Hands On The Grid 10 Tablet And The Grid 4 Phone

The recently announced Grid 10 Tablet aims to redeem Fusion Garage after their very much failed JooJoo tablet. The Grid 10 (and its phone-buddy the Grid 4) arrived with much hype and hyperbole. Let's see if they live up.

Grid 10

The Grid 10 sports a 10.1-inch screen that packs in a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. On paper, that should make it the best tablet display out there. But the display is dim and the glass is highly reflective. The viewing angles aren't particularly great, either, so watching a movie with a couple of friends may not be the most enjoyable of experiences. Like many of its Android cousins, it adopts the 16:9 widescreen ratio, which means holding it in landscape is the only way it feels natural. The brushed aluminium body feels nice and sturdy, but it's 1.5 pounds, which is a tablet fatass at this point in the game. The power button is the only physical button on the Grid 10. I'm generally pro-button, but I didn't mind it so much in this case, as the gesture-sensitive bezels made up for it (more on that later).

The demo had only half of the RAM that the final version will have. This created mucho problems. Games would play well for a little while and then you would run out of memory and you would have to do a hard reset. A hard reset when you run out of memory? The final unit will have 512MB of memory, which isn't bad, but high-end Android tablets are packing 1GB of RAM.

Software

The Grid 10 and the Grid 4 both run Fusion Garage's new operating system, Grid OS. You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but Grid OS has Android in its genes. It is built on top of the Android kernel — from 2.3, actually — but it's about as unrecognisable as John Travolta / Nic Cage in the movie Face Off. Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan says that they only used those kernels as a jumping off point, and they'll continue to evolve the OS from there (i.e. they won't be waiting for future versions of Android in order to move forward).

The centrepiece of Grid OS is its desktop which is, not surprisingly, one big effing grid. It's bigger than big. Actually, it's infinitely expandable. It's unlike anything on any other tablet. All of your apps live on the grid, and you can add tiles for bookmarks and contacts as well, and then arrange them into (nameable) groups as you see fit. No widgets, though, which is a bummer. Groups (think: folders) are collapsable and expandable, and can be moved around. The problem with this is that your grid ends up looking like a big messy desktop with piles of stuff on it. All of the items are the same size. In other words, the apps you use all the time are no more prominent than the apps you almost never use. Even Chandra got lost on his desktop a few times while he was showing it to me. There's a map in the upper right corner that allows you to jump around the grid very quickly, but while you can see the shape of the groups you made, you can't see the names of the groups themselves.

Gestures are a big part of the OS, which I like a lot (borrowing some from the PlayBook's playbook). Regardless of what application you're in, two-finger swiping in from the left bezel brings up the Heartbeat application. This is where you see your notifications and upcoming calendar appointments, and also where you switch between open apps. The Heartbeat app also boasts some "intelligent" features, like if it's lunch time and you're in Midtown Manhattan, it will recommend some places to eat nearby (though we had trouble getting this feature to work during my demo). Two-finger swiping in from the right bezel is the equivalent of the back button, and in from the top bezel will take you back to the home grid.

Because Grid OS is build on top of Android, it will run Android applications, and it doesn't need an emulator to do it. Testing it out with a few Android games, it seemed to work pretty well, but it remains to be seen what'll work and what won't. Grid OS users won't have access to the Android Market—they'll be limited to Amazon's app store and other third party options. A problem, 'cause they're nowhere near as fleshed-out as the Android Market. APIs will soon be released to developers so they can start building apps directly for Grid OS, but honestly, who's going to write apps that run on a single tablet?

Other quick notes: the browser looked great, and when it was actually running smoothly, it was my favourite browsing experience on any mobile device yet. Flash played with no problem — except when it didn't. The video application is excellent. I could jump around the HD movie with no stuttering, and it would stay in sync with the Grid 4 phone. Bing (!) is deeply integrated into the OS and it has a lot of live, contextual search functions built-in throughout.

Grid 4

The hardware is far, far from final, but currently it's set to have a 4-inch, 480x800 screen (the same tech as the Grid 10, which was about mid-range, I'd say); a 1.2GHz Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon (though that may change); 512MB of RAM; 16GB onboard storage; and dual-cameras.

