Review: Notion Ink’s Adam – A frank look from a fan

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My much delayed review of the Adam tablet from Notion Ink is finally here. I needed some time to get the hang of Android so it did take a good few weeks (3 to be exact), but I gotta tell you, once you get the hang of it, its totally worth it.

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If you hadn’t read my preview write up of the tablet an year back, please do so as it covers almost everything I wished the tablet should have. Having said that, lets get straight to business.

So, did they deliver as promised? Is the tablet up to the mark? Would it be future proof?

Answering the questions at one straight go is like, in a way, impossible. Frankly, I am hesitant but at the same time encouraging. There are a few areas of concern that needs to be really ironed out by them, and if thats done in perfect time (which they never seemed to have kept), I believe this has the potentialilty to be the best of the devices out there at the moment.

It was a rough ride to this point, numerous people in the pre-order list failing to get the devices delivered to them on time, a few faulty hardwares, (still) crashing softwares, battery inconsistency, bad packaging and stuff like that. I was on pre-order list 2, and I guess the company learnt from the first round of mistakes dumped down on them and corrected it by the second round as I did get my tablet as promised, only delayed by a week or so. But again, that wasn’t the case for everybody.

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Anyways, when the PixelQi screened Wifi Adam tablet finally arrived home, I was riddled with goosebumps on every touch of its plastic surface. Got to tell you, the hardware is pinch perfect. The deal is sturdy and strong and I even shook it to see if there were any loose hearings. :P .I gingerly switched it on, waited through the boot screen and was invited to enter my date and time. Everything seemed good. The touch response was great, the speed was good too. The interface was ok, just decent( but I went on to make it better by installing ADWLauncher that I got from the internet, then the crisp smoothness with help from the graphics card comes into practice).  Then popped up the panels or Leaves, as they called it.

Navigating the panels seemed a bit hard. There are a few things you need to understand first hand. You have to click on a panel and THEN you get the access onto it. I thought every layer and panel was active at the same time. And when you double tap the Clock at the top left of the main leaf, you get to access the ‘desktop’ where all the apps lay side by side or in ‘grid’ format.

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But after a while, things seemed to pick up. There were just some basic apps- a Mail’d email client, a Facebook panel, Calendar, Calculator and Sniffer, their file browser. You could move an app to the panel to create a Leaf view, but those were only the apps that supported Leaf view, so instead you get options to use the apps in full screen mode. Scrolling between the panels were smooth. One thing I noticed was, once you set all your apps and stuff on Leaf view and panels, after you switch the device off and bring it on after sometime, the stuff set are all gone. Why? I dunno.

The next thing I did was getting connected to the WiFi network, and things were pretty smooth and fast and I was up in no time. The stock browser is nicely done, but it did tend to crash at times. Typing on the touch screen keyboard was pretty basic too, widely spaced keys, lots of actions, it was pretty responsive but I did notice that some times the keys did fail to comply on one touch. I am trying other keyboards at the moment, and according to some guys at a few forums, there are better keyboard layouts than this one.

I synced my email on to the Mail’d client. Repeating again, everything looked good at first, then I noticed a few issues. Ok, the email comes in, you can read it, send replies, access folders and stuff. But thing is, it sometimes fails to sync those few changes you do, with the main server, like marking an email as read, or deleting it. That means, whatever I did in Mail’d failed to show up in my Gmail access in my PC browser. I had marked a single mail as spam 3 times in the Adam (cuz I was with it for so long that I failed to recognize that I was marking the same mail as spam over and over again every time it synced with the main server). I guess after that I stopped using Mail’d. Its just a software issue and once they put an update, I might return to it, unless I get to install Gmail app on the device that is.

Flash was working pretty well, I had installed flash from a freeware website before hand. So Youtube’ing and video streaming in general was pretty good. Sounds were crisp and loud, at times tended to feel like high treble, so when you play music with high bass and stuff, you could hear heavy tearing.

I had installed a few basic and necessary apps that actually were combined to form the main reason that I bought the Adam. Reading. So I found FBreader, Aldiko and Amazon as the first ones to install. All of them worked pretty well, but in general, there is the QuickOffice app of course. Reading on Adam is awesome, especially when it comes to the light screen or automatic brightness setting or even the PixelQi (works best outdoors). Btw, I shifted apps from my PC to the tablet via USB, and installed them via Sniffer.

