Reviews the Augen Gentouch 78
7" Android 2.1 Tablet sold at Kmart

July 2010
Last update 16 Nov 2010


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Basic Desciption:

The Augen Gentouch 78 Android tablet is an inexpensive touchscreen tablet similar to those available from the "Direct from China" retailers such as Deal Extreme (see links below).  I have experience with several of these, and you can read a review of a similar device here. The Augen Tablet has 2 main features that separated from similar devices: First, it is available locally (if perhaps sporadically) at your local Kmart.  Second, it has a faster CPU than most of the other units in this price bracket.

While this device is clearly not an iPad clone, it is clearly a device that occupies that same space between Smart Phones and Netbooks/Laptops.

The device has no where near the feel of the iPad, and it is obvious almost immediately that the software on it is in an unfinished state.  But we must realize that you can buy 3 of these devices for the cost of even the cheapest iPad.  So the question becomes not a question of the Augen Gentouch 78 being as good as the iPad, but rather is the Gentouch 78 worth it's $149.99 Sale price?
Augen Gentouch 78
7" Internet Tablet
 (Model NBA7800ATP) Specifications

Display: 800x480 color TFT  resistive touch panel screen

CPU: 800 MHz (Currently running at 600 MHz)
RAM: DDR2 256mb
Internal Memory: 2GB
Expansion Slots: SD/MMC card slot up to 16GB
OS:  Android 2.1 (Development Build)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g
Supports Ebook Formats: Text, PDF, E-PUB, HTML
Supports Media Formats: MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC
Picture Viewer in JPEG, BMP
Video Player
Rechargeable Lithium Battery (Non-replaceable)
No 3G
No Compass

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Included in the box is the Augen Tablet, a nice - book cover style - Wallet that (sort of) functions as a stand, a Standard USB A to Mini Cable, and a Mini USB to Female A USB adapter (for USB OTG), the charger, and an instruction booklet.  A plastic stylus is included in a slot on the back of the tablet.

The instruction booklet is 24 pages, English only, with an actual glossy cover.  As we have come to expect, the English in these manuals can actually be comic at times, but this one is actually not too bad.

The Included AC charger is another one of these generic OEM units, but it at least seems a bit beefier than some of the others, indicating is should survive longer than the chargers included with some of the other units I've reviewed.

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Physical Description:

Buttons on the Back of the UnitThe Augen Gentouch 78 is similar in construction to other cheap Android Tablets -- meaning it has a plastic backshell, and the front is simply the screen and bezel, which is basically just a decal. The screen feels very soft, and I am quite sure it will scratch extremely easily.  There are no buttons on the front.  The standard Android Back, Home, Search and Menu (In that order) are actually on the back of the unit.  They are conveniently located for operation with your index finger when holding the device normally but you have to either turn the unit around to see the buttons, or memorize the order.  The included wallet-style case is made so that the Gentouch can be moved slightly forward to access the buttons while it is still in it's case. I don't want the guy that came up with this arrangement to design aircraft or spacecraft cockpit controls.

Also on the back is the stylus holder and a large, and quite ugly single speaker grill.

The side of the unit has a connector panel with the Micro SD card slot, 2.5mm headphone connector,  Standard Mini USB connector, Power Button, and the Coaxial Charger connector.  (Most headphones or earplugs have a 3.5mm connector, and will not fit the 2.5mm socket.  Rumor going 'round the 'net is that if you send a email request to with your shipping information, they will send you an adapter or headphones with a 2.5mm plug.)  As typical with Tablets, this device cannot be charged via USB.   If the charger and a USB cable are both connected, you almost need to have fingers like ET to press the power button.  Our designer friend who failed ergonomics 101 was on the job again here.  There is a light inside the unit when charging.  It looks like the intent was to illuminate the power button, but since it is opaque, the light is barely visible.

Interestingly (OK -- Trivially), there is an area marked HDMI, but no connector is present.  It looks as if Augen had even higher expectations for this unit.

I also had a serious issue inserting the Micro SD card.  If you're not careful, it is very easy to slide the Micro SD card between the slot in the case, and the actual SD card socket on the board.  This results in the Micro SD card falling inside the unit.  I had to crack the case to get my SD card back, and insert it properly.  Kmart could not only have some customers wanting to return the unit, but also wanting Kmart to replace their 2 Gig... Uh, I mean.. 16 Gig Micro SD card.

