Our Second A1CS Tablet in the Office
With the popularity of the FUSION5 tablet PC from A1CS, they have now released their new incarnation that is thinner, faster, more storage and more of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Does the new A1CS FUSION5 XTRA Tablet live up to that hype of the original top product? We hope so and with a brand new one winging it's way from the A1CS factory in Durham we will soon find out.
Since publishing this article,
A1CS has changed names to F5CS
and released a NEW Fusion5 Xtra V3
- AllWinner A10 Processor (Cortex A8 Multi-Core Processor @ 1.2Ghz w/ Mali400 GPU)
- 1GB DDR3 RAM
- 16GB Storage
- Front Camera @ 1.3MP; Rear Camera @ 2MP
The A1CS FUSION5 XTRA does not improve on all the specs of the original FUSION5 but it should improve on looks. The 1.2GHZ of processing power remains as does the 1GB of DDR3 RAM and the Mali400 graphics processor; but under the hood there is a push towards 16GB of on board storage (the FUSION5 only had 8GB) and now support for 802.11n Wi-fi ability.
The new A1CS FUSION5 XTRA is also thinner and lighter than it's predecessor. This means that the USB has been replaced by micro-USB for extenal ports. A1CS ship a mini to full size USB adapter with the tablet PC which should quell any wrath from USB users.
A new upgrade to the FUSION5 is the new rear facing camera. The camera is 2MP so you should not expect to have a replacement for a digital camera; but it does hold it's own and the included software to take photo's is easy to use.
If you want something to compare the new model to; check out my review of the A1CS FUSION5 Tablet PC and how A1CS almost put out the perfect budget tablet PC. Both the original FUSION5 and the XTRA edition are available at Amazon UK..
What's In The FUSION5 XTRA Box
The FUSION5 XTRA is an excellent generic un-badged tablet and comes with core accessories to make ends meet; a pair of headphones and converters for the micro-USB sockets are included in the box. One of the biggest improvements for the A1CS FUSION5 XTRA is that the team have almost re-written the instruction manual; so much so the wife said she readily understood more of it than the manual for the original FUSION5 tablet PC.
On the tablet itself is the standard range of Android essential apps that go with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4; Aikido e-book reader, Adobe Flash Player and Documents To Go all appear again on this A1CS tablet PC and although the older Google Store was installed by default on this tablet, it immediately updated itself to the new Google Play Store.
If you have not already got a Google Account to use the Google Play Store; it is really easy to set one up using a new GMail address or importing your current e-mail address into a Google account. The Google Play Store will ask you for credit or debit card details. These are not essential and you can skip this step to simply be able to install the (huge range) of free apps available.
Do You Need 3G?
Credit: Amazon.co.ukOne of the cost saving that keep the tablet at the £150 level is the FUSION5 XTRA does not include a 3G adapter inside. Is this an issue though? If you live in a large town or city then the sheer number of wi-fi hotspots means that 3G is becoming less of an issue and if a 3G service is essential then it would be advisable to purchase an unlocked Huiwai E1750 3G dongle and using your choice of data simcard.
Using a 3G dongle is as simple as plugging it in, waiting around 90 seconds for it to recognise and load the dongle and connect to the Internet.
Apps & Games
The FUSION5 range handle games installed from the Google Play Store well. The free 3D Bowling and Kung-Fu games seem to have no problems coping on the 1.2Ghz processor although the system did not seem as responsive as one would expect. Assaulting the enemy on Kung-Fu continued long after I release the on-screen button to do so.....
Applications wise, except for Google Chrome there are very few problems. HootSuite is one of the first apps to go onto this A1CS FUSION5 XTRA and it is coping better than it does on a Blackberry Torch. Here the touch screen is much more responsive than with the games that were installed; indicating that the issue could be with the games and not the technology.
BBC iPlayer worked well once the request to update Adobe Flash was ignored. With Android releasing 4.1 Jelly Bean upon the market it is difficult to understand where Android tablets with Jelly Bean will cope once Adobe Flash is no longer available.
If you need access to media servers on your LAN then you need a better file viewer and we have installed ES File Manager (Free on the Play Store) to not only play video files, but also access documents on a back-up server.
Don't Use Chrome
The first thing I like to install is Google Chrome. I use Chrome for my Infobarrel work, I use it to run Hootsuite and now I want to use it for my A1CS FUSION5 XTRA.... It does load up and work fine, but there might be a developer setting awry as there is a seemingly random flash of a red border which usually indicates that either something is updating, or taking a while to respond.
Battery life is good. Officially the battery should last 3 to 7 hours and this is what we are getting, even when playing BBC iPlayer via the Wifi. Charging time is quick and if shut down, we have managed a full charge (or at least according to the tablet) within around 2 hours.
To offer a guide to what the battery is capable of, we:
- surfed the Internet for about 90 minutes
- watching an hour of BBC iPlayer programs
- installed and uninstalled a number of games
- listened to "Sorry I Haven't a Clue" on BBC Radio 4
The battery has lasted a reasonable 5 hours 15 minutes before it flashed up a warning for 14% battery remaining. Make of that what you will; we think it's quite good to be honest!
Controlling Your FUSION5 XTRA
The touch screen is generally very responsive. There are some games where the response of the game was slow; but with most other applications this has been reasonably good so the consensus is that it was the specific games and not the hardware.
The control buttons and keyboard of the Android ICS software are well sized (even for fat fingers like ours) and A1CS offer a faux leather case with built-in USB keyboard for their range including the FUSION5. The hardware control buttons such as the power button and the volume controls are easily identified in the manual, as well as new volume controls on the taskbar of the software itself.
Every product has its flaws; many of the flaws that we found in the A1CS FUSION5 have re-appeared in the FUSION5 XTRA, BUT at the same time they are flaws that we would expect to find in a budget Android ICS tablet like the FUSION5 range anyway.
Because of the micro-USB slots that are now on the FUSION5 XTRA; I would have hoped that there would have been a built-in bluetooth option. Bluetooth keyboards are a great compromise between the touch screen keyboard and a mini USB keyboard with a USB to micro-USB connector. I have not found a keyboard out there yet that uses a micro-USB connection for data; only to charge the keyboard battery.
Our Thoughts on the A1CS FUSION5 XTRA
Just like the FUSION5, the XTRA is a great budget end tablet PC that makes a great web surfing, media playing piece of kit. If you are an Apple Fanboi then it might not be for you, but if you are looking for something to carry around the house, or put some movies onto for the train journey from hell then the A1CS FUSION5 XTRA Tablet PC is a great piece of kit which will keep you going.
If it came with a 3G slot and a bluetooth option then I would say this would stop me taking my laptop almost everywhere I go but then you would have to add more cost onto the FUSION5 XTRA, but A1CS have done it again and produced a budget tablet that will match many demands.