The Disgo 8400G launched recently, highlighting just how far the tablet PC has come. The modern tablet PC market only kicked off with the original iPad three years ago and it’s seen the rise of the budget tab with the Amazon Kindle Fire, Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad Mini being the most prominent.
Why does this mean that the tablet market has come so far though? Put simply, because you can now walk into a shop like PC World, Currys or Amazon, and walk out moments later with a 3G enabled tablet AND change from £150.
We know that technology is always getting better, faster, and cheaper, but to put this into perspective, the Wi-Fi and 3G Nexus 7 is available from £239, whilst the Apple equivalent is almost 2.5 times more expensive, starting at a whopping £369.
Surprisingly, Amazon has yet to release a 3G version of its Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets in the UK, although the aggressively low launch prices (with Amazon looking to recoup on content sales) of £129 and £159 respectively, sent waves through the tablet market.
- Check out our guide to the best tablets for under £300
Given its 7.9 inch screen, the Disgo 8400G has been launched against the three biggest names in the tech industry, leaving it very little room for error. Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean from the offset, though, is a very good start.
The Disgo 8400G also packs some nifty and exciting features that we will look at later on. Being a Wi-Fi and 3G enabled tablet, the 8400G has the ability to send and receive text messages, and makes phone calls, a la Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Asus FonePad.
In all then, for sub £150, we’re left with an intriguing piece of tech that is using price to make a name for itself against the big guns. Will that be enough?
Measuring in at 214 x 155 x 11mm the Disgo 8400G is by no means the smallest of the smaller tablets.
The 8400G also weighs in at a rather hefty 460g. This means that one handed use is rather uncomfortable, especially for long periods of time, not ideal if you’re after a cheap ereader.
Disgo appear to have taken several design cues for the 8400G from one of the Android tablet forebears, the HTC Flyer.
Whilst entirely functional, given some of the svelte designs that now adorn the faces of the Nexus 7, iPad mini and even the Kindle Fire, the 8400G is a tad disappointing.
Not very well hidden in the top, or left hand side depending on orientation, is a single speaker. Sound playback is respectable, and loud enough to be able to show off your YouTube antics to all your friends.
Within the bezel you’ll also find the 0.3MP front facing camera for video calling, as well as the iPad Mini matching 7.9 inch 1024×768 display. Disgo’s LCD offering doesn’t quite live up to Apple’s LED, as the viewing angle leaves a lot to be desired and in bright sunlight, the 8400G is practically unusable.
Along the top (whilst in portrait) of the Disgo 8400G, you’ll find just about every button and port; the microUSB and 3.5mm headphone ports, volume rocker and power/lock button. Alongside these are a microphone, as well as a covered SIM and a well received microSD port.
The only exception is left hand side, which houses a microphone port.
Having all the buttons on the top is rather awkward, especially if you have headphones or a microUSB cable plugged in. We found that whilst sitting and holding the tablet in portrait mode, our hands covered both the ports, although the buttons were still easy enough to hit.
Processor wise, the Disgo 8400G packs in a 1.2GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 as well as 512MB of RAM to keep things plodding along. The 8400G also manages to fit a GPS with A-GPS in, meaning you can turn your tablet into a very large satnav should you desire.
Suprisingly, the 8400G does come with a 2MP rear camera for taking photo’s with, a bonus given that it’s omission would have been seen as a way to keep costs down. Disgo have also provided a 4800mAh battery, is claimed to last 8 hours.
Unsurprisingly Disgo have provided the 8400G with Wi-Fi to b/g/n capabilities, and as mentioned earlier, microSD support, up to 64GB. Bluetooth 3.0 is also on offer, however there is no DLNA support.
Interface, calls and messaging
Manufacturers these days tend to distinguish themselves with heavy OS customisation, take a look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire range and you’ll see what we mean. Disgo haven’t quite taken it that far on the 8400G.
Hidden amongst the settings menu is a theme setting allowing you to choose between the default, and the preloaded Nature theme. There is very little to choose between the two, with the only noticeable difference being a different set icons.
The lack of customisation may be seen by some as a blessing, but we found it a little disheartening.
It seems very strange that in portrait, you can have 8 icons running horizontally, yet only 7 when in landscape, meaning that any icons on the far right just disappear.
The Disgo 8400G’s interface will seem very familiar to those that have used Android 3.0 Honeycomb or 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with a Google search icon in the top left, app drawer in the top right and the notification bar along the bottom, populated with Android’s on screen buttons and notifications pane.
As standard, there are five home screens, with no ability to add more. Disappointingly there is no infinite scroll, or ability to pinch out to get a home screen overview.
Movement between home screens also seems a little laboured, nothing that is too noticeable, but even the average user will start to notice it.
Long pressing for widgets to fill these screens are gone, with all widgets now accessed from the App drawer.
Again, switching between the App and Widget sections taking a noticeable period of time. Initial widget offerings are rather poor, with only the standard widgets on offer.
Some widgets are resizeable, although there is no clear indication as to which. We were particularly frustrated that the data monitor, being a 1×1 widget, didn’t come out like the drawer suggested, and was not resizeable.
