While the world waits for Apple to release official news about their new tablet computer, a few smaller (and lesser known) companies are releasing their own touch screen tablets. Â Archos has a few models out, there’s the viliv, and then there’s the whole CrunchPad thing which is now called the JooJoo. Â And I’ve never played with any of them. Â I have however been (for some reason) drooling for an iSlate for the past year or so. Â And in my impatience I prematurely ordered a Camangi WebStation and am ready to report the bad news…
First let me do the whole reviewer disclaimer thing… On what can only be described as a moment of weak ignorance, I ordered a Camangi WebStation. Â That was December 4th and I paid full price. Â Normally I wouldn’t plop down almost $400 for a product that no one has seen or tested yet, one that in the early videos looked quite questionable, and one from a company that I’ve never heard of before. Â But I did. Â Against all common sense I hoped that it would be a decent solution to use until Apple gets theirs out.
At the same time I also contacted Camangi in an attempt to get an early “review unit.” Â We did correspond back and forth a bit but ultimately they decided to not supply me with a “free” unit but rather promised to simply ship my purchased unit to me via a faster method than everyone else’s – so that I could review it (hopefully) before they start arriving to the 1000′sÂ of people who ordered them. Therefore the unit I reviewed here is the one I paid full price for, and my buyer’s remorse is certainly adding to the sting here a bit. Â But then again most things I discuss on this site are items that I’ve purchased. Â So take that bias in to account if you feel it’s relevant.
My Couch Computing Concept
Our previous current couch computer is the hacintoshed Dell Mini 9. Â It works well, is fairly fast (for an atom processor running OS X), it’s fully a mac, and cost about $300-$400 retail. Â And it’s small. Â We mostly use it for quick imdb lookups while watching tv and movies, and my daughter plays flash games on it. Â So in my perfect world, the ultimate couch computer would be a smallish tablet, no keyboard to get in the way, easy to stow between couch cushions, but would be as fast and responsive as the dell or as an iPhone. Â It needs to have full web capabilities, support flash video (unlike the iPhone), hulu, youtube, and all that. Â It should also act as a PMP so that my daughter can watch videos on it in the car or wherever. Â It needs to be multi-useful.
So I’ve been excited about getting this unit in – and I spent all Christmas watching the DHL tracking reports to see when it would arrive. Â But on the other hand I didn’t have high expectations for it. Â It has very little RAM and a tiny processor. Â In my correspondence with Camangi I asked over and over about it’s capabilities, specifically with regard to playing video – but they would not answer those questions. Â This made me begin to think that the reason they were avoiding my questions (and didn’t want to send me a review unit) was because they didn’t like the true answers.
The Missing Video Review
This was going to be a video review and I will post a video as soon as I can. Â Last night was one of the most frustrating evenings I’ve had in a while and I was unable to get much video shot. Â To really see this thing on video would prove what I’m saying here, so I want to get some kind of video posted. But in the mean time I did mess around with the WebStation long enough to know what it really is, and wanted to get this review out as soon as I could. Â So let’s get started…
What’s in the box
The package arrived via DHL in a small brown paper box, inside which was the retail box. Â The box contains the WebStation, a carry sleeve/pouch, a pair of cheap earphones that appear to have a microphone attached, a cloth to wipe the screen, a quick start guide, another booklet containing legal disclaimers, the power supply, and the stand to use it as a picture frame, which is basically a suction cup on a stick.
My first impressions were that the WebStation hardware seemed sturdy enough. It has 3 physical buttons on the front: home, quick menu, and return. Â On the right side there are ports for headphones, mini usb, a reset button, a normal sized usb, and DC in. Â On the left side are physical volume buttons, on the top is a power button, and on the top back is a micro SD card slot preloaded with an 8GB stick.
(same side from the back…)
On major thing lacking in the box is a real user manual. Â The quickstart guide does tell you how to unlock the device, something you’d probably never figure out on your own. Â But it’s very slim on details and instructions. Â For example, I still have no idea how to load music on the device. Â I assume that I need to add a “Music” folder to the memory stick, but that is a complete guess. Â Another example is that I was surprised to discover that it would charge off the USB cable when it’s plugged in to my mac. Â But also debaffled by the meaning of the “beep-beep-beep” when the screen went to sleep while plugged in to my mac.
Powering it on
When you first press the power button at the top, it takes about 7 seconds before you see the word “ANDROID…” Â Total boot time is 54 seconds. Â You are then presented with a lock screen that shows the time/date. Â Unlocking it takes you to the Launcher, which is a menu of app icons.
