Ainol Novo7 Crystal review
Note that the Crystal is not released yet, the final version may differ.
When the Crystal was announced everybody tought that it will be just an updated Elf II or Aurora II. The only differences the specifications revealed were the new multi-angle screen and JellyBean instead of IceCreamSandwich. From the outside they look very alike, the case and the connectors are exactly the same on both devices. I must put a decal on my tablets to be able to tell the difference (actually they have their model written on the back).
At the first startup I was quite surprised how good the display is compared to the Elf II. The image quality is about the same full frontal, but on the Crystal I can see the image from very extreme angles. On the Elf II even a slight tilt backwards (viewing the screen from the bottom) would invert the colors.
Frontal view. Top: Crystal Bottom: Elf II
View from the bottom. Left: Crystal Right: Elf II
View from the Left. Left: Crystal Right: Elf II
View from the Top. Left: Crystal Right: Elf II
View from the Right. Left: Crystal Right: Elf II
The Wi-Fi chip has been replaced by a Realtek chip, it is much faster and much stable than the AMPAK chip in the Elf II. The Crystal can estabilish a 150Mbps connection to the router while the Elf II only reaches 65Mbps link speed.
The Android 4.1.1 on the Crystal is set to the Phablet UI instead of Tablet UI. This is not a strange thing in a 7” tablet, the Nexus 7 uses the same User Interface layout. It is inconvenient that there is no possibility (yet) to switch between PhabletUI and TabletUI (it seems that the Tablet layout is missing altogether). The only real discomfort of the PhabletUI is that the default Launcher is fixed at portrait mode. You can install any other launcher and set them to Auto-rotate though.
The firmware I had preinstalled on the Crystal came with some chinese apps (some very cool ones, PPTV HD lets you stream full movies) and a complete collection of Google Apps (Calendar, Chrome, Gmail, Search, Google+, Maps, Play Books, Play Magazines, Play Movies. Play Store, Talk, Youtube) and they all work and sync correctly (well I could not test Movies or Books, they are not available in my country).
Google Play Store compatibility is bad. I had to root the Crystal and fix the permissions in order to be able to install some of the most basic apps. This issue was present on the Elf II official roms too.
However, one of the biggest issues is fixed in the Crystal, the Preparing Sdcard error. On the Elf II or Aurora II if you had a few hundred MBs of data on the internal sdcard of the tablet on reboot the Preparing Sdcard notification appeared and stayed there, making the internalsd and externalsd totally inaccessable. This does not happen on the Crystal.