Catch a glimpse of the Disgo 7000 and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Apple had discovered yet another form-factor and wedged a product into that gap. It looks like a Kindle-esque, novel-sized tab squeezed inbetween the iPhone and iPad.
Given the company’s impeccable sense of style, that a sub-£100 Android tablet could be mentioned in the same breath is quite a compliment to Disgo’s budget gadget.
The resemblance is undeniable, though. Sitting idle it has the same seamless black bevel and glossy, fingerprint-attracting sheen as Apple’s touchscreen devices. It’s only when you flip the 7000 over to reveal the matt plastic reverse side that the disparity in manufacturing cost is revealed.
This is a handsome piece of kit that unashamedly imitates more expensive technology. It’s also a convenient size – at 10.5mm thick it’s slimmer than the majority of budget clunkers we’ve seen so far.
The modest proportions mean it’s more like an e-book reader than an iPad, but that makes it comfortable to hold, convenient for reading and easy to stow in a bag. It’s also flattering to the 800 x 480 pixel screen which is a much lower resolution for a 7″ tablet, as most have a 1024 x 600 panel.
Of course it doesn’t leave a great deal of space for physical buttons. The back button is front and centre below the screen, but the power, home, menu and volume buttons are arranged along the narrow right-hand side of the device as you hold it in portrait, which can lead to the odd accidental press as you’re getting to grips with the device.
Battery life is also unspectacular, though not atrocious, finally giving up the ghost after three hours of video at full brightness.
Making a connection
Connectivity is generous. There’s a MicroSD port to bolster the tiny 4GB of internal storage (a card is all but essential if you want to add music and videos to the device) and mini HDMI to allow you to watch videos on an attached TV.
The most surprising feature is that there is not just one mini USB port but two at the base of the device. The one positioned in the centre is a standard connector, for plugging the tablet into a computer. The second one, offset to the right, is a USB host controller and works with an adaptor included in the box.
The dongle turns it into a USB port like you’d find on a laptop. This means if you have media stored on a standard USB stick you can view it on the tablet and if you tire of typing on a touchscreen, you can plug in a USB keyboard to ease the pain. It’s a thoughtful addition that makes the device far more flexible for the newcomers than tablets in this price range will surely attract.
At what cost?
At that price there are always going to be sacrifices though, and the two biggest ones are par for the course when it comes to tablets in this class.
The first is a hardware limitation: the Disgo 7000 has a resistive rather than capacitive touchscreen. What this means that you can only press in one place at a time, meaning no multi-touch trickery like pinching to zoom, and it does make typing much more laborious.
As for the 7000’s own performance, it’s relatively accurate, meaning you’ll rarely hit the wrong letter on the on-screen keyboard, but you do have to press quite hard to get a response at all, which is very frustrating. You’ll often see that unnerving LCD discolouration as you push down on the display and typing anything more than quick notes is likely to become pretty tiresome.
The second problem is one of software, as the Disgo 7000 features the ageing Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ OS. While it remains functional for straightforward things like web browsing, email and media (and is an improvement on Android 2.2 which stinks up many of the other budget tabs), it’s still old technology.
More worrying is the lack of the Android Marketplace – owing to licensing costs, you won’t find a sub-£100 Android tab that has Marketplace support and that seriously limits your options.
It’s by no means the end of apps – Disgo attempts to mitigate the loss of Marketplace by including the GetJar downloader which features many of the more popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype. But there’s no denying that the vast majority of Android apps, particularly the paid ones, simply can’t be downloaded. This means no Angry Birds, no BBC iPlayer and certainly no Cut The Rope.
If you’re yet to be convinced by the tablet revolution and unsure of whether you need something that sits between a smartphone and a laptop in your life, the Disgo 7000 presents an ideal way to dip your toe in. For around £75 you’re getting a tablet that not only performs the basic functions you’d hope for, but also one that you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave sitting on the coffee table when a friend dropped by.
Admittedly, you’re sacrificing performance and features, but you’re talking about a device that costs around a sixth of the price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Don’t expect it to compete with an iPad or the Samsung Galaxy, but if you’re terrified by the price tags attached to bijou technology, the Disgo 7000 is a modest but desirable tablet that punches well above its weight.