After initially looking at sub $100 tablets and deciding they were rubbish, I undertook a thorough search for a BANG FOR BUCK Android tablet and ended up pre-ordering the Ainol-Novo 9 Firewire back in January 2013. Despite the different names, the only difference is the Firewire is black and the Ainol Spark is white.
On paper, this Chinese puppy comes with the same 9.7″ retina display as the iPad3, sports a quad core CPU, 2GB RAM, 8 core – that ‘s right – 8 CORE GPU running Android 4.1.1 (Jellybean) – the device is “rooted” out of the factory!, 5mp rear camera, 2mp front camera, wifi and a 10000mAh battery all wrapped in an aluminum case for a mere $239! Along the bottom-narrow edge, there’s holes for 3.5mm headphones, mini HDMI out, micro USB, Micro SD card and power, along with stereo speakers.
All sounds lip smackingly droolish so-far compared to Apple’s specs and price, but there’s a few things that hold it back, most notably, the lack of built-in Bluetooth which could be the deal-breaker for some. There’s also no GPS on-board if that’s important to you, it’s limited to 16GB built in storage and the MicroSD supports only up to 32GB. And the inbuilt speakers, well, they make a noise but lack any real beef and could have been better placed for landscape use.
My main intention was to hook this bad boy up to the telly via HDMI and use it as a media hub – which I’ve yet to actually do.
So what do I think? I had it pre-set in English on order – there were still a few Chinese apps pre-installed which disabled, but be warned, there is very little English support in the way of manuals or help for this product. Ainol have been selling tablets to the Chinese market for a few years, but haven’t been exporting for long. It is also early days still with this model, so there have been a few teething problems.
Out of the box, the external build quality is as good as it gets, the buttons feel firm and positive. The screen is jaw dropping as expected with a wide viewing angle and quite responsive …. until you load up a few apps and the software becomes laggy and freezes when trying to swipe screens. However, there is an easy work around – download a different launcher! I tried Go Launcher Pro first which I use on my phone, but that didn’t improve things at all. Then I tried the much lighter NemusLauncher – available on Google Play store for free with huge success in the stability and lag stakes as well as adding some very handy features notably a 3 page dock for a total of 12 icons and a grid size of up to 11 x 11 icons, though I find 8 x 8 is ideal.
To compare the performance to the quad core Samsung Galaxy S3, I ran the same demanding game on both – Air Navy Fighters Lite. While the Galaxy marginally out-paced it, the performance of the Firewire was pretty impressive. Another demanding game – Real Racing 3 – runs very nicely on the tablet. I haven’t found any apps I use so-far that won’t run on it.
There’s now a new firmware update available from HERE which I have yet to try which may fix the stability, but the main reason for writing this post is to provide installation instruction in English (for my benefit too), as I couldn’t find any or post them on the Ainol-Novo website.
Disclaimer: It’s your choice to follow these instructions entirely at your own risk!
I take no responsibility for any translation errors, any damage, loss of data or device bricking that may result – you’re on your own.
FireWire upgrade guidance – how to put a stable unofficial english ROM on your Ainol Spark/Firewire
[edited 13/08/13] Tried and tested with success on two tablets – stable, fast, no Chinese aps.
– INSTALL PhoenixSuit on your PC. * instuctions follow.
FACTORY ROM sdk2
– EXTRACT to access .img file and install with PhoenixSuit.**
IRON1971 firmware http://joco1114.dyndns.org/opendir/doit.php?d=ROOT/Ainol%20Novo%209%20Spark/IRON1971/IRON1971_signed_Spark%20mod-v2.5_20130531.zip
– COPY .Zip file onto Tablet (USB)
Backup your tablet to your Google account and use Titanium Backup if you wish to keep your data and settings!! The upgrade will wipe everything.
Download all the files above.
– INSTALL PhoenixSuit on your PC.
– Unzip if required and Double-click on the icon “[PhoenixSuitPacket.msi]” the following screen appears:
Click “Next” [highlighted blue], the following dialog appears:
Click on the dot ending in (E) in lower left for English install!!
Click “Next” [highlighted blue], the following dialog box appears:
Click “Next” to install the driver, the following dialog box:
Wait a few seconds, the following dialog appears:
Click “Next“, the following dialog box
After a few seconds the following dialog appears:
Click “Finish“, the following dialog box appears:
Click Close – PhoenixSuite is now installed.
Use shortcut created on desktop to launch PhoenexSuit OR:
Installs found in the installation directory “[PhoenixSuit]” folder.
BEFORE connecting tablet,
– Open phoenixSuit file folder, open the application “[PhoenixSuit.exe]”as illustrated below:
Click on the Anchor icon – interface, as shown below:
Click on the Browse [highlighted Blue] button above,
navigate to the unzipped firmware [FACTORY ROM sdk2 – sun6I android…] you downloaded, earlier.
DON’T hit the green button!!
– Go back to the HOME screen of PhoenixSuite
– Shutdown your Tablet normally.
– Press and hold the volume plus on Tablet, insert the USB cable at the same time, press the power button 5-10 time, while still holding the Vol+ button
until the following dialog box:
Click “Yes” to install the new firmware.
Following is the the interface upgrade progess:
Upgrade is complete, as shown below:
Unplug the USB cable after 20 seconds, long press the power button for 3 seconds to let go, waiting for 1-2 seconds boot LOGO patient
enter the system in about 30 seconds.
wait another 30 seconds to let things settle and become smother.
If you made it, now I presume you’ll possibly have a tablet in Chinese?
This is how you change languages ….
Click on the clock, click on the settings icon – and settings icon again (at the bottom) 设置 = settings
Click on the [A…] icon for “Language & input” = 语言与输入 – which is about 10 icons down in the settings list under “personal” = 个人
Click on “language” = 语 at the top of the list.
Scroll down and select the language of your choice – hopefully in that language, but English = 英语
that should be it!
FACTORY ROM INSTALLED IN ENGLISH.
– Connect Tablet via USB as a hard drive
– COPY CUSTOM ROM “IRON1971 .Zip” into Tablet’s SD root folder.
– EXTRACT ROOT+TWRP “root%20%2B%20TWRP22.214.171.124.zip” package to a folder on PC
– with tablet USB connected, RUN runme.cmd from PC folder (installs TWRP recovery console)
– then RUN adb.exe from PC folder (roots & reboots device in TWRP recovery mode)
– Disconect USB on Tablet
– select INSTALL from TWRP menu on tablet,
In folders on left choose emmc (you may need to go up one level)
– locate CUSTOM ROM IRON1971.zip saved on Tablet and install (DONT REBOOT!)
– go to HOME in TWRP and select WIPE and FACTORY RESET
– Change to ENGLISH language as previously described above.
DONE! A fast stable custom ROM with no Chinese.
If you have any difficulty or problems with software or install, it is best to ask in the forums the relevant links point to 🙂