In terms of software features, the Android experience on the Cruz T301 is not the whizzing, futuristic “droid” seen in prime-time commercials. In the world of Android, these are the cheap seats, folks. The e-mail, calendar, gallery, and browser apps are stock Android, but Google’s popular Mobile apps (Gmail, Maps, Talk, Navigation, Contacts, Places, YouTube) are all absent.
More importantly, Google’s official Android Market isn’t included. In its place is a Cruz Market stocked with a handful of free apps that probably aren’t worth your time. As a workaround, we directly downloaded Amazon.com’s Appstore for Android and downloaded a few favorites. Unfortunately, we had no luck getting celebrated games such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja to install. We were able to install an old-school game of Paper Toss, but the stuttering graphics performance made it unplayable. If gaming is your thing, the Cruz 301 is going to disappoint.
A few other apps come preinstalled, including Amazon Kindle, Napster, OfficeSuite and Twidroyd. As these are free apps, they don’t add any unique value, but we’re happy they’re here, especially when the included app store is so lacking.
The worst strike against the Cruz T301 is its sluggish performance. Anytime you touch the screen to do something there’s a delayed reaction that feels as if the tablet is catching its breath. You feel it especially when scrolling Web pages or typing on the virtual keyboard.
Speaking of the keyboard, key accuracy is generally poor and features we take for granted, such as predictive text and dictionary support, are absent. If you’re hoping to use the T301 for activities such as writing e-mail and status updates, expect more than a few typos to sneak through.
Our final complaint is the Cruz T301’s screen quality. The tablet’s mediocre 800×600-pixel resolution is forgivable at this price, but the dim screen is going to be a deal-breaker for many–especially those of you thinking about using the tablet for its Amazon Kindle e-reader compatibility. The tablet’s maximum brightness level is more what you’d expect from a setting of 50 percent, and Velocity Micro has the brightness turned up all the way by default. The result is that text legibility is poor in anything but indoor lighting. For our money, inexpensive devices such as the Kindle and Nook Simple Touch Reader make more sense as Web-connected e-readers.
The Cruz T301 from Velocity Micro is a physically solid little Android tablet with a decent set of features considering its low price. We don’t recommend it for gamers or book lovers, or for chatty e-mailing and messaging, but if your gadget appetite is bigger than your wallet, you can have some fun with the T301.