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Joojoo tablet

First INQpressions Shows real potential
Tue May 04 2010, 15:43

TABLET UPSTART Fusion Garage might have cut too many corners in order to get its tablet, the Joojoo, out of the door right after Apple's Ipad.

The design of the Joojoo isn't bad by any means, with nice design touches all over. Set against the benchmark of style over substance, the Ipad, the Joojoo does well, with Apple-esque touches such as a logo that alters its position depending on the device's orientation and a tapered edge that makes it more comfortable to hold than Apple's tablet.

joojoo-inq-1While it is more comfortable to hold, we don't recommend you hoist the device with its 12.1-inch screen for too long. The Joojoo tips the scales at 1.1kg and its weight, combined with its large screen, means you'll want to lay it on a table or your lap. Even the firm's CEO, Chandra Rathakrishanan, says that the Joojoo is for "couch computing."

The screen itself is a twisted nematic (TN) panel, meaning it doesn't have the impressive wide viewing angles of the Ipad's in-plane switching (IPS) display. In a refreshing show of humility, Rathakrishanan admits that the Ipad's screen is technically superior but argues that most won't hold a tablet at angles that make the TN screen unreadable. We could easily see the difference in both colour rendition and viewing angles. However given that most laptop screens including that of Apple's Macbook Pro are similar, the Joojoo's screen is far from inferior, rather just falling short of the Ipad's lofty standards in colour brightness and pixel density.

The display's widescreen 1366x768 resolution is handy for watching videos and in portrait orientation it does reduce the amount of vertical scrolling that needs to be done. Videos encoded in widescreen aspect ratios display properly unlike on the Ipad. Thanks to Nvidia's Ion chip high definition playback works without any problems.

As the Joojoo supports Adobe's Flash, Youtube simply works. Joojoo has a version of the YouTube player that enables certain videos on the site to be accelerated by the device's Ion graphics chip. We were told that in the coming months all videos on Youtube, regardless of their encoding format, will be decoded by the Ion chip, in effect rubbishing Steve Jobs' claim that only Flash video encoded with the H.264 codec can be hardware accelerated.

Thanks to Intel's 1.6Ghz Atom processor and Nvidia's Ion chip the Joojoo has active cooling. During high definition video playback the fans did whirr up. Given the nature of the device and where it likely will be used, the fan noise, though not excessive, is highly undesirable. That said, the fans do a good job as the device didn't get particularly hot.

Where the Joojoo is let down is by the apparent 'beta' quality of its software. The problem isn't with its appearance, but rather speed. Transitions seemed slow and many screen presses seemed not to be recognised. Transition between portrait and landscape mode was often somewhat slow. The firm has said that it will be employing an aggressive update strategy and at this point such a policy seems like a good idea.

Fusion Garage uses the term "app store" somewhat liberally, with each "application" being a web site bookmark. One can argue whether some 'Web 2.0' sites such as Google Docs offer the same functionality as installed applications but the reliance on the web could be a problem given the patchy connectivity found outside of urban areas.

Having a USB port does make the device a whole lot more attractive than Apple's Ipad. While the software may be below the fit and finish consumers have come to expect, the Joojoo can be loaded with other operating systems, as Rathakrishanan confirmed to The INQUIRER.

The Joojoo certainly has potential on many fronts. Hardware wise, the device has commodity hardware that makes it easy to develop for. While the screen isn't as good as Apple's Ipad, it's hardly bad and during use there's little perceptable difference. Rathakrishanan's design displays a blend of honesty and understanding what hardware enthusiasts actually want. This gives the Joojoo good potential beyond just what's underneath the screen.

The ability to connect drives and load your choice of operating system is a boon for functionality and should endear the device to those who care about technology rather than fashion. If Fusion Garage can tap into this then the Joojoo could become the technology enthusiasts' device.

The most pressing matter for Fusion Garage is to bring the Joojoo's shipped software up to scratch. It isn't lacking functionality but just the final two per cent and a bit more polish that will make the Joojoo a complete and enjoyably useful package that might be able to give Apple's Ipad some stiff competition. µ


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