21
Mar
1

Every once in a while, a product comes along that changes our perception of what a particular category of device can be. A device that breaks the mold and becomes something more. Something better. Something that revolutionizes work, play, or both. A thoughtful, well-designed product for the masses.

This is not one of those times.

This is one of those times when a company talks up a product, only to leave its users completely unsatisfied – not that many of you have heard of Snakebyte Vyper in the first place. If you have, however, you may know of it by uNu, the name it was announced with at CES 2013. 

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It's been more than a year since the Vyper was announced, so Snakebyte has had plenty of time to work out the kinks – or at least that's what we'd like to think they've been doing. Truth be told, I can't say I've ever used such a buggy, unreliable product. And I tried two different units, so I think it's safe to say that it's not just a faulty review sample, unless I just have terrible luck.

So, for those who haven't heard of the Snakebyte Vyper, here's the long and short of it: it's a "three-in-one" product that consists of a seven-inch tablet, a gaming controller, remote control, and HDMI dock. This all ships together in the same box for $250. It's filled to the brim with lackluster budget hardware, which is likely a big part of the reason why the experience is so bad.

Specs
  • Display: 7-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  • Processor: 1.6GHz RK3188 quad-core Rockchip A9
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 8GB, microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 5MP rear shooter, 2MP front
  • Ports: microUSB x2 (one charging, one data transfer), microSD, miniHDMI, headphone jack 
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery: yes
  • OS: Android 4.2.2
  • Price: $250
  • Release status: Not yet avaialable

Despite its specs, I always try to keep an open mind when reviewing products – there have been times when I was pleasantly surprised by a device with lower end specifications (like with most Blu phones, for example).

Build and Hardware

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Right out of the box you can tell that this is a cheap piece of hardware. The outsides edges are covered in a soft-touch plastic (which really doesn't feel bad), with a cheap-feeling aluminum piece covering the majority of the back. The design is really unremarkable, and there's nothing aesthetically appealing here. At all.

The bottom of the unit has some sort of docking port, though it doesn't use the included dock – it's for a "premium" dock that probably does the same thing, but for more moneydollars. All of the other inputs are found on the left side of the tablet: headphone jack, microUSB charging port, microUSB data port (-____-), miniHDMI port, and microSD card slot. I just don't understand the need for two microUSB ports, and I probably never will. Power and volume are found on top, and there's nothing on the right side.

wm_IMG_1695 wm_IMG_1697 wm_IMG_1698

The device has one speaker, and it's found on the front-right side of the unit, assumedly so it's not covered when it's in the TV dock.

The display is surprisingly not terrible for a 1280x800 panel. Colors are alright, and viewing angles aren't bad. Still, it's clearly a cheap panel, but that's really to be expected.

Included Accessories

Aside from the tablet, the Vyper ships with a remote control, game controller, and TV dock, which makes it an all-in-one sort of thingy. Here's a quick rundown of each.

Game Controller

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I actually like the game controller. It feels well-made, the buttons are solid (though the triggers are slightly squishy), and it has Android's back, home, and app menu buttons built in. I wish it could be paired with other Android devices, because it's cool. Using with the Vyper, though... that's another story. We'll talk about that in the software section.

Remote Control

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This is essentially for the Vyper's smart TV functionality. It looks like a typical remote control, but somehow cheaper. It features all the buttons needed to navigate the OS, media controls, and a QWERTY keyboard embedded onto the back. It's Bluetooth, but also works as an air mouse when connected, which makes it easier to navigate parts of the OS when the game controller or other physical buttons can't do the job.

TV Dock

wm_IMG_1722 wm_IMG_1725

So here's the thing with the TV dock: I never got it to work. I had to two different units, and after trying both docks and both tablets (and combinations of each), it just wouldn't output to the TV. The tablet detected the external display, but nothing would show on the TV screen. When using the HDMI cable directly into the tablet, however, it worked as expected. I still have no idea what's going on with that, but it was incredibly frustrating. More on that below.

Software and Performance

So this is when the fun starts, where "fun" actually means "one of the worst software experiences I've ever had."

Let's start with the device's primary interface. Instead of using the stock Android launcher like some other TV-connected devices do, Snakebyte opted for its own custom launcher along with the "old style" navigation/notification panel. I didn't find the launcher to be extremely intuitive at first, but it's not terribly bad once you understand how it works.

