Dragon Touch Y88X 7″ Quad Core Tablet – A Fun Tech Toy for just $36

I’ve sort of been in the market to find a new tablet since our daughter destroyed our LG G Pad 7.  Somehow she broke the screen but not the glass, lol.  I say sort of looking since we didn’t really use the G Pad that often and I wasn’t entirely sure we actually needed one.  What am I saying, I’m sure we don’t actually need one at all.  The LG was mostly brought along on trips, and even then mostly just to play movies for the kids in the car.  I tried playing some games on the thing, but perhaps I’m too old to game on touch screen systems.

After the fate of the G Pad I decided that something cheap would be best.  Not that the G Pad 7 was expensive, I believe it was $100 when it was new.  After some looking about I found the Dragon Touch Y88X tablet.

Specifications:

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CPU Processor:  Allwinner Quad Core A33, 4×1.2 GHz processor
GPU:  Quad Core
Operating System:  Google Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Screen Size & Resolution:  7 Inch Multi-Touch screen 1024x600HD
Touch Screen:  5 Point Capacitive Multi-Touch Screen
RAM:  512MB DDR3
Nand Flash:  8GB Storage, expandable up to 32Gb Micro SD/TF support
Dual Camera:  Front facing 2.0MP, Rear 2.0MP
Built-in Loud speakers & Microphone
Wireless:  Support WiFi (Built-in 802.11b/g/n)
3G Supported (3G Dongle Not Included in Package)
AC Power Adaptor:  Input AC110- 240V, 50-60Hz, Output 5V 2A
Battery Pack:  3.7V Build-in 4500mAh Lithiu Battery
Dimensions:  7.1 x 4.8 x 0.3 inches
G Sensor:  4 Direction Gravity Sensing
I/O Ports:  1 x Micro USB; 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack; 1 x TF/MicroSD card slot

First Impressions:

Though it shipped fairly fast it took about 4 days to get here.  At the same time I purchased a thick rubberized self standing case branded “Fintie CaseBot Kiddie”.  Sadly for us the case arrived two days earlier than the tablet.  Upon unpacking the tablet everything seemed a little better than I had expected.  For $36 bucks I wasn’t expecting such a premium box.  I’m sure the idea is to leave a good first impression.  This tablet comes with a DC power adapter but strangely it has a 2mm-ish end instead of a USB cable.  Fortunately the tablet can be charged via the USB – so the included charger seems of little use.  I mean, if were travelling somewhere I’m not going to bring a special charger for the tablet when it can use the same charger my phone uses.  Back to the tablet itself.  I was excited to power the device on, however the protective plastic on the screen stated I needed to charge the device for 10 hours before first use…  At the very least I got to see a cool green battery icon for a few seconds.

I like the flat finish of the tablet it has a nice feel.  We did get the pink version as it was intended to be mostly for our daughter.  The tablet itself seems to have a little flex to it if you twist it at the ends but is otherwise pretty sturdy.  I wonder if this tablet could have been a little thinner.  When I push in on the back of the device it seems that I can push the back cover in at least 1mm around most of the center of the tablet.  It could be that other versions use that extra space.

Another thing I found interesting was that this tablet already had a screen protector installed.  That seems pretty impressive, I’ve never seen a tablet or cell phone come like that before.  It was a really nice when you consider my daughter immediately got the screen dirty and even scratched up the screen protector (not that she would have necessarily actually scratched the glass, but better safe than sorry I suppose).

Warp Power Now Sir:

Okay, well not exactly warp power but the tablet boots up in about 35 seconds.  Which doesn’t seem too shabby really.  With just the stock apps installed the tablet seems pretty snappy.  The OS is Android version 4.4 so it is a bit dated in that respect.  I may look into upgrading the version at some point, mainly for any possible battery/power savings.  Though I wonder if Android 4.4 was picked deliberately because it is older and this device only has 512MB RAM.  I installed ES File Browser for access to our Samba share as well as VLC to watch some media.  Everything went smoothly and we were able to stream over our network seamlessly.  I did lose connection a few times, but this could be mostly related to the location of our wireless access point and my distance from said access point.  I did some streaming from youtube as well, however no videos had the option to try quality settings higher than 360p.  I might guess that is due to the youtube app version.  Regardless, the videos played just fine.

