How the FileMate Identity Tablet Works

The FileMate Identity tablet, another entrant in the tablet wars. See more pictures of Essential Gadgets.
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The perennial quest for the all-in-one computing device turns up another tablet, but this time it's affordable. The FileMate Identity, a 7-inch (nearly 18-centimeter) tablet running Android OS 2.2 (aka the Froyo operating system) sells -- if you can find one -- for around $110, well down from its April 2011 introductory price of $299-plus.

Depending on your point of view, a tablet is either an outsized smartphone or a smooshed PC packing a smaller, underclocked microprocessor, a rechargeable battery and no fan. Tablets don't handle big programs; rather, their operating systems run tricked-out versions of more bite-sized smartphone apps. A growing demand for media-focused devices has, however, kicked off an arms race for faster, beefier portables, and the Identity keeps pace ... with tablets from early 2011.

Even by that standard, Identity's 800 x 480 resolution, while bright and adequate for most Internet video, pales beside similar tablets launched around the same time [sources: Samsung; Sung]. The Samsung Galaxy, for example, featured 1024 x 600. You probably won't notice the difference much except while browsing.

The larger problem with Identity lies in its outdated and tablet-unfriendly Froyo OS. As of July 2012, tablets running Android version 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean) had already hit stores; in fact, devices running 2.3 (Gingerbread) and 3.0 (Honeycomb) were available when Identity launched. Unless you demand bleeding-edge tech, you probably won't miss the difference, but you might miss any fresh apps that won't run on the stale OS [sources: Google; Kendrick]. If you do, you could hold out for the E301, a Gingerbread version teased at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) by Korean company and Wintec partner Enspert -- assuming it ever comes out [source: Cartwright].

Bear in mind, too, that Froyo wasn't designed to support tablets. Many early tabs shoehorned the OS in by building, essentially, big-screened smartphones. Even so, many Froyo tablets get a bit glitchy around apps designed for phones and tend to not play well with Android Market, Google's official app store [source: Carmody]. For what it's worth, Wintec claims that the Identity is "officially registered with Google" [sources: Carmody; Kendrick; Wintec].

Here, as elsewhere, "let the buyer beware" remains good advice. Wintec's Identity support pages acknowledge issues with freezing, but provide a firmware update to address the issue. The company also offers advice for remedying network connection problems, so its connectivity software likely isn't all it's cracked up to be. One last warning: Write down your password. If you forget it, the device will permanently lock you out, and you will void your warranty to boot [source: Wintec].

All of that might sound pretty bad, but some buyers are willing to tolerate a few niggles if the price is right. Still, it's not a bargain unless the bang-for-your-buck offsets the risks and petty frustrations.