Ainol Novo 5 Unboxing & Photo Review
The Ainol Novo 5 is perhaps the closest we’ve seen to a portable “all-in-one not-phone” from China yet. It’s a 5-inch, Android 2.2-running, RK2818-powered, WiFi-sporting, 720p HD-capable portable media player. Whew. Prior to it there was the SmartQ V5 and V3, both revisions held back by the TCC8902 chipset, stranded on Android 2.1 Eclair and plagued by miserable audio desync issues that otherwise neutralised the 1080p advantage the chip held. Then we saw the barrage of “Smart PMPs” – those 3.6 to 5-inch devices that boasted Android but were ultimately neutered as they lacked WiFi connectivity, arguably the only reason to stick the OS on a PMP. Now Ainol are making their entry into the Android field with their whole line of Novo tablets, from the interesting looking Novo 8 to the small Novo 5 – the subject of this unboxing and photo review. We’ve just recently stocked the Novo 5, so it’s high time you actually saw it!
A Brief Rundown & The Specs
With Ainol’s recently introduced Novo series of Android tablets, they’ve announced some very interesting models, from powerful ARM Cortex-A9 tablets to small and compact Rockchip-powered ones. The Novo 5 is one of the latter, coming in with a 5-inch (800 x 480) display size, a resistive touchpanel, and powered by the Rockchip Rk2818 processor. It comes in a variety of internal storage sizes, from 4GB through to 32GB and in both white and black. MP4 Nation stocks an 8GB black version, which is what we’ll be looking at today. Coming up: specifications, the photo unboxing with some observational commentary as well as the occasional poor attempt at humour, then a paragraph or two on my thoughts using the device.
- Google Android 2.2
- Processor: Rockchip RK2818 600MHz
- RAM: 256MB DDR2
- Internal storage: 8GBGB
- Expansion: MicroSD expansion (16GB verified; 32GB unknown)
- 5-Inch LCD display (16 million colours)
- 800 x 480 screen resolution (16:9 widescreen aspect ratio)
- Resistive touchpanel
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- 720p HD video playback capable
- HDMI output
- 2600mAh battery(average w/ WiFi on is 3-4hrs)
- Charging method: USB cable
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Black colour
- Dimensions (Tablet): 131 x 85 x 12mm
- Dimensions (Packaging): 163 x 115 x 50mm
- Net weight: 164g
- Gross weight: 290g
The packaging is fairly standard – Ainol have chosen to embellish the image on the front of their box a little more than they do with their PMPs, which look starkly spartan in comparison.
Look familiar? That’s because Ainol have used the same shell design that they’ve got on their PMPs. Yes, it looks just like a V9000HDG – except it’s got Android. To the lower left corner you’ll see the blurry (excuse my terrible photography skills and chronic case of shakyhand) Android logo as well as WiFi symbol. Evidently Ainol do not want anybody confusing their Novo 5 for a wretched Smart PMP.
The back of the Novo 5 is again reminiscent of the V9000HDG, among many other Ainol players. It features a slight bevel, with the back lipped and raised by a few mm. The thin strip on the far left of the player is the speaker. Also prominent is the reset button – most useful, though hopefully finds its usage rate low – as well as the various certifications stamped onto the device itself. Curious is the “Novo 5 Basic” – is there a more advanced iteration in the works?
Well onto the buttons and ports. The Novo 5 features 3 buttons – “On/Off” (which also wakes the player up after it has gone to sleep), “Back” and “Menu”. There is no physical “Home” button which makes jumping to the home screen difficult in full-screen applications. There are all of the standard Android buttons, as well as volume up and down, in the status bar itself, but sometimes full-screen applications can cover that – it is a settable option in Android, though. The lack of hardware volume buttons is a bit strange, and perhaps hints that Ainol does not intend for the Novo 5 to be primarily a media player but instead primarily a small-sized Android tablet. The lack of HDMI-out or TV-out, despite the Rockchip RK2818 processor being able to output 720p HD video, also suggests this.