Sound and Picture:

While I can praise the Y88X for numerous things, audio quality is not one of them.  The onboard speaker has the typical small speaker sound, and worse yet is rear facing.  I just can’t understand why any tablet maker would make rear facing speakers.  The screen is decent but nothing special.  The image itself has somewhat of a grainy effect that shifts as you look at the screen from different angles.  When watching videos this is fine, however it does seem a little fuzzy when working with smaller text.

Problems:

On our Y88X I have noticed that the screen seems a little too touch happy.  It will often launch an app before I realize.  Some of that could be my own clumsiness with a larger hand held device.  But still, it does seem like the top left half of the screen touches too easily.

Battery:

The battery is alright.  Sometimes it appears to drain very fast, while other times it will seemingly sit at a number for hours.  We have gotten a least 3 hours of screen on time per charge.  I think that is pretty good as well.

Accessories:

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As I mentioned earlier, I purchased this Fintie CaseBot Kiddie case for the tablet.  I really like the case, it is easy to install and use.  The foam is pretty tough and it seems like it will hold up pretty well over time as well as protect the device fairly well.  The online vendor I purchased mine from had magenta listed as the color, but the stock photos (as shown just above) showed hot pink.  I was a little disappointed that the tablet doesn’t match the case exactly but whatever, I guess it looks okay.  One part I am worried about is the top right section of the case.  It is a thin slice of material that has to be left mostly open to accommodate the power button, dc power jack and usb port.  However, the size of the opening is about twice as long as needed.

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I also installed a Lexar 16GB micro SD card.  I had just purchased this card for a different project and didn’t end up needing it.  Just $7 at my local corporate giant office store.  The Y88X supports a maximum 32GB micro SD card.

So, Final Thoughts?

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Overall I love the device.  For the price, it is hard to beat, we paid a total of $50 for the tablet and the case.

Forehead Thermometers – The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, but…

Why the hell do these stupid things have a memory recall on them.  Better yet, why are they always showing you the last temp read.  Like BTW two weeks ago your kids forehead read 99.1 – okay, so what.  As with anything, I’m sure there are people who like that feature, or need it for a specific purpose.  Though most of us only need to see the temperature once.  It’s pretty easy to remember, given that these thermometers are designed with children in mind and that said child’s health is paramount to the parent means they aren’t likely to forget.

Our Experiences:

We have the Wal-Mart ReliOn brand currently and aside from the memory recall complaint the device actually works pretty well.  In all fairness the memory only shows for a second or two when you power on the device.  It was also very affordable, I don’t recall exactly, but I think I only paid about $10.

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We have used it in conjunction with a traditional thermometer and found that they gave similar results (though don’t forget, foreheads read cooler than the mouth, armpit or elsewhere…).  One other downside on this model is that the battery cover comes off very easily and can be bumped lose from regular usage.

We purchased our previous forehead thermometer at K-Mart for $50.  It was a Vicks so I figured it would work well.  Considering we had to buy another you’ve probably already figured out that this one crapped out on us.  We bought this one in 2013 just after our first child was born.  I thought, better get a good one and we can amortize the cost over the years of use we’ll get from the thing, right?  Wrong!

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It looks pretty cool, well packaged, the actual device has a nice overall design with a comfortable grip.  It certainly looked better than all the rest on the shelf.  Sadly though, within two years it was broken.  It never really worked very well to begin with, frequently turning off while it was supposed to be reading the temperature as well as sometimes getting stuck in memory mode.  I mean hell, if your kid is sick, you need to read their temperature right now.  And if they are sick, they probably don’t have the patience for you to try and take their temperature over and over again because your POS thermometer keeps on messing up.  Its life ended when it got permanently stuck into memory mode and we finally gave up and threw it out.

