A quick Gamdei E8-3D
update 20 Jan 2013: It seems that my screen-scratches-easily comments from an earlier version of this review may have been wrong. It turns out that my first device had a clear protector film fitted to the screen (you can see a small bubble on the bottom left of the device, on the last picture of this page) - and I missed it as it was so well applied. The film was much more obvious on the other two devices as they had bubbles in the screen area.
The film is nice and clear, and you could just leave it installed - but according to another user, it's the film itself that scratches easily, the raw screen doesn't! And it may be glass after all. Now that I have my protector installed I'm not quite ready to verify that, but I've removed the screen scratching references from my review.
update 16 Jan 2013: Brando sent me a replacement, but that device also had a misaligned barrier! But the 2nd replacement finally works, so I've completely rewritten the review. I also added a review of Brando's own Anti-glare screen protector at the end!.
update 29 Oct 2012: the first two devices had misaligned barriers. the first also had an unresponsive touch screen, seemingly misaligned and with 'dead spots'. It looks like many of these (at least from the first manufacturing run(s)) have defective panels - watch out!
I got my Gadmei E8-3D autostereo tablet from Brando finally, and spent a bit of quality time with it. Some very mixed results:
The first two devices Brando sent had a misaligned barrier - views were bleeding into each other in large parts of the screen, even at the exact sweet spot! However they paid for return shipping each time, and after explaining the issue a few times, Brando finally understood the problem and found a good device (using my test pic). This third device now has a good barrier!
Test if your barrier is misaligned with this test image I made: it's red=left eye, cyan=right eye. You can see it on the misaligned device below (shot from the sweet-spot, which is the correct horizontal position aswell as the correct distance). The whole screen should be red (or cyan), instead you can see it gradually bleeds into the other towards the bottom:
And here's one from out-of-the-sweet-spot, note the rotation of the bands (when the barrier is correctly aligned, the bands should not rotate):
+ resolution (1280x768) is pretty good.
+ no red/blue colour fringing (as you get with their earlier 3D tablets, due to the panel's sub-pixel layout) at all & no major colour cast. 3D can look pretty decent.
- but there's pretty bad ghosting on high-contrast features. For many images/videos you don't see it and it's fine, but high-contrast stuff does look pretty bad.
- and as it's only a TN screen, 2D viewing angles are really bad, especially horizontally in landscape (ie. 3D) mode, as it's a portrait panel (I think they needed this to get the correct sub-pixel layout to avoid the colour fringing) - the slightest viewing angle change causes significant gamma changes. In 3D for example, you can notice that each eye is a different brightness because of it - not useless, but not great either:
- the screen's blue gamma is too low, meaning that images appear a bit cool and colours are washed out. Display manufacturers usually do this to make the screen brighter, but the backlight is plenty strong and it doesn't need it. The worst part is that this could be easily adjusted, if only the tablet exposed gamma controls! (some rooted Android tablets can be gamma-adjusted with free apps, but I don't think anybody has supported this for the Gadmei - if you know a solution (must be RGB gamma, RGB levels won't correct it properly) email me gl<AT>tter<dot>org.
- contrast ratio (ie. black level) is OK, not excellent.
- really laggy touch screen. Annoying in general use (laggy/glitchy scrolling), absolutely terrible in fast-reaction games, where the long delay between a tap and the device actually doing something makes them totally unplayable. A good example is the excellent Pinball Arcade (free) - this is super-responsive on my iPhone 4, and other Android tablets apparently, but useless on the Gadmei.
Jelly Bean is supposed to have much improved touch screen responsiveness (and be overall smoother) - there is talk of a JB update for the Gadmei, but nothing has materialised yet (Jan 2013).
As a 3D viewer:
+ comes with a few short 3D demo clips, including Avatar, a horrible Chinese/western-style pop video (well shot, but with occasionally totally excessive negative parallax, at least for my eyes), and a few more.
+ video filenames starting with [3D] are assumed to be side-by-side squeezed, but others can be placed into 3D mode manually (then you get over/under options as well).
- has a few bugs in the software, plus no convergence control for videos (it does have one for stills, but is very hard to control (I don't use it anyway))
+ despite them advertising only SDHC memory card compatibility (32GB max, 4GB max file size), it actually reads SDXC (>32GB, no file size limit) and exFAT/NTFS formatted cards out-of-the-box! Perfect for large high quality videos like Bluray-3D encodes.
I tested this with a Sandisk Ultra 64GB micro-SD card (exFAT), and also by formatting a 2GB card with NTFS.
It's a really nice surprise, but it's crazy that they're not advertising it correctly. Many people don't know what SDXC means - but the sellers should!
(note: with the 3D video player, the oversized movie files can't exist in the card root or it will crash. But they work if placed in a folder. They work fine either way in the 2D player).
+ The USB port also reads a 128GB USB Flash pen fine (with an adapter).
