Monday, November 18, 2013

Reviewing RLG's Uhuru for free

My first real encounters with RLG involved seeing its computers showcased on every other TV news presentation in Ghana. Their laptops have become the computers of choice in Ghana’s ICT education programs in schools. With the Uhuru tablet PC, RLG Communications is set to make a mark on the business community in Ghana and beyond. When I first tweeted about Uhuru, a friend asked “why not a Ghanaian word?” If you’ve been paying attention, Kiswahili words are the names of choice for African-branded products going continental and global. RLG is playing on this as well. Uhuru means Freedom. The versatility of Uhuru will surely make users think of “free”. Free to use Uhuru in many situations. Freedom comes with a price.

Uhuru’s capability marries the functionality of the tablet and the personal computer really well and it would introduce more users to Windows 8 use. Uhuru’s success would likely factor into Windows 8 phone and tablet sales in Africa as well which in turn is great for Microsoft.  Microsoft has become a major partner for RLG and the recent launch of Hope City, a $10 billion technology city project meted by RLG also has Microsoft’s backing. Uhuru’s tablet and PC hybrid will allow Windows 8 users to have one less device. The
boot time is amazing and the Windows 8 user experience on the The 11.6” touch-screen tablet is sleek.

A few friends saw the packaging and immediately recognized that the Uhuru was nearby. RLG has done well marketing the product. They always do. They were not too enthused about the
design of the actual tablet PC. You could guess whose fan boys they were. They also do understand that something must give.  This is not to be a slight on RLG because other device manufacturers took time to get the designs of their products right.


The Uhuru is all-weather and all-purpose when it comes to connectivity. Due to spotty Wi-Fi access in Ghana, there is a huge demand for devices to have 3G capability. Uhuru is a 3G device that also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability. The mobile broadband hardware is provided by Huawei which is also becoming a huge player on the African telecommunications scene. Uhuru comes pre-installed with the Microsoft Office which cannot be underestimated for the African terrain. The mobility that Uhuru provides will also cause more use for Microsoft’s Sky Drive. The detachable keyboard also allows for LAN connectivity.

The HDMI port is a good addition that could make the Uhuru a device of choice for presentations, workshops and in business settings. This tablet PC is a great proposition for business people. The device market is seeing an upswing for interest in tablets with a great yearning for keyboards. While young people in Africa stay true to Blackberries for BBM (Blackberry Messenger), their older counterparts hold its keypad functionality key. With the awe of touch-screen computing with a detachable keyboard to match, that’s a great sell for both generations aforementioned.

With a
first grade i5 processor, the Uhuru performs remarkably well for speed, especially when compared to other tablets. There is a 1.3 Megapixel Front camera and a 2.0 Mega Pixel rear camera which will ensure the Uhuru will stand arms akimbo to the iPads and other tablets in the front sections of local and international concerts. Aside the microphone, headphone and DC Jacks on the vestigial keyboard, there is another headphone jack for the tablet itself. There is also an on-screen keyboard that can be activated for use.  There are 3 USB ports, one on the tablet with 2 on the detachable deck (with keyboard). The deck comes with a second battery. The tablet’s battery has a 6 hour life and can be charged without the detachable keyboard.

Uhuru survived a subtle ‘
drop test’ as well. It’s pretty durable. Many who’ve held will say it’s also heavy. It is in fact, much heavier compared to the Samsung Ativ which is 2 pounds. Most people who have felt the Uhuru complain mostly about the weight of the tablet, which is much heavier than it should be. It hurts the full mobility functionality Uhuru enjoys. RLG should be able to make the tablet thinner and lighter in newer versions to come.

Uhuru will be marketed primarily in West Africa and beyond but in becoming a global player, it has to look at the existing big players. Enter Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro. This Windows 8 Tablet PC uses the same Intel i5 Processor and comes with more storage and a greater picture resolution. There’s also the Microsoft Surface which many people discussed with me on social media after my first few Uhuru mentions. The Surface has the Microsoft brand behind it with a cheaper price in front of it. The market segmentation will help the Uhuru and we have seen clearly the value of this product for the business community in West Africa.

The price of 1950 GhC ($950) is seen to be a bit steep with similar devices selling for less. The Samsung Ativ is the only real competitor priced higher.  If RLG
can't compete on design and market reputation at the beginning for various reasons, it must compete on price. RLG is an ICT assembling company which will be making machines for the world. The Uhuru is a brilliant product. The price might be on the high side, especially for the target market, but the functionality, and the idea behind it the Uhuru will make it “Proudly Yours. Will the business batch bite on the price and waiver on the weight? The market, starting from those who know RLG the most, will determine.
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