In this review, we look at the The Busbi 7 – a 7″ tablet running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) by manufacturers Disgo and Busbi and featuring a 800×480 TFT LCD display, running Android 4.0.4 on a 1 GHz Cortex A8 Processor.
Being a budget tablet, it has 0.5 GB of RAM and 4GB storage (though we found only 2.5GB was usable after the OS and pre-installed apps took the first bite of storage) – but it does have a MicroSD slot so it’s possible to expand on that. In terms of apps, along with it’s very own store – ‘Busbi Apps’ – it also has the Google Play Store and a ‘SlideMe’ store (more on that later).
It’s in the same league as, and competes with, the likes of the ZooStorm SL8 Mini 7, Arnova 7 G3 and Versus Touchpad 7. For a budget tablet, it competes well.
Size / Connectivity
Measuring 7.5″ by 4.7″ with a 0.4″ thickness, it weighs 750g – 20g more than the Original iPad 3G – making this one heavy tablet. Connectivity wise, on the shorter edge of the tablet (shown above), there’s a standard headphone jack, microphone, Micro USB port (for PC connectivity and charging), a MicroSD card slot and a speaker grill which we can only assume houses both speakers. Just next to these on the top edge is the power button, volume rocker and back button. No 3G on this tablet but Wi-Fi (b/g/n) is of course built-in and we had no issues connecting and remaining connected for many hours with a strong signal and good download speeds. I suspect no one would expect Bluetooth on this device and they won’t be surprised as it’s something they’ve saved cost on and understandably omitted.
All in all, it has a solid feel and looks quite good, albeit like many other tablets that’ve essentially copied the iPad format which features a silver brushed finish on the rear, black buttons on the edges and a comfortable 0.7″ black bezel. The brushed finish has the additional advantage of making it easy to hold though, and this is important for a tablet as heavy as this one. As mentioned before and it’s worth repeating, it’s 750g and that makes it one of the heaviest 7″ tablets we’ve come across. For a 30 minutes commute, say, you’d need to hold on with both hands to save either wrist from tiring unnecessarily.
It’s a good thing it can easily fit into a loose trouser pocket and – just about – into a suit jacket inside pocket so you won’t need to carry an extra bag for it or make space in one. One notable issue is that when holding the tablet in landscape – which is by far most of the time – the right hand can easily cover the speaker grill so has to be held at a slight distance for sound to come through or has to be held slightly lower down between your thumb and index finger to leave the speaker grill completely free.
Android 4.0 and Apps
The 1 GHz processor handles the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS well and the new features of ICS give this tablet a free boost in functionality. We found the text input kept pace with fast typing on single tasks and the improved browser handled several tabs at once, but got painfully slow after we’d opened 3-4 tabs. Another enhancement in ICS is the enhanced image editing capabilities and we had no issues in cropping, straightening and rotating images as well as changing shadows and using the blur/sharpen functions.
As noted in the beginning, the Busbi 7 comes with 3 app stores – the Google Play Store, Busbi’s very own and an alternative Android store called SlideMe. The latter, if you’ve never heard of it, promises some upcoming features specifically for paid apps that aren’t found in the Play store to help developers increase their app reach. But we think for the basic functionality you’ll want to use this tablet for, you’ll be just fine using the Google Play Store. Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Instagram downloaded and installed ok and generally worked well though Facebook was pretty sluggish on load and Skype had an issue with the camera (more on that later). However, what let it down was that 2 popular apps failed to work even after uninstalling and reinstalling giving the message “Unfortunately xyz has stopped” – xyz included the Chrome browser and the Camera ICS app (which provides some extra camera- and image-related functionality specifically for the ICS OS). We’re not sure how big of a problem this is but of the 10 apps we downloaded, the other 8 at least opened and functioned.
Speed / Usability
The 1.0 GHz Single Core processor fares well on individual tasks like playing games, watching videos, using Skype or surfing the web. Start multi-tasking and you’ll begin to see stalls, delays and even freezes for several seconds. The most common scenario for multi tasking is probably listening to music and surfing the web and in this scenario, we noticed a lag of an extra second or so when clicking on links. Nonetheless, acceptable browsing though for a tablet at this price point.
The 800×480 touchscreen has a PPI (Pixels per Inch) of 133 and this in line with the 120-140 PPI range that we’ve seen become prevalent in this the lower end of 7” tablets. Although this level of clarity is ok for casual use, anyone coming from a high-end tablet such as the Nexus 7 and then using the Busbi 7, the pixelation would be immediately noticeable. Put another way, if it’s given to the average 12-year-old – which we can imagine some people would be buying this for as their first tablet – we don’t think they’d have any complaints about the display. The touchscreen itself is relatively responsive and pinch to zoom is snappy, with only a few touches or swipes being missed occasionally. Even that mainly comes down to the fact our touches are very light having been used to swiping and touching very lightly on more sensitive devices. We got used to pressing a little harder and swiping for a bit longer pretty quickly and this became a non-issue within the first half hour of using it.
The Busbi 7 plays movies just fine and most online flash videos, but do remember if you’re planning to watch YouTube videos you need to download the dedicated YouTube player from the Play Store rather than use the YouTube website directly because the latter just won’t work. We found we had to keep it on 75% or more brightness as anything less resulted in a dim screen that can’t be good for the eyes for long stretches. This has an effect on draining the battery life fairly quickly, as we’ll see later. There aren’t any anti-glare measures built into the screen but fortunately the screen doesn’t have a gloss finish to exacerbate any glare and most of the time the screen brightness and screen angle can be adjusted to make the screen usable.
