Tablets may be the gadget of the moment, but their relatively high prices still put them out of reach for many tech fans who simply can't spare the funds for what is, essentially, a toy for grown-ups. Even those that turn their noses up at Apple products because of their notoriously steep price tags will have noticed most of the top-tier Android tablets are just as pricey if not more so. That's why is nice to see Hannspree - best known for its PC monitors and novelty TVs - offering a reasonably priced Android-based option for just £250.
The Hannspree HANNSpad sports a 10.1-inch screen that puts it up there with tablets such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, in terms of display size at least. Measuring in at 260 x 171 x 13.9mm, the HANNSpad is a slightly chunky beast, so it is no surprise that in tips the scales at 750g. However, to be fair, it's only marginally heavier than the Xoom so we can't make it down too heavily. It may be a minor point, but the power adaptor is also rather on the heavy side.
The fascia itself is glossy black, with a silver trim that bleeds round to the edges of the device. Needless to say, the shiny black portion (along with the screen) is something of a fingerprint magnet, but then that's pretty much the same for most tablets. The slick aesthetics don't quite make it round to the back of the chassis, which is made from black plastic, unlike some of the fancier models around.
The device is clearly designed to be used for the majority of the time in landscape mode, as hinted at by the Hannspree logo along the longer edge. It will automatically switch to portrait mode when tipped, although the fact that the border along one side of the screen is bigger than that on the other side makes it slightly distracting as it makes it feel as though the tablet isn't designed to be viewed this way. You can turn off the auto-rotate in the settings menu if it bothers you.
Naturally, most of the fascia is taken up with the screen, but you'll also find the familiar Android-themed Home, Menu and Back touch-senstitive controls on the upper right of the display. These are well placed for navigating around the menus and for web browsing as they're located where your thumb naturally sits when holding the tablet. However, we did find that we accidentally knocked the home button a few times when holding the tablet to watch videos. At the bottom left of the screen are indicators for power and charge (red during charging and green when fully charged), along with a Wi-Fi indicator. The power button is logically placed on the right of the top edge of the tablet, while the volume up and down controls are over on the left-hand side.
In terms of connections - the HANNSpad is fairly well equipped, and features a Mini-USB, mini-HDMI (with 1080p support), along with the obvious power and headphone ports - all located down the left-hand edge. There's also a microSD slot next to the power jack, so that you can top up the on-board memory. There's no 3G support, so this is a Wi-Fi-only device, albeit with Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity.
Like a number of other budget (and non-budget devices) the HANNSpad is powered by a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz CPU, along with 512MB of RAM. Operation is generally speedy, although there was a slight delay in loading up pages when browsing the web. Other than that, surfing the Internet is a fuss-free affair, and the multi-touch support means than you can easily pinch-zoom pages for easy reading.
The HANNSpad has 16GB of built-in storage, which isn't a bad basic offering and will be more than enough for a lot of users. However, if you intend to store a lot of multimedia files, then you might want to upgrade the memory. Like most other Android tablets running Froyo, Hannspree's device offers expandable memory up to 32GB, via microSD card.
The HANNSpad has no camera capability whatsoever, so if you want a tablet to use for video calling then this is probably the end of the line for you. If taking snaps and video with a tablet doesn't bother you, then obviously this won't be a deal-breaker.
A Froyo affair
If you're expecting to find the tablet-centric Honeycomb version of Android, then you'll be disappointed. Hannspree's tablet runs on the decidedly smartphone-flavoured Android Froyo (2.2). There won't be a Android 3.0 update for the HANNSpad, but Hannspree is set to launch a new, Honeycomb-flavoured, version around September.
In the meantime, the HANNSpad doesn't offer the the familiar customisable Android homescreens as Google's OS is pretty much hidden by an overlay of the Tap UI, previously used by ViewSonic on its ViewPad 10s. It's fairly basic, but is well suited to tablet use and makes navigating around the settings menus nice and simple. The screen is pretty responsive and although not quite as instant as some of the more expensive tablets around, it's decent enough not to be annoyingly sluggish.
