G-Slate 4G Review: Great Hardware, So-So Software [Video]
When the G-Slate arrived I was excited to get my hands on a semi-pocketable Android tablet that should have offered a viable tablet experience. Sadly, the more I used the G-Slate the more I knew I couldn’t leave home without the iPad in my backpack too.
The T-Mobile G-Slate gets some things right, but there are too many speed bumps in Honeycomb. Instead of getting out of the way to let me enjoy the beautiful HD display, cargo short friendly sizing and 4G connectivity Honeycomb kept popping up to say, “Hi, you can’t do that.
Power users will find apps that get around some of the limitations, but when you try to do that you inevitably bump into another limitation of Android tablets — app selection. While updates to Android Honeycomb are addressing some issues, the G-Slate is still on Android 3.0 with no update path in sight. Read on to find out how software hinders decent hardware and why the G-Slate isn’t an iPad alternative — even if it is an OK Android tablet.
T-Mobile G-Slate 4G Hands On Video
Size: Android tablets like the G-Slate are able to differentiate based on size, which leads to more choices and ultimately comes down to personal preferences. The G-Slate has a 8.9″ display with a 720P resolution which I found was perfect — save the lack of HD content to watch.
While thicker than the iPad 2, the narrow width and widescreen display lend themselves well to reading in portrait mode and watching movies (if you can find them). Thanks to the smaller size the G-Slate is cargo pocket friendly if you don’t mind a bit of the tablet poking out the top of your pocket. Thanks to the size fo the device you can take it with you without carrying a bag in most cases. Unfortunately the tablet is a bit too big to fit in your back pocket, which left us awkwardly holding the G-Slate while at a recent conference.
4G Connectivity: The ability to connect to T-Mobile’s 4G network for speedy downloads across the country is a definite plus. Unlike the Xoom which si still waiting for 4G to arrive, the G-Slate has a speedy connection up and running. Granted, T-Mobile’s 4G network is a bit limited, but when you are in 4G coverage you can expect good speeds.
We took the tablet up to Detroit and were able to get just shy of 4MBps down and 438 kbps up in downtown. The only downside of a 4G connected Android tablet is the lack of apps that would make this speed shine such as Netflix and movie rentals.
Graphics: Thanks to the Tegra 2 processor the G-Slate doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gaming. Need for Speed Shift delivered great visuals and responsive gameplay, but a lack of additional titles to fill out the gaming experience left us wanting more.
Battery Life: We were able to use the G-Slate without any restrictions, syncing multiple accounts over WiFi and 4G, playing some games and even watching a flash video — and the battery was still going at the end of the day. On average we say about 8 hours of use on a charge.
The standby time was nice as well. After I left the G-Slate in my bag for a few days there was still enough battery life left to read my up to date emails and kick out a few replies.
Unfortunately you need a special charger to juice up the G-Slate, even though there is a micro USB port.
App Selection: Android tablets still have an app problem. Every day Android tablets get closer to offering all the apps you need for a stellar experience. Too bad there is still a lack of games that live up to the iPad competition and no Netflix or Hulu apps. Don’t even get me started on how bad Google Docs is on Honeycomb. Why Google hasn’t delivered a document editing suite standard on Honeycomb by this point is just wrong.
3D Cameras: The G-Slate has the ability to record 3D video thanks to twin cameras on the back of the device. We tried it out and had fun with it for a little bit, but ultimately it is a gimmick. 3D records well and you can see the 3D effects if you film correctly, but you need 3D glasses to see 3D. That means no sharing a 3D clip you just recorded without pulling out a few extra pairs of glasses or taking turns. I found that even when I just wanted to show off the feature I couldn’t because I left the glasses at home.
There is a front facing camera which allows you to video chat and take self portraits, but don’t expect too much. Images were bright but grainy and video chat was reportedly quite grainy, though audio was good.
Sample 3D Video from G-Slate – Hope you have your red and blue glasses handy.
Honeycomb: As you may have picked up on in our previous Android tablet reviews, Honeycomb is still the elephant in the room. While each iteration brings some improvements we still run into too many issues or gotchas, which keep us from recommending most Honeycomb tablets to the average consumer.
My experience on the G-Slate was no different. There is still a lack of all the needed apps, including a document suite and other random apps.
The other issue we ran into was the inability to play HD videos on the 720P display without tracking down a special app, or converting a video — tasks which the average user doesn’t want to deal with. Honeycomb has improved, but it is still too much of a hindrance on the G-Slate.
After spending a month with the G-Slate I came to appreciate the form factor, display and 4G connectivity. Sadly, the positives I found in the hardware couldn’t overcome the limitations in Android 3.0. We are closer than we were 6 months ago, but the G-Slate still takes a hit due to the Android tablet OS.
The G-Slate will meet the needs of some users, but if you are considering one, you really need to head down to your local T-Mobile location to put the tablet to the test. We recommend testing out your common document and media needs and browsing the app store to see if you can purchase or install all the apps you need.
The T-Mobile G-Slate is available for $399 after instant and mail in rebates with a 2 year T-Mobile contract.