A1CS Have a New Tablet

Since writing this article A1CS have released the FUSION5 XTRA. If it slimmer, faster and has a larger memory! A Review of the new A1CS FUSION5 XTRA will be published once I have had time to take the tablet and put it through it's paces.

A1CS have been great and are supplying a tablet to me for this review; I have also now published a review of the new FUSION5 XTRA Tablet PC .

A Cut Price Tablet with ....

With my wife constantly on the go with our baby, she wanted a tablet to allow her to access the Internet while on the sofa and out and about. We picked the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC and we want to share the experience with you; to help you choose your next (or first) Tablet PC. The AC1S FUSION5 Tablet PC review will look at first impressions and later a more in depth look.

Suprisingly, considering the Tablet PC is a relatviely expensive consumer product, the package was delivered by the Postman and came in a jiffybag. We will not come to a conclusion as to whether that is the best way to send one.

Firstly the important specifications for the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC ; which for a budget tablet I think are quite reasonable: 

  • 10.1 inch touch capacitive screen with 2180p "Full-HD" Support
  • 1GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB Storage Memory
  • A Cortex A10 CPU  & 400Mhz Graphics Processor
  • Google's Play Store and many applications pre-installed on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
The A1CS FUSION5 is not as fast or powerful as the Apple iPad, but then there are flaws with the iPad which renders some of its features useless in the UK.
A1CS Fusion5 Tablet PC

What's In The Box

When you open the box that the tablet comes in it is a fairly generic affair. Included in the box is the instruction manual, mains charger, USB cable and headphones. The tablet actually came ready charged and turning it on is simple enough; the first problem comes when you try to understand the manual and realise that it was probably written as a straight translation from a foreign language:

"[Remark]: 1. If you long time don't to use this Tablet, in order to avoid power consumption caused damage, pls charge/play the battery once a month"

The A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC is an unbadged generic tablet PC so this is not something that surprises me; it is easier to understand once you have read the manual through and realise what it is trying to tell you.

The tablet came with the essential applications pre-installed. The operating system for the tablet PC is Andoid Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3 which for a budget end tablet like the FUSION5 is quite an acheivement. Along with the OS is Adobe Flash 11 is the Aikedo e-book reader, Navigation software and for document reading both Adobe Reader and Documents To Go, popular with most mobile phones for document reading and editing. New Apps can be installed from the Google Play Store and along with the usual range of free and paid for apps, the scary bit is the fact you can store your debit or credit card details on there.

If you want to use GMail or the Google Play Store on your A1CS FUSION5 tablet PC then you will need to have or register for a Google Account, which you can do either with a new gmail.com e-mail address or - with a bit of fiddling - your regular address set as the primary one for your account.

Why 3G when you can Wi-Fi?

The connectivity of the A1CS FUSION5 tablet PC is reflected in the price. There is no 3G or bluetooth and this is relfective of the budget price that is set with the level of specification; if you want to use a 3G mobile Internet dongle then there are some that are compatible.

Setting up 802.11g (and 802.11b) Wi-Fi is simple though, the first option on the settings menu of the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is to set up the wireless and the procdure is as simple as finding your wireless connection on the list and entering your password. 

A word to the wise. If you have not needed to enter a password then your network is dangerously insecure and you really need a home wireless network security audit!

Once you have connected your FUSION5 to your home wireless network you can use the built in browser to surf the Internet, browse and install apps from the Google Play Store and read your mail from the pre-installed GMail application. Other applications are available.

Setting up the 3G  is just as easy, if you have a compatable dongle (such as the unlocked Hauwai E1750) then you simply plug it in and let it do the work! It sets everything up for you!


Battery Life

The wife has been quite extensively playing with her new A1CS FUSION5 since it arrived. The battery life is impressive and she found it difficult to run the battery down to empty so that she could recharge it effectively on the first run (as the manual tells her to). So far we have had two batter discharges and got in excess of 4 hours on both, even with Wi-Fi on and playing games like Angry Birds. 

The manual that is provided with the FUSION5 states that you should discharge the battery completely on the first occasion and then full charge it for 10 hours. We followed this example and over the first month of use the tablet PC has consistently been giving between 3 and 4 hours of use per charge. Considering that the tablet is always connected to our wi-fi connection and that the main theme of the tablet is video and games, I am sure that any battery degredation will be quickly apparent.


