A SIM-free 3G tablet for just £300: is the Commtiva N700 the best-connected bargain on the planet?
The stout rectangular body of the Linx Commtiva N700 doesn't have the slinky slimline feel of the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Apple iPad, but then it costs a lot less than either of those two machines and offers almost as many essential tablet frills.
It's a blocky slab of a tablet, deeper and without the knife edge corners of the iPad or Archos 70, but it still manages to fit into a back pocket (just) and is best ported around in the supplied black diary type case.
Down the left-hand side of the screen (in landscape mode) there are the familiar four Android buttons – Home, Back, Menu and Search – but it's what's inside that really counts. The N700 has all the trimmings for getting online on the go, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the magical unlocked 3G-modem built-in.
What's more, it runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) and has full Market access for apps like Skype, Spotify and Angry Birds. That also means you get free turn-by-turn directions using the onboard GPS and Google Maps.
It even charges its long-lasting battery via a standard mini-USB connector, so there's no expensive docking cable to consider. And there's a 4GB micro-SD card thrown in for storage, too.
Other than a minor tweak to the desktop skin, this is exactly the same machine as the Viewsonic Viewpad 7 but for £100 less. It's an absolute bargain, and provided you keep background apps to a minimum it's a responsive as any other Android tablet around.
There is, however, one dramatic drawback. Like the Viewsonic, the N700 is built around a 600MHz Qualcomm processor. According to Google's rulebook, that means you can't install the Android Flash player. YouTube works, of course, and the proxy-based Skyfire browser will get you into a limited number of video websites, but BBC iPlayer simply throws up an error message no matter how hard you try to get in.
Non-Flash videos are a problem, too, because of the underpowered electronics. Unlike the Archos 70 or Advent Vega, the default player struggles with any slightly esoteric codecs and resolutions bigger than a postage stamp. While lightweight players apps like xyplayer can render DVD rips watchable, they're not perfect.
If it's movies you want, then, the Archos 70 not only does full-speed playback of every codec under the sun, it's cheaper, too. If you're prepared to sacrifice video playback for something that could realistically replace your netbook, TomTom and e-reader for catching up on the news or blogging from the coffee shop or train, then this is the one for you.
Linx Commtiva N700 review
Its Achilles heel is video, but the N700 is exceptional value for a 3G-enabled device
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