For all of this year's chatter about the coming army of Android tablets, the near radio silence has been deafening. Until now. First, at consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin, came news of a global launch of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. And starting next week, you can hop onto Amazon.com to pre-order the Stream TV eLocity A7.
The eLocity A7, which has already been sighted on the Web during its New York demo tour last week, runs on Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform. I've seen demos of Tegra 2 in a non-shipping tablet shell, but this was the first product with a confirmed launch date I'd laid hands on (it ships in November). The company says this is the first tablet of several it plans to introduce in the coming months; its roadmap includes both 5-inch and 10-inch models, too.
During my hands-on time with the eLocity, I found much to like. Topping the list: The unit integrates the familiar and much-loved USB-A port, for directly connecting a USB flash drive or even a flash memory card reader. Right next to the USB port, concealed beneath the sturdily designed cover flap, is the HDMI-out, which will serve well if you want to export stills or 1080p video to your TV.
The inclusion of those two ports alone make this unit's potential exciting: Suddenly, with industry-standard ports that you can attach peripherals to, the tablet becomes a device that can conveniently hook into your existing technology environment. For example, you can jack a standard SD or CompactFlash card reader into the USB port to preview or share the images you've just captured; attach a USB flash drive to grab a file; or use the unobtrusive tablet to pipe high-def video to your HDTV.
Of course, for now that's the potential-the real proof of how useful such ports will be will come once we get to put the tablet to use.
I immediately zoned in on the eLocity's ports, but there's plenty more that's worth attention. Sadly, the industrial design is not among those things. It's fairly squared off and boxy, and feels every bit like the plastic it's made of. Even the 5-inch Dell Streak has a more streamlined designed. The eLocity weighs one pound, and measures 8.2 by 4.8 by 0.5 inches, and felt well-balanced in-hand.
Like the Streak, the eLocity has a row of capacitive touch-sensitive buttons to the right (or bottom, if held vertically) of the screen.
Also unfortunate: The eLocity's screen resolution. The screen is 800 by 480 pixels, and while the high-definition content looked better than standard def in my hands on, the reality is, the screen just isn't up to what the Galaxy Tab offers, and even that falls short of Apple's Retina display. In video clips, I could see the pixel striations on the screen; and the low-resolution was even more evident in the home screen menu or when looking at an e-book. At times, I'd liken the clarity to the output of a dot-matrix printer.
Other specs for the eLocity include 512MB of RAM, Nvidia Tegra II-T20 1GHz CPU, 4GB of flash storage, and a microSD Card slot (for up to 32GB more). For wireless connectivity, you get 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and a SIM card slot, too (easily accessible via the same flap covering the microSD Card slot).
And, oh yes, it ships with Android 2.2 (Froyo). Yup, the coming tablet wars are surely heating up...I just wish they were here already for us to get the game rolling.