Who makes the Next tablet, or your next tablet?

Summary:Next -- the clothes shop, not Steve Jobs's failed computer company -- surprised a lot of people by announcing its own 10-inch tablet computer. There's actually nothing tricky about this.

Next -- the clothes shop, not Steve Jobs's failed computer company -- surprised a lot of people by announcing its own 10-inch tablet computer. There's actually nothing tricky about this. At least a couple of dozen Chinese manufacturers are churning out tablet computers, and you can buy them in quantities as low as 10. At the lowest level you don't get the design input Apple gets with Hon Hai (aka Foxconn), the Chinese iPad manufacturer, but sticking your own badge on the front is relatively simple.

So, when confronted with a tablet computer or e-reader, the first question is always: Who makes it? The answer is often tricky, because the same basic unit may be available in half a dozen minor variants under even more labels.

The Register was first off the mark last week, suggesting that the Next tablet was a Yeeway design. But this appears not to be the case. On Twitter, Paul Smith corrected me, saying it was an Elonex eTouch, and that looks identical to the common Zenithink ZT-180 that appears variously as an ePad or Apad -- see the video below.

Zenithink appears to be the motherboard manufacturer, and the ZT-180 is its ARM Cortex A8-based SoC (system on a chip) processor -- basically the same as the A4 in the iPad. (We're still waiting for an enterprising hacker to port iOS4 to it. Watch out for the Chinese market to brim with $150 iPad clones.)

The Zenithink tablet first appeared with a Google-type (Gos) shell running on Linux, and had a resistive touch screen. However, later models feature Android 2.1 (with access to the Android Market), and it may also have a capacitive touch screen. If you want further design changes then you can get them, at a price, though you might need nine friends to make up the numbers for a minimum order.

If you just want the one, you can buy one (at your own risk) from AliExpress for $160 plus $38.12 shipping from Hong Kong (scroll down for pics). The Cheap Laptops UK has Apads for £169.99 with free delivery. SVP is now offering the Elonex eTouch but doesn't have any in stock.

However, an early review of the Next version* at PDA-247 concludes:

All this product does is devalue Android as a platform and I strongly urge you to NOT even consider buying one. Don't even look at one- it's DREADFUL! Available from Next for £180 (£1.80 would be overcharging by £1 in my opinion).

Under the circumstances, you might want to wait for better things, such as, possibly, the W1500, due this month.

Alternatively you could pop over to Made in China.com and wade through the hundreds of tablet PCs available, and see what you fancy.

Tablets like this usually offer a choice of Android or Windows 7, and sometimes Windows CE. Indeed, some Asian manufacturers have been knocking out tablets running CE for at least a decade.

* Hat tip James Clay on Twitter. I'm on Twitter here.

Second look at the Zenithink ZT-180 ePad...next to Apple's iPad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MMfeMCuUNw

Topics: Tech Industry


Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first webs... Full Bio

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