ANDROID TABLET If you're among the minority that don't feel the constant, compulsory urge to buy every overpriced product that has a name starting with a lowercase i, coming from a certain...well, fruity, American IT company, this might be a more cost-effective alternative. A powerful 7" Android tablet from Chinese ICOO.  Find out how it stacks up in this review!
Retail price: around $80
(but purchased 50% off, at DX.com/DealExtreme)

Funky screen & loose headphone jack

I originally ordered this little tablet from China in December 2012. The first unit I received in late January of this year had some unfortunate flaws on it. I had a bit dodgy LCD-screen that made some sort of Doppler effect [wiki] when you touched the back of the device. What's even worse; the headphone jack was very loose, and the plug wouldn't "hook" properly when inserted. Instead it would just slide right in and out, and for the headphones to work, you would have to find this exact sweet spot somewhere halfway into the jack. Should you twist, tap, or otherwise move the cord, it would dislodge and redirect the sound to the rather crappy (obviously), internal speaker.

Questionable quality control

Even though I probably could have circumvented the funky drip-drop screen by keeping it flat at a steady surface, a functional audio jack is must have for me, as I mainly use this type of gear for music and watching YouTube videos. The rather questionable quality control also makes you wonder what other issues might arise in the future. Even though its dual-core processor performed well and ran the Android software smoothly, my initial impression of this tablet was anything but assuring.

The luscious, white back of the ICOO D70Pro Android tablet
The D70Pro has a nice and tidy looking white back, and comes with a micro USB port, a micro SD card slot, a headphone jack, and a mini-HDMI out, that lets you hook it up to your TV.

After a nice tête-à-tête session with the DealExtreme customer service, I was sent a new tablet as soon as it  returned in stock. The replacement eventually surfaced, about a month and a half later. So was the tablet worth the 2½ month wait, or should I have stacked up 400 bucks more and gotten a fancy, overpriced Apple device instead?

In short, the new China tab was indeed worth waiting for. The replacement was a lot better overall. The 3.5 mm audio jack feels a lot more solid, and gives the headphone plug a nice, snug fit. I've been using the tablet on a daily basis for a couple of months, and haven't had any problems thus far, knock on wood.

Touch sensitivity in a bad sense

The screen is still sensitive to pressure on the back, again giving this dripping water effect when you press your fingers against the back of it. It's definitely not as bad as the first tablet, however, and in my normal everyday use, the water-drop surface effect is nothing I even reflect upon (no pun). As long as you just have it on a table or in your lap, you won't even notice anything. It only becomes notable when you're literally holding it yourself, and have your hand pushing against the back. So get yourself a sturdy hardcase and you're good to go.

Odd viewing angles

The 7 inch capacitive LCD screen has a quite decent colour reproduction and a fair, yet inconvenient resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels, which doesn't truly make it 16:9, neither is it 16:10, but somewhere in between as far as aspect ratios go. When you watch widescreen videos, you'll therefore get thin black bars at the top and bottom. When you watch videos in the old school, narrower 4 by 3 format, you'll instead wind up with black bars on the sides. If this bothers you, you might look at a different tablet, with a screen resolution of, say 1366 by 768 pixels, which is true 16:9 widescreen.


The viewing angle is not the best, as you can tell by the demonstration. And in fact, holding it at a straight 90 degree angle with your line of sight is not optimal for this particular panel. Before I started tilting the thing around, I found the screen very dark, even with the brightness cranked at its highest. But rather that looking straight at it, angling the tablet with the top pointing slightly away or towards you (depending how you hold it) I managed to find some kind of sweet-spot on this LCD. Similarly, viewing it in upright/portrait mode, it actually looks the best when it's angled slightly sideways.

But instead of griping about the flaw, I actually found this slight imperfection useful, as I can keep the thing dead flat on a table, looking down at it without any stand keeping it at a straight angle. And from this poor angle I'm able to get a pretty decent viewing experience.

But even still, it's nowhere near perfect. Most notably does the screen lack detail in the brighter shades. If you watch a video fair amount of contrast, skin tones can sometimes look blown out, for instance. Might be the result of a tone curve pushed slightly down towards the darker tones, leaving what's left of the highs suppressed and whitewashed.

Abysmal battery life

Smart phones and tablet computers are infamous for their poor battery life, and this ICOO tablet is unfortunately not an exception. Right when I got it, the tablet was completely discharged and needed about an hour of charging before it would even boot up. And considering its standby time, I'm not the slightest surprised. This is one of those devices you literally need to have charging at all times when you're not using it. Have it charged fully, then disconnect the USB and just leave it for the day. By the time you try to turn it back on, the battery will likely be discharged already. Typical tablet usage, like online videos and web browsing generally gives you about an hour, give or take, of active time before it auto-shuts off when about 5% of power remains. I read somewhere that the battery life is rated to about 5 hours of use, which obviously is an overly positive estimation that seems closer to its battery life when left on standby.

Stable but not SD card-friendly

Like any computer or "smart" device, apps can crash and hang occasionally. Some instabilities have been reported by other users, but from my experience I wouldn't personally say this particular tablet is any worse than other Android device I've used so far. It works just fine for the most part, and the only recurring issue I'm having is my micro-SD card sometimes doesn't get recognised. Ejecting it and sticking it back in works sometimes but not always. It typically disappears again, if I mount the device over USB on a regular desktop/laptop computer. I've seen this issue before with other Droids, so I'm starting to suspect it being a software issue rather than a hardware related one. In any case, I wouldn't store any vital data on a memory card in this device. Luckily there's a good 16 gigs of internal storage to play around with, which is probably more than enough to handle your apps and other data. Unless you plan to move your entire music collection over, that is.

HDMI and HD video playback

The tablet comes with a mini-HDMI port that enables you to hook it up to your big screen. And that's all you really need to do - simply plug the cable in, and everything you see on the tablet will show up on the TV in an instant. In the Android settings you can also set the resolution and scaling to fit with your TV.

Mini HDMI cable in hot pink
In order for you to use this, as well as other Android tablets with your TV, you'll first need to get yourself a hot pink HDMI-to-Mini-HDMI cable of justice. Technically, you could use a black cable as well, but that would of course not look nearly as sassy, so I wouldn't recommend going that route.

Internal speaker always on

Unfortunately there are no settings for audio at all. In order to get any sound from out of your AV receiver or TV, you need to have the volume cranked up to its maximum level on the tablet. Otherwise the audio signal will be to low, and you won't be able to hear anything from your bigger speakers. Having the tablet buzzing in the background while you watch a movie on your TV is of course a bit of an annoyance, and I don't see why you don't even have the option to have it bypassed when the HDMI is connected.

Still no Surround sound

Furthermore, much like the Android HD media player I reviewed earlier, the audio output is strictly limited to 2 channel PCM, or stereo for short. It can digest AC3 and DTS streams just fine, but since Android is designed mainly for portable use (with stereo headphones), it will downmix everything to stereo by nature. I hope this will change eventually, as the application and use for this OS becomes increasingly diverse.

The verdict

The ICOO D70 Pro II is a competent little guy, running both smoothly and stably, but falls short of its lacklustre battery life and limited viewing angles. However, if you get yourself an adjustable stand along with it, and the constant charging is not a total deal breaker, you're in for a real nice treat with this very cost effective Android tablet!

The Good
  • Runs Android 4.1.1 fluid.
  • Processing power.
  • Decent amount of internal storage.
  • Stable for the most part.
  • Full HD playback + HDMI out
  • Great value.
The Bad
  • Dodgy viewing angles.
  • Screen very sensitive to pressure.
  • Battery life.
  • Questionable quality control.
  • SD card issues..