The 9″ Pandigital Novel is not one of those gadgets that get launched with a lot of fanfare. It popped up on the FCC website a few months ago, and then it popped up on QVC.com without any actual announcement from Pandigital. I do find that a little odd, considering that this is the best tablet in its price range.
Update: This review is over a year old and slightly out of date. There’s a new hacked firmware for the 9″ Novel that adds Android Market and other apps. It’s worth getting.
If you want to know how good, this is the device I plan to carry around at CES 2011. I’m planning to go laptop-free on the show floor and only carry this tablet and a Mifi (for the web connection). Yes, that’s what I think of this tablet.
But I feel that I should also add that I keep seeing a hardware problem. My tablet kept turning itself on when left unsupervised. On several occasions I’ve opened the case in the morning and found the battery depleted.
The 9″ Pandigital Tablet is based on a 9″ LCD screen (800×480) with a resistive touchscreen, Wifi, accelerometer, stylus, SD card slot, and 2 GB Flash. It runs Android v2.0 (which means you’ll be able to install most apps). On the upper edge is the Sd card slot and the USB port. On the left edge is the power jack, and on the right edge is the power button, volume buttons, and headphone jack. There are 4 buttons on the front below the screen: back, home, menu, and forward.
It ships with a case, power supply, USB cable, and an 8GB microSD card. Yes, the card size is strange. But it works, so who cares. And as much as I appreciate the case I do wish it didn’t stink so much; fortunately the smell faded after a few days.
It has a stylus, but I didn’t need it. I was quite content with using my fingers. The screen is very responsive. Oh, and if you are concerned about the screen resolution, I have to say that I wasn’t bothered by it (and I’m picky). I expect that the only ones who will notice and be bothered by the screen resolution are tech snobs (like me). The geometry is a little odd, I must admit, but it works.
I’ve been using this tablet late at night. With the WordPress app I can visit TDR and approve posts as well as leave short responses. I don’t think i could use this tablet for a full blog post, but for short stuff it’s great. And this is the first Android tablet that I thought was worth using for this purpose.
It ships with the same apps as the other Novel tablets, of course: browser, email, Facebook, etc. And like the other Novels this tablet doesn’t have the Android market. That wasn’t a problem, though. I didn’t have any trouble finding apps for this tablet becuase I used to be my favorite app store, SlideMe.
I have my usual apps, but there’s one in particular that I’d like to mention. I recently discovered a web browser called Dolphin. Do you want to know how good it is? This is the first time that I’ve mentioned browsing as a strength of Android tablets. Actually, it’s so good that I stopped installing my usual web apps so I could replace them with Dolphin.
Video & Audio
I tested the 9″ Novel with my usual videos. It did not do well. It had trouble playing the sample video (640×480 at 30fps) that shipped with the tablet without dropping frames, and it completely failed on my test videos (720p MOV). This isn’t going to be PMP, ever.
I also tested it with some Youtube videos. The videos streamed without pause or jumps. Sound quality was okay, but the built in speaker wasn’t nearly loud enough even for a quiet room. But there’s a headphone jack, so it’s not a serious problem.
I also want to mention that the PD reading app does a very good job with PDFs on the 9″ screen. You can use your fingers to scroll around the screen while zoomed, and yes, you can reflow a PDF.
I think I’ve made it clear that I really like this tablet. If you’re trying to decide between the larger and smaller Novels, let me assure you that the extra few inches of screen real estate is worth it.