Powered by the same Grid OS, you navigate the phone's desktop in the same way. Potentially a problem, as the smaller screen real estate makes finding the apps/contacts/groups you want even more difficult than it already was on the much larger tablet. It syncs with your Grid 10 to keep your calendars, contacts, email and other stuff from turning into a jumbled mess. It will also keep your place in videos between the devices (as long as you have the video stored on both).

It's too soon to make any kind of a call on either of these devices, but whether they turn out to be good or bad, at least they're not boring.

[imghttp://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/gizmodo/2011/08/2.jpg" size="legacy" align="center"]


Comments

    Phone looks like an old HTC Diamond without the bottom buttons... Infact, almost identical...

      you mean... a black slab?

      My GOD!!!

        Mmm,.. Fuggly! #]

          No. It's far too minimal to qualify for "fugly". Save that for iphones, Nokias and the sillier Androids. A black oblong is just a black oblong.

      I reckon its more like the Motorola Milestone TBH. The Diamond had the circular ring with 4 touch buttons on the bottom and a piss ant screen.

      I really think this has potential.

      Giz forgot to mention that if you have both phone and tablet, you can set them up to sync apps and you can even stop a movie on the Tab, then resume it on the phone!

      Its good to see finally someone developing the Android open source kernel way beyond its potential! Good work Fusion Garage!

    Obnoxious viral marketing campaign aside, this actually does look pretty neat.

    Now all they need is to get people to buy them!

    But wow does looking at that tablet make me sad that we're never going to get tablets running WP7.

    "so watching a movie with a couple of friends may not be the most enjoyable of experiences"

    Watching a movie on any tablet with a couple friends is always going to be a particularly ordinary experience... Unless these are some 'special' friends and you're all naked.

      In which case watching a movie on a tablet really shouldn't be the focus of your attention...

    "who’s going to write apps that run on a single tablet?"

    Um... Apple?

    It's begging for Windows 8 ... ;)

    With the reccent news (like 3 hrs ago) that the TouchPad which I was looking to purchase as well as WebOS have been both effectively dropped on their heads by HP, anything else on the innovative side looks good.

    I saw the video on youtube, and was warmly impressed at what I saw. So what should Fusion Garage look to do at this moment for Grid OS devices ?
    1. Build quality- this speaks volumes, people aren't going to purchase a product if they feel its fragile.

    2. A UX worth having- user experience is paramount, yes the grid can get messy, but I believe FG has an idea with god possibilities for modification. The average non-techie doesn't want an UX comparable to a "Star Trek" tablet.

    3. Ecosystem- Apps: We have become an app-centric user base. Even though, having great built-in functions does ease the pressure a bit, having a ready source/potential of and for apps is indeed important. Let us remember that hopsitals and airlines are replacing paper with iPads/various tablets. FG has to build and do it quickly a body of "Quality" Apps which reflect usuability, and productivity as well as entertainment at its greatest.

    4. Battery life- having seen person use iPad2's with virtually little to no battery power never ceases to amaze me. But the Grid10/4 needs a battery life which can rival that of the iPad/Android tablets. A great hardware product with poor battery life is going to be a stumbling block to great sales.

    5. Updates and Notifications: this is of utmost importance. Long delays in Android updates have been causing ramblings and fustrations amongst Android mobile users of late. FG cannot follow in this trend. It is difficult enough to come into the race practically last, but the inability to give significant and timely updates put you in "no man's land". A non-obtrusive and yet modern notification systems goes a long way (think of webOS great notification system..RIP webOS).

    6. Get products into consumers hands - Having a great product is great. Who doesn't want to be a maker/vendor of a great product? Only anyone who isn't anyway halfway sober. Hence its vitaly important that FG delivers on time, and at a cost which is indeed compatible with the consumer. $499 USD for the 16gig maybe pushing the envelope a bit, given the dominance of Apple's iPad. But there maybe merit in the cost. For one, FG is a tiny company in comparsion, and hence build cost can be a challenege. Apple does have leverage with parts vendors (i.e. Samsung) and can purchase in huge volumes, unlike FG.

    So there, I'm no marketing or tablet expert for that matter, so I may have missed some stuff along the way. With current bombshell from HP concerning webOS and its related products, coupled with the fatigue some Android users maybe feeling from Honeycomb, FG with its Grid OS and products despite the uphill battle can cut out a mark for themselves. We've seen the demo, now its time to deliver FG. Cheers !

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