Experimenting upon apps showed me the current situation of Android for tablets. There is no Android Market access so we have to settle for alternatives. And taking apps from the net has a warning tag; they are made for phones. So aligning the screen size is at times a failure. There are a few apps that worked. And a few that crashed. And using alternative market sources like SlideMe, and OpenLeaf gave me respite from the fact that I would have been dead bored without Market Access, even though the quality of softwares and its range itself are limited. Lets wait and see what happens. And if that doesn’t sound like fun (how would it), there are various options (from forums) of rooting the tablet without voiding the warranty. This way you get Market access and all the Google tools get to be installed.

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I will write up another article on which all softwares I installed and will source them so you guys can download and try them too.

One software worth mentioning is the RockPlayer movie player I tried. Playback over major codecs were supported and worked off the mark. Forwarding or shifting the timeline of the video was such a bliss that there is no actual delay. This is in fact brought in by the switching hardware and software codec support to the player. And watching a movie on the Adam is pretty good too. Some people complained about the screen lacking clarity and looking washed out when its a PixelQi, but frankly, I find it more than fine both indoors and outdoors where it is actually awesome. :)

Coming to the other side of the coin, the tablet failed to detect my hard disks. This became clear when I understood that Android doesn’t have native NTFS support. So I guess its wait for an update? Or move for the BeastROM or StephenH Rom (one of those many android roms that support NTFS). Notion Ink had stated that 32GB of Fat32 formatted hard disks can be connected and used. I did that too, and its still not working. Though there are some guys who tried upto 500 GB NTFS on ROMS.

When I connected a USB drive, you could access it pretty well and run through everything. BUT, there wasn’t a ‘Safely Remove Device’ option. So every time I connected a USB drive, I had to shut the system off to remove it ‘cuz if I removed it if the device was running, EITHER the tablet would restart or I would lose files on the usb drive. I learnt this from experience and it wasn’t a fun prospect. What a Bummer! :-/

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You will quickly run out of the 8GB drive space (of which 5.5 GB is actually available) that you get with the device, so I recommend you to get an Micro SDHC card. 8 GB to 32GB is available in the market, but they tend to be pretty expensive even though they might sound worth it. I am still to buy a card myself.

On the camera side, its a 3.2MP supported by a basic software, nothing fancy about it. But beware, when you take pictures with it initially it would be unclear. This is because of two layers of protective film on the camera lens. The swivel of the cam is smooth but has a slight plastic-y feeling to it, So don’t dare use too much pressure when toying it around.

As for the battery, I am still to see 6+ hours on the color mode. On PixelQi mode with WiFi, browsing, reading and stuff, I hit 12 hours, so that’s pretty decent. But its the color mode that hasn’t delivered to promise; they said it would be 8-10 hours, I get 4.5 – 6. :-/ on full use.

One thing I am impressed was that the device never heated up to the level that causes concern. After hours of reading and browsing and movie watching, I never felt that the back or rather, any part of the device heated up. This is a good plus. :)

Overall, aside from these niggling software issues, I would say the Adam is awesome. Everything can be corrected by an update or two. The stock OS isn’t so much fun as it has its problems, but I have seen rooted and well configured Adams running with superb performance, on par to Apple’s IPad graphical response. Oh, and on comparison with the other tablets in the market, I gotta say Adam has the best hardware, but its the software issues thats bringing it down. Correct them, and you got yourselves something to boast about. On a random comment, Rohan Shravan (CEO of Notion Ink) had claimed that the current Adam users shouldn’t worry about updates and even device upgrades as we are all ‘future-proof’. So that’s something good to think about and probably hang on to. :)

Google hasn’t promised Honeycomb (Android 3.0) support yet, so its would take a while of waiting to see the true potential of Adam, with the stock (future update supported) OS I mean.

One thing, I am addicted to Angry Birds… :D

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Posted by Arif   @   12 April 2011 20 comments
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20 Comments

Comments
Apr 13, 2011
4:02 am

Awesome post, very helpful feedback!

Apr 13, 2011
4:02 am

And…
#@$#@%!#$#@$#@$#$@
I want it!!!!!

Apr 13, 2011
1:12 pm
#3 Frank Helsper :

Sorry, but I really not believe yout battery times. In PQi Mode the display uses only about 8-10% less energy. No way that you can use it 12h, double as long.
Did you actually tried it out or did you make an estimate?