A Quick Word On Ear Thermometers:

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We very briefly tried a Walgreens ear thermometer after the Vicks thermometer broke.  Unfortunately we weren’t sure about the temperatures it read out.  Additionally it doesn’t seem like most kids can sit there with this thing in their ear long enough to get a reading.  Even more, the ear part is too big for younger children on this particular model.  So there is another $20 in  the toilet…

Now what did I learn?

Perhaps nothing I suppose.  I’m sure I knew already at that time that you should always research products before you buy them.  However, spending the better part of $100 on thermometers in less than three years should teach me something too.  But truth be told, when I bought the ReliOn type I just went out to find a cheap one.  Maybe what I really learned is that you don’t necessarily get what you pay for.

Another Recycling Rescue!! – Replacing Reliant

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This post is a bit of a computer build log.  Though I really just swap the guts from one case into another with a few slight tweaks.  I also did the work on this machine on one of my typical workbenches – my office desk so you’ll see some other machines in the background as well as the subject machines of this post.

Reliant:  You Served Us Well:

So first off, what is Reliant?  Reliant is the name of a very dependable and regularly used old workstation in our office.  It was named after the USS Reliant from Star Trek 2 – The Wrath of Khan (easily one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time).  Reliant is an older machine, a Dell Optiplex 755 model with just 2GB of RAM and a core 2 duo e6600 (2.4GHz).  Over the years people repeatedly had issue with it due to the low RAM and poor integrated graphics.  This machine had some odd issue with the RAM slots, it seems that half of both the A&B channels had burned out.  How that can happen is beyond me, but I could only populate DIMM3 & DIMM4 (a2 & b2) on that machine and I either didn’t have any 2GB DDR2 memory or the ones I had didn’t work in that machine.

The machine was given to me by an ex-coworker so I didn’t have a dime in it.  I might have considered upgrading it before, but it was still working well enough.   In addition, being installed in a very tight spot didn’t make me eager to do any work on it.  But after 4 years, it is time for a change to something better.

The Awesome Find:

The replacement system I picked was a junkyard find, a Dell XPS 8300.  This machine is one of the newest pieces of hardware I’ve ever found at a yard.  When I found this XPS and saw the i7 tag, I could hardly believe what I saw.  I figured it must really be dead because it was only a few years old.  It had been kicked around the scrapyard for a while so it was pretty beat up.

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When I got it home I proceeded to see if it worked and it did turn on.  I immediately heard some beeps and after some quick checking found that the the beep code I heard was “real time clock failure”.   Seriously… real time clock failure, so the battery was just dead?  Really?  Sure enough after changing out the battery I was greeted with the post screen on the next power on.  Now in all fairness, I ended up finding that there was some memory incompatibility with one of the pairs of RAM that was installed causing some startup beeps once in a while and which also destabilized the system.   The memory was probably upgraded because it had a pair of two 2GB DIMMs installed and a pair of 4GB DIMMS installed – I never checked the service tag, but the 4GB DIMMs were probably the original equipment.  I’ll imagine the original user was fed up at that point, three problems with that computer that I could see (1, it was too low on RAM and needed an upgrade, 2, the machine was probably exhibiting the memory problems which forced 3, the machine to sit unplugged for a while and eventually killed the battery).   I suppose it is also possible that the battery died once the machine was sent to the scrapyard.  Either way, with those fixes the XPS was now stable and reliable.  This machine had no disk drives other than the optical disk when I found it.  At that time, I added a 128GB SSD as well as a standard 320GB SATA disk drive and installed openSUSE 13.2 on the SSD.

Finding the Right Case:

I picked the case shown below for the new system.  It was originally a Nobilis Pentium D system.  This was yet another junkyard rescue and is a little scratched and scuffed but nothing near as bad as the XPS.  I needed the height of the case to be less than 14.5″ tall.  You can see Reliant at the far right beneath the printer (there is not much room).

