard review: T-Mobile SpringBoard

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MSRP: $429.99

The Good The T-Mobile SpringBoard has an initial low contract price, fast 4G speeds, SD card memory expansion, Mini-HDMI, good build quality, and many useful preinstalled apps.

The Bad Committing to a two-year plan still gives us the heebie-jeebies. Also, its no-contract price is $100 more than that of the other current Honeycomb 7-incher.

The Bottom Line The T-Mobile SpringBoard has the performance and features to rival most small tablets, but the price is a bit hard to swallow.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Springboard has been adjusted down from 7 to 6.5.

I'm against signing up for multiyear contracts for tablets. The way I see it, the market is still too young to be committed to a single device for so long. My advice is the same advice my uncle gave me in high school: it's best to shop around and not be tied down to any single device. Only he was referring to girls, if I remember correctly.

It's a smart move, but there's always going to be that really appealing, um, device that seems like a great deal and casts doubt on your belief that doing the smart thing is the same as the right thing. Is the T-Mobile Springboard that device? Keep reading to find out.

Design
The T-Mobile SpringBoard's front visage doesn't do it many favors with those, like me, who tend to make snap judgments based on looks alone. From the front, the tablet looks like a typical, cheap, rinky-dink 7-inch tablet you'd likely find at your local drug store. Luckily, first impressions aren't always the most lasting.

The SpringBoard's piano-black bezel contrasts with a light gray highlight along its edge. It's smaller than both the Blackberry PlayBook and Acer Iconia Tab A100. Like the HTC Flyer, the SpringBoard has an aluminum backside and actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the HTC Flyer's caboose, with large white overlays at the top and bottom ends of the tablet. Thanks to its metal backing, the tablet feels a bit slippery when held; we prefer the grippier hide of the Playbook. As 7-inch tablets go, the SpringBoard is one of the highest-quality ones. Although light, its weight is distributed in a way that makes it feel weighty and substantive.

T-Mobile SpringBoard Acer Iconia Tab A100 Blackberry Playbook HTC Flyer
Weight in pounds 0.88 0.88 0.96 0.94
Width in inches (landscape) 7.4 7.7 7.6 7.7
Height in inches 4.8 4.6 5.1 4.75
Depth in inches 0.4 0.5 0.4 0.6
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.75 0.8 0.8 0.8

The tablet includes a Micro-USB slot, Mini-HDMI slot, and a microphone pinhole on its right edge. On the opposite edge reside two speakers and a headphone jack. On the top is a volume rocker and power button.

On the back, the bottom white overlay can be easily removed to reveal both a SIM card slot and MicroSD card slot.

Hardware features
The T-Mobile SpringBoard includes 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS. The speakers are located on the left side and deliver fairly high volume, albeit with tinny sound that lacks bass.

The tablet includes a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot, and a SIM card slot supporting T-Mobile's 4G LTE network.

Software features
The T-Mobile SpringBoard ships with Android 3.2, but comes with a number of preinstalled apps, including Netflix, T-Mobile TV, a useful file manager, and the Blockbuster video app that comes with $5 worth of free rentals. Most of the preinstalled apps can be found on the Android Market for free, but it's convenient to have plenty of useful ones ready to be used from the get-go.

Performance
Swiping through pages of apps and navigating the settings pages felt about up to fast Honeycomb speed standards, although we did experience a few hangs here and there while attempting to input a command.

The tablet houses a 7-inch capacitive touch screen with a 1,280x800-pixel resolution. The panel is of the in-plane switching (IPS) variety as evidenced by its very bright maximum luminance and wide viewing angles. Although still not as bright as the PlayBook's screen, the Springboard's screen resolution is slightly higher and results in somewhat sharper text on Web pages.

Tested spec T-Mobile SpringBoard Acer Iconia Tab A100 Blackberry Playbook HTC Flyer
Maximum brightness 353 cd/m2 227 cd/m2 587 cd/m2 372 cd/m2
Default brightness 106 cd/m2 96 cd/m2 474 cd/m2 151 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.42 cd/m2 0.27 cd/m2 0.48 cd/m2 0.37 cd/m2
Default black level 0.12 cd/m2 0.11 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2 0.16 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 883:1 840:1 1,215:1 943:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 840:1 872:1 1,223:1 1,005:1

Both the front (1.3-megapixel) and back (5-megapixel) cameras performed as well as we expected, producing adequate still shots and recording 720p video. Color quality was a step above the Acer Iconia Tab A100's washed-out look.

App download speeds over 4G were impressively zippy for a mobile network, downloading the 19MB file for Angry Birds Rio in 25 seconds; with the same file taking only 10 seconds under Wi-Fi.

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life in hours
T-Mobile SpringBoard 7.3

Conclusion
The T-Mobile SpringBoard's $180 price is one of the most convincing reasons why a two-year contract isn't such a bad idea; however, the no-contract $430 price may be asking too much for a 7-inch tablet.

Of course, you'll end up paying more than $180 in the long run if under contract, but that initial price does make it appealing. The high-quality screen, 16GB of storage, great build quality, and the inclusion of the latest version of Honeycomb sweetens the deal. The SpringBoard is one of the best 7-inch tablets out there, and if you have the money to go in with no contract, rest assured that you're getting a quality product. If you don't have the funds, I still can't recommend committing to two years, however.

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