The Skytex Skypad Alpha is the first tablet I've encountered that ran Android v2.3 Gingerbread. This is Google's second most recent generation of Android, and it shows. I've had tablets with Donut (1.6), Eclair (2.0), and Froyo (2.2), and there really wasn't that much of a difference between the stock firmwares. Yes, Froyo was a little better, but not by much.
Gingerbread, on the other hand, is noticeably improved over Froyo. It's difficult to describe the differences, but if you can get a firmware update to v2.3 then I recommend you take it. Also, if you are looking at two Android devices and one runs Gingerbread, you should get that one just because it runs Gingerbread.
- 7" 800x480
- resistive touchscreen
- microSD card slot
- VGA camera
- stylus w\cord (so it can plug into headphone jack)
The Alpha has a matte black case with some metal trim work on the short edges of the face. the back and sides are smooth without being rough. It has the 3 standard buttons to the right of the screen, with the camera and mike in the upper right corner. The headphone jack and the power button are in the upper edge and microSD card slot, power, and USB are on the lower edge.
In the box are a power supply, USB cable, screen cleaning cloth, earbuds (so-so quality), and a stand.
The Alpha is slightly heavier than my K3, but it wasn't that noticeable. It took me several minutes before I knew for sure there was a difference.
I found the hardware to respond quite fast for a budget tablet. You can check out the video at the end for the load times for various apps.
The general physical appearance is good, but there is a small problem. There's a reason why this tablet has a stylus on a cord. The touchscreen was not very fingertip friendly for my fat fingers; you might want to use a stylus for most activities. (A fingernail works in a pinch, too.) At first the touchscreen didn't seem like a big deal, but eventually I realized that I don't want to have to use the stylus to turn the page while reading.But I feel I should point out that for the most part it's not a problem.
Video & Audio
The default video app lacked some basic features, so I downloaded the first highly rated free video player I found on Amazon. (It's called Meridian, and you might want to try it.)
First I ran a frame-rate benhmark test, which returned a score of 21.3fps. Given my other results, that didn't actually tell me much.
Then I tested the Skypad Alpha with an hour long clip shot @1280x720 (23fps). I also played the clip on my laptop and compared the 2. Obviously the Alpha couldn't play it at full resolution but the clip did play well. There were no dropped frames and the audio stayed in sync. The general image and audio quality were quite good. The speaker was awfully quiet, though. Even at full volume, it was still quiet. And the included earbuds weren't a lot louder than the speaker.
My third video test is on Youtube, but the default web browser couldn't play it, unfortunately. That's not a big problem; the Youtube app is available everywhere and I found a copy on Freeware Lovers.
The video played just fine, and the audio test-word ("he lives by one law - Murphy's") didn't quite come through clearly. But it did score better than some laptop speakers I've tested so it gets a pass. And it sounded better with a decent pair of earbuds.
It does come with a bunch of apps, including Aldiko, a file manager, download manager, and the usual email/browser/etc. It also comes with a link to the GetJar app store. It worked fine, but I didn't really use it. I have too much invested in Amazon.
I didn't have any trouble installing the Amazon Appstore or any other apps from Amazon. Everything worked fine.
Angry Bird Seasons is my standard gaming/graphics test, and I did run it. It was a little laggy every once in a while, but the app worked okay. I'd be okay with finishing the game on the Alpha.
Aldiko worked fine, and so did the Kindle app. But the touchscreen was a problem.
When I read on a 7" tablet I usually hold it in my right hand and tap with my thumb to turn the age. Unfortunately the touchscreen problem got in the way of the reading experience. I can't tap the screen to turn the page because my thumb is too big. That is a nuisance.
Now, I could turn the page if I swiped it just right or if I used my fingernail. But that is not my preferred method.
I cannot test the battery, unfortunately. I'm having trouble with getting it to keep a charge for more than a couple of days.
Aside from a couple problems, this is a pretty decent tablet. At this point I'm still not sure how important the screen issue is, but I do know that it would give me pause. I'm also expecting that the battery issue was a fluke, but I'll have to wait for reports to come in from the field before I know for sure.
Here's a pre-build test video that Skytex shot a couple weeks back. It matches up pretty closely with what I've seen with the Skypad Alpha. Note the boot time (not unusually long) and you should not how careful the tech is with his finger tips.