Hands On With Compal's Tegra 2 Android TabletS

No major companies are quite ready to bring a proper Android tablet to market, but they're edging closer. When they do, they could do worse than turn out something like this 7-inch, Tegra 2 design from Compal.

Under the hood is Nvidia's newest Tegra, which guarantees snappy interface, video and graphics performance in theory. In practice, at least on this early device which can't leverage the new graphics acceleration in Android 2.1, menu transitions are still a little slow, browser scrolling isn't instant, and the responsiveness of the touch keyboard poor enough to make typing a genuine pain in the ass. But wait wait wait—that's a software optimization issue, which can almost definitely be fixed. What about the concept?

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The Archos 5 Android tablet, had its issues, from lack of 3G support to inability to play Flash content, both of which have been remedied here—this Compal has a SIM tray as well as Flash 10.1 support. A shipped product would be faster than the Archos, and the extra two inches of screen are just enough to make this feel like a tablet, not an oversized smartphone. And to be honest, I could get into this.

It's a sofa tablet, a toilet tablet, a Skype tablet, whatever—there's a market for this, at the right price. The only serious issue now is that typing on the onscreen keyboard is almost impossible on a 7-inch screen, unless your thumbs are freakishly long. I have no idea how Google—or Apple, for that matter—could solve this problem. But someone might! And that would be great.

UPDATE: Evidently Viliv has an interesting split-keyboard solution to the typing problem. —Thanks, Tom!