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The system in this case was filthy, not the worst I’ve seen, but it was pretty gross.  This case is a fairly standard mini-tower, two external 3.5″ bays, two external 5.25″ bays and 1 internal 3.5″ bay.  Basically it had everything I needed in a mini-tower case and the style was something I could live with.  I’m somewhat particular, I have around a dozen mini-tower cases but most of the others didn’t really stack up aesthetically.  The first case I picked was a Dell Vostro 220, unfortunately it didn’t have a removable I/O shield, it just had the ports punched out for the particular board it had installed by the factory.  I was actually pretty surprised by that.

Doing the System Swap:

Below is an image of the Dell before I removed the system.  I think it is interesting how dell oriented the internal 3.5″ drive bays sideways.  I’m not really a fan, it seems to me like there is limited room for upgrades (though most people wouldn’t need the space so I can understand the decision by the maker).

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The Dell has a standard micro-ATX motherboard standoff pattern as did the micro-ATX in the Nobilis system so no problems there.  I considered using the power supply from the Nobilis system but thought better of it for a few reasons.  First, the Nobilis is older and of lower power (380 watt vs 460 watt), second, the Dell power supply was specifically matched by Dell to that machine, and third, the Dell power supply was as clean as the rest of the Dell machines internals.

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Installation went fairly easily but one problem was the cable length of the SATA power connectors.  I have heard that Dell custom produces their hardware to their own specifications to save money.  As such, there was limited cable length beyond what comfortably fit the Dell case.  It really wasn’t much of a problem, I just needed to keep the main disk drive close to the secondary drive.  I was fortunate to have a spare 3.5″ to 2.5″ HDD converter I didn’t use from a Rosewill Challenger case to install the SSD.  This new system needed to have dual monitor support so I installed a Dell K192G NVIDIA GeForce9300 256MB video card.  These are decent cards for everyday home & office use and light gaming, they support two monitors via a DMS-59 port (fortunately I have numerous adapters).  At this point I was about finished.  I had transferred almost every part from the old Dell XPS 8300, even the case exhaust fan (because it was clean, worked well and was quiet).

A Fun Diversion:

With all the parts from the Dell XPS 8300 into the Nobilis case I thought I was about done.  But something was missing, some color, some flare…

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There is something about lights in a computer that is just plain awesome.  I wanted to have some red lights since my other machines in the area are pure blue.  I knew I had an old red LED fan, but IIRC it was in rough shape.  Yes indeed, after I dug out the clear plexiglass case it was installed in previously I found that though it still lit up bright as day the fan blade was wobbly and loose.  I thought I could just pull off the fan blade entirely, however the copper windings that remained got quite hot after running the fan for a few moments.  I tried to rip the remainder of the motor off from the plastic fan base.  Unfortunately, though I did get the motor piece off the circuit board, I ripped the contacts for all of the leds off the circuit board as well.  Next I found a blue led fan I had and started playing around with the salvaged LEDs from the red fan.  I found that they would light when connected to the leads coming off the blue LEDs, but that there was not enough power in the line to power both at the same time.  I ended up splicing two of the red LEDs into the fan.  I had to run out to the hardware store to get some heat shrink tubing.

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I used the red LEDs to point through the bottom two mounting holes of the fans frame.  Then, when installed, I taped the two blue LEDs where they could be seen shining nicely from the front of the case.  They give the front grille a cool symmetric colored glow as well as a nice color blending effect.  The ridiculous truth is I spent far too much time on the fan lights.

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Just one final step, get rid of that Pentium D sticker and replace it with the Core i7 badge from the XPS case.  Luckily that was easy enough and now the machine looks great!  I was able to squeeze it into the cabinet where the old Dell was, but it was a tight fit and it hangs out in both the front and the rear of the cabinet a little, though I knew it would.

Rambling Bits:

The system is performing as expected.  One thing that did surprise me was that my wife was excited about the new computer.  She had to deal with the issues on the old one so perhaps it should have come as no surprise.

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As with all my machines, I’m hoping for a long an uneventful life.  Since this hardware is newer, and has been previously tested as being stable I would think that chances are good we get many years of quality service from this machine.  But what about Reliant?  Well, I’m not sure yet.  It certainly still had good potential for a number of projects, so I guess we’ll see what happens.