I’m becoming a bit of a gadget hoarder since my day job involves review and writing about technology. I have about a half-dozen tablets, for example, ranging from a full size iPad — and iPad Mini — to a Kindle Fire HD, a Dell Windows 8 tablet, another as-yet-unreleased Android tablet and a shiny new HP tablet on the way. They’re all Wif only, though, no T-Mobile data plan, nothing through AT&T or Apple. Just Wi-Fi. ANd smartphones? You don’t want to know how many we have in the office, but I think I’m going to have to just open my own store, or perhaps a tech petting zoo.
The core problem with all these tablets, however, and it really rears its head when school starts up and I’m back to attending school sporting events around the state every weekend, is that they’re all connected if I have a wifi signal. Take that away and the 45min prior to a lacrosse game or the 30min waiting for the basketball game to finally start ends up as dead time. Yeah, I talk to other parents, but sometimes I’m the lone parent and would really appreciate being able to connect and check the news or even just my email.
Enter the remarkably inexpensive Trio AXS 3G Quad Core Tablet, $179 from Walmart, including cellular data connectivity for life in that price.
Yup, for under $200 you can get a nice, featureful tablet with a bright 7.8″ HD screen and cellular tech so you can connect to the Internet anywhere there’s a cell signal (which is a whole lot more places than where there’s an open wifi signal). The Trio AXS has some neat tricks in its slim form too, including both front and rear facing cameras, 16GB of built-in storage and a microSD slot (which makes more storage a no-brainer and also means it’s super easy to add a half-dozen of your favorite movies, a few dozen CDs or a few hundred photos from your latest trip) and, my favorite feature, an FM radio built-in.
I tried it out at the local baseball field where I snuck in between games — baseball isn’t one of the sports my children play — and sure enough, it was a breeze to grab the Trio AXS and a water bottle and I was ready to sit through hours of boring baseball, wired up with connectivity, headphones and a screen that worked just fine in the shade.
As usual, I popped by the local Walmart where I’m actually starting to know some of the people who work in the electronics section.
This time they’d just gotten new locking cabinets for the electronics and the gal working couldn’t find the right key. Why they don’t have some sort of color coding or other mechanism to make key = cabinet pairing easy is beyond me, but after about five minutes of the poor gal struggling through her huge keychain twice, she finally popped it open and handed me the Trio AXS.
This is not what the packaging looked like:
In fact, it was rather disconcerting because the outermost packaging wasn’t the bright, cheery box shown in the photo, it was a dull brown cardboard box. At first I thought the company hadn’t bothered with consumer-level packaging, but when we got home and opened it, inside was a retail packaging that was much, much more engaging. Weird.
Much of my tablet use has been with Apple products, so it took a little bit of fiddling to get the home screen set up the way I like but with an almost 8-inch screen, it’s big and bright. In fact, it’s an HD screen with 1024×768 resolution (not quite 1080p) and plenty cheery enough:
Of course, there are a few must-install apps, including Netflix, Xfinity (I’m a Comcast subscriber so it not only offers access to my DVR remotely, but has tons of on-demand TV and movies) and Dropbox for photo sharing and organization. Easily added.
And then, to test the tablet when I was on a wifi network (you really don’t want to stream video on a cellular connection or your free 200MB/mo will be eaten up in the first 15 minutes) I logged in to my Netflix account:
I might be the only one, but I really like the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, so I watched the last 10min, earbuds in place, while relaxing with a latte. The Magic School Bus? That’s my 10yo’s show and it’s really weird. Like “were you high when you wrote this episode?” weird. ‘nuf said on that subject!
Suffice to say that I’m impressed with the Trio AXS. It’s a solid tablet with a good screen, speedy interaction thanks to its quad-core 1.2Ghz CPU, and great connectivity thanks to both wifi and T-Mobile cellular connectivity, all at a remarkably low $179 price including lifetime Internet. Now to make sure my kids don’t liberate it every time we’re at a sporting event!