Millennius' Emperor tablet targets the budget end of the market. Under three hundred bucks for an ICS tablet sounds like a bargain, but not all bargains are good value.
There's one really obvious thing that strikes you the moment you take the Emperor out of its polka-dotted box, and that's how much it resembles the original model of the iPad. Right now, I'm sure there's a segment of the audience sighing and declaring that I'm unable to write about tablets without referencing Apple in some way.
But in this case, it's unmistakable. To be specific, nobody in the office who has set eyes on the Emperor thought it was an Android tablet; they all wondered why I was re-testing the original iPad. If Apple's willing to go in heavily against Samsung over the Galaxy Tab 10.1, it makes me wonder what Millennius' strategy would be. Presumably it's a matter of thinking that Apple won't care about an older design.
What I Liked
As with many of Millennius' products, the key appeal here is in the price point; it's a 9.7 inch Ice Cream Sandwich tablet for only $299, which is undeniably on the lower side for an Android unit. While the model I tested only comes with 16GB of onboard memory, it's also equipped with a micro USB host socket, and a cable is supplied in the box. Having a tethered cable isn't as elegant as an integrated SD card slot, but it's at least something.
The Emperor did last through a reasonable quantity of testing time, but there was a reason for that...
What We Didn't Like
The issue with the Emperor is that it really is a case of cutting every possible cost corner. It boasts of a 10 point capacitive touch screen on the box, but omits to mention that roughly half the time, the screen simply won't respond, making most Android games a chore to play, and even browsing sites a frustrating experience. That's a good part of the reason why the battery life was acceptable, because, frankly, using the Emperor was a serious chore.
The 9.7 inch 1024x768 screen suffers from frequent breakups and has poor viewing angles. The speakers are tinny. Both front and rear cameras are the same quality, but that's only two megapixel quality, and poor at that.
It's also exceptionally clear that Millennius has crammed a new OS into an old chassis, as there's a few more buttons on the Emperor than it strictly needs. There's a power button at one end, an identical button at the other end that acts as a back button -- redundant given it's built into the ICS interface anyway -- and side buttons for menu selection and volume control. Which means at any time, depending on the way you pick it up, you'll either hit the back or power button; that's fine if you want to switch it on, but annoying if you don't, as it's never that clear.
Should You Buy One?
I suspect you've picked that I won't personally be lining up to avail myself of an Emperor, but then, I'm not the target market. This is a cheap Android tablet, and cheap usually involves compromise. My problem with the Emperor is that the balance between price and compromise isn't quite tilted correctly, for two key reasons. Firstly, $299 puts it within striking distance of more elegantly designed (albeit older) Android tablets. The price point on Android tablets tends to drop quickly, and that means that many of last year's models are near that kind of pricing. You won't get ICS with those, but you will get better constructed units with a more optimistic upgrade path to ICS and possibly beyond.
At a lower price point, it would be a lot easier to recommend the Emperor tablet simply because it'd be a low-cost gateway into the Android tablet space. But at this price point, it's too much money for not enough tablet.
OS: Android 4.03 Screen: 9.7-inch 1024x768 Processor: Rockchip RK2918 1.2GHz Dual Core RAM: 1GB Storage: 16GB Dimensions: 243x190x9.8mm Camera: 2MP rear, 2MP front Battery: 8000mah Battery Weight: 730g