Enso zenPad unboxing and hands-on: one disappointment after another

For the price, there's nothing truly terrible about the SMiT MID-560A touchscreen tablet. If you've never held an Android device, you might even be pleasantly surprised with the functionality on offer. But if you have -- or if you bought yours from a company called Enso and became embroiled in a vaporware scandal as a result -- the zenPad is quite the letdown. Hear why after the break. %Gallery-93873%

Disappointment number one: the MID-560A runs Android 1.5. Yes, you read that right -- though Enso advertised the device as an Android 1.6 tablet and further claimed the machine would be upgraded to Eclair as some small apology for the multi-month delay, our review unit greeted us with the stock Cupcake launcher and deathly black Android Market pages. That's not the only fabrication, either -- the unit has no digital compass as promised (though ours did come with GPS) and fails to natively support any of the video formats mentioned on Enso's spec sheet. Even the picture on Enso's homepage is something of a lie, as while the device there shows a wide stretch of beautiful sky in which to place applications, the actual five-inch space here only allows for the familiar 4 x 4 icon layout.

Though the out-of-box experience wasn't what we expected, the tablet itself isn't horrible -- it's simply a slow, plodding Android device (slower than our T-Mobile G1, if you'll believe that) with a subpar resistive touchscreen and more than a few annoying design flaws. While the 800 x 480 screen is bright and clear enough for comfortable reading, you're not going to want to write anything; using the included stylus to hunt and peck, the digitizer often registered multiple keypresses when we wanted just one, and we quickly learned there was no point in trying thumbs. The soft-touch rubber casing felt solid enough, but the Power, Home, Menu and Back buttons aren't laid out in logical places for either vertical or horizontal grip; we often turned the device off when we'd simply intended to try another app. Since there's no accelerometer, you have to hold the Menu button to switch the zenPad into portrait mode, but the software has portrait and landscape modes mixed up, meaning that apps designed to work in only one orientation (like YouTube) play the wrong direction, as a tiny band of color across the height, rather than width of the screen. 3D apps, multitasking and certain videos should be avoided, as our unit often crashed when doing such. And since we're on a roll here, we'll also add that the hardware didn't always recognize attached USB cables and microSD cards without a reboot. On one occasion the device got all Hypno-Toad on us, flashing epilepsy-invoking white patterns across the entirety of the LCD. No joke.

To be completely fair, the web browsing experience was actually pretty snappy, audio quality was fairly clear, the battery lasted several hours at maximum brightness, and the GPS rapidly fixed on our position with no prodding required. None of that makes up for the web of broken promises that got us here, however, and even in the sub-$200 price range there are far better Android tablets on offer. By the way, we did get in touch with CEO Alberto Armandi one last time for all you existing zenPad buyers. He says the company's almost ready to ship... you'll just have to wait another ten days.