Review: Pandigital 9″ Android tablet

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Update: This review is over a year old and slightly out of date.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.

Hardware

The 9" Pandigital Tablet is based on a 9" LCD screen (800x480) 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.

Apps

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 (640x480 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.

Reading experience

The Novel shipped with Pandigital's usual reading app, of course, but I never like it. I went and got Aldiko and Kindle right away. Now that I've imported my ebook library, I'm happy with the tablet.

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.

Opinion

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.

 

39 thoughts on “Review: Pandigital 9″ Android tablet

  1. So far I like the PDN, I just think I have to get use to it. It is faster that I thought it would be for the most part, comics aren’t blazing in but I think the higher quality the cbr, the slower it goes. I am sure that the apps that I am using also, affects this.

    SlideMe works well, though I am a bit dissappointed that they don’t have the more popular comic viewers on the site.

    Which I wanted this mainly as a comic book reader, and even without supposedly the “best” comic viewers, I think it does a more than competent job.

    It is much faster loading and browsing than I thought it would. I downloaded Dolphin HD, but I haven’t really used it that much. Any other app suggestions I have Aldiko, but haven’t attempted much regular reading.

    In short, I think I will like this product more once I learn how to use it properly.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. I have both the white 7″ Novel and 9″ Novel discussed in this review. Right now, I must say that I like the 7″ Novel better because it simply works for my usage pattern. I’m having issues with the 9″ Novel .

    The 9″ Novel is much more responsive and seems like better hardware (USB charging is nice too), but I’ve run into an issue. It will not display any book (using the built-in reader application) that I sideload on to the device .

    With the 7″ reader, you can use Calibre to just pop your EPUB or PDF books into the “eBooks” directory on the device or your SD card. You can also use the Overdrive console to put library books there too. After transfer, all the titles appear in the Novel’s reading application. Pretty simple.

    With the 9″ Novel, nothing shows up in the eReader application. I can only get the built-in user guide to appear (which does render nicely enough, but you can only read it so many times before want for another title develops). The 9″ Novel even came with about 6-7 public domain books in the built in memory (Sense and Sensibility, etc.), but those do not appear in the reading application either. Interestingly enough I cannot browse to the free books with the built-in file manager on the device, but can see them when connected to a PC. The file manager will show the SD card in the slot, but I haven’t figured out how to navigate to the integrated eBook directory on the included “PD_novel” partition. I’m probably doing something wrong, and haven’t had a huge amount of time to troubleshoot yet. Hopefully, I’ll figure things out.

    I’ve got an e-mail into Pandigital about the issue with books not displaying. I understand that the 7″ and 9″ devices are quite different animals, but I was hoping for the transfer methods to be consistent since the reader application appears essentially the same on both devices.

    I know, I know… I can load other reading apps. But for my usage pattern (EPUB and PDFs only), the PD reading application is fine, keeps everything in one place, and (as you mentioned) the PDF viewing experience is quite good (it renders faster than any other Android PDF app that I have tried). I read tech manuals on the Novel and it renders fast enough to make the experience OK.

    One more thing to note: There are different bundles of the 9″ Novel floating around and there may even be different firmware (if my guess is correct).

    I picked mine up at Bed, Bath, & Beyond using a 20% coupon + $20 rebate (which brings it to around $166. Not a bad price for a 9″ tablet, HOWEVER, the BBB version does not include the leather case and Pandigital does not sell the case separately yet.

    So, if you want the case, the QVC bundle has it. Is the case worth $34-54 (depending on the current bundle price)? Well, that is debatable, but it is nice to have a case.

    As for the firmware… with the Novel powered completely off, it will display a diagnostic screen when charging. On this screen it also displays a firmware version:

    “BN02-1118-2010-9D-WIFI-ONLY-BBB”

    Does that “BBB” part at the end suggest that is special firmware for the Bed Bath & Beyond version? At any rate, it is interesting.

    Thanks for the review. My summary, the 9″ is good as a cheap Android tablet, but the built in reader has issues.

    1. Do you mean that the ebooks don’t show up in the library? Try this, please:

      When you press the B&N icon, you’re in the ebookstore, not the Library. On the left hand side, halfway down there is a a button labled “My Library”. That will show you the ebooks on your device.

      If you’ve already done that, then did you know that there are a number of sort options? Keep fiddling with it until your ebooks show up. I can see my ebooks just fine.

      1. Yep. Already tried the “My Library” link. No included free and none of the transfered books show up. I tried the ImportSD feature too (as outlined in the quick start guide). All I get is the the empty wooden bookcases in the My Library screen. No books. Pictures, Music, and Videos show up on SD card or internal memory just fine. So, I have no idea why books will not work.

        I’ll keep playing, though I do wonder if the QVC and BBB units have different firmware. Also, I do not have a B&N account. I could try to configure an account and see if that allows me to see local eBooks. Right now I’m scratching my head. But I’ll keep playing. That’s fun part about these devices, figuring everything out.

        Thanks for the reply.

        1. i haven’t bought mine yet, but I watched a Youtube video of a review. They went to TITLE > SD CARD in their library to get their personal books off their card.

        2. When I downloaded a book from aldiko, I had to go into the file manager and move it from the downloads folder to the ebook folder. It then was in my library.

    2. I was shocked when I saw that Nate got a case for his. I too got mine form BBB and didn’t get a case or SD card. Would I have paid more if I had known? I doubt it. Still, I am stuck with out a case and I hate using devices without it. I think I will call Pandigital on Monday to see what they can do for me. Maybe they will be in the Christmas spirit and help a girl out.