Screenshot_2014-03-21-14-39-05 Screenshot_2014-03-21-14-39-16

It's essentially laid out into three different columns on the "home" panel of the launcher: category, favorites, and widgets. Each column can be scrolled independently, and the "favorites" column changes according to which subcategory is selected in the first section. The middle row of the category column shows which subcategory is selected, as indicated by the green highlight around that box. From there, the favorites column changes accordingly. The widgets column operates independently of the other two, and new widgets can be added by long-pressing any box.

As for the other panels, they're pretty self-explanatory: apps and games, video, music, and pictures. Each page shows relevant info.

Now that we've looked the main interface, let's talk about how well it works... or doesn't work. As stated in the intro to this section, using the Snakebyte Vyper is an absolutely dreadful, frustrating, and infuriating experience most of the time.

Screenshot_2014-03-21-14-40-00

Right out of the box, the Vyper is straight-up laggy. There's no arguing that fact, and no denying it. There's also no reason that a brand new device should perform this poorly. I initially thought the poor performance and non-functional TV dock could only mean that my initial review unit was buggy, but that wasn't the case – the second unit is only marginally better. Swiping through the homescreen columns is very choppy, and navigating between homescreen panels is the same way. There is a 2-3 second delay between hitting the power button and the display turning on. Launching apps sometimes takes upwards of 5 seconds.

Simply put, nothing on this tablet is quick.

For a gaming device, the experience is anything but fun. Two of my favorite controller-supported games – Dead Trigger 2 and The Cave – don't work with the Vyper's controller, and The Cave won't display at all. The background sound works, and every once in a while it will try to load, but hangs at the "loading" screen; other times it does nothing at all. Dead Trigger is playable (without the controller), but the load times are absurd, and since Snakebyte decided to use the old-style Android tablet interface, accidentally opening the notification panel is a constant issue. With that said, once in the game, it's actually much more fluid than I expected it to be, so that's something.

Oh, and forget about navigating the interface in any usable manner with the game controller. That's for (half-assed) gaming and nothing else. You can swipe through the various homescreen panels and kind of do some other stuff, but it's really just more frustrating than usable. For actually getting through the interface, you'll have to use the remote, which isn't exactly a great experience in itself.

Screenshot_2014-03-21-14-41-15

This is basically all you get from "The Cave" ... if it even loads at all.

Basically, the remote is an air mouse. The directional pad along with the page forward/back buttons can be used to navigate the various pages... but the "enter" button automatically selects what the mouse cursor is on, and not what may be highlighted on the screen. That's seriously irritating. The remote also has home/back/recent apps buttons, as well as media controls and a keyboard on the back. You know what it's missing? Volume controls. So if the tablet is connected to the TV and the volume is turned down unreasonably low, there's no way to increase the volume from the remote. Good thinking. Oh, and when the remote is connected, the display continuously comes back on. Even if you manually turn it off. Over and over again.

Speaking of connecting the Vyper to the TV – don't even think about using the dock that comes with it. I mean, you can try, but it probably won't work. I couldn't get two of them to work, so I don't imagine that the rest of them are much different. Maybe it's hit and miss, I don't know. All I know is that I tried two different tablets and two different docks on two different TVs. Same result across the board. I did actually get it to work one time for about 3 seconds, but then it stopped.

In short, there were times when it took more willpower than I normally have to keep from throwing the Vyper across the room while testing it. I think that's really how I sum up the experience.

Conclusion

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This is the worst Android device I've ever used. The buggiest, glitchiest, and just generally crappiest of the bunch. I can't find one redeeming quality about it, which is honestly a first for me.

Seriously, unless they make some major changes before the release, just don't buy it.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • GuidZilla

    Huh... all i got.

  • Nathan Blume

    Ouch.

  • turdbogls

    ouch!

    cool concept, poor execution

  • darkdude1

    -____-. That is all.

    • Evan Jenkins

      I'd love to see this as the headline for the review

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        Dammit! I should've used that.

        Snakebyte Vyper Lightning Review: -____________-

        • http://mrmcpowned.com mrmcpowned

          Snakebyte Vyper Lightning Review: An Actual Snake Bite Would Have Been Better

          • http://www.bloodflame.com/ Patrick

            Snakebyte Vyper Lightning Review: It Should Be Struck By Lightning And Fed To A Snake

  • Ryan Markwald

    I can just "hear" the frustration through the write-up about that TV/dock issue.

