Given the tablet's rapidly increasing popularity after the success of devices like Apple's iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, everyone and their mother is trying to jump on the bandwagon with their own version of the device. With such a saturation of tablets, inevitably there are going to be some that are the equivalent of those knockoff Nintendo Wiis that you see at your local RiteAid pharmacy. So is EFun's Nextbook Next3 tablet another one of those sub-par clones, or can it bang with the heavy hitters?
NextBook Next3 Specs:
- 8.4-inch, 800 x 600 resistive touchscreen display
- Android 2.1 OS (Eclair)
- 600MHz Rockchip processor
- 256MB DDR2 RAM
- 2GB of onboard storage
- SD card slot
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g connectivity
- Built-in speakers
- Integrated Borders eBook Store, powered by Kobo
- Protective case and pointer stylus included
- 1.08 lbs
The Next3 has a solid build to it, one that leaves it feeling like it's of quality construction without being too heavy. As is the case with anything glossy, the black finish on the casing of the device is a good idea in theory, but in reality, it easily becomes covered with fingerprints and smudges. The power button is smartly located on the bottom edge of the device, preventing any accidental switches; also down there is the Next3's SD card slot, mini USB port, charging port, and headphone jack. Finally, there are two navigation buttons (forward and backward) located on the outside edge of the frame.
One of the first things that caught my eye upon booting up the Next3 for the first time was the mediocre display quality; it lacked sharpness and I noticed immediately. I decided to look into the issue by comparing it to another Android tablet that I have spent some time with, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Galaxy Tab, which has a much sharper display, has a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels on its 7-inch screen, giving the device an exceptionally sharp pixel density. Compare that to the 800 x 600 resolution of the Next3 on the larger, 8.4-inch screen (resulting in a much lower pixel density) and it's no mystery as to why the latter's display is so fuzzy: the lower resolution blown up on a larger screen did not work out well.
The responsiveness of the touchscreen is pretty poor, as well. If you're using your finger, you really have to press down to get anything to register; this is mostly due to the fact that the Next3 has a resistive touchscreen, which requires a certain amount of pressure for the two sheets that compose the screen to be touched together and register the input. This is opposed to capacitive touchscreens, which use electrical charges in their material to locate the point of contact and therefore require less physical pressure to register.
The issues with touchscreen sensitivity (or lack thereof) are especially frustrating when trying to turn the pages of an eBook, which is hit or miss at best. The Next3 does come with a stylus that is a little more effective than using your finger, but it's very lightweight and skinny, making it feel cheap and oddly disproportionate to the much larger device. And let's be honest, who wants to read their eBooks with a stylus in their hand just to turn the page?
Buttons and other features
As previously mentioned, in an attempt to mimic the convenient navigation buttons of the Amazon Kindle, the Next3 features forward and backward navigation buttons—but only on the right side of the device, eliminating the convenience for lefties and ensuring that righties are always handling it with their dominant hand while reading or navigating. To top it off, the buttons are occasionally unresponsive, sometimes requiring multiple presses before turning a page or moving to the next picture in a slideshow.
On the subject of buttons, I would also like to mention that I dearly miss the Android navigation touch-sensitive "buttons" (search, home, menu, and back) like those featured on the Samsung Galaxy Tab and most Android smartphones. Their absence on the Next3 resulted in on-screen navigation instead, which wasn't nearly as convenient or efficient.
Another problem I have is with the Next3's accelerometer. Now, I know that few devices have really mastered accelerometer technology, so to speak, but the Next3's accelerometer is a far cry from masterful. Besides the fact that, by design, the home screen will not reorient into landscape mode when the device is turned (which drives me nuts), the Next3 often gets confused and starts turning a step behind what you want it to do; in other words, turning to portrait orientation when you shift to landscape and vice-versa. Tack on the fact that the use of the accelerometer often results in funny things like YouTube playlists reloading every time the device is reoriented, and you begin to think that you're better off just never turning the device at all.
There are some nice supplemental features to the Next3, however. The built-in speakers on the tablet are powerful and of good quality, which came in handy when watching videos or listening to music (which, so long as it is local media, is a perfectly enjoyable experience as well). Another nice touch is the included carrying case for the Next3, offering some protection and a place to put the miniscule stylus since you can't store it inside the device itself.