Saturday, March 5, 2011

Eden Panels: A Review

     Good Ole' panels. They are the lifeblood and soul of the Eden UI. The Eden UI is what makes the Adam different from the slough of other tablets that were and are coming to the market. Eden is the attempt to bring a smartphone OS up to tablet standards while adding pizazz in the process, but do they work? Find out after the cut.
     On paper they looked fantastic, but in practice they leave something to be desired. It's a refreshing change to see somebody tackling real multitasking on a tablet. Having three apps open at once is great for the occasional need to do so. That is where the problem starts. I don't want to do this sort of multitasking very often, and Notion Ink thinks I should. The panels replace the home screen. You have the option to "lower" the panels to reveal what Notion Ink calls the normal Android home screen. It isn't. It's single screen list of apps that are aligned perfectly in a grid that is completely non-customizable. If you don't like where the app is placed on the screen, too bad.

     The actual use of the panels provides a different story. They are handy and nice to use. Having multiple apps open to scroll through saves quite a bit of time. Only NI has the apps that utilize the panel system to get the real multitasking action. They plan on releasing the Genesis store and SDK so developers can create "panelized" apps, but that won't likely happen until Honeycomb. The panel system is weird in it's current state too. Let's say you are browsing in the browser panel, and you want to go full screen with the app. You can't. The menu button brings the option to launch the full application, but when you do it's like you are opening a completely different app. What happens in a panel, stays in a panel. Very little translates to the full app or vice-versa.

     Ironically, panels make normal multitasking a step harder. NI has gone to the unnecessary trouble of replacing the normal multitasking switcher with a panel switcher. Since there are very few apps that use panels, this is pointless. The alpha panel that holds the time, music, email, and facebook also holds the recent apps. This is an extra step, but at least they have addressed the issue.

     Time for a nit pick. Eden has an altered status bar that serves no real purpose other than because they can. They have the bar set up in a way that you can hide it by tapping on the battery in the corner. The natural state of the bar is to be hidden, which means that it blocks anything in it's way when it's open. The battery that resides in the corner for the hidden status bar can get in the way of some apps as well. When the Adam is booted the status bar is in the open position. Many new users have complained that the status bar is blocking everything because they don't know it has a hide feature.

     Panels are nice, but they have their quirks. It's all a matter of choice whether you like them or not. If you don't like them, you can always get a home screen replacer like Launcher Pro for free. There is no telling where panels will go when Honeycomb comes. For my thoughts on where they should go see here and here.

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