I like deals.
I like things cheap. I like things on sale. I like things that are perfectly acceptable at a low price as opposed to extremely good at a high one. And I know that many other penny-pinching people are with me. (Really with me -- they seem to surround me just as I'm attempting to grab the last slightly warped, as-is clearance set of wine glasses at the outlet mall.)
This tendency is fantastic when you're buying, say, T-shirts at your local Goodwill. It's not so terrific when it comes to technology. For one, new technology is expensive. Period. It costs a lot to develop and a lot of salaries to make. Plus some, for profit. Two, cheap technology just doesn't work as well. With every tech advancement, we expect higher performance from the technology we buy. But consumer electronics companies and tech giants are totally aware that there are customers like me, who want the technology ... but want a deal.
Enter a company like Maylong. The Maylong Group is a company based in Michigan, and is best known for making GPS systems. The company is relatively new -- just founded in 2006 -- and its foray into tablets is even newer. The first tablet, the M-150 model, came out in 2010. It had the unique distinction of being a tablet sold at Walgreens -- a drugstore known more for picking up nail polish and prescriptions than personal technology. As we'll discuss later, it was not popularly embraced, to say the least.
But it was $99, a price point that -- at the time -- was nearly impossible to beat for a tablet. And although Maylong became a kind of epithet among tech writers and geeks, the company continued producing tablets. And guess what? The technology got more competitive. The aesthetics became more cohesive. And, ostensibly, user feedback was listened to.
Not that Maylong tablets are perfect. But let's take a look at what they offer to find out what's worth it and what may be worth walking by.
Maylong Tablet Specs and Tech
Maylong has a few tablets on the market, but (and we'll get to this in depth later) it can be a bit tricky to tell if you're going by the company's Web site. The first iteration of the tablet was the M-150. It was followed by the M-250, M-260, M-270, M-285 and finally the M-970, all of which cost right around $100, with the exception of the M-970, which was priced around $200. It can be difficult to discern exactly which tablet models are still on the market, but going by the offerings of big stores like Sears and Walmart, everything except the M-150 is still available online or in stores.
We'll start with the M-250 and M-260 models, which are the more basic designs. Basic is the word: They both run Android 2.2/Froyo, a really outdated (2010) operating system that's used to run something like a flip phone. Oddly enough, the M-250 is listed on the company's Web site as having a 800 + 300 DSP processor, while the 260 has a 700 MHz + 550 MHz DSP processor. The 270, 285 and 970 moved to an Android 4.0 platform, which is very tablet-friendly. They also share in common a 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor with 3D accelerator (1.2 970).
One extremely important difference between the 250 and 260 versus the other models: They have a resistive touch screen as opposed to capacitive. That means that while the newer models have touch screens that use your finger as an electrical current (which can accommodate a light touch), the 250 and 260 are pressure sensitive. You know at the grocery store when you struggle to hit the buttons just right when entering your PIN on the debit reader? Yup, that's what you'll be dealing with. (The 250 even comes with a stylus, which doesn't bode well for the usability of the touch screen.)
All the models have 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) screens, except for the 970 (9.7 inches/24.6 centimeters, hence the seemingly random model number). Storage in each model varies. The 250 and 260 have only 2 gigabytes (GB) of storage, while the 270 and 285 have 4 GB. The 970 has 8 GB on board storage. The 250, 260, 270, 285 and 970 all accommodate a microSD memory card as well.
Maylong Tablet Features
The features of the Maylong tablets are important, and not because of what they have but mainly because of what they lack. That's not necessarily a criticism; the tablets are inexpensive because of what is left out, and there are a lot of people who are perfectly content with the bare bones. Why buy a $500 tablet if you're just using it to check your e-mail?
All of the models have WiFi capabilities, and none have 3G. Once again, the 250 and 260 are the barest of them all. Yes, they have an Internet browser (although which one is never specified), a digital media player, streaming capabilities and limited apps are available. In other words, a generic tablet without much power or technology behind it. If you're looking for a cheap tablet for your 10-year-old, this might be it.
Once you start getting into the 270-285-970 range, things start to improve. A Flash Player and a PDF reader are installed. YouTube, Kindle, Kobo, a generic eBook reader and access to an app market are all included. Keep in mind the app market isn't the full Android app store; it's a cultivated library, meaning there are limited access to apps (it uses the GetJar App Market).
All the tablets also have a camera, but beware: the cameras on the 250, 270 and 285 are 0.3 megapixels. Again, equivalent to the camera on a flip phone camera. Oddly, the 260 lists a 1.3-megapixel camera. The 970 has two cameras: The front is 1.3 megapixels and the back is 2.0 megapixels -- not bad, but not great compared to the iPad 3's 5 megapixel iSight camera.
