REVIEW: Disgo 8400G 7.9-inch 3G Android tablet

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8400g.pngreview-line.JPGName: Disgo 8400G

Type: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean tablet

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £149.99

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The race to the bottom of tablet pricing continues, as Disgo offer up their 8400G tablet for a mere £149.99. Considering its 3G connectivity it’s a steal, but can this budget offering stand up against its premium rivals? Read on to find out!

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Design
disgo-8400g-tablet-1.JPGThough an uninspiring design, the Disgo 8400G packs in enough compelling hardware features to make it a cut above the budget tablet competition. Packing in 3G connectivity as well as Wi-Fi, the tablet also has GPS and A-GPS capabilities (making it a reasonable alternative to a dedicated sat nav)  and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity with Disgo pulling in some low power elements of Bluetooth 4.0 in an attempt to extend battery life.

A 7.9-inch screen sits in a sizeable bezel, with the device measuring a chunky 214 x 155 x 11 mm and weighing a hefty 460g. Though it’s thick bezel makes it comfortable to grip and watch movies without obscuring the screen, it’s weight makes it uncomfortable to hold in one hand for extended periods of time, something that should be a benefit of the 7-inch form factor. A textured finish on the rear made the plastic casing a little easy to hold without slipping though.disgo-8400g-tablet-6.JPGWere you deciding to sit and watch many films on the Disgo 8400G you may be a little disappointed. Running at a 1024 x 768 resolution, the screen suffers from a lack of sharpness, brightness and a tighter viewing angle than its competitors offer. A tablet newbie won’t necessarily notice at first glance, but pop the 8400G next to an iPad and there’s a marked difference in screen quality.

Port placement is a little busy too. When held in portrait orientation, you’ll find practically every connectivity port sitting along the top. These include the microUSB data transfer and charging port, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a volume rocker, a power button, a microSD port and a SIM tray. Bunching so many connections together looks unsightly and can make it uncomfortable to hold in landscape orientation.disgo-8400g-tablet-2.JPGThe tablet is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, backed by 512MB of RAM. With so little RAM and a processor speed that would be considered entry-to-mid level by today’s top-end standards, performance across all aspects of the tablet is as expected a bit lifeless, with a notable lag between your input in almost all tasks, and choppy visuals on more demanding applications. It is however, performance consistent with the price, considering there’s a premium 3G connection also squeezed in here.

It’s worth noting too that we tested out two units over the course of our review, as the first shipped with a faulty flickering screen and an accelerometer that would lock and make certain games unplayable. The second tablet had no such issues, but in the interests of full disclosure, the review unit initially sent out was not without its problems.

Interface, Apps
disgo-8400g-tablet-4.JPGThankfully, apart from a “Nature” inspired theme with homescreen imagery fitting of the title, Disgo have pretty much stuck with the core Android Jelly Bean UI experience. Five homescreens can be customised to your liking, letting you add app shortcuts across the device from the app drawer. There are also a number of resizable Live Widgets pre-loaded on the Disgo 8400G; these are larger icons spread across the homescreens that offer live updating information at a glance. Calnedar, web bookmarks and contact details are among the pre-installed widgest, though others such as condensed Twitter or Facebook feeds, email inboxes or weather reports, for example, can be grabbed from the Google Play store.

Google’s Play store is a welcome addition on a budget tablet, with many manufacturers often scrimping on the effort it takes to get accreditation from Google. Over 600,000 apps are up for sale through the store, and unlike Apple, Google are open to more zany (sometimes unsavoury) submissions. Though it’s slightly more susceptible to attracting hackers and dubious apps, there are also loads of really impressive apps available that can really add to your enjoyment of the Android experience. The catalogue improves all the time; whether you’re a gamer, a reader, someone hunting news stories or recipes, a photographer or a blogger, there’s something for everyone. Many are free too, and few cost more than £3 or so. The pre-installed suite of Google-built apps (including YouTube, Gmail and Maps), is impressive too, offering a wide array of functionality right off the bat. When it comes to mapping, Google’s Maps app is far and away the best navigation solution available, particularly in comparison to the woeful Apple Maps. Likewise, the stock Android web browser is among the best on mobile devices, only bested by Google’s own Chrome, itself a free download from the Google Play store.

It’s a shame then that the Disgo 8400G’s processor isn’t a little more responsive. Whether swiping through homescreens, multitasking or downloading apps, it’s incredibly easy to overload the tablet, leading to a sluggish experience. Whether jumping between apps, opening and closing apps, loading a complex web page or dragging around items to customise the interface, expect the Disgo 8400G to lag behind your intentions.

Calling and Messaging

It’s not often we get to talk about calling and text messaging when putting together a tablet review, but with the Disgo 8400G packing in 3G connectivity, you can also use it to ring up your buddies and send SMS messages once you’ve popped in a SIM-card.

