Featured Product: Wintec Filemate Light Tab 7″ Android tablet

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Wintec Filemate Light TabWhen I first got my hands on the Wintec Filemate Light Tab, I didn’t have high hopes. It seemed like just another generic Android tablet from an unknown manufacturer from China (it’s branded as the ZTE Light in Asia). Although my first impressions of the tablet left me unimpressed, living with the Light Tab for the last week has definitely opened my eyes to the niche market of affordable Android tablets. In the end, I had a surprising amount of fun using this tablet.

Design:

The first thing that you notice about the design of this tablet is that its bezel is asymmetrical. When holding it portrait-wise, you will notice that the left bezel is twice as wide as the right bezel. I have a feeling that this was to help you hold it with your left hand, though the left bezel is still too thin to keep a firm grasp on it with just your left thumb. The tablet is made entirely of plastic and it feels it. You can feel the 7 inch screen depress and the back cover is made of a thin piece of plastic.

There are three touch sensitive buttons on the bottom for home, menu, and back. Around the top you will find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and one of its stereo speakers. Around the side you will find a power button and volume rocker. On the bottom is a micro USB port for transferring data and charging.

wintech light tab touch sensitive buttons

Included in the box is a wall-wart charger, micro USB cable, and a cheap headset that will allow you to make calls from the tablet when you’re using your SIM card or with services like Skype. Although the tablet has a SIM card slot, it only supports making voice calls but not 3G connectivity, which is a real bummer. I can’t see many people removing the SIM from their phones to place into the Light Tab just to make calls. Next to the SIM card slot is an 8GB microSD card. It is unbranded with a Class 10 designation but I did not have a chance to confirm its speed.

Screen and speakers:

Since this tablet has a street price of around $220, there are definitely places where Wintec cut costs. Unfortunately, it was the screen that took the cut. The screen is resistive, which uses pressure to detect presses instead of the more accurate capacitive screens, which detect touch by electrical impulses.  Resistive screens also bring a big drawback: the lack of multi-touch.

While the resistive screen isn’t as accurate and sensitive as a capacitive screen, it may come in handy for those who have long nails or live in cold weather. You can wear gloves while operating the screen.

The bad news continues as the screen’s viewing angles are pretty abysmal. Colors and text wash out if you’re not looking at the screen dead on. Customers looking for a tablet for reading ebooks may want to look elsewhere for this reason. The screen is also very glossy, making it susceptible to glare in a brightly lit office or out in the sun. At night, the screen exhibits light leakage on the edges, making white and black backgrounds look splotchy.

The speakers on this device sound OK for being so small but they don’t get very loud. Using headphones is definitely recommended. One thing to note about the headphone jack is that it makes a disconcertingly loud pop when plugging and unplugging headphones. I also noticed that it is prone to interference, letting you hear the hum, buzzes, and squeals from the electronics inside the tablet.

The cool thing about the headphone out is that it also functions as antenna if you have headphones plugged into it. There is actually an FM Radio application built into the device, which works surprisingly well for some stations.

Camera:

There is only one camera on this device and it is rear facing. It is a 3 megapixel camera that takes soft looking shots but that’s to be expected from a tablet in this price range. Colors are desaturated and there is considerable noise in low light pictures.

I really wished that Wintec had traded the rear facing camera for a front facing camera. I think that a front facing camera would be more useful on a tablet since it is a perfect platform for video chatting with applications like Tango and Skype. Hopefully the next generation Light Tab will include a front facing camera.

Here’s a sample photo taken with the camera. Click on it for full resolution.

wintec light tab sample shot

Software:

Although the Light Tab is running the outdated Android 2.2 Froyo OS, it is still surprisingly snappy when flying through home screens and opening the app drawer. This is especially impressive when you realize that an aging 600MHz Qualcomm chip is running inside. Wintec has promised that the Light Tab will receive an update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. I hope they follow through with the update as I think it will boost performance.