It strikes me, though, that most users of this will probably use it as their media player as much as, if not more than, the time they spend using it as an Android tablet. I can’t really see this being used for hardcore web browsing or intense e-book reading. It’s probably best used as a casual device where you play games, watch TV shows, listen to music and check your email. It’s not really suitable for any kind of power-usage.
The Android home screen is pretty much the default, except for the customised background as well as default icons. “Shelves” is an e-book organising app, in case you were wondering, not that this device would work out well as an e-book reader. As you can already see from the second photograph, viewing angles aren’t stellar. They aren’t abnormally bad, but decidedly average. Top and bottom viewing angles are also nothing to write home about. Pretty much what you’d expect from a 5-inch screen, comparable to the V9000HDG. Below, a look at the menu.
And the firmware information and revision of Android:
Some Thoughts After Usage
What distinguishes the Novo 5 from other Android tablets is its size. It sports a 5-inch screen, where as the common form factor for Android tablets today is 7-inches or even 10.1-inches, with quite a few big-name models falling in between those two ranges. To put it bluntly, the Novo 5 is ultra portable. It fits in a shirt pocket, or trouser pocket, or inside jacket pocket, or jeans pocket or purse pocket. It’s light and easy to hold with one hand. It doesn’t attract too much attention and you are able to get a firm grip on it.
The larger tablets offer the user a very different experience from this smaller one. Web surfing on the Novo 5 can sometimes be a little troublesome. The screen is small, and though the Novo 5 does have a g-sensor and you can look at websites in portrait mode, there will still be liberal use of the “zoom” button in the default Android browser, as well as whatever alternative other browsers such as Opera or Skyfire offer. Since the Novo 5 has a resistive touchpanel with no pinch-to-zoom capability, you’re going to be scrolling a fair bit as well as zooming a fair bit. You won’t have the luxury of viewing websites like comparably sized smartphones can. Along that line of thought, the Novo 5 is best used for casual web browsing, such as checking your Facebook to satiate your voyeuristic impulses, or to look up football scores so you can be reminded of how abysmally poor Liverpool have been playing. Forum posting is also viable, but the onscreen keyboard is a bit small so use of a stylus would help. Which brings me to my next point.
A stylus would be beneficial to everyday operation of the Novo 5 partly because of the screen size. Those with large or stubby fingers may have a hard time operating the screen, particularly with typing with the small on-screen keyboard. If you chew your nails… well good luck then.
The resistive touchpanel does have a slightly sticky feel, but this will likely go away after time.
The display has good colour, though it’s not hugely vibrant – not like the V6000HDT that we all know and love. While the viewing angles are nothing to write home about, it’s small size essentially rules out any possibility of on-purpose over-the-shoulder watching.
Performance-wise, you can expect what you’d expect from any RK2818 device. It’s stable and smooth, and the 2.2 firmware is actually fairly impressive as we didn’t run into any crashes, bugs or force close errors. However, the brief usage we had with it is hardly indicative of everyday usage, but Rockchip are usually on the ball with their software/hardware integration. You can play back HD 720p video fine, though try to stay away from multitasking while doing that otherwise you may notice some slowdown. Access to the Marketplace opens doors to hundreds of apps created by Android users for Android users, so you’re not really limited there either.
And that just about wraps it up. The Novo 5 is an impressive piece of kit, and is arguably my favourite Android device I’ve operated yet. I’ve long been a proponent of shrinking down the tablets as 7-inches is hardly portable, as much as 7-inch tablet owners try to convince themselves otherwise. You can’t pocket a 7-incher, it’s hard to handle and makes a terrible music player. The Novo 5, though, makes a great music player and still does well on the tablet side of things. True, you don’t get the typing fidelity or the e-book-readability of a larger tab, but you get an incredibly broad feature set in an incredibly portable package.
The moment we start seeing these sized Android devices from the Chinese markets more often, with better processors (just imagine a Tegra 2 in it), well that might be time for this cheapskate to pony up and buy. If you’re in the market for one now, though, you can’t really go wrong with the Novo 5.