Editors' note: On October 31, 2011, Velocity Micro provided a firmware update to the Cruz T408 and T410 tablets as an optional download from its Web site. The following review reflects this update.
The tablet wars of 2011 were waged on two fronts. You had the well-funded heavyweights assaulting the iPad with equally ambitious and expensive creations. At the same time, you had budget-minded manufacturers trying desperately to create a viable, cheap tablet alternative.
The Velocity Micro Cruz T410 is the result of the latter war front. In 2011, Velocity Micro launched no fewer than six low-priced tablets, running the gamut from $119 resistive-screen clunkers like the Cruz R100, all the way up to the $299, 10-inch Cruz T410.
Whether marketed as e-book reader or Android tablet, the recipe for any of these Velocity Micro Cruz tablets can be boiled down to inexpensive hardware matched with a heavily customized version of Android software devoid of the official Google niceties, such as the Android Market, Gmail, and Google Books, Maps, and Navigation.
To fill the software gap, Velocity Micro preinstalls an alternative application storefront (in this case Amazon Appstore for Android) and a handful of games and other apps, such as Angry Birds, Amazon Kindle, and Quickoffice. It's a bit of a kludge, requiring multiple account configurations instead of the one-stop sign-in of a Kindle Fire, iPad, or full-fledged Android tablet. The end result, though, is a device with more customization options and hardware features than low-cost competitors, at a substantially lower price than a high-end tablet.
So what's the catch? Well, I could point out the paltry 4GB of storage (2.5GB of it usable), the thick, heavy design, or the unimpressive battery life, but it's the screen quality that makes this tablet difficult to recommend to any user. No software update or Android rooting can change the fact that the T410's 800x600-pixel-resolution screen looks like a bad joke compared with the IPS screen of an iPad, or even a smaller device like the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet. Its viewing angles are poor, the pixel density is low to the point of appearing blurry, and the backlight's maximum brightness is barely adequate.
There are many positive things I can say about the Cruz T410. Its navigation is responsive. The inclusion of a File Manager on the home screen makes locating your sideloaded media a breeze. The 1GHz single-core processor supports smooth gameplay. Still, the sum of the T410's positive qualities can't make up for the fact that you're stuck experiencing them all through a lousy screen.
Battery performance is not a strong suit for the T410 either. Velocity Micro doesn't venture to give an estimated battery life rating; I can say anecdotally that I've never spent more time recharging a tablet than I have with the T410. Part of the problem is that I've been using the tablet at full brightness (its default setting), though I suspect that the animated home-screen background doesn't help things. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)|
|Velocity Micro Cruz T410||6.5|
If low-cost tablets like the and Barnes & Noble Nook Color and didn't exist, this review might read very differently. Unfortunately for Velocity Micro, these devices do exist and they do a fantastic job of presenting media, e-mail, and the Web on a bright, beautiful screen. Next to these devices, it's immediately apparent that the T410 and its smaller sibling, the T408, are holding themselves to a lower standard. You deserve better.
Editors' note: This review was updated with CNET Labs' battery life test results.