Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Advent Vega with VegaICS Beta1 review

This is a not-so-in-depth review of Advent Vega with VegaICS Beta1 loaded.

Got one off eBay cheap, so why not? Plus, its easter holiday! :)
The reason why I chose to benchmark the Vega with VegaICS (work in progress) instead of the stable VegaComb is that I have a new tablet based on TI OMAP 4430 which comes with Android 4.0.3, same version as VegaICS kernel. Hopefully, this will make it easier to compare between the two.

Advent Vega Review
CPU: Nvidia T20 Tegra 2, dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU at 1GHz
GPU: Geforce ULP
RAM: 512MB
Internal Memory: 512MB
Screen Size: 10.1"
Screen Resolution: 1024x600
Webcam: (Front only) 1.3M

Build Quality

One word to sum it all up; acceptable. Really, there is nothing much to say here. You pretty much get what you pay for. Maybe a little more. The case is a plastic one and as such feels cheap and somehow hollow. Push hard enough and you will hear creaks. 

If I paid its original RRP which is £250, I would have complained but I paid not even half of that and really, even by today's standard the CPU and GPU subsytems are still relevant (i.e. supports ICS and provides acceptable performance). Its a solid enough device but you will not feel comfortable sleeping next to it. Its screen somehow feels more fragile than some other tablets I have used but I think thats a subjective matter.

As always the case with PC/Notebook/tablet manufacturers, the screen is where they cheap out. Seriously, this is a tablet. Remove the camera, remove the bluetooth but do not ever skimp on the single most important part of the product which will either make or break your customers' experiences.

The Vega's screen is usable at best. The following pictures and video will explain more. The viewing angle is severely limited.

Head on.

At this ideal position, the screen looks fine. Its vibrant and bright enough to make out the texts and colours even in brightly lit room. 

View from the bottom (landscape).


View from the top(landscape).

Somehow MUCH MUCH better than viewing from the bottom.

View from the left(portrait).

OK. Still visible.

View from the right(portrait).

Limited. Not suitable as a portrait ebook reader or even a web browser.


Summaries all the above.

This is one of the features that I am glad it made through to the final production. Its only a 1.3MP VGA camera but thats sufficient for most needs (Skype). Somehow, it fares better than my notebook's webcam in dealing with low-light conditions. Not by much but at least my face is visible. There is one problem I noticed during skyping though, although the camera is OK-ish, the microphone leaves a lot to be desired. There is a constant static noise coming out of nowhere. I have yet to try using an external mic so not really sure where the problem lies.



Almost total darkness


Cheap sounding speakers used. Sounds like amplified tweeters. Or headphone drivers. Bass is non-existent. Maximum volume is barely audible in a quiet room. By maximum, I mean maximum volume level at which it is tolerable which to me sits at 70%. Go any higher this thing will go squeaking non-stop.Treble is thankfully not harsh.

Video above shows a brief comparison between my notebooks' (Toshiba with harman/kardon built-in speakers) speakers and the Vega's. Not the best comparison, but still its obvious that my notebook's speakers are way better in every aspects. Its richer, warmer and most importantly there is no distortion. On the Vega, its a whole another story. It will only be audible at 20/30% depending on the ambient noise and going above 70% will results in the aforementioned distortion. If you love your music (or ears), do yourself a favour and use your headphones.

Battery Life
I played this( 720p Simpson's trailer and looped it from 100% battery (started the stopwatch). This is with bluetooth off, Wi-Fi on and connected to my access point and brightness at 100%. 4hr and 30mins till complete depletion. General usage such as browsing, sleep, light gaming usually lasts about 12hrs. Again, this depends on your ROM as some is more power efficient/optimized than others as well as your usage pattern.

Vega+VegaICS Review

General performance of the OS is simply amazing. Its buttery smooth, feels like using a current generation device rather than last generations ( although deep inside we all know how un-true this is :D ). Obviously, the SOC will show its age mainly during playing graphic heavy games. We just have to accept it, Tegra 2 holds the throne for a few mere months after its introduction and has since been left far behind by its competing peers.  Here are some of the currently most referenced benchmarks. Notice that I have nothing to compare it to. I have a Qualcomm TI OMAP 4430 coming tomorrow so hopefully I can compare this to that soon :)

Sunspider 0.9.1

Rightware Benchmark 

GLBenchmark 2.1.4

Basemark Taiji

Linpack Mutli-Thread

Linpack Single-Thread

The most useless of all, included for completeness sake. Quadrant. 

Video Acceleration Issues
As I was scouring the internet for any 720p clip to test the battery life, I ran into some issues with video playback on the Vega. Namely, there are very few video profiles that it can accelerate using the hardware. At the end, only the Simpsons trailer which is a MP4 file, 720p, H.264 encoded video can be smoothly played back using HW acceleration in MX Player. Other sample files tested cannot be HW accelerated and in turn produced skipped frames and out-of-sync audio. Ironic considering Nvidia reputation in GPU world for providing better support in this area. Tegra 3 has been shown to be a significant improvement in this department. Oh well, see you next year T3! :)

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