Root 101: Help launch the most open, affordable Android tablet

Tronity crowdsources funding for their new open source tablet

With over 50 million tablets sold this year alone, you would think that economies of scale and market forces would be driving tablet prices down. For the most part, that is not the case. A good 10.1-inch Android tablet is $400 to $500 dollars. That price hasn't changed since the iPad first came out.

Now there is an alternative. A new company called Tronity has designed what they claim is the most open tablet ever with a goal of bringing a full-featured 10.1-inch tablet for about $200. They are launching their effort by crowdsourcing fundraising on Indiegogo. They are offering a pre-early bird special of just $169 for the first version of the Root 101, which will ship (for free) in August. I already bought mine. You should go get yours too!

Why did I buy one of these tablets? Actually, it was for several reasons. One is that it sounds like a great deal for the price. The specs on this tablet, while not quite up to say a Nexus 10, are pretty impressive. From the indiegogo website:

The Root 101 has everything you need for a great tablet experience. A great screen, long battery life, a dual-core processor and all the connectivity options you want...Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro USB and MicroSD slot. It even has a Mini HDMI out so you can output up to 1080P video from the tablet to your TV. Here's the full list:

  • -10.1” IPS HD screen with 1280 x 800 resolution
  • -Multi-touch capacitive screen
  • -AmLogic AML8726-MX Dual Core 1.5GHz CPU
  • -Mali-400 Dual Core GPU – up to 1080P video
  • -1GB RAM
  • -16GB Internal Storage
  • -MicroSD slot – up to 32GB
  • -Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • -Bluetooth
  • -VGA Front camera and 2MP rear camera
  • -9 hours battery life (7000mAh)
  • -Mini HDMI slot – output up to 1080P to TV
  • -Micro USB slot
  • -3.5mm headphone jack
  • -Microphone
  • -2 Rear speakers
  • -Rear aluminum shell for strength and durability
  • -Dimensions: 260mm x 173mm x 9.9mm

Beyond the specs, I love the idea that these guys are going to sell a tablet that is already rooted, without the custom Android skins and bloatware that so many tablets come with. What is even better, they have already done the work to port two of the most popular Android ROMs, CyanogenMod and Paranoid Android. They claim they have made it super easy to flash these ROMs for even the most non-technical users. But if you don't want to flash, the vanilla Android the tablet comes loaded with is optimized for the hardware. Android gives you so many choices in terms of skins and looks that finding one that suits you won't be hard.

Beyond the Android goodness it ships with, they are also committed to keeping the tablet up to date with the latest Android versions and software. How many of you are stuck with devices running Ice Cream Sandwich, or, worse even, Honeycomb because your vendor won't update your hardware and there is no root for them?

Analysts forecast that more phones and tablets will be sold next year then PCs. If tablets are going to really become that popular, we need more affordable choices. The Root 101 seems like just the ticket.

I exchanged emails today with Justin Smith, co-owner and co-founder of Tronity. He and his small team are 100% focused on the Root 101 right now. They are really building this for the open source community, to give them the power to make this tablet their own. They choose the specs to achieve a balance between affordability and performance. While they could have gone with a Snapdragon CPU, Justin says that would not be worth the bang for the increased bucks. The AmLogic dual-core 1.5GHz CPU is more than enough to perform the tasks most users perform. Watch HD video, play games, web browse, chat, etc. The same for the screen resolution. While iOS Retina and Nexus 10 displays sport higher resolution, the Root 101 can display full HD 1080p video. What more do you need and what would it cost.

To be truthful, I am a bit of a snob on this. It may be due to my age, coming from a time when the mantra was buy as much CPU and RAM as you can afford. I would have paid a few more dollars for the better CPU and a higher-resolution screen. But, as Justin says, how much is enough?

With my HP Touchpad now gone, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on a tablet that will let me get back to the CyanogenMod community. I miss it!

Tronity and the Root 101 are a great idea. It represents the best ideals of both the open source community and a great alternative to traditional hardware vendors and their high prices. Have a look and, if you agree, support Tronity in their goal of raising $185k in the next month or so through the sales of these tablets. On a selfish level, I can't get mine until you do ;-)

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