The Ainol Novo 7 Paladin is a 7-inch WiFi only tablet from one of the popular tablet manufacturers in China. Being the first Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet in the market, it will surely draw some curious looks. Having a price tag of only Php5,800, it will certainly make a lot of people interested.
Does having the latest Android OS and a can’t-beat-price really make Ainol Novo 7 Paladin a worthy buy? You might want to check our review and draw conclusions for yourself whether this is a tablet you might want to get or not.
The Ainol Novo 7 Paladin has your typical chunky build although I like its thin bezel making the device look more compact. The exterior is made of smooth, hard plastic with a matte finish which is not exactly smudge-proof. You would want to have a case for this because I don’t think it will survive a hard drop.
Although there are no buttons at the front, the Paladin is full of them on the sides. On the left we have the volume control, the Reset pinhole, a miniUSB port for data and charging, microSD slot and the audio jack.
On top is the Power/Sleep button, Home and Menu buttons. The latter two are buttons we normally don’t see in today’s tablets but should be handy for Android 4.0 devices whose status bar disappears in some full view modes.
There’s nothing on its sloped back except the speaker grill/exhaust on the lower left. Ainol didn’t include a camera (rear or front) on the Paladin unlike the older models. I don’t think rear cameras are that critical to tablets anyway.
Design-wise, the Ainol Novo 7 Paladin looks good for a cheap tablet. You won’t get the solid feel but it also won’t scream cheap when people see you using it.
Display and UI
The Novo 7 Paladin has a resolution of 480 x 800 and on a 7-inch screen, this means you can really see the pixels. I would say what’s the point of watching 720p videos with such pixel density if you can’t appreciate the sharpness.
The display is also not too bright to be usable under bright conditions and viewing angle is a bit limited on this device.
Android 4.0 doesn’t deviate much from Android 3.0 when it comes to UI interface. The main improvement I noticed was that the once persistent status bar now disappears when playing games and watching videos. You can bring it back by swiping your finger up from the bottom of the screen (just like in the BlackBerry PlayBook).
ICS on the Paladin is not signed by Google meaning you won’t see the full suite of Google Apps here (no YouTube, Gtalk, Google Maps, etc.). What you will have are a lot (I mean lots) of Chinese apps that you would want to uninstall immediately. At least it comes pre-installed with ES File Explorer which I find really useful.
The Ainol Novo 7 Paladin is powered by a relatively unknown 1GHz MIPS processor with a 444MHz GPU. For the most part, basic navigation and switching windows is alright, not fast but smooth.
Ran the tablet in Quadrant (which didn’t recognize its processor by the way) and got a score of 829, slightly below the Samsung Galaxy S.
Contrary to the listed 8GB internal storage, there’s only a total of 7GB according to the Elixir app I installed. 1 GB is for the OS and 6GB acts as the external drive if you didn’t use a microSD. This drive can be accessed in the /flash folder. The RAM in actuality is only at 344MB, not the listed 512MB.
I also ran with some issues which affects overall performance and I will share it in a different section below.
The Paladin comes with a number of apps for playing videos aside from its native player but for the most part, I was able to play my test files without any problems with just the native player.
I was able to view a 720p MKV file, a 720p MP4 and your typical AVI movies and TV series. Aside from the display thing which I’m quite picky about, playback was smooth and skipping and scanning wasn’t a problem.
The tablet comes with Spider-man and Angry Birds as its games. I tried installing my Age of Zombies APK but the tablet won’t install it. So I settled with Spider-man which was quite enjoyable on this tablet. Graphics are smooth except during scene transitions or when there’s a lot of things going on but not to the point that it gets irritating.
Rendering of websites was a bit slow (tried a number of sites and also compared it to my Android smartphone) and the lack of Flash player (not available in its Market) hampered the browsing experience Android is known for. Other than that, things are displayed as it should.
For those curious about transforming this to an e-Book reader, sad to say I couldn’t find my favorite readers in the market. It also won’t accept my Aldiko APK so I couldn’t test it as an e-Book reader.
Ainol claims you can get 6-hours out of this tablet on a single charge. I almost achieved it but realistically, it was just in the 5-hour mark playing Spider-man and watching videos clips.
I also noticed that charging time takes a long time. At first I was charging it via my laptop’s USB so no doubt it’s going to be slow. But when I plugged it to a power outlet using a USB adapter, charging from 0 to 100 took me 6 hours!
Ok, being the world’s first ICS tablet has its perks but it also comes with issues which we shouldn’t be surprised about. I initially didn’t want to release this review until I get to upgrade its firmware from 4.0.1 to 4.0.3.
However, there’s no official firmware yet and I couldn’t get the unofficial one installed despite spending a lot of time researching about it. Besides, a lot of people are still experiencing problems with the unofficial 4.0.3 firmware.
Anyway, be aware of these issues which you may or may not experience with the Novo 7 Paladin.
- Spotty WiFi. The connection occasionally drops and I think this contributes to the slow rendering of websites. I also experienced this trying to download from Dropbox or apps from the Market where it just stops in the middle.
- YouTube. There’s no YouTube app and YouTube from the browser doesn’t work. I think the current firmware still has issues with HTML5.
- Missing apps in the market. We’re not talking about some measly apps but the popular ones like Adobe Flash player, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Dropbox, and a handful of nice games.
- Apps not compatible. If you manage to grab hold of APKs or installer files for your favorite apps, there’s no guarantee that it will install. An example would be the e-Book reader Aldiko.
These are big issues which can really cripple an Android device but no worries though. For some people who were able to update their Paladin with the unofficial 4.0.3 firmware, most of these issues went away. Or if you are the geeky-type and are able to root this tablet and install some hacks, you can certainly make the most out of it.
Well for Php5,800, you are getting what you’re paying for with the Ainol Novo 7 Paladin. I wouldn’t recommend this for those who are stickler for details, performance and display though.
There’s also the bugs which are really a downer but once Ainol released their official firmware update, it will be smooth sailing for this little tablet that could. You would get a portable media player, web browser, gaming device, e-book reader, social networking device all in one decent, nice-looking package for just under Php6k.
Widget City provided us with this review unit and they are running a promo for you PTB readers. Just print this page and show it when you make your purchase to get a folio case and 4GB microSD card for free.
|Ainol Novo 7 Paladin Specs:|
|MIPS-Based XBurst 1.0GHz processor|
|Vivante GC860 444MH GPU|
|Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich|
|7-inch capacitive touchscreen display (840 x 480 resolution)|
|8GB internal storage, support for microSD up to 32GB|
|8GB internal storage, support for microSD up to 32GB|
|WiFi 802.11 b/g/n|
|No cameras (front/rear)|
|4000 mAh battery|
|Colors: Black / White|