      1. After playing a bit last night, I can finally open local ebooks. Using the “MediaSearch” application I can search on an extension (epub or pdf) and find my books and launch them. They will then appear in the previously read (or currently reading) column at the top of the Library, but they still will not appear in the wooden library bookshelves.

        I tried logging into B&N. It pushed down 5 free samples into the bookshelves, but did not magically unlock my local “eBooks” directory.

        I’m thinking the BBB version reading application is locked to B&N only at the moment. Kind of silly if you ask me.

        I’ll keep playing. I’m going to try putting the books in other directories to see if the My Library page will find them.

        So far, it’s just annoying. I’m not digusted enough yet to send it back. Plus, if PD releases firmware for the 9″ as often as they have for the 7″, I’d imagine this issue will be fixed soon.

        Hopefully, PD replies back to me soon.

      1. Nice find on the case. If I can get my 9″ working right I may have to pick up the case from QVC.

        I find it is strange (or ironic) that QVC’s bundle ships with a case and they sell a case separately as well. Meanwhile, the BBB bundle has no case and neither BBB or Pandigital sells it.

  3. Thanks Nate, for the review. I was considering the white Novel, but you’ve convinced me to go with the 9″ Novel. I’ll let you know how it goes when I pick one up next week.

  4. I am a NON-tech mom of 3 boys. I am giving them pandigitals & or PanImages for Christmas. I really want to download Kindle, but I don’t know how. Can someone PLEASE guide me. I already downloaded SlideMe and the Aldiko, which are GREAT, but we have a Kindle with a large library that I want them to access too.

    Thank you!

    Merry Christmas.

    ~A

      1. Thank you so much! Now once I find Angry Birds, Papaya Free and Pocket Gods I will become MOM OF THE YEAR!

        I really appreciate your help for a lady with no tech abilities ( I am sure us non-tech people get on your nerves) !

        Have a wonderful day!

        ~A

  5. My sister ordered this for me as a Christmas gift and it was waitlisted but shipped out today they said, I was a bit worried when I read a lot of the reviews on the QVC site but came to realise that a lot of the issues that people were having were a direct result of a lack of patience, ignorance and an unwillingness to learn. So I’m still stoked. And it’s on 2.0 YAA! Do you know if it will be updated beyond 2.0? Not a big deal really cause it can always be rooted.

    Dolphin Browser is great, the HD is even better but it’s had a lot of hiccups since the last update which makes it a bit laggy and glitchy. Mirren browser is also a great browser which I actually like kinda better since my six most used bookmarks can be placed to load on the start page, but it doesn’t have all the google add-ons that Dolphin HD has alas.

  6. I was able to successfully download and install everything I wanted to except Twitter and Youtube. I get an “problem parsing the package” error. I downloaded a different Twitter client but would love to get the YouTube installed. I have tried via the web browser (dolphin!) and SD card. Any suggestions? So far I love the tablet.

  7. Just wondering if anyone else has an issue with the following:

    #1 – The calendar app… I can add entries, but when the tablet is turned off, the entries disappear when powered back up. What would cause that? SD card is in, although the one that came with it from QVC was defective, so I had to buy a new one.

    #2 – The screen jumps when scrolling: Like on Facebook, browsers (including Dolphin and Opera), and in the SlideME market… when scrolling down all the sudden it will jump back to the top. Very annoying.

    #3 – Downloading Apps: I download an app through the browser (Dolphin or Opera) and nothing happens. No error and no icon shows up in the menu. Is there another step?

    Thanks for any help.

    P.S. To Revoke: The unit, when I bought it in early December, did *not* come with a case, had to buy it separate.

    1. #2 The screen jumps with me too. I don’t know what causes it, but when I use the stylus or press harder on the screen it doesn’t jump very much.

  8. Help Nate The Great!!!!
    I try to connect to internet today but I couldn’t. I go like usually to”Network” to connect and when I try to do it nothing happen. ” scanning IP and then say “Unsuccessful”. But the interesting thing is that the signal is STRONG. What can I do? I try everything.

  9. Ok..so all my 7 year old has ask for for Christmas is an iPad. I’m not fond of the iPad price plus I don’t think he’d be too fond of only getting one gift for Christmas.
    For those of you that already have this Pandigital 9″ tablet. Do you think it is comparable (at least in the eyes of a 7 year old)? What kind of apps will he be able to get…he’s mostly interested in games (free ones…lol). He has an iPod touch now so he’s familiar with alot of the games. Any input would be very much appreciated.

  10. I am planning to get a refurbished one of this but I am curious if I can install Calibre on it? It’s my first time to buy one so I am researching first. I’m also eyeing on Slick Ereader 701.

  11. Got a real good deal at XCess Cargo. $59.00. Worth the price as an e-reader and for e-mail. Wi-Fi set up well and accessess internet quickly. As has been previously posted, screen resolution is not the best. I do use Calibre on my PC and all books transferred easily to my 9# Tablet. Impressed with the built in reader and OfficeSuite Pro reads Microsoft Office docx and excell files like a champ. Music plays fine but lets face it these are very tiny speakers so don’t expect great sound. Forget videos, the screen resolution is not great. Find a Tablet with 800×600 for beter screen resolution. (My Hipstreet 9# Flare Tablet is light years more superior in all aspects and I paid $100.00 for it. As a basic reader and tablet the Pandigital 9# Tablet performed better than expected. As for replacing a laptop, my Hipstreet Tablet is the right choice.

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