ALDI had another cheapy Android tablet on sale this weekend, so I thought it might be interesting to grab one and compare it to the one I reviewed in September. Due to the time-sensitive nature of ALDI sales, I will try and make this a quick summary.
The price is the same - $249 - and on paper (and back-of-box) the two units look very similar. 9.7" capacitive multi-touch screen, 16GB storage, 1GB RAM, dual-core processor, WiFi B/G/N, MicroSD slot, Bluetooth (actually mentioned on the box this time), front and rear camera, built-in microphone, headphone jack, etc. So, what are the differences?
The big one is the inclusion of 3G support. This means when you are away from friendly WiFi but in range of the normal mobile or cellphone network, you can make a data connection like a mobile phone. Or indeed, make phone calls.
The second major new inclusion is a GPS reciever, so you can do geo-located things like tagging photos on Facebook, be guided by Google Maps or go Geocaching.
The CPU is different - a 1.2GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 MTK8377 as opposed to the 1.5GHz Amlogic Cortex A9 8726-MX in the old one. Neither of those names mean much to me, so it's difficult to know how they will compare in real life.
The screen resolution is now 1024x768 on a proper 4:3 screen. This still isn't a very impressive resolution, but it's at least a more standard size than the previous one, which should make it better for viewing images and playing media etc.
The new one has Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) as opposed to 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) as shipped, although I imagine the older one can probably be upgraded by now.
Above you can see the new one comes in a slightly smaller box (not super-clear thanks to the angle of the photo) than the old box at top left. Top right is a Bluetooth keyboard and cover which is sold separately for $29.95. I bought one today and will check it out soon with both tablets.
The box lists the features, and then inside we have the tablet itself, a USB charger with cable and a pouch containing the manual and warranty info. Warranty is one year, with 60 days "satisfaction guarantee". I will say I've returned a couple of things to ALDI and although it's a bit of a pain to do it via the checkout counter, there seems to be a no-questions-asked policy so a refund or replacement is simple. The manual is excellent and very clear as before, although there's some slightly odd phrasing in the GPS section which seems to have been added more recently.
I've scanned the specs pages from the manual for those interested, here and here.
On to the tablet itself. Straight away it is clearly quite different to the previous one. It's a slightly taller aspect ratio - no surprise given the different resolution. It has much less in the way of connectors and a much more gradual bevel to the back edges. In terms of thickness it's pretty much identical to the older one.
Left: old unit - Right: new unit (those are reflected cables above, not cracks!)
The only notable physical features are the power and volume buttons, the USB and headphone ports and the little cover which pops off to expose the microSD and SIM slots. There's also front and rear cameras and a pinhole reset button. The power button is annoyingly located on the back which means you have to pick up the unit to turn it on again if it turns the screen off before you're ready.
As mentioned before this one lacks the HDMI port of the previous one and also doesn't have a dedicated power jack, relying on the USB port instead. You can charge it from a PC or from the included power pack (or any other USB charger presumably, including car ones). Having said that, they've gone with MicroUSB instead of MiniUSB. This could be due to the European Standard but I'm not sure of the current status of that, and anyway, surely the previous tablet would have also been covered. One connector vs another might seem like a minor difference, but in my case means I can't use the huge number of MiniUSB cables I've recieved with other tablets, GPSs, cameras, etc. The only other MicroUSB device I have is my Samsung Galaxy S2 phone, and while I have some cables for that, the plugs don't seem to be quite long enough to get past the bevel on the new tablet. This means they don't seat properly and the tablet keeps popping in and out of charge mode. The only cable I (now) own which has a long enough plug is the one that came with the new tablet, which would mean I'd have to drag that cable from office to car to bedroom etc if I want to be able to charge on the go. This might not affect you if you have other cables available but it just seems like it could have been designed better, with the connector nearer to the edge and less affected by the bevel - and, preferably for me, using MiniSD.
Another oddity concerns the screen covering. It shipped with a thin plastic sheet protecting the screen in transit which is fairly normal. A little tab on the corner says "please peel off this mask AFTER application completed", which is a bit confusing. Application of what? Like, a software application? Or is that tab meant to be removed in the factory after the protector is installed? There's no mention of this cover in the manual so I just removed it while unpacking out of habit. However, the layer beneath also seems stuck to the glass, and you can see a little pocket where it's not quite stuck, and on the black surround of the tablet you can see the swirling patterns you get when a plastic cover is stuck to glass. So is this lower layer meant to come off also? I haven't tried too hard to get a fingernail under it, and screen-touching works through it, so I've left it on for now. It's probably a somewhat poorly-applied scratchproof layer. I may be having a Rain Man moment here but again it seems unnecessarily confusing.
Speaking of scratches, it also doesn't come with any kind of cover. The old one had a very basic sleeve which at least stops the screen being scratched in your bag, and gives you a surface to rest it on when you have it upside down (like if you're installing a SIM card in the new one for example). A cynic would say this new one has no case in order to encourage you to buy the Bluetooth keyboard and cover which became available on the same day.
Final quirk at this stage: no charge light. The old one has a mildly annoying but useful LED which glows various colours to indicate charging in progress, charge complete, etc. The new one shows you the usual Android charging-battery icon when you plug it in, but from then on, there's no way to tell at a glance if it's finished or not.