Speed and Responsiveness
You have to admit that we’re all used to the way the iPhone works and in a way it is the standard upon which all other touch based gadgets are measured. Since the loss of my 3GS iPhone I’ve been back to using my old original edge phone and have been struggling with the comparitive slowness of that old thing. But the old edge phone screams in comparison to the WebStation. Â Actions like touching and dragging to scroll windows are taken for granted on the iPhone, and the WebStation does do that touch scrolling thing, but seems to skip along the action. Â One way to describe it is if the iPhone operates at 30 frames per second, the WebStation probably runs at about 5 to 10. Â I also found myself accidentally triggering buttons when trying to scroll. Â Something that DOES happen on the iPhone occasionally, but was happening A LOT on the WebStation. Â And with the overall slowness of the unit, getting into the wrong menu is a pain because then you have to slowly navigate out of it as well.
Here are some speed/usage comparison examples between the WebStation and my old first gen iPhone:
Photos – First off, it’s not a multi-touch display, it is a resistive single touch screen. Â So zooming in and out is done via on-screen zoom icons, not multi-touch pinch actions. Â The fair comparison here is the responsiveness of touch-dragging scroll around on a photo. Â When you first touch and start to drag it takes several seconds before the unit seems to know that you’re dragging. Â Then it catches up and does it’s best to keep up with your finger, updating the screen about 5 to 10 times per second. Â This sluggishness is generally felt everywhere in the UI.
Typing – When you click on a field where text can be entered, a virtual touch keyboard appears on the bottom of the screen. Â Typing is best done one letter at a time, making sure that the UI has got your letter before moving on to the next. Â If you type too fast sometimes the keyboard will just go away. Â It seems to not be able to keep track of touches faster than about 5 per second either. Â Of course this kills my couch computer concept as it’s sort of frustrating to even enter text.
I’ll cover web browsing and video playback in their own sections..
But first I have to say that I was excited about the WebStation being Google Android based. Â I don’t even mind it NOT being multi-touch. Â I think the overall interface is good, but the processor just can’t keep up with a real user. Â If this was powered with the Atom processor from my Dell Mini 9 it would be a completely different story. Â But the way it is now the sluggishness is just too much of a factor.
I think the biggest test should be basic web browsing. Â After all, the product is called the WEB station, and therefore should be optimized at surfing the web. The first test was to simultaneouslyÂ launched both the WebStation and my old first gen iPhone to the home page of this website (tomorrowland.com). Â Both devices were on my home wifi network. Â The iphone loaded the page about 20 seconds quicker than the WebStation. Â Then trying to test scrolling on the WebStation I touched and dragged the screen and instead of it scrolling it launched a link. Â In order to ensure that you’re going to scroll you have to touch and hold until you see that it’s scrolling, then drag your finger. Â Something that I would find hard to do when going back and forth between using my iPhone and this thing.
The next test is what sites work and what doesn’t. Â Well, just like the iPhone, FLASH does not work. Â This wipes out hulu and youtube and even my own tomorrowland.com/podcast page, and unlike the iPhone there is no youtube application. Â This also wipes out all flash games, which was one of my desired uses for the WebStation.
I’ve already complained about the typing and the scrolling. Â But one other thing I noticed is that most apps are web apps. Â The ebook reader, and the app marketplace both use the web browser to do their thing. Â So if one is slow they all are.
All my hopes and dreams are crushed when it comes to video playback. Â It’s no wonder the people at Camangi completely skirted all of my questions about video playback. Â My big question to them was can it play full screen video at 30fps. Â The answer is a big fat no way! Â Not even close. Â With the lack of a user manual to detail the specifications for the most compatible video formats I guessed and loaded a couple of samples. Â The unit did come preloaded with the promo video from this page, but looks atrocious when playing back. Â It seems a shame to not make use of that 800 x 480 pixel screen with movie watching.
The first video I tried was a 3 minute, 22 MB H.264 video running at about 1 Mbps. Â Frame size was 480 x 324 at 30fps. Â I suppose it was encoded to work on an iPod. Â The audio played fine but the picture lagged very far behind, causing it to be grossly out of sync. Â The video frames that played did so at about 5 or 10 fps. Â Skipping to the middle of the video did catch it up, but it’s clear the device is not powerful enough to play video.
The second video I tried was a movie that was encoded to play on a PSP. Â It also played very slow visually while the audio played normally. Â It was also very much out of sync right from the beginning. Â Very disappointing.
My suspicion is that the unit is basically a digital picture frame loaded with a cell phone version Google Android with a touch screen. Â It came with a phone headset complete with a mic and answer button. Â All through the menus there are mentions of things like “baseband” and “ringtones” but it’s not a phone. Â And the weird thing is that I don’t think the processor in it is even powerful enough to run a phone. Â Had they marketed it as a touch screen digital photo frame with a web browser and sold it for about $100 it would be somewhat reasonable. Â And before you think about complaining about how hard I’m being on it, consider this: The WebStation is $390. Â For $199 you can get an iPod Touch. Â If mac made a 7 inch iPod touch it would blow this thing out of the water. Â Completely. Â Or for about the same price you could get a Dell Mini 9, or an Archos 7 – which are completely different products, but still something to consider. Â Or you could save your money and wait for Apple to release the iSlate and I suspect that will be THE CE product of 2010.