The screen -- and  the device overall, are a very nice size and easy to hold.  The screen is sharp, and bright enough to be used in a bright sun-lit room.

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First Boot, and Initial Impressions:

The unit booted right up into Android 2.1, including the animated wallpapers.  It appears to be a very hurried build from a pure development Android OS.  Development features such as a simulated network provider are still in there.  I can almost hear it still  -- "Yay !!! It booted --- Ship it !!".

Augen stated that the Gentouch 78 has accelerometers to sense orientation, and research has confirmed they are present, but there is no Orientation menu.  This means that automatic display rotation cannot be turned on, and even manual rotation cannot be done in the normal manner.  An observant user did notice that there is a rotation setting in one of the included file managers (ES File Explorer), and using the Android task manager, one can navigate to other open apps while maintaining the chosen orientation.  (Update:  You can also use the Barnes & Noble Nook app to force portrait mode in a similar manner, but it takes fewer steps.)

The touchscreen is resistive, not capacitive, and worse than that its not particularly sensitive even for resistive. For just tapping it's fine.  You'll need to use a fingernail for small items and links on webpages, but it's acceptable enough that I never use the stylus.  The lack of a true (capacitive) touchscreen is more noticeable when you try to scroll or swipe. It's actually quite frustrating.  The Android on-screen keyboards are quite large on a 7 inch screen, and you would thing that would make typing easy and accurate, but the resistive touchscreen largely offsets this. Lastly, Multi-touch is physically impossible on a resistive touchscreen.  Don't expect it to work in any app, and no firmware update is going to fix this. 

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WiFi Performance:

Connecting to my WEP protected network at home was quick and easy.  Once connected, signal was good, and as mentioned, web pages load fast.  I took the unit to dinner at a restaurant that did not have WiFi.  The Augen Tablet was able to see and connect to an open, public WiFi system in a business across the street, so I get the impression that range is pretty good.  The WiFi supports only 802.11 B/G.  There is no 802.11 N support.

It has also be pointed out on the xda-developers forum that all Gentouch 78's seem to have the same MAC address.  The could cause problems if there is more than one Gentouch attempting to connect to the same WiFi access point.  (This has apparently been fixed in the latest firmware).

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Battery Life and Charging:

It seems that some of these cheap tablets consume significant amounts of power when in standby mode.  It looks like standby (sleep) just turns the display off.  Parts of the unit are still warm, and the batteries are drained in a few hours.  A future firmware may improve this to some extent. Until then, shutting the unit fully off between uses, and thus waiting for it to boot again, next use is a solution.  You can maximize sleep time by turning off WiFi, or at least making sure no app is using WiFi while it is sleeping.

That said, actual power on time is pretty good.  Surfing the web (obviously with WiFi on) for several hours continuously is not a problem.  Reading an eBook or watching video with WiFi off should yield at least 4 hours of use.

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Web Experience:

The Augen Gentouch is one of the few devices (only device?) at this price point that is not restricted to mobile-specific websites.  All but the most complex (read: obnoxious) pages load at least acceptably -- even quickly.  I am sure a more developed firmware would help even more.

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Productivity and Office Formats:

Like the Eken M003 previously reviewed, the Augen Gentouch 78 includes the commercial Documents to Go App, along with an App that appears to be a key generator/breaker to unlock the "Premium Features".  I am not a lawyer, but I would suggest that if you use Documents to Go, you pay for it.  Even if you did not download Documents to Go from the Android Marketplace, you can easily obtain a legal key from their website. (And No, I will not send you the code breaker App.). It may be that I am wrong, and Documents to Go, (and all the apps) are perfectly legal, but if not, Kmart has a serious legal issue here.

Documents to Go supports Microsoft Word formats, including .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, etc.  Interestingly, the box does not mention support for these file formats.  I can see Augen now...  "Gee.. How'd that get on there?

There are actually 3 readers included for PDF files.

Also, the default Google Mail program in Android 2.1 supports Microsoft Exchange, including push email. I have to wonder if Google approves of it being there, but it is.  Email is somewhat hampered by the fact that the Android Contacts app is part of the phone dialer, and is not installed on the tablet.  Corporate address lookup does not work in the Mail app either, so unless you want to type out the full email addresses every time, you can basically read and reply to email, but not send it.  (See the Gentouch Forum for a possible fix.)

