The Advent Vega is a £250 Android tablet from the DSG group which has been hotly anticipated since its announcement a couple of months ago. The specification is high for the price point with a 10.1″ widescreen LCD with capacitive touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, front facing camera, HDMI output, USB port and Micro SD slot. The processor is a dual core Nvidia Tegra T20 running at 1 GHz and the custom Android 2.2 (Froyo) install runs brilliantly on it as you would expect.
Battery life is great with a claimed 6.5 hours of HD video playback and early testing seems to back that up. Build quality is very good and the 10.1″ LCD is bright with vivid colours and a 16:9 aspect ratio making it ideal for video, it is only let down slightly by the viewing angle which isn’t great in the vertical plane but is still perfectly acceptable. Unlike most tablets in this price range the touchscreen is capacitive, supports multitouch and responds very well. There is no oleophobic coating so it can be a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
Unusually for Android hardware there are no hardware home or menu buttons, just a back button on the top right hand edge next to the orientation lock and power button, instead the home, menu and another back button are on the customised notification bar at the top of the touchscreen. Additionally, a long press of the hardware back button also functions as menu and a long press of the power button brings up the shutdown menu which also includes a home option. Holding the power button for 6 seconds or show shuts the unit off straight away.
The lack of dedicated buttons is a strange design decision and possibly a sign that the hardware wasn’t originally designed with Android in mind. I would certainly have preferred the three standard hardware buttons but it is something I was aware of and can live with. To the left of the power button is the built in microphone which I’ve tried with the Skype test call feature and it seems to be quite decent.
Moving on with the hardware, on the right hand edge we have the power socket, a flap concealing the full size HDMI port, USB port (slave only, type A) and the Micro SD slot (a 4GB card is included), a 3.5mm headphone socket and finally, the volume controls.
The stereo speakers are fitted at the bottom of the back cover and sound reasonable for the size. A front facing camera is situated in the top of the bezel surrounding the screen, it’s only 1.3 Mega-pixel and for some unknown reason outputs a mirror image but it is better than nothing and will be fine for video chat using Fring etc. Finally, on the bottom edge is a port for a forthcoming dock/stand (front picture), price yet to be announced.
Behind the scenes we’ve got that NVIDIA T20 Tegra 2 Dual Core processor (actually a system-on-a-chip with utilising a dual core Cortex A9 variant) running at 1 GHz, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, 802.11b/g WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Not too shabby at all.
The Vega runs the latest version of Android, 2.2 aka Froyo. Other than the addition of the home, menu and back buttons to the notification bar already mentioned a few other minor modifications have been made to Android to make it more suitable for a tablet, small things such as removing the GSM signal icon and other irrelevant phone references. Overall, it is very slick and a big jump from most of the cheaper Android tablets we’ve seen on the market so far, Flash 10.1 is included and works fine with iPlayer, TVCatchup, YouTube etc and the standard media player is hardware accelerated for the Tegra 2 and has played everything I’ve thrown at it flawlessly.
As with all Android tablets that don’t have 3G the biggest downside with the out of the box setup is the lack of the Android Market and other Google apps such as GMail, Maps and YouTube. I believe this is because Google will currently only allow their apps on systems with a minimum hardware spec that includes GSM/3G communications, traditionally this has been done to make sure all Market apps will work fully so as to maintain the user experience. Hopefully this should change with the imminent Gingerbread (Android 2.3) release rumoured to be due soon. Google have recently introduced a method for developers to state whether their apps require certain features such as GSM or GPS in order to run which will prevent applications appearing for devices on which they won’t run properly and thus maintaining a smooth user experience.
As expected it didn’t take long (less than 24 hours) for the community to come up with a way to get the Market and Google apps running on the Vega, in this case it was Paul at MoDaCo and due to the way the Vega ROMS are updated it is very easy to do with no rooting required. It’s also risk free – you can always reflash to a stock ROM if you want and the official Advent Vega Twitter feed has said in response to enquiries about this voiding the warranty that their warranty is on the hardware and have even made suggestions for finding ways round the Market issue which shows they don’t have an issue with it. To install the Android Market and Google apps head on over to the MoDaCo forums here, it takes no more than a couple of minutes to do but note that your Vega must be running the official 1.4 ROM before installation, mine came with 1.3 installed but the 1.4 update is available here and is easy to update with one slight annoyance being that it requires a Windows PC to do (the MoDaCo mod is Windows/Linux/Mac compatible). Once I had done the mod the next thing I did was to install LauncherPro which is much better than the standard launcher with many customisation options and allows a lot more widgets and icons to be installed on the home screens and provides a lot of extra features similar to those provided by HTC Sense.
I’m very pleased with it and I think it is amazing value for money at £250 with the caveat that the mods from MoDaCo are a must, I waited to make sure adding the Market was possible before buying and wouldn’t have bought it otherwise so bear that in mind. I’d have liked it to have had proper Home, Menu and Back buttons and the camera could be improved but neither are a deal breaker. At the moment the only close contender in this price range seems to be the Archos 101 at around £270 but it only has half the RAM of the Vega which is going to affect performance and limit future OS upgrades.
Where to get one
At the moment the Vega is only available online through the PC World, Currys or Dixons websites in limited numbers as and when stock is available. If you want to get your hands on one the best bet at the moment is to follow @AdventVega on Twitter and keep an eye out for their announcements.
As is the way with these things DSG don’t actually make the hardware, the Vega is a branded version of a tablet known as the P10AN01 from Japanese ODM WSL and some other variations are starting to appear such as this one from Expansys and I’m sure more will follow in time.
Advent Vega Specifications:
- NVIDIA T20 Tegra 2 Dual Core Cortex A9 running at 1 GHz
- 10.1″ 1024 x 600 capacitive touchscreen with multitouch
- 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, 4GB microSD (supports up to 32GB)
- 802.11b/g WLAN
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- USB port
- HDMI output
- 1.3MP camera
- Battery life: LCD off: 16hrs, 1080p Video: 6.5hrs, Standby: 4 days
- Size: 275 x 178 x 13.6 mm (W x D x H)
- Weight: Approx. 700-750 g