When Disgo launched this 10.1in tablet running Android 4, it was priced at £179.99. Wow, that's cheap. But looking on Amazon as I write this I find it available for even cheaper - £159.99. Given that no Android-loving tablet owner wants anything other than Android 4, the coveted Ice Cream Sandwich, (or Android 4.1 Jelly Bean) on their machine, eyes will be drawn to this low cost option.
So let's make it clear right at the outset that while you do indeed get Android 4, it is not quite all there. Switch the Disgo Tablet 8104 on and it looks as it should, its home screen popping into view. But move over to the apps list and head for Google Play to get hold of, oh, I don't know, Angry Birds or something, and there's a surprise awaiting. Google Play isn't here.
Instead of Google Play and its thousands of apps, we get Disgo Apps. This appears in the shape of a bookmark affixed to the main home screen. Tap it and it launches you into a web page offering 19 downloads. Nineteen. You and a friend could count them on the fingers of your hands. Or you could manage alone on your own fingers and toes.
The downloads include the Accu Weather widget, Adobe Reader, Angry Birds (hooray!), Facebook, LinkedIn, Opera browser, Skype and Twitter, so arguably there's something for everybody here. Before you recoil in absolute horror let me add that the SlideMe app store is pre-installed. This offers access to a much broader range of apps, grouped by category. Though it's still not the full app store, 6,611 apps in the Fun and Games category, 2,250 in Entertainment, 717 in Productivity and so on are reasonable numbers.
When apps are installed they run pretty well. Disgo has equipped the Tablet 8104 with a 1.2GHz processor. Yes, it's single core, but it is adequate and not something I am going to quibble about given the price of this tablet. It is supported by 512MB of RAM, and there's 4GB of internal storage plus a microSD card slot for adding more. Disgo has even managed to include an HDMI slot, something that's far from always present even on the most expensive of tablets.
There's a front camera which shoots at 320 x 240 pixels, and no back camera. I could grumble about that, but the number of times I've used a tablet camera to shoot stills is probably fewer than the number of apps in Disgo Apps. Really, with my phone around me all the time, that's what I tend to use in lieu of my usual digital camera.
I do, though, have some points that anyone eyeing this tablet up might want to take into account. Battery life isn't great for starters. The 6,500mAh cell doesn't really have enough capacity to keep the Disgo Tablet 8104 going long enough for me. Daily charging is likely to be required by many users – I certainly found it was. On one occasion, I fully charged the tablet then went out at about noon leaving the Disgo playing music. When I got home at 18:30, it had fully discharged.
Relatively poor battery life is made more annoying by the proprietary round pin charge cable. It is possible to charge via USB, but it's a real trickle charge that takes far too long to be much use in an emergency. And to my utter amazement, it's mini-USB and not the now pretty much ubiquitous micro-USB. I had to break out an old adaptor.
Two other things that are both very off-putting are the screen quality and general build. Tackling the screen first, I did find it to be responsive enough to the fingertip: I've used a lot better, but it is liveable with. The problem is that it is a 1,024 x 600 pixel panel and its quality is far from good. Lounge somewhere and look at the screen head on and it is OK. Not great, but OK. Take the Disgo Tablet 8104 outdoors and if the sun is not too bright, it is readable. It's not wonderful, but it is usable.
But viewing angles are very poor and the relatively low resolution makes text look degraded. Overall brightness is not great either. I wouldn't want to use this tablet for reading eBooks or text-heavy websites. The screen's 17:10 aspect ratio is a wide, thin format that puts it out of kilter with, say, the iPad, and while the format is arguably suited to video viewing the poor screen lets things down on that front. And oddly I found one short edge of the screen bezel was sometimes touch-sensitive leading to many irritating accidental actions.
The build, too, is not the best. There's a relatively wide bezel around the display, which makes the Disgo Tablet 8104 feel oversized. The chassis feels as though it won't take too many falls from a height, and the plastic materials aren't of particularly high quality. It feels as though there's quite a lot of air inside the chassis - there was a sort of hollow sound when I tapped the on/off button, for example.
To be frank, I didn't expect much better for the price, and the stippled backplate is a plus as it aids grip. There is a nod to the likes of Samsung and Apple in the use of a single button along one short side of the screen bezel, which takes you back to the home screen.
One short edge of the tablet houses the headphones socket, mains power jack, USB connector, microSD card slot and HDMI slot, while a long edge house buttons for Home, Menu, On/Off and power adjustment. The other two edges are clear. The buttons feel OK under the fingers, but less robust than on more expensive tablets.
Disgo has proved that you can build an Android tablet at a very accessible price. I'm not convinced, though, that the end result has allure or does Android itself any favours, especially now that Google's similarly priced Nexus 7 has been launched.
Disgo has had to make some very tough decisions to get its Tablet 8104 in at its very low price. It has used a capable processor and even managed to build HDMI into the mix. But the screen is poor, the build quality iffy, and the screen, that all important interface between the user and Android, is very disappointing. Oh, and full Google Play is missing too. In the end, these factors mean I can't recommend the Disgo Tablet 8104.