Of course there is more to the WebStation that I didn’t have time to cover, but to be honest the rest really doesn’t matter. Â The weather app is nice and works well. Â So far I haven’t figured out how to load music on it and so haven’t been able to try out it’s ‘cover flow’ mode. Â But essentially it’s about as powerful as a digital picture frame, and that’s very sad. Basically my plan at this point is to call American Express and find out what I can do to return and refund. Â In my opinion the Camangi WebStation is a total fail and I can’t recommend it to anyone at any price.
I will update this post with some videos as soon as I get a chance.
Also – Thanks to gizmodo for ‘reprinting’ this review on their site. Â It’s always nice to get a link for a hard night’s work.
21 thoughts on “Camangi WebStation review”
Thank you for your candid and honest review. Your post has literally kept me from buying one of these units this week. Def will be waiting to hear what comes out of CES.
I wish this review had been different 🙁 Not because it was unfair in anyway but because this seemed to be the first android powered tablet to be excited about.
Guess we'll all have to wait on the iWhatevertheycallit / JooJoo / ICD Vega / RAmos W7 reviews… Any chance of one here?
Well it sounds like this product is a fiesta del failure. We are all so spoiled by the fluidity of the iphone that we expect everything to work like it, and everything should. If Apple ever comes out with a tablet it will set the new standard.
>>>My suspicion is that the unit is basically a digital picture frame loaded with a cell phone version Google Android with a touch screen.
I'm surprised you didn't know about one video shortcoming from the start, however. That is, AFAIK, there's no software for Android to do video other than that encoded as MP4 and 3GP.
And it's strange that it can't even do the sample videos you mentioned. I have a Palm LifeDrive with a 400MHz CPU and can play — using TCPMP — just about any AVI I get off the Internet.
I'm an impulse-buy consumer. I ordered it and asked questions later. Clearly I was wrong to do it, but decided to make the most out of it and review it for others who might be tempted to do the same thing. I've bought a few 'questionable' things to review on this site. (like the cat genie) and looking at the sales sheet never expected it to be THIS bad. I figured it would be passable.
Almost immediately after ordering I read someone else's comment on giz or engadget about the processor speed and ram, and started getting worried about its ability to play video. That's why in almost every correspondence with them I asked if it played full screen video, supported youtube and hulu, etc. They never responded because clearly it doesn't – it can barley keep up with slow typing.
So I'm surprised too that I didn't think of it before hand, but lesson learned and moving on. Thanks for your comments.
Im in the process of trying for a refund now. They lied anyway about ship dates and I never received an email either. Total waste fo 399.00 🙁
"the world waits for Apple"
"I still have no idea how to load music on the device. I assume that I need to add a Music folder to the memory stick, but that is a complete guess. Another example is that I was surprised to discover that it would charge off the USB cable when its plugged in to my mac."
Ah, apple fanboys write technical reviews. Funny to read. Keep writing. But learn a little bit about modern devices first.
I'm actually not THAT much of an apple fanboy. Apple pisses me off all the time.
I do think the iPhone is an amazing consumer electronic device. When I first got it I really felt like I was living in the future. A feeling that you want to get with every purchase, but only happens maybe once a decade. If you don't have one or are one of those people who reject it just because it's popular then you don't (can't) know what I'm talking about. I would say to you that YOU need to learn a little bit about modern devices because the iPhone is one of the most modern devices around. This year my nephew got one (he had been putting it off for a two years) and he called me and said "I can't believe how cool this is." That's what I had been saying for two years.
Because that day, when I first had the iPhone in my hand and said to myself "this changes everything", was over 2 years ago. So I'd say if you are one of those "I hate apple even when their right"-people – you're probably about 2 years behind "modern devices". Maybe you also still use rotary pay phones and think fax machines are voodoo because you put paper in here and it comes out there. Or maybe you really love your compact cd player and hate ipods because apple is stupid. But I digress.
I'm not a blind apple fanboy – even on the iPhone Apple makes greedy decisions and creates closed systems and makes me angry all the time. But the UI on the iPhone, as closed as it is, still kicks butt and works extremely smoothly. When I slide my finger the screen follows it as if I was moving something real – that IS virtual reality. Even a child can pick up an iPhone and instantly know how to use it – THAT is a great design. And whether you like it or not – believe it or not – the tech world IS waiting for apple to release a tablet. It's the most talked about thing right now on most all tech sites. And laugh at it all you want – but me starting this review with those words got it picked up all across the net. Go ahead and google "camangi webstation review" – the top 10 returns all quote this review that you think is 'funny to read.'
