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ViewSonic would like to be known as more than a monitor specialist, and its 28 October multiple product launch in central London should help that process. Along with new monitors, both 3D and touchscreen, the company showed off projectors for business and entertainment, an HD video camera (also '3D' capable) and more.
However, the headline for many attending journalists was the chance to get their hands on a brace of previously announced tablets — the 10in. dual-OS (Android 1.6 and Windows 7) ViewPad 10 and the 7in. Android 2.2-based ViewPad 7.
The 10in. ViewPad 10 is an obvious iPad competitor, and is notable for being a dual-boot device: when you start up the system, you can select between Android 1.6 or Windows 7 (Home Premium). At present, you have to reboot to switch operating systems, but ViewSonic says it's working on a more elegant solution.
The ViewPad 10 is powered by a 1.66GHz Atom N455 processor, which explains the presence of Android 1.6 — there's currently no x86 port of the latest Android 2.2 (Froyo) release, which is disappointing. It uses Intel's NM10 chipset and comes with 1GB of DDR3 RAM plus a 16GB solid-state drive. Storage expansion is available via a mobile-phone-style MicroSD card slot (no card is provided).
Measuring 27.5cm wide by 17cm deep by 1.45cm thick and weighing 835g, the ViewPad 10 is similar in footprint, slightly thicker and 155g heavier than the iPad. The capacitive multi-touch LED-backlit screen offers slightly fewer pixels (1,024 by 600) than the iPad (1,024 by 768). There's no integrated mobile broadband, but you get Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth and GPS. As well as two USB 2.0 ports, there's a Mini-VGA connector and an audio-out jack. Above the screen (in landscape mode) is a 1.3-megapixel VGA camera. The battery is a 3,200mAh lithium-polymer unit; ViewSonic's doumentation makes no claim for its longevity.
The ViewPad 10 will be available from 1 November at around £499 (inc. VAT). If that sounds steep, you'll be interested in ViewSonic's cash-back scheme, which will return up to £135 (£125 plus £10 towards postage and packing) when you trade in existing (less than four-year-old, with proof of purchase) IT equipment after buying your ViewPad 10 from Scan, Misco, Wstore or Expansys.
The 7in. ViewPad 7 is out of the same drawer as Samsung's Galaxy Tab, and also competes with Dell's 5in. Streak. The ViewPad 7 uses a 600MHz ARM-based Qualcomm MSM7227 processor, and can therefore run the latest 2.2 release of Android — albeit without support for the latest Flash 10.1 player. That's disappointing, but the device does have full access to Google's Android Market.
There's 512MB of RAM and the same amount of internal flash storage, with expansion available via a MicroSD card slot. Because it's runnning Android 2.2, you can install and run apps from a MicroSD card (no card is supplied though).
Measuring 17.9cm wide by 11cm deep by 1.79cm thick, the ViewPad 7 has a slightly smaller footprint than Samsung's Galaxy Tab but is noticeably thicker. The weights are almost identical (375g versus 380g). The ViewPad 7's capacitive touch-screen has a smartphone-like resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, compared to the Galaxy Tab's sharper 1,024 by 600.
As well as Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and Assisted GPS, the ViewPad 7 has integrated mobile broadband (HSPA) and can serve as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for other wireless devices. It's a quad-band GSM phone too, although you should use a Bluetooth headset if you want to make calls on it without looking ridiculous.
There's a mini-USB connector for charging and data sync, plus an audio jack. There are two webcams: a 3-megapixel unit at the back and a front-facing VGA camera for videoconferencing. The battery is a 3,240mAh lithium-polymer unit, for which ViewSonic claims 4-6 hours 'heavy, continuous' use and 600h on standby.
The ViewPad 7 will be available from 15 November at around £399 (inc. VAT). ViewSonic operates a similar cash-back scheme to the 10in. model, this time returning up to £110 (£100 plus £10 p&p).