Apr 13, 2011
1:15 pm
#4 Frank Helsper :

and Nikhil Sheth : Think twice, before you day you want it.

For the same momey you get a realy good honeycomb tablet (transformer), with good service & support (Notion Ink=none) and all the technical specs and promises from Asus are correct.

I wn the Adam now for 1 month and I really regret buying it

Apr 13, 2011
1:16 pm
#5 Antoni Ceballi :

Nikhil Sheth : Think twice, before you day you want it.

For the same momey you get a realy good honeycomb tablet (transformer), with good service & support (Notion Ink=none) and all the technical specs and promises from Asus are correct.

I wn the Adam now for 1 month and I really regret buying it

Apr 13, 2011
1:16 pm
#6 Antoni Ceballi :

sorry, wanted to quote!

I fully support yours comments Frank

Apr 13, 2011
3:51 pm
#7 paltry :

Hi…
i have also got my adam 2 days back…
i just want to ask that dont you feel that adam’s screen resolution is not that crisp…
on the home panel just look at the recently launched apps icon texts.. they just look so blurry.. and one can note also that on startup on the notion ink logo,the image/font edges are so jaggered up… i dont believe that xoom and galaxy tab has such a kinf of resolution.. they must have a better resolution….
can you post some more hd pics of ur adam keeping in mind to take some text/font photos and post here?
that would really help to confirm mine is not the only one.. from your current pics its not sure if urs look same as mine.. thanks..
btw u can look here at my post..
http://conclave.notionink.com/showthread.php?249-the-screen-looks-pixelated-fonts-dont-appear-crisp

Thanks

Apr 13, 2011
5:15 pm
#8 Ramchi :

Great review. I just got my Adam PQi+3G few days back. I have been using it and having fun, with rooted one, tried Beast ROM, trying EdenX(which I seem to like more). The enormous amount of flexibility that I have with Adam is really amazing. Though few times I had boot loop (not booting at all) issue, there are few tips to resolve the same and I am now become confident that Adam community can support this device, if NI bothers about them!

Apr 13, 2011
5:19 pm

I feel an urgent need to get one of those. A comprehensive review. Keep up the good work ATH.

Author Apr 13, 2011
6:08 pm
#10 Arif :

@Frank Helsper

I really did get 12 hours. :) No estimate, I was just reading and remember once that I just saw a dip of 1% in half an hour. And that was just reading. Browsing consumed a bit more.

But frankly speaking, I am really not impressed to the level i was expecting myself to be.

Apr 13, 2011
8:06 pm
#11 Rajendra :

I am having adam for a month now. LCD/Wifi model but however I don’t agree on the build quality review of yours.

Build quality is not sturdy as you claim. Try pressing on the rear side of adam, bottom near reset button(in landscape mode) it looks so soft and not tough build.

Compared to xoom it offers 2 additional USB ports only. Xoom provide miniHDMI (HDMI on adam), miniUSB and microSD. Rest all is the same. The LCD quality really sucks with its bad viewing angles, the quality is not comparable as any major tablets in the market. I don’t require 3 USB ports (miniUSB, 2USB ports) when only one is accessible at any point of time. The sound with those huge speakers is barely audible for their size (its as good as any tablet with those internal small speakers), touch sensitivity is much better on my iPhone or xoom tablet (I played at Costco).
Coming to hardware (could be software issues) none work as expected : GPS (know issue), Compass (shows completely different directions compared to my iPhone (displays correct) : each calibration shows different directions, Camera : my 3.2MP 5 yr old camera provides much better quality, Size: bigger than any tablet outside – not handy to carry it in a book envelope – stretched in length (landscape) and compressed on breadth.

The only advantage is you can side load any app from market (most of the apps though fail to install). If it was not that $150 cheaper, I would have gone for xoom.

My kid frequently plays a cartoon 1:10hrs movie at full volume (my laptop gives much better volume) the battery looses more 50% charge. Not sure how you are getting 12hrs (unless you use it intermittently)

Apr 13, 2011
9:11 pm
#12 Jay Patel :

I also disagree with this review. I have only had problems with my adam. I cannot rely on it to do any tasks because it is guaranteed to crash randomly. I did all the upgrades ect.

