Monday, August 15, 2011

Grid 10 - The New Tablet from fusionGarage A.K.A. TabCo

So, TabCo appeared a few months back as a company aiming to change the tablet landscape. It appeared, as the writing in the sky suggested, that they were aiming to tackle Apple's iPad. Several other lucid videos appeared to take shots at Apple, so a lot of big talk needed to be backed up by a big product release.

The name fusionGarage has been outed now as the brand behind the pseudo-brand (TabCo was not a real company, and even had a fake CEO). Their first venture, the JooJoo (I laughed too) was not necessarily a tablet with a big splash, but given the fact fusionGarage was a small outfit in that day, we can overlook that into the tablet they unveiled today: the Grid10.

The Grid10 sports a 10.1", 4-way capacitive, TFT LCD screen with a 1366x768 display, driven by the Nvidia Tegra II and 512MB of RAM. The front-facing 1.3 MP camera is the only one on the device, and comes with WiFi and WiFi+3G models, and only storage option is 16 GB. HDMI out is supported with what appears to be a proprietary docking port for charging, USB, and HDMI. Bluetooth 2.1 and a microSD slot are also included. The device weighs in at just over 1.5 pounds (690g) and is powered by a 5,800 mAh battery, and included GPS, 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, and light sensor.

Based on "an android kernel", the Grid OS does away with "homescreens" and gives you one big span of a grid. Naturally, application shortcuts are arranged in the grid, and can be clustered together to form "folders" that are collapsible. There is also a grid map at the top-right corner (think of a SimCity-type overview) that allows you to quickly jump to the outer-reaches of your grid (and I now am convinced Tron had some influence, considering Tron: Legacy was a movie demoed).
The web browser is pretty nice; it essentially keeps your status bar (at the top) intact, and the browser consumes the rest of the screen. Gestures then bring up controls such as opening a new tab, switching to another tab (via a "wheel") and other wonderful browser things. One thing that stood out was the ability to split-screen browse, which looked to pop-up when you highlight text and choose an option from yet another wheel. The demonstration did show-off pinch-to-zoom in each split-screen, but no indication of Flash support (unless I missed it in a buffer).

Media looked so-so. Pictures were your basic photo gallery, swipe to your next picture, albums arranged like a rough stack of photos. Video player possessed the ability to show in-depth details and transitioning stills from the movie (in this case Tron: Legacy), and music was able to be controlled from a status bar tap (playback, volume).

A few weeks ago, when the N9 was announced from Nokia, TabCo "liked" via Facebook a post from Nokia about swiping, and it all made sense after we saw that the Grid10 is completely gesture-driven. Your basic swipe from this corner to do this, swipe with three fingers to do that is in play, and another thing that I saw missing (again, unless I missed it) was a multi-tasking option to show open applications. Music was playing in the background of one desktop call, but that was all I saw.

Bing search is the choice engine in the Grid10 because, according to fusionGarage CEO and founder Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, "it is the best search technology out there", which is highly subjective, but their stance to go away from the Google approach with Android and make it truly their own. 

Calendar and contacts are also built-in, and a notifications application called "Heartbeat", activated by two-finger swipe from the right. Also, it displays local deals ongoing in your area, as well as Facebook and Twitter, which are tightly woven throughout the OS.

Also featured was the Grid4, the smaller version of the Grid10, except it is a mobile phone. Not much attention was paid to that in comparison to the Grid10, but one feature shown off was the ability for the Grid OS to sync information (bookmarks, resume playback of videos, and more) between the two devices (be it through a cloud or locally, I am not sure). The Grid4 is a 4" display using the same technology as the Grid10, sporting a 800x480 resolution, driven by a Qualcomm MSM8255 and 512MB RAM. A 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash, capable of 720p video paired with a 0.3MP front facing supports the Grid OS built-in video calling feature. Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi, and microSD are also present on the Grid4, and only has ports for micro USB, so no HDMI out for the Grid4.

If you live in the US, you can order the Grid10 today for $499 (WiFi-only) or $599 (WiFi+3G) with free shipping direct from fusionGarage.Accessories also available for purchase are a case, HDMI adapter, USB adapter, travel charger, and headphones, all maintaining the TabCo color scheme of black and red, and showing off a grid-shaped design.

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