Build and Sound Quality:
doesn't sound like too much to ask: A self-setting clock that I can
read from anywhere in the room, a "humane" wake mode, where the
audio gradually fades in, and I don't want to "sign up" for a
proprietary streaming service. I want to wake to Shoutcast, or any open
stream on the internet.
Obviously, there are Android apps for about every streaming service out
there - open or proprietary. It's also pretty easy to connect an
Android phone or tablet to a bookshelf stereo - either with a good old
fashioned wire, or bluetooth. But the honest truth is that almost
nobody actually does that on a daily basis. Bluetooth doesn't
solve the charging issue, and even a really convenient dock, or
Bluetooth and a wireless charging pad, doesn't solve the problem of
leaving your phone downstairs, or in the car, or...
For true, convenient living room or bedroom multi-media entertainment, a
separate, dedicated device is needed.
That's the idea of the RCA Android Internet Music Device. While the
Tablet portion of the device does easily lift out, using it as a
general purpose tablet not only does not work very well, as we will
see, but it also defeats the purpose of this device.
But what exactly is the purpose of this device? Is it just the
modern incarnation of the bookshelf stereo? Is it a clock radio
steroids? Is it a media controller for a larger screen TV?
More simply, Does it work well enough to serve any purpose at all?
RCA 7" Internet Music System
(Model RCS13101E) Specifications
Display: 7 in. 800x480 Capacitive touch screen
CPU: Dual Core ARM Cortex-A9, 1.2GHz
Slots: Micro SD/MMC card slot
OS: Android 4.2 (JellyBean)
Li-On Unknown Capacity
Front Camera: None
Rear Camera: None
Bluetooth: 2.1 + EDR
3 Axis Accelerometers
Stereo System Specifications:
Audio Output: 20W x 2
Speakers: 2 Way, Ported
Looks can be deceiving. In this case, unfortunately, they are
not. It's as far from one of those expensive, high end,
super-slim bookshelf systems as you can get. It's tall construction
means it will not fit in a bookcase headboard or low shelf. The
speakers and the unit itself is that particle wood
that cheap radios were made out of years ago.
If you over-look the over-sized and under-quality construction, the
of the features look and work fairly well. The blue backlit,
touch-sensitive buttons at least make an
attempt at looking worthy of your dollars. The funky LCD dot
mini-display may make you think
it's broken. It's not, it's just somebody's idea of
"style". It also conveys very little information. It
basically just shows 1 of 5 input sources, 1 of 4 preset equalizer
modes, and a few other very basic stuff like FM radio frequency, and CD
track and time. It's a $200 stereo, but it does not have FM RDS, or CD
Song/Artist information. No -- it doesn't display on the Android
screen. No -- It cannot play a DVD. No -- You cannot rip a CD to
an MP3 on the Android side. No -- you cannot wake to a music CD
by setting the Alarm Clock in Android. There is very
little integration between the "Music" part, and the "Internet"
part. It's not really much of a "System".
Is there anything good I can say about the
quality? Well, Yes, there is -- It sounds pretty good. Now,
don't misunderstand me -- No one is going to mistake the sound for a
Bose or Harmon Kardon system, but it's not bad. The
speakers have some true heft, and they are ported, 2-way systems with
real, removable grills. Frequency response is good, with no
missing ranges. Adequate bass is present if you crank
it, but it's not overdone. As long as you separate the speakers a bit, there
is very good stereo effect.
Another thing to mention is the included accessories. There's a
small remote control that in addition to controlling the Stereo, it
gives some very basic control of the Android system. It also
includes a Micro USB OTG (on the go) adapter and a Mini
HDMI to HDMI adapter.
Let's add it up. The HDMI adapter alone can cost over $25 -- More
if you have to buy it locally. Here at Linuxslate.com, we
cherish OTG cables.
Not all devices include one,
and even buying one online will set you back as much as $20, plus you
have to wait for shipping. Don't forget the 7" Dual
Jelly Bean tablet, and a pair of fairly decent speakers. I've
added up nearly $200 right there. The Stereo unit itself isn't
worth much, but you aren't paying much for it either.