It's also worth noting that the browser supports Adobe Flash, an advantage that Android has over its biggest rival, iOS. The QWERTY keyboard is also a nice thought - it uses the whole width of the screen so it's comparable in size to a netbook. However, it's split into two halves for some reason and is pretty difficult to type on. It's ok for tapping in a URL (although we had to use the delete button quite a bit), but you'd need to have the patience of a saint to type out a full document on it.
The home screen has a basic array of functions - you'll find all the usual suspects along the bottom of the screen, including icons for News, Web, Clock, Contacts, Mail, Photos, Music and Video. The News app works particularly well, offering a selection of headlines from a wide variety of sources, such as Reuters, The Financial Times, BBC, The Telegraph, Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera. Clicking on each headline will bring up a page from the source's website, then you can skip straight back to the headline round-up or continue browing around your chosen website.
There's also a To-Do list icon (self explanatory) along with a Grocery icon that will let you create and store shopping lists. Other apps include the Libreka! ebook store (pre-loaded with a copy of Robinson Crusoe) which displays your books on a virtual wooden bookshelf, similar to Apple's iBooks, although most of the content itself was in German, so of limited appeal. You'll also find ES File Explorer - a handy place for accessing the files that you've got stored on the built-in memory and on your memory card. It's a logical folder-based widget that's easy to use, although why Hannspree has chosen a background image of Father Christmas and his sleigh in the night sky, we may never know. You'll also find that Angry Birds has thoughtfully been pre-loaded for you.
However, one huge disadvantage of the HANNSpad is the lack of access to Android Market, as is often the case with these budget tablets. Instead you'll find the rather lacklustre App Center, which offers a ring-fenced selection of apps - both free and paid-for. We tried to search for a random selection of well-known Android apps and couldn't find many of them at all. We also found that several apps that we downloaded failed to install, while Tweetdeck was installed but crashed as soon as we tried to open it. Having said that, we did manage to successfully install some apps including Twitter client Plume.
The tablet lets you create up to six different user accounts for different members of the family, although these are very limited. It doesn't even let you log in under different passwords, making the concept of separate profiles a bit of a nonsense.
The 10.1-inch screen sports a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (117ppi) which isn't that much lower than what's offered by the likes of the iPad 2, although it's still not quite up to the same standard and it's also lower than the resolutions offered by the other 10.1-inchers from Motorola and Samsung.
Viewing the screen straight-on offers a decent picture although images do tend to look a tad soft, particularly on high-def footage. Although the quality of the screen isn't fantastic, but it's more than good enough to watch a film or catch up on some TV. However, the viewing angle isn't very wide at all and we found that moving even slightly to the side has a relatively dramatic affect on the picture quality.
The audio offered by the built-in speaker in the back of the chassis is pretty lame and it sounds very tinny if you crank the volume up. When watching videos, we switched to headphones, where the audio performance is much better and easily good enough to enjoy sitting through a TV programme or film. The HANNSpad supports a selection of video files comprising WMV, MOV, MPEG1, MPEG4/ H.264. Along with video files, the tablet also supports JPEG, PNG, GIF and BMP photo files as well as MP3, MPEG1 and WMA audio formats.
The HANNSpad features a 3650mAh battery that is quoted as offering around 8 hours of running time. It's not quite up to the 10-hour mark set by the iPad, but it's still a considerable time for a budget tablet and puts it way ahead of HTC's Flyer and its rather paltry 4 hours.
Overall, the Hannpree HANNSpad isn't a bad tablet, especially considering its budget price tag. The screen is a decent size, and while the quality isn't perfect, it's certainly good enough for watching a films. However, there are a number of niggles that could put you off buying Hannspree's tablet. Along with the lack of Android Market, there's also the absense of any kind of camera, along with the limited viewing angle from the screen, so it doesn't really progress on any number of existing budget devices we've seen.
If you want a tablet for web browsing, checking the odd email, tweeting or watching videos then the HANNSpad is a great choice, especially if you haven't got a massive amount of cash at hand. However, if it's apps and a slick, well-rounded tablet that you're after then you might want to look elsewhere and the extra investment needed for a Honeycomb tablet would serve you well.