Monday, November 14, 2011

Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet (T408) Review

     A year ago, Velocity Micro launched two tablets and officially entered the tablet with Cruz eReader and the Cruz Tablet.  Velocity Micro kept the processor a big secret and for good reason, it was a low budget Ingenic JZ4760 MIPS processor.  Unfortunately, the processor was low power which limited the usability of the Cruz Tablet. This time, Velocity Micro fully disclosed their processor: 1GHz Cortex A8.  Velocity Micro has launched two sizes: T408 (an 8” tablet) and T410 (a 10” tablet).  So Velocity Micro realized that they couldn't skimp on the processor or the screen (two of our biggest complaints with their first generation tablet).  The T408 & T410 both have capacitive screen. Definitely, this is a big improvement but are they good enough to compete in this crowded tablet market?

TabletConnect was very interested in obtaining a unit to review as to our surprise, our review of the T104 is the most viewed post that we have ever published.  Just to give you an idea of how popular that review is.  Since November 22, 2010 (when we first published the review), we have had over 51,200 page-views (as of 11/5/11).  That works out to about 147 page-views a day.  Since the Cruz Tablet was a very popular review, it is only right that we review their newest tablet: T408.

The T408 is slightly larger than a typical 7” tablet but smaller than other typical size which range between 9” and 10”.  The T408's dimensions are 8.5” (l) x 6.5” (w) x .4” (h) compared to the T104's of 7.5” (l) x 5.6” (w) x .7” (h).  For comparison, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color's dimensions are 8.1” (l) x 5.0” (w) x .48” (h).  The Cruz Tablet weighs about a pound which is not light. 
     Velocity Micro seemed to lessen the quality of the body.  The T104 had a strong feel and overall felt like high quality.  The T408 front bezels look like cheap plastic.  The back of the tablet has a matte finish.  The Cruz Tablet has a micro-USB (OTG) port, headphone jack, micro-SD slot, and a DC In port.  The one external speaker is good but is located on the back which we are not fans of.  Its not as loud as apparent by having only one speaker.  We played music and watched videos on a very high volume with minimal to little distortion.  Two speakers would have been preferred but at this price level, one tends to typically find one speaker.  Overall, the exterior quality is good but unimpressive.

     The T408 does include a front-facing camera but no rear camera.  Don't expect high quality videos or pictures with this camera.  Unfortunately, the camera is to one's right which causes the picture/video to be off-centered.  It would have been best to have the camera in the middle.  There are no physical buttons on the front on the device.

Included accessories are mini-USB cable, and DC power adapter/charger.  No micro-SD card was included unlike the T104 which did include two SD cards.  

Velocity Micro tweaked Android to include touchscreen buttons (similar to Honeycomb or Android 3.x).  There is a power button on the side and a Volume Up & Down button on top (if viewing landscape mode).

Under the hood, the Cruz Tablet has a Samsung 1GHz Cortex A8 single core processor, typical for this price range.  Don't expect a dual core processor at this price range.  The Cruz Tablet has 512MB of RAM which again is typical for this price range so no surprise here.  There is 4GB of internal storage memory but one can add more memory through the micro-SD expansion slot.  The Cruz Tablet does have a built-in accelerometer (auto-rotates the screen) which works well.  The T408 does include an older but still powerful PowerVR SGX540 GPU which the benchmarking results will show its top performance.

     The Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n ) performed without any issues and performed on par.    Connection never dropped and no significant slow down in connection.  However, our biggest issue was when turning the unit on from sleep mode.  There was a very noticeable delay in re-establishing WiFi connection.  With all the tablets we have used, this model is the only one that has this noticeable delay.

With the T104, we were very disappointed in the responsiveness of the screen although it was capacitive.  Apparently, Velocity Micro did address this with a future firmware upgrade.  With the T408, Velocity Micro learned their lesson and the screen is an improvement.  The capacitive screen is 8” with a low resolution of 800x600.  Viewing angles are typical for this price range which means they are not great.  The screen has a 1+1 touch screen not true multi-touch which has three or more points of input.