I love having stock Android on my devices so that I can customize the interface to how I want it. Wintec chose to skin Android with their own interface but thankfully it wasn’t too intrusive. They skinned the Android app drawer to have a full dock with shortcuts to commonly used applications like mail and the web browser.

Wintec also included their own keyboard but I found it to be unusable. The buttons were too close together and put into a grid, making it difficult to find keys if you are used to the stagnated keys of a regular QWERTY keyboard. Thankfully, you can use the stock Android keyboard. I opted to download Better Keyboard from the Android Market, which made typing on the screen much improved.

better keyboard landscape keyboard

Other than the home screen and keyboard, the only other thing that Wintec changed about the OS is a useful skin for the camera app. It allows you to adjust exposure via a slider and gives you quick access to settings, geolocation, effects, ISO, white balance, and zoom. These are definitely handy things to have.

Since this tablet has GPS, Google Maps works like a charm. I wanted to test it with Google Earth but I couldn’t find it in the Android Market. One strange thing that I noticed with the Light Tab is that some apps I looked up weren’t found in the Market. Google Voice is noticeably absent.

Performance and battery life:

As mentioned before, the Light Tab is running on a 600MHz processor like the original T-Mobile MyTouch of yore. It scores a low 365 in Quadrant and manages around 6 MFLOPS in Linpack. For such an old processor, it performs admirably. Just don’t expect to play games on this tablet. Angry Birds runs but suffers from dropped frames, making it difficult to be accurate with aiming. Fruit Ninja fared even worse as it ware more of a slide show than a playable game.

Thankfully, I can report that battery life is actually very good. A full charge lasted me over two days of light to moderate use. Android is notorious for having bad battery life but the Light Tab thankfully did not. When in standby, the battery held its charge admirably. Even with the brightness turned all the way up, the battery lasted well over two days of use. The Light Tab’s 3400mAh user replaceable battery can be thanked for this. If you want, you can purchase a second battery and swap it in when juice runs out.

wintec light tab battery

Closing remarks:

At the end of my week with the Light Tab, I came away liking this little tablet, despite its limitations. I think there is a market for affordable Android tablets and the Wintec Light Tab fits it. If you have a kid that wants something fun to play with, this is perfect. It’s also a great way to get someone who is interested in Android to try out the operating system.

I loved using this tablet for reading the news, my RSS feeds, and using it for social networking. Using it for Twitter is surprisingly fun as the browser is decently fast. If you just want a tablet to read the news and browse the Internet, this tablet is perfect. For $220, it’s almost an impulse buy! For more information about the Wintec Light Tab, visit their site here.

PROS:

  • Price
  • Android OS with minimal skinning
  • Great battery life

CONS:

  • Resistive screen with poor viewing angles
  • Some missing Market apps
  • Don’t expect to play games

WHO IT’S FOR:

  • People looking for a small tablet for reading news and feeds.
  • People looking for a cheap starter tablet.
  • People who are curious about Android and want to experiment with the OS.

4 Responses to “Featured Product: Wintec Filemate Light Tab 7″ Android tablet”

  1. Paula Says:

    I’m really in the dark with this tablet as it was a gift. It says that you can get to the owners manual that is on the SD card, but how the heck do you find it…..I’ve searched the entire contents and can’t figure out how to open the manual. Also, it says it’s a phone too…..where’s the phone? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Lewis Says:

    Hi, Paula. There’s a built in file browser that comes with this tablet but I prefer the app, Astro File Manager, as it has more features and is easier to use. It should just be placed at the root of the SD card (/sdcard). The LightTab can be used as a phone by inserting a working SIM card into its SLIM slot. This will allow you to use the dialer application to make and answer calls. Unfortunately there is no 3G radio.

  3. Doug Quine Says:

    Did you really put in a SIM card and make a phone call or are you quoting the ZTE version?

  4. Lewis Says:

    I did try my SIM card but I didn’t have a MicroSIM adapter so I couldn’t get it to make a call.

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