Oh, off topic a bit… the best consumer electronics device before the iPhone came out almost a decade earlier. In the early 90's the TiVo changed everything about the way we watch TV – but what have they done for us lately. Apple isn't going to release their iSlate until it's perfect. And then all the other companies will play catch up and try to copy their success. It's time to realize that Apple is now almost as big as Microsoft – and probably just about as evil.
But getting back to your point. I'm trying to understand your argument about my review. So what you are saying is that I should learn about other modern devices first (before writing stuff on my own blog – which is about modern devices) and through that schooling (about modern devices) be able to discern how and where to load music on the Camangi WebStation? Or that I should expect it to charge off USB when there's also a power plug which isn't USB based? And you think that it's acceptable for companies to not document anything and just put a note in the box saying "if you need help with this device just google random stuff about other modern devices. Ok.. I'm on board now.
Are or are not an Apple fanboi?
Did you own an Apple Newton… and think it was cool?
Apples tablet is gonna own the planet earth. Face it apple haters!! The Camangi is such a ripoff. Thanks god I got a refund!
How exactly did you get the refund? Was this after it arrived or before it shipped? Did you get it through Camangi, through Google Checkout, or through your credit card company?
Got mine before it shipped…. thank god!
I got it before it shipped… thank god for MIkes review!
Michael, apparently Apple too believes their tablet will do very well.
Check out this story, if believable: "Apple May Ship 10 Million Tablet PCs a Year":
The engineers at Camangi really f'ed up the WebStation by using the PXA303/PXA300 SoC.
The PXA303 (a slightly revised PXA300) DOES NOT include a hardware video decoder…and it also does not feature any form of 3D acceleration that could be used to help increase the responsiveness of an Android powered device.
Intel themselves claim that the chip is only capable of H.264 30fps decoding at QVGA resolution…that's 320×240 folks, and likely requires a very very low bitrate.
Furthermore, the PXA300 has a tiny 256KB frame buffer which is probably one of the main reasons why the WebStation with its –800×480– screen resolution feels 'laggy'.
…You can read up on the PXA3xx processors at:
Camangi essentially put a processor that is meant for low end, low resolution smartphones, into a device which Camangi themselves like to compare to the iPhone (just check their hilarious PR Video from a few months ago @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzkODn9WEzM)
I agree whole heartedly with the reviewer…this device is an overpriced wifi enabled digital picture frame, or for the glass-half-full GearDiary type, its the best Android powered e-Book reader.
Other than aesthetics, the $400 WebStation its MUCH less capable than the $240 SmartQ V7.
Sounds like they flat out ripped people off to me. I mean the outright false claims have to be addressed!
I cancelled it through Paypal before it was shipped. Mike, hope you get the refund, the device is just not good , period.
I determined to get a Android device, I ordered the latest SmartQ V5, will get mine soon.
Is this thing still blowing a horse like it was orig on release??
Message for Michael Smith.
Michael you are full of it.
What is it Camangi did not pay you for the review and for $300+ you paid was too expensive for you. Or you just want to teach them a lesson?It was not a nice review and for you to get so aggressive and vindictive
shows just how really small your penis is, or brain, I cannot decide as you did not elaborate on your findings in a nice way.
You are abusing your ability to review products, you are not objective and people should not listen to your BS. I have Camangi WebStation as well.
Clearly there are some issues with the product, however, we all remember iPhone first edition. It was pathetic and we all let it slide. Give Camangi the same chance. The product is real, it was released and it is working.
It feels great. You could compare it to iTouch Tablet (if there was one)
The screen is bright in colour.
WiFi will need some work, yet it is fast enough.
3G is great.I would prefer Camangi in my hand rather than so many others posting fancy pictures and undeliverable specs and products, nowhere to be found.Overall for the first edition Camangi is great and if they continue to work on the improvements, we will have a great product very soon. I was not able to post the picture of Camangi in my possession.Michael you were out of line.
You should apologize to Camangi.
They run a real business and you should not try to ruin it for them
Looks like Camangi finally found my site and posted their note to me here. I saw this exact note on another site also… word for word except that one also said "you no fair."
I particularly like how they expect us to believe that a normal user actually bought the webstation and was impressed with it so much and so strongly disagreed with my review that they wrote this intense defense of it. Going so far as to say that I have a small ..um.. brain.. and to say that the first iphone was 'pathetic.' Also that there is no itouch tablet to compare it to – which I suspect in 2 days there will be.
I wish I hadn't been so busy over the last month and could have done the side by side comparison video of the webstation next to a first gen iphone. Maybe for fun I'll do that still. Stay tuned I guess.
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