Back to Contents
The "Android Internet" System:
Often, the best way to get top dollar for something is to
market it as something that it is not. Nobody
would spend $200 for an off-brand Android Tablet, and a cheap bookshelf
stuffed in the same box, but that is exactly what you are getting
here. The top section simply lifts out to form -- Well, I don't
know a nicer way to say it -- One of the worst 7" Android 4.2 tablets I
have ever seen. (Here at Linuxslate.com, we are experts at cheap
Android Tablets. You can read reviews here
The best way to explain it is to simply list out why this is such a
poor Android tablet -- and then I will explain why it doesn't matter.
First, the screen resolution is only 800x480. If this is a
display" to you, please do not drive behind me. The Google Nexus
7" Android tablet (2013) has almost
pixels in two square inches!
The resulting pixelation can easily be seen in small fonts. Low
resolution is a halmark of a cheap screen, and another is poor viewing
angle. More about this later.
When used separately from the dock, the sound is poor too. There
is a single, small speaker in the back.
It's as thick as the chunky Fujitsu industrial tablets that got
Linuxslate.com started back in the early 1990's. Due to the
thickness and odd shape, holding it, especially in portrait, is not
convenient at all. The touchscreen is true capacitive, and
multitouch, but seems to, on occasion, register false touches.
While it can be taken with you and used as a stand-alone tablet, you
will not have any way to charge it. It does not charge through
the Micro USB port, and no separate charger is included for the
power connector on the bottom. It also lacks 3G connectivity,
any camera, GPS, a compass, and many other features expected on even
Before I tell you why none of the above matters, I would like to say a
few good things about this unit as a tablet: With a true dual-core,
1.2GHz processor, and a full
Gigabyte of RAM, it is certainly acceptable as far as speed. The WiFi
seems pretty good.
So why does it not matter that I am getting a poor tablet for a premium
price? Because this is not a tablet. For some of the problems, the
reasoning is obvious. It has no GPS, but your living room doesn't
usually move around much (I am being sensitive here, and omitting the
California jokes.) It has no camera, but do you really want more
cameras in your bedroom?
Of all the complaints above, the only one that really bothers me is the
poor screen viewing angle. If you select a screen saver clock with a
black background, it's only black when your head is in the right
place. It spews light at other angles. Now, the excuse may
be that it is not intended to be a nighttime clock, but if it had a
better screen, it would work fine as a clock (with a few other issues -
The poor screen also makes it almost unusable as a eBook
reader. But if this is not your only Android device, you may very
well be laying in bed with a separate Android
eBook reader, while listening to streaming music from the RCA Music
System. An Android phone may be laying next to you waiting for a
call or text. There may also be a connected TV in the same room
(possibly running Android --You can
read about Android TV sticks
.) Each device is good at some things, and poor at others.
But what if you don't want to buy half a dozen Android devices?
Could it work as the sole device for a young person on a budget? Could he/she take
notes in class, do some gaming in between, and in the evening slip it
back in the dock to charge while he/she chills with some streaming
down-tempo? Well, the first thought is that the person in question
needs a social life, but other than that, the answer depends on what
the person is willing to put up with. Technically, the tablet
could do all those things, but it is going to be no where near the
experience they would have with, for example, the new Nexus 7.
Back to Contents
Music Files and Streaming Media:
As mentioned, the Line-In, CD, and FM radio functions are completely
separate from Android. In fact, the "Intn", or "Internet" input
is really just an additional Line-In connection. If you have MP3 files,
or music in any one
of a number of other common formats, on a Micro-SD card, they can be
from the Android side. There's a semi-hot swappable micro SD card
slot on the side of the Android Tablet. I say it's semi hot
swappable because you can get to it without powering off the tablet,
but unless you remember to unmount it first, by going to Settings
--> Storage, Android can get confused. If you have songs on a
full-sized SD card, you can connect a card reader to the included OTG
cable, but you need to provide the card reader yourself.
Of course, there are dozens of Android music players available on the
Android Play Store. There's also dozens of visualization apps,
lyrics apps, etc. You can also buy music right from the machine.
Google Play Music is included, but you can also install the Amazon MP3
App, or any store of your choosing as long as it is supported in Android.
