First Impressions Review: Commtiva N700 7" Android Tablet

There are plenty of in depth review about this smallish 7″ tablet machine running Android out there, but they tend to be first views by tech sites and not from an actual users perspective. I just got one of these as a second hand bargain, but they are available for retail at around £299 from Staples or Phones4u or TescoDirect and although the machine has been around for a few months, it is still current.

I am an end user, a road warrior of technology who expects to be able to use the tech in the field: I am a parish priest and I am often out of the Vicarage and in people’s houses, local schools and the pub. I need access to my Calendar (Google) and my eMail (also Google). I look up a lot of stuff on the web while I am out and make notes of my great and genius ideas in the oddest of places. I also quite like to be able to listen to podcasts, watch the iPlayer in my downtime or listen to music or comedy. I love technology and believe that it enhances communication and thought rather than getting in the way.

I already use an iPhone 3GS, with which I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I love it’s apps but hate it’s general lack of functionality; I am frustrated by its unreliability, appalling battery life and most of all, Apple’s belief that it knows best for me: the total reliance on iTunes and the AppStore. I love the fact it looks cool, but hate  buying into the Apple Fanboy thing. In other places I use a laptop with Ubuntu on it, a Centos Linux Server, all flavours of Windows including 7 on my laptop and a Mac Mini: you can’t accuse me of slavishly following one format. So, for me, interoperability, networking etc is a must.

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So this is my first android machine, and my first impressions are very favourable. The tablet is a nice size to hold: slightly too big for a pocket, but which fits in my hoodie pocket nicely. In the hand it is clearly larger than a phone but less bulky than an iPad. It will fit inside my back pocket, but I’m not going to do that because you know what will happen [crunch!

The Android OS is version 2.2 and is quite functional. The keyboard is touch screen and fairly responsive and can be pecked out in traditional form our you can wiggle you finger around the screen using something called swype which I imagine could become an effective form of text input even if I’ll never quite get up to full dictation speed. I have written at least half this review on the tablet using Swype. If you know your way around a qwerty keyboard then you can be quite proficient.

The tablet has full access to the Android Market and so there is literally thousands of applications available. In next to no time I have almost every app which I can get on my of iPhone and which appears to be fully matched in terms of functionality. There is however one big failing on this system: as a low cost machine, at least a couple of hundred quid less than its rivals, the system lacks the power to be able to run the latest version of flash and so horror of horrors it is unable to play the BBC iPlayer. This was a bit of a blow I must admit but when you take into account the rest of the functionality at this price point, it is a small inconvenience.

This tablet has full wifi and 3g functionality and do you could access the net anywhere you find yourself. It is unlocked so I took advantage of this and stuck in a sim from GiffGaff which runs over the O2 network and at a low cost pay as you go tarrif features unlimited internet and unlimited texts and a big number of phone minutes. It works fine as a phone especially when used with an apple iphone headset – you can use the speaker but it is a bit odd. With unlimited data the world really is your Oyster. All the social networking apps are available and the GPS means that Google Maps are very useful. There is a route planning app but I haven’t yet opened it yet.

You can tether the tablet via usb or use it as a portable wifi hotspot. This is especially cool and I think when on holiday it will become invaluable. On an iphone this costs a massive amount extra.

It comes with a 4gb memory card in the micro sd format which is adequate. I like quite a bit of music on the move and especially comedy shows like “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue”, and so I expect I will want to upgrade that memory soon: a 16 gb card is quite competative at the moment. The media playing is pretty good and the headset does a pretty good job.

I have installed the excellent Evernote note taking software and as this is available on almost all platforms (including a clone for Linux called Nevernote) and this makes the production of typed, photographed or audio notesvery efficient indeed.

The 3mp camera does a very good job and has a video function which is far better than my iphone. There is a user-facing camera as well but I haven’t yet sorted out a Skype phone call to test this yet.

Battery life has so far been impressive, but then again I am used to an iphone and so I can be easily impressed by anything which threatens to last a complete day, or even more than half an hour to be honest.

So my overall impression has been very favourable.I haven’t played many games on it but Lou already likes a bubble busting game. I am sure Angry Birds is not to far behind…

For what I need in a tablet this is a perfect tablet: a lightweight and portable media device and note taking tool, the lack of flash isn’t that traumatic anyway and I can see this becoming an important part of my daily used kit.

I really can recommend this one to you. Four and a half Stars