+ reads a lot of video formats/codecs, eg. MP4, MKV, AVI etc, and usually plays them smoothly. It even played some of my old HDV footage correctly (which is anamorphic 1440x1080) - although it didn't see the M2T extension, renaming to MTS worked. Better yet, it also plays the 1080/24p AVCHD footage from my hacked (~80mbps) Panasonic GH2 directly from the memory cards (via a USB SD card reader).
- but sometimes playback freezes for a second (could be due to background apps though as it doesn't always happen).
As a general-use tablet:
+ Android 4.04 is a decent OS, lots of customisation abilities, animated wallpapers etc. And the openness is great, eg. you can just plug in a memory card with all kinds of file types & codecs, and browse, use or play them straight away, or save stuff to the card - try that in an iDevice! (they don't even have memory card slots).
+ good build quality, rubbery back feels better than expected and gives a good grip (but fingerprints like crazy)
+ screen resolution is nice, and looks great on things like Google Maps.
+ has nice Google apps like Play (their market) & Maps built-in, plus it has a Navigations app (Sat-nav style) that looks great (but not ideal as the tablet doesn't have GPS).
- performance is not ideal, it isn't anywhere near as smooth as iDevices for eg. pinch-zooming, scrolling etc, and the UI interface generally isn't as refined either (I can understand why Apple are taking Android makers to court over things like their patented 'over-bounce' UI effects).
- GPU is also underpowered for graphics-heavy 3D games.
- slighty too heavy imo.
- front & rear cameras are terrible (as expected).
- it has issues with some WiFi routers! It works absolutely fine with my router here, but glitches and frequently disconnects/reconnects with a friend's (I tried different WiFi channels and settings, nothing made it better). Others are reporting these issues too, it could be a pain if you can't fix them!
update: the issue might be to do with the router's encryption settings. The problem router was set to 'WPA or WPA2', a compatibility setting that can handle either type. Setting it to WPA2-only seems to improve/fix the issue (I can't be sure as I didn't have much time to test). If yours has similar problems, try it (WPA2 should work with all recent devices).
- a lot of apps I tried (eg. Ebay) are just scaled-up phone apps. Although the fonts are rendered for the screen (so they're always crisp), many app layouts are not using the large screen in a good way. For example the Ebay app looks clumsy & uses tiny item lists & images. And nice iOS things like swipe-to-delete don't seem to exist.
(Apple recently used this to attack Android, and they're right - but some apps make better use of the large screen, eg. BBC News).
- a lot of apps in the app store want a crazy combination of permissions. For example many want access to the phone functionality on Android phones. There is no reason for that (a game doesn't need to make a call!) and it's a massive security hole. It looks like many devs simply don't understand how to turn these off in their software - the better apps (eg. BBC News) only request what they actually need.
- I tried to playback some CD .WAV files from a micro-SD card - it mostly works, but occasionally the audio drops out? Not good.
- Online streaming video (eg. Netflix) is sometimes fine - but when you seek, usually the audio goes badly ouf of sync with the video. Once that happens, it can take many attempts to get it back in sync - somtimes killing & restarting the app works, but not always. It's a really annoying bug that seems to be a flaw in the firmware, rather than the streaming apps. It does another weird thing where, if you seek a streaming video, it buffers the new position, but then plays out the old position for a few seconds - like the old buffer wasn't cleared. I bet this is the cause of the audio/video desync. I watched a lot of Netflix on it recently, and this bug drove me crazy (otherwise it's a decent screem to stream video on).
Well, it's an OK 3D viewer - far from perfect, but currently there's nothing else like it (except earlier Gadmei tablets that are worse). The problems for me are:
- narrow sweet spot - hard for newbies to find/keep, and easy to loose if you're not perfectly still.
- colour rendering (blue gamma) isn't great, would prefer a close-to-sRGB accurate screen.
As a general-use 2D tablet, it's not great - it will do lots of stuff, but without smootheness, with a few annoying bugs, with possibly serious WiFi issues, with a low-end TN screen, and it won't keep up with graphics-heavy games (plus the touchscreen lag makes action games unplayable). Plus it's Chinese with no English support, so you're pretty much out in the cold unless you can speak the language or decode the bizarre Google translations of the Gadmei BBS.
Right now I wouldn't recommend it as a 2D-only tablet, especially when tabs like Google's own Nexus 7 are being sold for $199, with 16GB/32GB and IPS screen - and I have to think that theirs are much more responsive as they are Google's 'how Android is done' flagships.
... speaking of which:
Brando's screen protector review (anti-glare version):
A screen protector is a must. Brando offer two for the E8-3D, both a 'clear' and 'anti-glare' version. They were kind enough to send me the anti-glare to review:
Well it fits, and does diffuse the glare. The problem is that it's also slightly blurry, especially on text:
For me that was a deal breaker and I removed it (note, if you fully take it off, you'll never get it on again without zillions of bubbles (I tried)). For $14 I expected better. Maybe their 'clear' protector is better (I didn't get to try it).
In the end I bought a generic protector for a 10" tablet (by Targus) off Ebay for $1.5 shipped, and cut it to size manually. It's about the same quality, but slightly clearer.
(pictured without protector)