  • Jalok Xlem

    Crap.

  • Dutchy

    2 usb ports?? 1 for charging and 1 for data transfer??? wtf loooool

    • Simon Belmont

      Yeah. The only thing that I could think of was plugging the USB controller into the data port and also being able to charge the tablet at the same time with the other USB port.

      It's a very weird implementation. Also miniHDMI instead of microHDMI?

      • primalxconvoy

        Actually, I'd like that. One problem with my galaxy note 2 was that i couldn't use off the shelf cables to connect usb peripherals and a hdmi cable to it at the same time and/or charge it at the same time. I had to get the (good for pc use but rubbish for gaming) "Samsung Smart Dock" to accomplish this.

  • Frank

    I just can't stop imagining the smiling and laughing team behind this gathering around a pc to read the reviews for their device for the first time only to face the cold, harsh truth of this article.. I can clearly picture fat tears slowly making their way from their eyes down to their chins.. Oh well.. better luck next time, snakebyte

    • free_variation

      The way you relish thinking of their moment of disappointment makes you sound a bit sociopathic.

      • Frank

        You misinterpret me: I have all the sympathy for these start-ups and developers in general. That said, I'm also curious as to how do they receive this kind of reviews.. Were they surprised? Or were they aware of the value of the product they shipped?

      • primalxconvoy

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    • duck hairs

      You sound like youre from tumblr :0

  • WestFiasco

    Battery: yes

    LoL

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Why does this thing even exist?

    • Simon Belmont

      While I agree with you. Android 4.2.2 isn't two years old.

      It's actually only a few months over one year old. BUT, that's not excusing Snakebyte from using an older version of the OS (c'mon, at least Android 4.3 that has BLE and GPU improvements, but KitKat would make even more sense given Project Svelte and the fact the Vyper has 1GB of RAM).

  • TSON1

    The title is amazing lol

  • EH101

    I just have to say that while I wouldn't have ever bought this, I actually like the look of the back of the tablet.

  • Exikle

    time to root and flash a custom rom?

    • Exikle

      well first someone has to make one lol

      • Davis Hernandez

        first somebody has to buy one lol

  • andy_o

    I hate to be the positive guy (I really do), but over at http://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Snakebyte-Vyper-Review_id3610 (I also hate to have to link to Phone Arena) the guy did play Dead Trigger 2 apparently without these problems, unless he was dumb enough not to try to use the controller. Also, didn't mention problems with the dock. It would appear you really got two broken ones.

  • ED-Z が あらわれた!

    Noooow, I can see lots and lots of costumer calls to Snakebyte complain about they can't charge or transfer data because they are using the wrong MicroUSB port...

  • http://www.bloodflame.com/ Patrick

    As far as the dual microUSB's go, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt with this simple explanation. Say you want to charge it while also using a standard USB OTG dongle hooked up to a flash drive or other peripheral? This would be the only reason I could see 2 microUSB's being useful. I quite often use OTG with my 2013 N7, but without a specialized OTG dongle (which I don't have), there's no way to charge it while using a flash drive. Now you could argue that I could charge wirelessly (I do have a Qi charger) but c'mon, that would be a cumbersome operation to actually USE the tablet in such a configuration.

    As far as everything else goes - they had a great idea, it just wasn't executed well enough. Tablets are great for multimedia consumption, and I love hooking mine to the living room TV. A device like this should make that experience even better, but it appears they did the opposite. Quite a shame...

    Throw in some better hardware, take it to a REAL designer, hire someone to actually develop usable software (there are tons of great devs out there who would love a job!), and come back at next years CES with something we could actually enjoy.

    • http://jefferai.org/ Jeff Mitchell

      +1 - I use my 2012 N7 on plane flights quite often, and I often have to think ahead and micromanage what I put on an OTG device vs. the N7's memory so that I don't risk running out of juice 6 hours into the flight. This sounds like the one thing that these guys potentially got right - except for the fact that there is also a micro SD slot, which somewhat defeats the purpose.

  • primalxconvoy

    Wow, something that is actually worse than the Ouya.

  • http://batman-news.com uh8m8

    "I had to two different units."

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  • Skyver

    Where can I buy one?

  • Zakhmi Dil
  • nick

    Chunky stuff.

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