Looking it at from the perspective of being used as an eBook reader, reading on the Busbi 7 using the Google Play Books app was surprisingly good, with the text sharp enough to read at high speed and pages turning smoothly and responsively when reading sequentially page by page. (The processor’s speed starts to manifest itself though if you skip to pages far ahead that the app hasn’t preloaded in advance – taking around 5 seconds a page). Reading in portrait and landscape mode both work well for books in ePub formats, but for PDFs only portrait was a viable option. This is because the margins of a typical PDF are larger and 2 pages side by side in landscape mode made the text too small to read. However, if the primary purpose of your tablet is to read eBooks, for a little extra you should stop reading this review and go get the best device in the market for reading eBooks – the humble 6” Kindle eReader.
The Busbi 7 is minimalist on this front – it comes with just an accelerometer to detect orientation of the device and that’s pretty much the only significant sensor on the device. Even switching orientation was comparatively slow with the switch taking an average of 2 seconds even under light load but we couldn’t find much use for it holding it in portrait apart from the aforementioned eReader usage.
Camera and Speakers
The speakers are no Dolby Digitals and do have a tinny-ness to them at the louder end but at least they are fairly loud at the highest volume – at peak, we measured 49 decibels (dB) when held at a typical viewing distance and 79dB at the speaker source. Our test movie was audible even with a fan heater running in the background (it’s been snowing lately here so it’s pretty cold !) so better than what we expected from this tablet given it’s specs but only time will tell how they fare in the long run and how quickly they’ll start to crackle and become inaudible as is typical for speakers this size.
Now the front-facing 0.3 MP VGA camera with auto-focus is quick and easy to use, both stand alone and on Skype. This is at the very lower end so the video quality is grainy and as you would expect from a budget webcam. It provides some basic options such as white balance options of ‘Incandescent’, ‘Daylight’, ‘Fluorescent’, ‘Cloudy’ and exposure settings from -4 to +4 (to darken and lighten exposure level, respectively) but using these seriously are a waste of time for images at this quality.
One notable point about the camera is that sometimes the camera would start behaving unpredictably and repeatedly loop the same ½ second capture for a few seconds. It happens every couple of minutes and seemed to be triggered intermittently by keeping the webcam stationery for a few seconds. This doesn’t look like it’s an issue with the camera itself though as there’s no such looping when used with the built-in Android Camera/Video app so we can only conclude it’s the interaction between Skype and the Webcam – this would make a long Skype video chat irritating. However, this was the most significant issue in our review but we could still use Skype.
This is definitely one of the weaker points of the tablet as it doesn’t score well on this aspect at all. We wouldn’t recommend this for long journeys where the battery will quickly die out, but rather as a stay at home device. As mentioned earlier, the brightness really needs to be set to at least 75% on this tablet in pretty much all scenarios. Setting it to a reasonable 85% and with the sound to 80%, we streamed video continuously from the internet through the Wi-Fi and managed to get through 2 hours 25 minutes of movie time. It paused for a few seconds only 3 times during the streaming, showing the Wi-Fi to be quite capable at continuous download. Busbi advertises 5 hours of battery time and we can see the tablet reaching that under normal use conditions.
Tablet for Kids
We can imagine people will want to buy this for their children so we ask the question: is it suitable? As a basic device to play movies, listen to music or check email, twitter and facebook, this device will work just fine for them and without testing their patience too much. It also looks reasonably decent as noted earlier, with the same color scheme as an iPad. Though it’s not fooling any of their friends into thinking it’s an iPad Mini. Combined with one of the many parental controls downloadable from the Google Play Store, like Kids Place or Funamo, the Busbi 7 is very much a viable option as a tablet for kids. We could also play flash games online using the standard browser and the 2 games we tried from the Google Play Store, Template Run and Angry Birds, installed and ran OK. However, it doesn’t have any extra ‘anti-kid protection’, like extra case protection or Gorilla Glass to prevent scratching so we can’t see it surviving through many sibling fights or being chewed much by younger children (for them, you really need the Nabi 2). So if you’re thinking of getting this for your kids, we’d say either purchase a standard 7” screen protector, a case of some sort or at the very least give them a briefing beforehand on ‘Why mum/dad won’t get you another Busbi if you drop this one’.
The Disgo Busbi 7 is the result of a collaboration between MyDisgo and Busbi and although both are little known manufacturers, MyDisgo has previously been successful in it’s foray into the Tablet PC market and one of it’s more recent tablets – the Disgo 1904 9.7” – is an altogether respectable tablet. This Busbi 7 is an attempt aimed at taking a slice of the 7” budget tablet market. But, unlike many knock-offs by unknown manufacturers, this is a serious attempt and has no obvious fundamental flaws such as overheating, continuous restart cycles or permanent freezes. It’s a heavy tablet for it’s size – there’s no doubt about that – and the camera has the occasional glitch when used with Skype. And some apps just flat refuse to work, of which we came across 2. So this is not a tablet we’d recommend for any sort of productive work but rather as a cheap and cheerful entertainment device with occasional use and perhaps some light work if you’re willing to be patient. However, a good choice for the kids as the basic functionality is all there.
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