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Leader Impressions: 7″ Android Tablet

Android tablets are going to swamp the market this year, and many of them are targeting the 7″ segment of the market. There are two reasons for this: competing in this space means not having to go up directly against anything from Apple, and it is a practical way for hardware-only vendors to bring something to market near the magical $200 price point. Over the course of 2012 we’ll be paying attention to the 7″ tablets. We think there is a lot of potential in the 7″ market (more on that in a future article). It will be interesting to see who will be able to stake their claim in this emerging market.

To start things off, today we take a look at a 7″ Android tablet from Leader. Leader has managed to not just break the $200 barrier, but has punched through it aggressively with a price of $129 (available now at Kmart and Sears)! Leader has made some reasonable choices in its feature vs. price compromise for the Impression 7. They didn’t try to make it thin, but at 1/2″ thick, it is not a beast neither. At 0.5lb it is not a lightweight, but it gives the tablet a solid feel. The biggest compromise was with performance. While this may be a problem for some, others may be willing to overlook this shortcoming. We’ll elaborate more on this later.

The Leader Impression 7 tablet is based on Android 2.2 with Flash 10.1 support. It comes with 4GB of storage and has a built-in Micro SD card slot for additional space. The color screen is based on resistive (works by the pressure, not just touch) technology. A resistive touch screen is less responsive than a capacitative screen (iPad, Kindle Fire). To operate, you need to press down before moving your finger. The advantage is that either a stylus or your finger tip (even a gloved one) will opperate the touch screen. The technical specs are reasonable for a sub-$200 tablet:

  • Size: 7.5″ x 4.5″, 0.5″ thick
  • Weight: 0.5lb
  • Screen: Resistive touch panel, 800×480, 7.0 inch color display
  • Accelerometer G-Sensor
  • 0.3m pixel Front camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Built-in rechargeable 3.7V Lithium polymer
  • Ports:USB 2.0 mini, 3.5mm stereo headphone,
  • Micro SD/MMC slot

The Impression 7 is a tablet that works (simple WiFi connection, no-hassle email setup, etc…), but not something which screams “buy,” unless price is the overriding factor…and in some situations, it is.

We played with the Impression 7 for a few days and our basic conclusion is this tablet is absolutely acceptable as a low price device, but it is definitely not for everybody. Our main problem with the Impression 7 is the screen. The slow response of the resistive screen makes everything (launching apps,multi-touch operations, typing, etc…) feel sluggish. The screen is bright and the 800×480 resolution is good, but the contrast is low at angles except for when directly in front. While none of these issues are a deal-killer, the typical user hoping this 7″ device will satisfy their tablet needs (web-surfing, email, video) may be disappointed if they are expecting iPad-like feel or response time.

So who it this tablet for? We think the Leader Impression’s appeal will be mainly to developers looking for a low-cost 7″ test platform for their tablet development efforts. It has the ports (USB, audio, etc…), a camera (low-res, but functional), and an expansion slot (micro-SD)…everything a developer needs. At under $130, it will let them get in the game without taking a big chunk out of the development budget.

Neither the iPad nor Kindle Fire are in any danger of being threatened by this Leader offering. Those interested in the best tablet on the market need not consider anything else but the iPad2 at this time. Buyers looking to get the Kindle Fire should cough up the additional $70 for it. However, we are encouraged but companies like Leader which are entering the 7″ segment of the tablet market. By aggressively pricing its 7″ tablet, Leader has put a line in the sand which anyone looking to challenge must now meet or cross. We think this segment will see the most interesting offerings because of Apple’s absence and we look forward to following along as companies battle it out. It is going to be an very exciting year!

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