ViewSonic ViewPad 10

23 Apr

The ViewPad 10 not only runs Google Android but also Windows 7 Home Premium. ViewSonic sells this vision as “the best of both worlds”, and occasionally you get glimpses of just how good this idea could be. Android screams along, and this responsiveness extends to web browsing: the BBC homepage took a mere five seconds to appear, half the time of the Apple iPad electronic gadgets . Extra flexibility comes via two USB ports, so you can plug in a keyboard and mouse.

The 10in multitouch capacitive screen sports the usual 1,024 x 600 resolution. While we’ve seen sharper screens, at full brightness it looks suitably impressive, and we’ve no complaints about viewing angles or colors. The big problem for the ViewPad 10 is that it runs Android 1.6. That means no Flash support for starters, but it also means that the majority of new apps developed for Android 2 tablets won’t work. If and when Intel delivers on its promise to port Android 2.2 to Intel Atom processors, this should change – but even then, you’re relying on ViewSonic to roll it out to the ViewPad, and to do so more sensibly than it has Android 1.6,

We weren’t overly amazed by the ViewPad’s bundled apps. For example, we found audio lagged behind the video in the YouTube player. Of the apps that are bundled, a version of DataViz Documents to Go – able to create and edit Word- and Excel-compatible documents – is the best, but even that has bugs that meant it would quit unexpectedly.

We might be willing to overlook such niggles if ViewSonic electronic gadgets had made a better job of tying in the hardware with the software, but the three hardware buttons are unintuitive. The Home button is more like a Back button, while the button that looks like it should mean Back launches a context-sensitive menu. To confuse things further, there’s a SIM card slot at the top of the device – but this iteration of the ViewPad only supports Wi-Fi.

A dual-core Atom N455 processor helps keep Windows 7 flowing freely in use, but no amount of firepower can hide the fact that Microsoft’s desktop OS isn’t tuned to the needs of touch. For instance, it’s tricky to hit the small “X” to close a window.

Once again, though, adding a keyboard and mouse makes a huge difference, and (unlike Android) we added a Bluetooth mouse successfully. With both Bluetooth and an active Wi-Fi connection, our tests suggest you can expect just less than four hours of battery life; this extends to around five hours of continuous use in Android electronic gadgets.

We’d question the decision to include 16GB of NAN D flash. It keeps the price down, but that means there’s only 4.2GB of space left for any files you might want to store locally. Then again, it is possible to expand storage via the microSD slot.

Running Windows 7 highlights another issue with the ViewPad: the Atom processor results in fan noise and heat. This gnaws away at the ViewPad’s hopes of becoming a “lifestyle” device, and at 835g it’s the heaviest tablet we’ve seen. A depth of 14.5mm means it looks chunky too. At least it’s well built: the metal rear is rock solid and does an excellent job of protecting the components inside.

So ViewSonic electronic gadgets get some things right, but this first incarnation has too many flaws for a recommendation. The interface isn’t usable enough, hardware doesn’t tie to the software, and the feet its Android 1.6 – with no immediate prospect to upgrade to 2.2 – is yet another body blow.

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