Monday, January 20, 2014

Product review: Astak Neos HD 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Smart Display and Android 4.1 All-in-One Tablet-Top Android PC

I would not call Astak Neos a tablet because it not mobile, you need to plug it into AC to use it. I would describe it as an Android PC.

Neos runs 4.1 Jelly Bean Android operating system. As I write this review the current version of Android is 4.4 (KitKat). The processor in this device (TI OMAP 4430 dual-core CPU) is made by Texas Instruments which got out of the business of mobile computing so it is highly probable that this device will never be updated as with every new release there is a need for new drivers and TI is not going to provide them. I tried updating the device and it told me there are no updates. What does it mean? It means that bug fixes and new features will not be available. For majority of people this is probably not a deal breaker but worth noting.

With that out of the way, I thought the Neos performed rather snappy, the touch screen has a nice response, and the built-in speakers are excellent. The screen resolution is 1366 x 768 and looks okay if you looked at it straight on. But the good viewing angle is very narrow. If you are not right in front of the screen the colors look washed out. For comparison our tablets (Nexus 7, iPad Mini, and Galaxy Tab 7.7) have brighter colors and wider viewing angle.

The front panel of the Neos is 16" by 10" wide, the display area is 14.5" x 8" (which if measured on a diagonal corner to corner is 15.6 inch, the size mentioned in the specs). The device is shaped as a triangle. The angle of the screen is fixed, but you can change the angle of the display by standing the unit on either side if the triangle: either horizontally sloping down, or vertically sloping out (see video). The narrow base is 4" wide, and the wide base is 9.5".

The display works fine with apps that work in landscape mode, but some apps work only in portrait mode (like some of my favorite games) and that means they will not be usable on this device.

Neos weighs 6 pounds 14 oz. The AC cord is 66 inches. It does not have a battery and needs to be plugged into AC to work.

So what is this device good for? It is good for watching or listening to any content available on the web using Android apps. It worked well with YouTube videos and TuneIn radio. I was able to use it to watch cable channels using US TV app. I tried to stream Amazon Instant Videos, but Amazon told me that this device is not compatible and cannot be used for view Amazon Videos. This decision is made by Amazon and is true for all Android devices, Neos is not at fault here.

In addition to displaying videos, Neos can be an MP3 by playing MP3s either from a memory card or a USB stick. It can also serve as external speaker to any MP3 device attached to it via an audio port in the back of the unit.

When I plugged in my USB stick in the port located on the back of the unit, I was able to navigate to it via ES File Explorer. My memory stick appeared as one of the local storage options. I was able to play mp3 files directly from the external media. Neos makes a nice MP3 player with a terrific set of external speakers.

NEOS speakers are one of its strongest points. The sound is clean and crisp, I thought it sounded good at all ranges. I put it through my standard stress test for the bass (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor). NEOS handled it beautifully, no crackling, not muddy, just crisp and clear. The sound comes from two Onkyo 5-Watt stereo speakers built into the sides of the unit.

NEOS comes with it own user interface called Kloud. Instead of having pages that you get with Google's interface, NEOS organizes everything into folders: Media, Games, Favorite, Communications, etc. You can get rid of most folders (there are a few non-removable folders like "available applications") and add your own. I liked the concept of organizing appls into folders but I did not like some of the pre-installed categories. I was able to remove the pre-installed folders and apps I did not like. I was able to add my own folders, and then move and add apps to the new folders.

A bluetooth keyboard and a bluetooth headset with a microphone (for use with Skype) paired easily. Both worked well, and I find using a bluetooth keyboard much more convenient than typing on the big on-screen keyboard.
The USB port in the back can be used to connect a USB keyboard. I tested with Logitech Wireless USB Keyboard K360

I am using WiFi and the device feels pretty snappy when I search and run apps. In addition to WiFi NEOS also supports a direct Ethernet connection, in the back of the unit there is a RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port.
I was not able to run OOKLA Speedtest to measure the speed of the device. Speedtest app reported to be incompatible with my device.

For video calling or social media Neos has a 5M pixel camera with autofocus on the front of the unit. The back of the unit has a small lever which allows you to tilt the camera up and down so you can adjust the image based on your height or position in front of the screen.

To turn Neos off, hold the glowing blue button in the back for a few seconds and a shut down prompt will appear on the screen.

I received this unit for evaluation and review. The feature I liked best is the speakers, the weakest feature is the narrow viewing angle. I think the introductory price of $499 is a bit high for the functionality you get, but an Android PC is a useful device.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

12/28/13 Today a friend with a Netflix subscription visited and I asked him to log into his account to see if Neos is compatible with Netflix. It is. We tried a few shows and they all worked fine.

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