FUSION5: Command and Control

For a capacitive screen you will not be able to control your FUSION5 with a pair of gloves on, but you can control it extremely well using your fingers and its management of pinch to zoom and accuracy of on webpages with the smallest of web buttons has been accepted really well. The control options on the touch screen are in the bottom left corner of the screen. Not playing much with Android, I am not able to compare but generally these are very easy to use and offer the usual page controls.

The A1CS FUSION5 has a well sized keyboard which if I was really picky, I would say that when you press the button to switch from letters to numbers it will stay on numbers until you switch back; completely the opposite to my Blackberry Torch. If you are going to be typing for any length of time; the tablet PC will connect to a USB keyboard such as those that come free with some tablet cases.

Something which is not obvious unless you actually study the manual is the power button. There is a silver button on the front bezel of the FUSION5 but it does not power on the unit. A bit of hunting found that this was in fact the Escape button and the power button was a small one on one of the corners which you have to hold for a few seconds; leading to the less than 1 minute boot time to being ready to use.

Where the A1CS FUSION5 DID fall down

It may have been just my fat fingers, just the FUSION5 did not enjoy as much a website that I take for granted; Red Spotted Hanky. This website sell rails tickets and uses the same GUI as many other train companies and involves a system where as you type in the stations you are travelling to and from, the website is constantly searching for matches.

Unfortunately the FUSION5 did not want to allow me to select any of the stations that Red Spotted Hanky offered and I had to type the station in entirely. London Waterloo might not sound like a long word, but I wonder how people would feel going Llanfairfechan to Llandudno Junction? 

Thankfully, people going to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch have to type far less, the station is known as Llanfair PG.

It does show though that the FUSION5's browser is not as great as it could be. In this test though it did successfully recognise and secure pages using the https protocol and did reasonably complete the transaction as it should. The greatest test might have been to manage a Verified by Visa test, however this did not present itself.


The Google Play Store

A1CS FUSION5 Play StoreWe might as well start with the essential business of the app store. The Google Play store loads into a Windows 8-esque "Metro" wall but a quick swipe of the finger on the tablet PC's capacitive screen quickly reveals a number of app store lists including the "Top Free" apps, "Top Paid" apps and the "Staff Pick" apps among others, in the traditional grid system.

The first application the wife chose was Facebook. Am I suprised? Only how easy it was to find and install on the FUSION5. Once you have found it (under the free apps section) you are given a list of various legal bits that are there to protect you such as telling you what information it will use and what privacy options it has in place. The installation itself takes two button presses and on different parts of the capacitive screen, so it is hard to accidentally purchase and download something on the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC while it is in your bag.

Using Apps

Apps seem to be quick and easy to load and not only do they appear on the grid menus, they willl also appear on your FUSION5's home screen. We tried a number of the popular apps such as BBC iPlayer; this provided an easy interface and perfect streaming of BBC Catch-Up content on the 10.1" screen using a 15MB Internet connection. 
The wife has also installed Angry Birds and a "3D" bowling game, both running really well on the FUSION5 and the screen is clear and with an excellent picture. It does not appear to be an issue that there are no credit card details stored from the first prompt that loads with the Google Play Store; there are no annoying pop-ups or prompts about this and we have had no desire yet to go hunting to find the screen to enter them.

One App To Replace: Browser

We found that the browser on the A1CS FUSION5 tablet PC was slow to load and often left us with an option to wait or force the browser to close. The Google Play Store does have plenty of alternatives though and we are using Opera Mobile at the moment.

The software pre-loaded onto the tablet is fairly generic and all of it freeware; so do not feel worried about ditching it for a freeware alternative on the Google Play Store and losing any value.

Our Thoughts on the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC

For a budget tablet on the Ice Cream Sandwich build of Andriod; this is a great little gadget. The memory is quite small, but you can still expand it with a 32GB Micro SD Memory Card for a total of 40GB and this is going to be sufficient for what most of users are going to buy a tablet PC for.

It seems quite fast and despite a few minor issues with our home computer network (security being my pedant) the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC seems an excellent piece of kit for using around the house and on wi-fi networks. I am disappointed that it does not come with a 3G option, but for less than £200, what do you expect!

Of course, if A1CS would like a review of their new products I might be buying one next when my laptop dies..... You are welcome to have my address, but based on the A1CS FUSION5 I would probably buy one in the future anyway!