I do not trust the build quality, 2 of the usb ports never worked. GPS does not work. 3G also does not work.
I feel like Notion Ink is a scam selling us chinese ipad knockoffs.

Author Apr 13, 2011
9:47 pm
#13 Arif :

@Jay Patel & Rajendra,

Well, it seems that different people are getting different hardware aspects from the tablet. I haven’t seen any softness or fragile nature from the back. But I have seen a few other people mention the same. So it seems again different people are getting different results, so fingers can be pointed to bad quality control check.

I worked OSMand, and Google Maps. After correctly loading the right map (for offline use), I did get my location correctly. :) I don’t see why people are going wrong here.

As for USB ports, all of them worked, except for hard drives, still trying to figure out if there is another way around.

Btw, the 12 hours I mentioned was from reading on PixelQi.

I do agree with you that this wasn’t the product we actually expected. I too share the grief ‘cuz I too shelled out money for this when an actual race has started after we bought this. Was it worth the waiting or was it not? Time will tell.

Apr 13, 2011
10:08 pm
#14 Rajendra :

@Arif,
Regarding the build quality I was mentioning : If you press on the rear side of the tablet you can see the standard LCD bubble (basically the parts are touching the LCD), bottom (landscape) if you press the bezel and the bottom side together – its not stiff, its soft and you can feel it.

USB ports: All 3 can’t be used at once (Android limitation) – then why would one require 3 ports, one is good. Also sometimes if I plug in USB flash drive its not identified ; I have remove it and it again (some times 2-3 times)

I don’t recall battery lasting more than 3-4hrs of continuous use : playing Youtube videos (mostly), browsing internet, playing an hr movie with speakers on (full brightness). iPad/Xoom gives a decent 7+ hrs for the same.

GPS: Osmand locates me but doesn’t provide turn-by-turn directions like a true GPS (requires fix for 3 satellites). Locating on map doesn’t mean a fix.

Author Apr 13, 2011
10:46 pm
#15 Arif :

@Rajendra,
Hmm… Right you are, on the USB. 3 of them don’t work at the same time. And I noticed that at times USB drives don’t work unless I restart the tablet. The first time I used the tablet, I just saw 3-4 hours and I was actually worried. But PixelQi got another range of results. The more I seemed to play around the options, the more battery life I got (on both modes).

If you would have followed the line of issues we ‘fans’ faced during the time from the start till Dec’ 2010 (when the first pre-order was opened), everyone relied on what Rohan posted time and again. And guess we all fell for that ploy.

Things like the battery, the (amazing-they said) PixelQi option, connecting external hdds, all seemed to be the thing we all wanted. But did we get anything of that? I don’t think so, and besides, when it comes to improving on these stuff, I don’t think it would change as well. Or would it?

When Rohan came up with lots of excuses cuz of the delays (chinese shipment damage, factory issues, Chinese New Year working), everybody should have thought up that we are going to see more of these kinda words in the future. And talking about his statements about the product, guess we are seeing the same.

Thats why I first claimed, after 3 weeks of seeing the product and thoroughly using it, I am hesitant…as well as encouraging the prospect.

Guess we have to make do with this device for now, and for the future, lets hope things change for the better.

Apr 14, 2011
12:14 am
#16 Rajendra :

@Arif, What movie is it that you were playing? Looking for some good movies for my kid

Author Apr 14, 2011
12:22 am
#17 Arif :

@Rajendra

I am playing Toy Story 3 in the demo. :) Funnily, I haven’t watched it yet, but just for the demo I put it up.

Lemme see if I can get you a good list. :)

Jun 3, 2011
2:27 pm
#18 michael :

frankly…speaking..i have been using..tablet’s…since..Nokia launch…their Maemo based tablets plus a whole lot of android tab’s Archos..Viewsonic..etc etc…and the truth is Notion ink Adam…is the best of all android tab’s…in todays tech world..everything has an issue…including the giant Apple(ipad)..so let us not draw the bad side of the Adam …but enjoy…the amazing build quality and hardware….

Author Jun 3, 2011
5:57 pm
#19 Arif :

Thank you for your insight, Michael. :) Appreciate it.
Its hard getting people to accept a start-ups initial run.

Jun 9, 2011
12:10 pm
#20 jay :

good review. Thanks.

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