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Ainol Novo 7 Paladin Review
Another cheap Android tablet, but before you go, ‘Ainol Who?’ we’ll tell you that this company aims to be different. It may be relatively unknown on a global scale, but it’s one with a unique mission – build super cheap AND usable Android tablets. Very often we have seen ‘either or’ in that case, but can Ainol make the seemingly impossible, possible? Let’s find out.
Extremely thin bezel
Design and Build Quality
The first thing we noticed about the Paladin when we got it out of the box was its amazingly thin bezel. Obviously with tablets, it eventually will be a rectangular slate (unless it’s the tablet P) and there’s not much originality to boast of, in terms of design; but guess what, the Paladin is one device that we really liked holding – it was sleek, slim and that oh-so-thin bezel. Easily, one of the better designed tablets in this price range. Let's have a quick tour of the device after the break.
The power ON, back and menu buttons are located on top, for easy access with your left hand. Moving on to the sides, there’s a volume rocker, a reset button, the mini USB charging port, the microphone, a hot swappable microSD card slot and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Basically everything you’d need and nothing you’d want (HDMI, anyone?) and we’re happy with that. Under the hood, there’s a non-removable 4000 mAh battery.
With this form factor, it's amazingly portable. It might even fit in your pocket and though the build is predominantly plasticky, it's quite sturdy and durable. It might sound repetitive, but in this section, the Paladin is easily one of the best tablets in it's range.
Features and Performance
The Ainol Novo 7 Paladin runs on a relatively unknown 1 GHz single core, MIPS-based XBurst CPU with a Vivante GC860 GPU. There’s 8GB of memory onboard and 512 MB of RAM. Since the tablet has an MIPS-based architecture, it does tread a different route than the other tablets we have seen; starting off with the response times, video playback section, the benchmarks and finishing off with the app store, yes, we’re talking about Google Play here. More about that has been covered in the subsequent sections.
Back to the look and feel of the interface, Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.1, with 4.0.3 available for download) on tablets is a lot closer to the Honeycomb experience, and there’s not a lot that has changed. Whether that’s a good or bad thing may depend on your personal preference, but we weren’t overly impressed, or disappointed. Speed-wise, the UI is slick and considering the price bracket that we are looking at, it was definitely impressive. Navigating through the menus is lag free and though multitasking wasn’t a problem, the tablet did tend to get a little slow when it was running out of battery, or when there were quite a few memory intensive apps running in the background. However, with ICS, you can easily swipe apps off the screen and free up memory, so that’s a welcome addition. The response times were much quicker than a lot of other tablets,including the Zync Z990 and that’s another plus point for the Novo 7.
Product sourced from eBay India
We put the Paladin through a couple of benchmarks and if you will see the corresponding images, you won’t be too impressed with the scores. But, we’ll remind you that these don’t really tell the whole story because we had Magic Code (detailed explanation about it in the Misc. Apps section) enabled and the apps weren’t optimized to give a precise score. Native applications that support the MIPS architecture give a much clearer rendition in that respect.
Benchmarks not that impressive
The media interface wasn’t really inspiring and didn’t look anything like what we would have expected on stock ICS. In fact, it was exactly similar to what we have seen on the gazillion Gingerbread running tablets we have reviewed in the recent past. A little change in the looks wouldn’t have hurt anybody, Google.
Anyway, back to the main section. Media playback via headphones is brilliant and the inbuilt equalizers work like a charm. The speakers are extremely loud as well and that’s a big plus, if you’re using the tablet as a personal media player.
1080p video playback is smooth and all our test videos ran smoothly on the device. Besides the usual ones, the default player supports a crazy amount of formats, including AVI, RMVB, FLV, MKV in the video department and FLAC and OGG in the audio department. Something that the similar steeply priced Galaxy Tab 620 also has.
The screen may not have as crisp a resolution (800 x 480 pixels) like the higher priced tablets, but honestly, at this price tag, we’re not complaining one bit. If you are just wanting to use this device as a PMP, we’ll save you the trouble of reading up till the verdict - it’s one of the cheapest and the most advanced PMPs at this price bracket.
The Paladin doesn’t have Bluetooth, GPS or a 3G SIM card slot, but it tries to make up for that with the inclusion of USB OTG and 3G dongle support. Obviously, Wi-Fi is present as well. The inbuilt browser didn’t support flash, but HTML 5 support means you’re pretty much future-proofed. Also, according to the spec sheet, the next update could get Flash support as well.
Though Facebook (and a lot of other apps) wasn’t natively available for the Paladin, we managed a simple work around and the app, works and feels just like on any other Android tablet. The onscreen keyboard supports haptic feedback and owing to the thin bezel, typing is a lot easier and comfortable than the other seven-inch tablets. With ICS, screenshot has been enabled by default, so a simultaneous press of the power and volume down button enables you to get screen grabs. Barring the lack of Bluetooth, it had everything we needed, but nothing we wanted (DLNA, WI-Fi direct anyone?).
You might find a couple of Chinese applications here, including Baidu input and an APK installer (or manager?), but we’re sorry we can’t explain much about their usability, because they were in a different language. Besides that, there’s not much that the tablet ships with out of the box. There’s Gmail, Maps, Places, the Play Store and a media player (besides the stock one). Our free copy of Spiderman (which was advertised) wasn’t to be found anywhere either. We did manage to get it on to the tablet, and again it worked like a charm.
Now, here’s the deal with applications and the Magic Code bit, we spoke about earlier. Quite a number of applications won’t be available for download for the Ainol Novo 7 Paladin, via the Google Play store. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t work on your tablet. For the ones that aren’t available for the device, a slight work around is required. First, you’ll need to install Magic Code and keep it enabled. Second, you’ll need to source your apps from third party sites, other than the Play Store (only the ones that are unsupported) and then install them from the tablet itself. It’s not a big deal really, but it’s worthy enough of mention.
The Novo 7 Paladin has a 4000 mAh battery and it will easily last you over a day under normal usage. In our video drain test, with brightness set to 75 percent and Wi-Fi turned off, the Paladin lasted for nine hours and twenty minutes. Definitely an impressive feat.
Worth a buy?
The Ainol Novo 7 Paladin is priced at Rs.7,990 (eBay reseller price). The company price is a mere $89, which translates to Rs.4,500. The resellers do make it that extra bit expensive, but guess what, with the current pricing of every other tablet, we’re definitely not complaining about the Paladin. At this price, this has everything you need in your next budget Android tablet.