The same goes for streaming media services. You may be hooked on
Pandora today, but remember what happened to MySpace? One day everybody
just left and moved to Facebook. The same could happen to
streaming media services. That's the great thing about having
Android. You don't get the lock-in you would get from a
proprietary Set-Top Box or Internet Radio appliance.
The same is true for video steaming. YouTube and Google Play Movies are
included, but you can add any service that has an Android app -- even
if it is a service that doesn't exist yet.
Here's another cool feature, and one of the few bits of
integration between the Android tablet and the rest of the unit -- if
you pull the tablet out of the unit while it is playing, it can
switch over to Bluetooth and keep playing. Notice I said it can
. It's not paired from the
factory; setting this up is left to the user.
Since it's Android, it's also customizable. Even if it's just a slide
show, you can customize this Stereo like no other.
Back to Contents
The Little Screen with Big Screen
The makers of this device seem to make a big deal out of connecting
this device to a larger screen. The most obvious way is via the
included Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter, and a customer-provided HDMI
cable. The device also includes support for Sharing the screen
via WiFi (if your TV supports that).
But I don't recommend either of those. Google's Chromecast is a
far better solution. It also serves as an example of a case where
the deficiencies of the tablet can be overlooked: If you use this
system with Chromecast, the tablet basically becomes a smart touch
screen remote. The resolution of what you see will be determined
by the quality of the TV, and your Internet connection. With new
features and services being added to Chromecast, this becomes a
fantastic, fun, and convenient entertainment system.
Back to Contents
Other Apps and Possible Uses
Having Android on your Stereo System also opens up lots of cool
possibilities. Android 4.2 includes Google Voice Search --
Google's answer to "Siri". (Some people call the female Google
voice "Majel"). As long as nobody removes the tablet, it's always
there and always convenient. Just ask it anything you want. If you use
Google Now, this device is great for checking on the commute to work,
or the weather, or
a few select stocks, or...
Here's another non-obvious use. Since the tablet has a
microphone, it can also act as a VoIP phone (or Skype phone if you
still use that service). Again, as long as you "hang up" the
tablet back in the main unit, you won't have to hunt around for it when
you need to make or answer a call.
But how about that use I mentioned at first? A streaming media
radio? Well, in addition to the problem of light leaking from the
display, there are several other problems. First, Android
does not work correctly. When the tablet is docked in the Stereo
screen timeout is set to 'never sleep', and it is dimmed out and cannot
be changed, so Daydream never activates. If you turn the Stereo
off, the tablet's screen goes off too, and cannot be turned on.
The little LCD in the base unit cannot display the time.
Of course streaming music works fine, and many Android streaming apps
have at least basic alarm clock functionality, but getting it to work
the way I want is harder than it should be.
Bear with me as I get just a bit hypocritical. Here at
we tend to frown upon manufacturers and wireless providers altering
Android, usually with the intent of locking the customers into
additional services and products. Linuxslate.com recommends
for that very reason. Having said that, I am now
to tell you that one of the problems with this device is that RCA (or
Foxconn, or whoever really developed it) didn't customize Android
No, it's not actually not hypocritical. It is just that this is a
unique device, and the tablet and stereo functions need to be better
integrated. I don't want them to install bloatware, or even mess
Android itself, but there should at least be a custom app that allows
you to set sleep and screensaver settings for when the unit is
docked - with or without
the main unit being on.
In fact, one of the biggest benefits is that the version of Android
Jelly Bean is actually very close to a pure Android. It's also
Google Certified, meaning that Google Play, and all of the basic Google
services, work without hacking, rooting, or being an Android
If it doesn't do something you want it to do, there's probably
something in Google Play that will do it, and it's probably free.
Back to Contents
If this would be your first and only Android device, I have to
strongly recommend against it. The poor quality screen and the
lack if integration as a complete system would give you a very poor
experience. It's biggest benefit is for someone who has
already thoroughly bought
into the Google infrastructure. Such a person could make the most
of it, and would know quick solutions to some if it's quirks. For
such a person, this unit, combined with an HD TV, and
a Google Chromecast make a great bedroom or spare room media
masterpiece. It's kind of like the Android
watch reviewed here --
It's not quite ready for Joe consumer, but it's a must-have for the
true Android affectionado.