ZaTab

January 27, 2013

To be completely honest, I’m a little disappointed with ZaReason‘s tablet offering, the ZaTab (N.B. currently sold out while they develop the successor). And I feel guilty about saying so, because I love ZaReason and I want them to succeed.

Here’s the basic problems I’ve been having with my device.

  • Device doesn’t charge. This is kind of a big problem for a device to have. It’s kind of a qualified "doesn’t charge", though, because if you plug the USB cable in just the right position, it will charge, but slowly (36 hours for a charge?). It seems like the connectors aren’t well-seated or maybe the case is coming loose, or maybe the connectors are breaking off the motherboard. Who knows? I wrote support an email on the 14th of December. I thought I’d cut them some slack for the holidays, but it’s been almost three weeks without any response — even so much as a "sorry, we can’t help you, it’s almost certainly completely fucked and it’s out of warranty". (I pinged them on Twitter too; nothing.)
  • When a MicroSD card is inserted, the device becomes much more sluggish and seems to run out of charge a lot faster. Maybe this is related to the above, maybe not. This was with a 32GB card; I haven’t tried anything else since them.
  • No clear way to update device. Maybe this is my fault for factory-resetting the device, but it’s running CyanogenMod 9, right? So why can’t I just easily install Cyanogen 10 to see if the above problem goes away? I don’t want to dick with flashing ROMs and installing the Android SDK. That’s the whole reason I bought a free device!
  • Oh, a standard micro-HDMI connector doesn’t quite fit into the port. You can order a cable with the tablet that has a micro-HDMI connector that’s an itsy bitsy bit longer than standard, which works. Yuck.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions as far as what this means about ZaReason’s technical chops or their business practices or whatever. Maybe I just got a bad one, or I was too rough on it, or it got banged up in shipping and it’s no one’s fault. But when I buy devices, I want them to just make my life unilaterally and unequivocally better. Instead it seems like nobody ever sells exactly the product I really want, and ZaReason just manages to come a little closer than everyone else.

I guess the good news is that in the last few years, open hardware has suddenly gotten a lot more plausible. Please be aware of PengPod and Jolla. It’s a brave new world..

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