Using the stock Android contacts, dialler and messaging systems, it’s a nice option to have if you’ve got a Bluetooth headset, though you’ll look utterly ridiculous holding the chunky device to your ear for a call the old fashioned way. Text messaging though is actually rather pleasant, thanks to the larger keyboard afforded by the 7.9-inch screen.

Gmail comes pre-installed, as does the stock Android email up for connecting up an account from another non-Google service, and both are of the same high quality that Android users have come to expect. Instant Messaging is handled by the pre-loaded Google Talk app, but of course you can download the one of your choice from Google Play.

Typing away on the Digso 8400G has a nice and tactile feel thanks to its haptic feedback (something few tablets offer), but the sluggish responsiveness of the tablet made typing at speed difficult; if you can touch type at a decent speed you’ll regularly overtake the tablet’s ability to process your input, which can lead to spelling mistakes.

Media Playback and Gaming
disgo-8400g-tablet-7.JPGBeing an Android tablet, its easy to fill the Disgo 8400G with either your own content side loaded from a computer, or fresh movies, music and TV shows from the Google Play store. Though it’s still no match for iTunes, Google Play offers a wide variety of film and TV shows at a reasonable price to buy or rent. And if you’re the user of multiple Android devices, your purchases carry over across devices too.

However, the screen’s low brightness, muted colours and tight viewing angle made it an unpleasant watch, with video regularly becoming choppy, even if little or no multitasking was happening. Sound over the loudspeaker was at a good volume though, and reasonably clear for a single speaker.

Though it’s microSD support makes it capable of holding a large media library, the overall performance makes it unlikely to be your primary playback device. A lack of DLNA support is also notable, meaning you wont be able to access networked videos straight away.

Gaming on the tablet is at times a thankless task too. Though graphically simple games like Angry Birds are perfectly playable, the tablet became hot and performance became choppy when we tried to play more demanding 3D titles like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It’s unsurprising given the price tag, and considering many Android games are less graphically demanding than our test game, it may prove serviceable in this department for casual gamers.

Camera performance

Though you’d be mad to use a tablet as your primary snapping device, the Disgo 8400G has a particularly unintuitive photo taking app. All control sit on the right hand side of the screen, with the image taking up the left.

Three different modes can be used (still, video and panorama shots), with a circular menu dial giving you control over zoom level, which is the active camera and access to the setting menu, letting you tweak things like exposure, picture size and geotagging. It’s all a bit cramped and hidden away, with icons that don’t clearly line up with the settings they represent.

Having said that, the actual resulting pictures on the Disgo 8400G are at least a match for similarly priced tablet’s cameras. Shooting 2MP still, it handles outdoor photography well enough to illustrate a Facebook post or tweet, but struggles with a lack of flash for low light and indoor photography. Video, captured in H264, H263 or MPEG4  formats however is choppy at best, with poor response from the microphone and a general lack of detail with the video. That 0.2MP front facing camera though is perfectly acceptable for Skype calling, and really all you need from a tablet in terms of photography.

Battery life

Though Disgo claim you’ll get 8 hours of battery life out of a single charge of the 8400G, we found that in reality that figure to be closer to 6 hours. You’ll need to keep the screen brightness up very high for it to look its most readable, and a combination of video playback and 3G browsing quickly take its toll on a tablet lacking any notable battery management facilities.

Thankfully, the 8400G charges over a standard microUSB port though, meaning you can plug it into a computer or laptop and charge it at work if need be without the need to carry a proprietary charger around with you.

Value
disgo-8400g-tablet-8.JPGThough we’ve some reservations about the performance with the Disgo 8400G, one thing that’s indisputably excellent is its value for money. At £149.99, it’s one of the cheapest 3G-enabled tablets around. Compared to rival tablets in the 7-inch category, that’s considerably less than the 3G Nexus 7 (£239) and a hell of a lot cheaper than the 3G iPad Mini (£369). Of course, the premium you pay on those two devices bags you a more consistent user experience and premium design sensibilities, but considering the Disgo 8400G shares much of the same functionality as those two more expensive rivals, it’s maybe a concession worth considering. If you simply looking for the cheapest possible tablet and can live without 3G functionality, check out Amazon’s Wi-Fi Kindle Fire tablet line; starting at £129, even the entry-level model is altogether slicker than the Disgo 8400G.

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Verdict:

It ain’t perfect, and it certainly ain’t pretty, but the Disgo 8400G offers great value for money and reasonable performance for its low, low price. If you’re desperate to get in on the tablet craze, and love to be able to access the internet when on the go it’s definitely worth checking out. However, if its just the pennies you’re worried about and not the added 3G functionality, you may want to check out Amazon’s very cheap Kindle Fire line instead.review-line.JPG

2.5/5

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Gerald Lynch