Viewsonic's Android tablets haven't particularly impressed so far, offering the usual ODM basic touch features and running a phone OS stretched to fill a larger screen. We spent some time at CES 2011 looking at their next generation of devices.
First on the agenda was a new 10" tablet, the Viewpad 10S. While what we saw was a sample, and not the final product, this was a much more impressive device. Based on NVIDIA's Tegra 2, with 3G and GPS modules, and with a multi-touch capacitive screen, the tablet we saw was running Android 2.2. Asked whether it would run Honeycomb (as its lack of hardware buttons suggests), we were told that if Viewsonic was able to do an over-the-air upgrade to Android's first true tablet OS it would. For Android 2.2, soft buttons had been added to the menu bar.
Weighing in at 130g, the 10S tablet has an HDMI output and a microSD slot (with support for 32GB cards). The HDMI port means that the 10S will be able to deliver full 1080P HD DTS-encoded video to external screens – though the demonstration we saw did have some stutter. Viewsonic showed us the device with a docking station, which lit up to guide the tablet into place – something we felt was a nice touch. The docking station has three USB parts alongside an HDMI connection.
Viewsonic also demonstrated a much smaller device, the Viewpad 4. Again running Android 2.2 (but with a planned OTA upgrade to 2.3), the Viewpad 4 is a 4" pocket tablet with phone capability (but most definitely not a phone), based on Qualcomm's 1Ghz Snapdragon 8255. It was a little on the thick and chunky side, with what appeared to be excellent battery life and a very bright and clear HD-quality screen. Viewsonic has squeezed in SRS surround sound as well as HDMI support, making it a contender as a pocket media player.
With so many Android tablets at CES 2011 it's going to be difficult for companies like Viewsonic to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However the new Viewpads do have enough features to stand out in the crowd – however, as always, pricing will be critical.