Why I returned Augen’s Genbook 74 in under 24 hours

When word got out that Kmart was selling a 7″ Android tablet for $149, fans around the country scrambled to snatch them up. I know because after visiting two Kmarts yesterday and calling the rest that are within an hour’s drive of my place, I learned that the first batch was gone from each location within hours of their arrival.

What I did not have a hard time finding was the little Android powered netbook, also by Californian redistributor, Augen, called the Genbook 74. It was only $99 and more importantly, in stock. I brought it home and fired up the camera for a proper unboxing. You will not see the results of that shoot because the actual unboxing segment lasted 30 seconds and the hands-on part of the video is comprised largely of unentertaining frustration. Just a lot of cursing and “What the…” type stuff.

The trackpad on the device, which is surrounded by two buttons, selects items when tapped. There is no way to turn this “feature” off. And because the very plasticky surface is ultra sensitive to taps (though not to tracking), I found it nearly impossible to drag the cursor over an icon without clicking it.

The next problem I had was the WiFi. If I signed into my network while sitting *very* close to the router, I could then walk away and remain connected for the most part. But when the connection dropped, which it does, I had to return to the router. So, I discovered that the only way I could use the netbook semi-reliably (using the term loosely) was by plugging in the ethernet cable and using an external USB mouse. That kinda destroys the idea of having a netbook, doesn’t it? Even then, the software was slow and non-responsive, and I found the most basic tasks impossible. Not to mention that the included YouTube client can’t play videos. I wanted to download more apps for testing, but downloading from the Market didn’t work.

This morning while I was taking the pictures below, my wife asked if she could try the Genbook. I wished her luck and plopped it down in front of her. After the first thirty seconds, she asked me if it was designed for children because, “the materials make it feel like a toy.” I laughed. She did have better luck with the trackpad – it didn’t select every icon she passed over. Still, using it was a chore. After another thirty seconds, she scoffed, walked away, and said something about giving Android a bad name.

The Genbook 74 does feel like a toy. I would say that it should be in the toddler section at Kmart for $19.99 but I’m afraid it could turn a youngster off of technology.

I saw a very generous mini review of this netbook where a commenter said that anything that can run Android for $100 is a deal. My response is this: define run. I’m glad to see budget devices on the shelves and many of them could bring connectivity to people who might not otherwise have it. The Genbook 74 is not one of those products. If you’re looking for a $100 Android, get a used phone on ebay. Don’t want a phone line? Hack a G1 to run without a SIM or just pop a deactivated SIM in there. The experience will destroy that of the Cracker Jack toy that is the Genbook 74. Any Android phone that’s been released in the States is better.

Don’t be fooled by the pictures. It looks like a netbook.


Genbook74

Genbook74

Genbook74

Genbook74

Genbook74

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