As our video demonstrates, the Cruz Tablet works well with all multimedia (pictures, music & videos) types.  We tested these three types of multimedia using the stock apps.  There are other better apps to use but our focus is only on the apps included.  For the pictures, the quality of the images was good.  The colors were not as bright or lively as the original file.  For videos, we tested using MP4 format with 1250 & 1500 bit videos, plus three 720p HD files (AVI, MOV & MP4 format).  The stock player was not able to play the AVI and MOV videos.  Actually neither did two other video player apps.  Only MoboPlayer (which claims to play any video format) was able to recognize and play those videos.  Both non-HD files played very well with no stuttering in the stock player.  The Cruz Tablet had no trouble processing the 1500 bit video.  For the HD videos, the tablet had trouble processing the AVI and MOV files although it had no problem with MP4 format.  The HD MOV file played with the MoboPlayer app but there was some stuttering.  Overall, the multimedia experience was overall good.

Applications (Apps)
The Cruz Tablet does not include Google apps.  No surprise here as most lower-budget tablets do not.  However, the Cruz Tablet does include Amazon Appstore in addition to Amazon Kindle, Angry Bird Rio, QuickOffice (view & edit documents), InkPad, YouTube, Napster and other games (chess, soduko, checkers, solitaire). We performed our standard PDF rendering test using Repligo and our test PDF file.  The T408 took approximately 4.6 secs to fully load the first page of the document.  This is on par with other tablets using a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor.

We benchmarked the Cruz Tablet T408 against the ViewBook and Nook Color along with our baseline tablet (Archos 70):

     Because we changed our benchmarking apps, we cannot truly compare the T408 with the Archos 70.  As noted, only two tests are available for comparison.  Even comparing the Cruz Tablet against the ViewBook and the Nook Color, one should note that the ViewBook's processor is running at 1GHz vs the Nook's speed of 800MHz.  Therefore, the ViewBook provides a fairer comparison.  It is no surprise that the T408 dominates the benchmarks (Game Score of SmartBench & Nenamark) that focuses on the GPU as we noted earlier. The T408 also does very well with the Vellamo benchmark (which tests the following items: rendering, JavaScript, networking, and user experience) and the BrowserMark benchmark (which test Javascript & HTML rendering).

   (Different benchmarking apps may test  different aspects of the CPU and GPU which would account for variance.  One cannot look simply at one set of benchmark scores.  One should view all in an aggregate.)

Battery Life

Our standardize testing consist of two battery tests:  1) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned on); and 2) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned off).  Both tests had the brightness at 50%.  The battery averaged 6:10 with WiFi on and almost 7 hours without WiFi.  This is below what we would expect especially since their first generation tablet lasted more than 9 hours. 


Overall, Velocity Micro has produced a decent tablet although the specs are really last year's.  If this exact tablet was launched last year instead of this year, Velocity Micro would have made a name for itself.  However, it failed at introducing a decent tablet last year.  The T408 can be found for $199 so its a decent price.  Initially Velocity Micro was going to launch the T408 for $249 but was smart enough to lower it to $199.  So what are the strengths: 1) excellent GPU that should handle majority of current 3D based games and video rendering; 2) $199 price tag; and 3) larger 8” screen that still offers a very mobile tablet.  As for the negatives: 1) long delay in re-establishing WiFi connection after been awaken from sleep; 2) poor screen resolution (800x600); 3) highly glossy cheap plastic-looking bezels; 4) poor battery life and 5) unable to play HD AVI and MOV videos natively.  Negatives outweigh the positives.  If Velocity Micro would have launched this tablet a few months, it would be more desirable.  However with the Kindle Fire and Nook Color 2 around the corner, the T408 may not have a place unless the price drops to $150.  At that price point, it is worth a look.


  1. So far we bought four of these for Christmas gifts and two of them are now junk. Velocity business office does not answer the phone and sales transferred me to support. I have called support and left messages and to no avail, have NOT been called back !

  2. Nice review, i cant wait to have a touch experience with it.