Moving apps to the home screens is as easy as ever, with folders being created if you drag one icon over another.
Calls and messaging
The Disgo 8400G provides some interesting ways of staying in contact with all your friends, well, interesting for a tablet anyway. Pop in a SIM card, and you can send/receive text messages and make/receive phone calls, alongside the usual email and IM features.
We found that making phones calls was a tad ridiculous on a device of this size, something that we have previously commented on in the range of phablet’s that are hitting the market.
We highly recommend investing in a headset if you plan to replace your phone with the 8400G.
Texting was another story. Being able to send text messages on a larger screen made things understandably easier, especially with the responsive Android keyboard.
The Android keyboard is by no means perfect, and there was a hint of slowdown as the processor caught up, causing misspelt words, but generally the 8400G kept up and autocorrect worked wonders.
The Disgo 8400G also comes with the standard Android messaging options of Gmail, Email and IM in the form of Google Talk. Interestingly Facebook, Twitter and Google+ do not come preinstalled, which is a godsend if you don’t make use of them.
Web browsing is one of the main stays of the tablet PC, and thankfully the Disgo 8400G packs in Android’s native browser.
Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean does mean that Chrome is also downloadable, however in our opinion there isn’t a massive difference. There are also numerous others available on the Play Store.
Given our previous gripes with the hardware, we found browsing the web a pleasant experience. Pages didn’t load blisteringly fast over Wi-Fi or on 3G, although we found the full TechRadar site useable in around 10 seconds over both connections.
Zooming in and out wasn’t the most fluid of experiences, although pages still looked crisp even when zoomed in.
Text reflow is available, although isn’t instantaneous. Zoom in to the required level, then double tap the screen. A minor niggle really, but makes the 8400G seem a little less intuitive. Better than not having it at all, mind.
Within the Browser menu, there are a host of features that are familiar to those who’ve used Google’s Chrome browser before, such as adding new tabs, incognito browsing (so you can buy that present for your partner without them finding out..), requesting desktop sites (as mobile sites are loaded by default), and save pages as images for offline browsing.
It is also simple to bookmark pages, and access the bookmarks and history, via little icons in the upper right corner of the URL bar.
You can also set bandwidth settings, to stop the 8400G from loading images and preloading videos, saving even more data.
Flash doesn’t come preinstalled, and isn’t available from the Play Store, unsurprising given that Adobe has stopped supporting it, however the rise in other standards such as HTML5 make up for its exclusion.
Given that many budget offerings eschew the Play Store, it was very nice to see that the Disgo 8400G comes with Google’s proprietary store.
Apple has managed to dominate this area, having been offering apps and media through its App and iTunes stores for many years now, however Google has made many recent strides with the move away from the Android Market to the Play Store meaning that Google’s offering has become heavily populated with apps and media.
Amazon’s foray into the tablet world was similarly built around media consumption, so their store is also very well populated, but the Play Store more than holds its own.
Browsing the Play Store is pleasant, with apps, music, books,magazines and movies being given their own separate areas, with gaming apps being given a further separate arena.
Each area is split into large tiles, populated with photographs and colourful text, making it easy to select what you are after.
Accessing downloaded media through the Play Books, Play Magazines, Play Music and Play Videos apps which you are prompted to download if you download and subsequently try to open your new media.
Play Books is a particularly attractive app, with page turning effects and the ability to move pages with the volume keys.
With Google’s purchase/install records being managed via the cloud, it makes it simple to manage your apps across multiple Android devices, as well as being able to view your media on the web.
The Disgo 800G also comes with BBC iPlayer preinstalled, with other on demand services being available for download from the Google Play Store.
In all, the Disgo 8400G is not ideal for media consumption. The microSD slot means it is ideal for storing media on, but the screen is too small and too poor for serious media browsing. It is also too heavy a tablet to be considered for any serious ebook reading.
As a tablet for kids, however, to play cartoons and picture friendly books, the 8400G is almost perfect.
Apps and games
As mentioned earlier, the Disgo 8400G comes preinstalled with the Google Play Store App, which makes browsing for apps and media a pleasant experience, holding its own against the Apple App Store. Google’s cloud service also allows your app purchases to be synced across to other devices.
Google splits up its app offerings into categories, with general apps and games being split into two categories, and then both being split further still. Games and apps are also viewable by Top Free, Top Paid, Top Grossing, Top New Free and Top New Paid.
These categories are very useful to help you filter out the poorer apps that aren’t filtered otherwise. We must point out though, given the recent media attention, that Google has yet to implement a way of pre-warning you to in app purchases in the same way that Apple has in its App Store.
One of the major bonus points that Android has over other OS’ is its customisability. For instance, should you not like the messaging app or the keyboard on the 8400G, it is simple to download a new one, like Handcent SMS or Swype. It is also possible to install custom apps from other sources, including other app stores.
The 8400G also packs in the SlideMe Market app. The SlideMe app is also well designed, and can be signed into via Facebook. Apps are grouped into categories, with a screen of featured apps showing up when you first load SlideMe.