The style of the tablets vary; every model but the 970 has dedicated home buttons (the 970 is touch screen only). While the 250 and 270 just have home buttons, the 260 and the 285 have physical volume buttons as well, near the home screen. The 285 also has a back button.
The Maylong has had some issues in the past; let's take to the next page to find out what they were about and if they're still a worry.
Pros and Cons of the Maylong Tablets
So at this point, a little context might be needed. We've talked about the Maylong tablets being at a bargain-basement price, and mentioned that they're really bare bones. Does that mean they're terrible? It's a bit more complicated than that. Let's go through some things that aren't so great about the tablets and then check out the benefits.
The first thing isn't even the tablet at all. The Maylong Web site is maddeningly vague at best, and just plain inaccurate at worst. It doesn't engender a lot of confidence when products are listed incorrectly (the specifications listed for the m-260 page are actually the m-250's specs), products are literally missing (a mysterious m-290 -- available at Target with a 2.3 Android operating system -- doesn't exist on its product list) and the FAQs seem to date back to the very first model ... but it's hard to tell.
One kind of unfair disadvantage: When the M-150 came out, it got scathing reviews. And for good reason: It was slow, it looked different than advertised, there were no USB ports without a bulky adapter, the microSD memory card slot wasn't spring loaded, so it was nearly impossible to get the card out. (The list goes on.) Essentially, the Maylongs became a joke.
Unfortunately, that meant that future iterations were entirely ignored. As the technology improved -- and it did, with updated 4.0 Android systems, nicer cameras, faster processors -- a search for Maylong tablets still brings up tech reviews for the m-150. Which seems a bit like saying "The Godfather" is a bad trilogy when you've only seen "The Godfather Part Three."
Not that any Maylong is comparable to a masterpiece. It cannot be stressed enough that you really do pay for what you get: Sure, you can pay $80 to get a cheap tablet. Which is absolutely appropriate if you don't need anything other than a cheap tablet. But -- as we saw in the specs -- a lot of the technology has caught up, and there's no reason to think that a higher-end Maylong (with their higher price points) wouldn't be perfectly acceptable as a device for a lot of folks who don't need a lot of applications and perks that go along with bigger brands.
The Maylong tablets are for people pretty much exactly like me. They want something simple, they want something cheap and they want something dependable. Unfortunately, it's the last one that gives the Maylong tablets trouble. User reviews swing from wildly enthusiastic to downright outraged. Finding reviews is trouble in itself for newer models. Getting a good deal on technology is a great thing, but think hard about what you really need -- and expect -- from a tablet before buying one simply for the savings.
- Apple. "iPad." Apple.com. (July 26, 2012) http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
- Bell, Donald. "How to spot a bad Android Tablet." CNet. Dec. 1, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-20024315-285/how-to-spot-a-bad-android-tablet/
- Cheng, Jacqui. "Worst Gadget Ever? Ars Reviews a $99 Android tablet." Ars Technica. Nov. 22, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2010/11/worst-gadget-ever-ars-reviews-a-99-android-tablet/
- Cnet. "Maylong M-150 Review." Cnet.com. Jan. 20, 2011. (July 26, 2012) http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/maylong-universe-m-150/4505-3126_7-34474248.html
- Hruska, Joel. "Maylong's $99 M-150 Tablet Reviewed." Hot Hardware. Dec. 16, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://hothardware.com/Reviews/Maylongs-99-M150-Tablet-Reviewed/
- Kozlowski, Michael. "Introducing the Maylong M-250 Android Tablet PC." Goodereader.com. Jan. 10, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://goodereader.com/blog/tablet-slates/introducing-the-maylong-m-250-android-tablet-pc/
- Kuch, Bill. "Maylong M150 Universe Tablet PC Review." The Gadgeteer. Dec. 16, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://the-gadgeteer.com/2010/12/16/maylong-m150-universe-tablet-pc-review/
- Maylong Web site. "Products." Maylong Group LLC. 2007. (July 26, 2012) http://maylonggroup.com/
- Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. "Maylong Group." Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. Feb. 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://misbtdc.org/technology-team/technology-team-success-stories/maylong-group/
- Perlow, Jason. "Disaster: What happens when you buy and Android tablet at Walgreens." ZDNet. Nov. 5, 2010. (July 26, 2012) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/disaster-what-happens-when-you-buy-an-android-tablet-at-walgreens/14631
- Target. "Maylong M-290." Target.com. (July 26, 2012) http://www.target.com/p/maylong-7-0-android-tablet-m-290-with-4gb-internal-storage-512mb-memory-black-silver/-/A-14014045
- Walmart. "Maylong Products." Walmart.com. (July 26, 2012) http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?search_query=maylong&ic=16_0&Find=Find&search_constraint=0