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North Korea's new tablet is surprisingly good

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North Korea palace (C) Sophie Schmidt
North Korea palace (C) Sophie Schmidt

North Korea is best known for its crushingly oppressive government and comically inept space program — but new reports suggest that the country may be producing a surprisingly respectable touchscreen tablet. A state-produced device called the Samjiyon has been making the rounds at Asian trade shows all year, attracting the attention of both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The hardware isn't as bad as you might think, handling common apps like Angry Birds with noticeable but not uncommon levels of lag. Mostly, it works.

In a distinctively North Korean touch, the tablet also contains an analog TV receiver and comes pre-loaded with a stock of revolutionary literature, which one reviewer speculated could make it very useful as a research tool. Still, there are drawbacks. Because of North Korea's intense web censorship, the tablet has no way of connecting to the internet — relying instead on the country's state-controlled intranet, which has proved sparse and difficult to access for many reviewers. For now, at least, it seems Samsung doesn't have to worry about much competition from their neighbors to the north.