Google Maps is included and it is beautiful on the 7" screen. There's no GPS or Cell Tower based location, but as long as you allow it, Google Maps can use Google's data base of WiFi access points to find your location.  Obviously without GPS or Mobile data, you cannot really use it for in-car navigation (Please Don't try).

As alluded to above, you can also install the Barnes & Noble Nook app (although it requires obtaining the .apk, and "Side loading").  It'd have to have better battery life to be a serious contender as an ebook reader, but as long as you sleep in buildings that have electricity, it's a 100% functional bedside reader.

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Media Support:

The first YouTube video I tried was a Citroen Commercial referenced on my Citroen Music page.  This video proclaims itself a "High Quality" version. It started almost instantly, and played beautifully on the Gentouch's 7" inch screen.

Use of the machine as a media player is hampered by 2 serious issues.

First, there are no volume buttons - physical or virtual.  To change volume, you have to leave the app your using, and go to the Sound and Display settings, Then select Media Volume.  This can slightly be helped by either making a Home screen short cut to Sound and Display settings, or installing a Volume widget, but you'll still need to leave the app just to change the volume.  The lack of Volume buttons also causes problems in apps that use them for something else.  For example ConnectBot, an SSH, telnet, and local terminal app uses them to adjust the font size.  Since they are missing, adjusting the font is not possible. (See the Gentouch Forum for a partial fix.)

The second issue it that after some use, sound playback will turn into horrible, scratchy noise.  A reboot is required to get proper sound back.

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Android 2.1 and Installing Apps:

Augen About ScreenAs mentioned. the build of Android on the unit as sold just screams "In Development".  It looks more like something off of a developer's desk on the first day he was assigned to the project, than something purchased over the counter at a nationwide retailer.  Marks of development seem to pop up everywhere. For example the simulated wireless provider is called "El Loco Telco".  (The Crazy Telco").  Cute? Yes, Does it make me take them seriously? No.

Interestingly, one thing they did do a thorough job of was making sure all references to a "phone" were replaced with "Tablet-PC".  i.e. "Your Tablet-PC will shut down." The same guy with the sense of humor about fake wireless companies apparently knows how to use a global search and replace.

The Android Market Place app is there, but it does not work since this is not a Google-authorized device.  There are other ways to install apps, such as SlideMe and AndroidFreeware (see links below, or read my review of a similar unit here). If your up to installing a custom firmware, and then doing some additional hacking, a working Android Market is possible.

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USB Device Support:

The Augen 7" Tablet devices can theoretically act as both a USB host and a USB peripheral (USB Storage).  The single Mini USB is supposed to support both functions, but in a quick test, it did not work as a USB host.   Neither An Apple mini USB keyboard or a Logitech USB keyboard were recognized.  The situation was the same for a USB Bluetooth micro adapter.  Some reports have indicated that external USB drives work, but not even this worked for me.

Android does not support "old fashion" Serial over USB tethering, so there is no easy way to do a wired tether to a phone. If your really need Internet anyplace your only solution is something like a MiFi, or getting your phone to act as one.

Both the internal storage and the Micro SD card appear as USB storage when the Augen Tablet is connected to a Macintosh or Linux system. Appearently drivers are needed to get this working on Windows. The drivers are available on Augen's support pages.

ADB (a special communications protocol for connecting to, and loading software onto, Android devices) worked fine first shot on both Macintosh and Linux systems.  Again, Windows users have to install the USB drivers.

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I'd gladly pay $100 more for this unit if it had a capacitive touchscreen, and a more professional firmware.  Both of these shortcomings seriously impeded the unit's usability.  That said, it is an effective and usable couch surfer, or travel companion.  It's quirky, but fun.

More than anything else, is shows how a company with few resources, and (sorry to say it, but) very little effort can take Open Source software and make a product that does an awful lot.

Yes, the Augen Gentouch 78 has many serious issues, but if you are really expecting a $149 device to be indistinguishable from a $499 - $829 Apple iPad, it's not the device's issues that are the problem. 

The Augen Gentouch 78 is the fastest and most functional of the cheap Android tablets I've tried.  It has serious issues, and would be almost totally frustrating to a new user, but if you understand these devices, and can work around the limitations, I feel it's worth the asking price.

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Discuss this article on the Forum
Read a Review of the Viewsonic G-Tablet 10" Android Tablet
Augen Gentouch78 Development Site on Wikispaces
Official Augen Gentouch 78 Android Tablet Forum
Augen Website
Kmart Website

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