23rd Jul 2010 | 08:30
JooJoo tries to bring you the web, but it faces a deadly rival
Without the iPad, the JooJoo would have had a shot. When it was first announced, Apple wasn't close to confirming the existence of a tablet.
The slates already on the market were both overpriced and terrible. Netbooks were popular, but far from comfortable. The idea behind the JooJoo, originally named the Crunchpad (and the subject of some very tedious legal mudslinging that we're not going to go into here), was for a low-cost tablet that would give you access to the web from your lap. And that's what it does.
There are no apps, except for web-based ones. There's no pretence at it being a dedicated computer. It really is just the web on your lap.
Unfortunately, the JooJoo is yet another demonstration of just how good Apple is at making kit. While it's far from unusable, it is clunky. It's slow. It feels cheap, unfinished and unpolished, and it doesn't come in at a low enough price to justify any of it.
The problems start as soon as you get your hands on it. The JooJoo is bigger than the iPad, and it has a wider screen, but it's much less comfortable to hold. The power button requires a fingernail or a pin to press properly.
The screen doesn't so much show fingerprints as proudly collect them to display to your friends. During testing, we were constantly reaching for tissues, and not because we were eating buttered toast while playing with the thing.
When you switch it on, it'll either be fast to load, or it just won't. Battery life was between three and five hours, compared to the iPad's easy 10. The screen gets uncomfortably warm in use as well. Although far from too hot to handle, it's a far cry from Apple-grade engineering.
Hitting the web
Get to the web browser and things improve, slightly. You can't zoom into pages, and there's nothing like the iPad's wonderful system for double-tapping a column to focus on it. Text display is mediocre at best, and scrolling is often jerky.
Two sizes of keyboard are provided, and both work OK, but not ideally – press a button and then drag your finger off it, for instance, and the key stays pressed.
The page viewer however is pretty good, providing a decent version of the sites we went to, and it has the bonus feature of being able to handle Flash. Having the ability to drag the keyboard around the screen and out of the way of the box you're trying to type into is another excellent addition to the device.
Flash support is the JooJoo's trump card, but much of the time it just makes it clear why Jobs is so vehemently against it. Video playback is frequently slow and jerky, and don't get us started on what happened when we tried to watch high-resolution media – a video on www.blip.tv became a slideshow.
As for games, while point-and-click titles work fine, it's impossible to ignore that most just weren't designed for multitouch.
Unfortunately, the JooJoo has interface issues as well. To bring up the main menu bar (which includes the URL field and navigation options), you need to swipe down on the screen. If it works, it brings up a fiddly, irritating bar that contains the options. All too frequently though, it doesn't.
To actually scroll a page, you need to use two fingers. That doesn't sound a problem until you have to do it a lot. Loads of these niggling issues get in the way throughout.
As an informal test, we handed a colleague who'd never used either platform both a JooJoo and an iPad to play with. After a few seconds of squinting, she had the iPad singing and dancing. But just closing a browser window on the JooJoo took several people poking and prodding at it, before they figured out that it involved an upward swipe. Everyone then asked if they could have another play on the iPad.
That really is the problem. The JooJoo would be fine without Apple's shadow falling over it. But when the two devices go head to head, it's not even a fight.
The JooJoo may be the cheaper option, but with the iPad's smoother operation, quicker performance, huge variety of apps and better media support, it's not the best value for money. Even if you only use the web browser, the iPad still remains our tablet of choice.
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