We were a little disappointed to find that all payments are managed in USD, meaning that for non US users, you have to manually calculate costs in your own currency. This was even more frustrating given that local apps were set to the UK.
Playing games was a little difficult given the lack of power under the hood, we found ourselves sat waiting for a little while whilst games loaded.
The Disgo 8400G also became noticeably slower whilst apps downloaded, and took a couple of seconds redraw the home screen when exiting.
One major bonus for app management is that in the settings menu you can set the default install location; from internal storage to SD card, or let the system decide.
This is particularly useful as the Disgo 8400G comes with only 4GB internal storage, that can fill up quickly if you don’t actively manage your storage.
Mapping wise we were pleased to say that GPS and A-GPS are both out in full force, which means, should you desire, the 8400G can be turned into a full satnav.
Google’s mapping and navigation systems both come preinstalled. GPS locked on after a few seconds, not lightning fast, but not disappointing.
Camera and battery life
The camera app on the Disgo 8400G is a very poor affair. The right hand side being taken with the camera controls, and the left being the camera image. On the face, are three offerings; camera, video camera and panorama mode, located in the bottom right.
There is also a circular slider in the middle, which houses the zoom slider, camera switcher (from rear to front, and vice versa), and the settings menu. The settings menu lets you tweak the white balance, exposure levels, as well as hiding colour effects, picture size, geotagging and face detection to name a few.
There is no flash on the 8400G, which is no surprise as the camera sensors feel like they were added out of necessity.
We can see the appeal of the front facing camera for video calling, but with the 2MP sensor on the rear, we struggle to see the point of its inclusion.
Video is similarly poor. White Balance, Time Lapse recording, Video Quality, Encoding, duration and Colour effects being able to be toggled.
Video can be encoded in H264, H263 or MPEG4 mode, with Audio encoded in AAC or AMRNB, with recordings unable to exceed 30 minutes.
Disgo claims the 8400G will last up to a rather respectable 8 hours. In practice, we found that it lasted a lot shorter than 8 hours, especially with heavy use.
Being a budget tablet, battery saving technology that is becoming more prevalent on higher end devices, has been omitted.
With the screen being hard to see in bright light, we found that we often had the screen at full brightness whilst watching videos, our 90 minute video drained the battery by almost 40%.
We then threw some photo taking, a couple of phone calls, an hour of web browsing and downloaded 3 apps, and we found that we had a total of 15% battery left.
We would expect around 6 hours from general usage, so more than enough to cope with your commute to and from work, and some browsing in the evening, but we wouldn’t wander too far from a plug if at all possible.
Charging off a standard microUSB though, means that you can charge off a PC, and won’t need a plethora of different cables for all your devices.
Hands on gallery
With the smaller tablet market emerging as one of tech’s hottest trends, hot enough for Apple to release their own iPad Mini, the Disgo 8400G is entering a market that is becoming ever more crowded.
The Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, as well as the Google Nexus 7 and the aforementioned iPad Mini all provide some pretty stiff competition, as do the numerous budget tablets that adorn the shelves of your local supermarkets.
The price. Of course we liked the price, it is the Disgo 8400G’s major selling point. At under £150 it shows just how far your money can go in the modern tech market, if you’re willing to forgo some of the luxuries that higher end tablets are blessed with.
3G connectivity is also a massive bonus, especially as it can take a standard SIM card, so you don’t need to go forking out for a massively expensive contract. SIM only deals, and PAYG are getting ever cheaper, and with more allowances, so you’re not tied down to another long contract.
Having a microSD slot is also a bonus, as it means that you can pump your tablet full of your own media, up to an extra 64GB on top of the 4GB that comes installed.
Couple this with the ability to turn on install to SD card as a default, and you will be able to push your internal storage capabilities without too much hassle.
Although the Disgo 8400G is clearly a budget device, the initial impression isn’t helped by a cheap looking plastic wrapping to the black bezel.
This is furthered by how poor the screen is, especially in bright sunlight. Even with the brightness way up, it was almost impossible to see the screen, which makes it very difficult to take pictures outside.
That said, we doubt you would want to take any pictures on the 8400G as both camera sensors are nothing short of appalling. We’ll say again, we don’t really see the point in having a rear sensor, especially one that poor, if you are trying to keep costs down.
We also found that the button and port placement along the top/left edge (depending on orientation) was also very awkward, especially if you plan to watch a movie with headphones in.
The Disgo 8400G manages to hit in at a very low price point, but this does come at the cost of some of the higher end features and fluidity.
Offering 3G and Android Jelly Bean at under £150 is an impressive feat, especially given that the measure of all tablets, the iPad (in this case the iPad Mini) is a whopping two and a half times more expensive.
We would happily spend £150 of our hard earned pounds on the Disgo 8400G, but if you can forego the 3G, or are willing to spend the extra £90 for the 32GB Wi-Fi and 3G Nexus 7, we would be remiss not to recommend them.
By Thomas Thorn, TechRadar