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ViewSonic ViewPad 10e

ViewSonic's new ViewPad is something of a gamble. The 9.
Written by First Take , Previews blog log-in

ViewSonic's new ViewPad is something of a gamble. The 9.7in. Android tablet is selling for £199 (inc. VAT) at Argos, a price that makes it very attractive for anyone wanting to try a tablet but baulking at the cost of top-notch devices. The Wi-Fi-only iPad 2 is currently selling for £399 (inc. VAT), for example, and that's quite a price difference.

ViewSonic is pitching the ViewPad 10e as sitting between the Kindle Fire and iPad 2. There's quite a lot of territory in that space, but what's clear is that ViewSonic doesn't see this tablet as a fast gaming device — more as a web browsing, e-reader kind of tablet.

That's fine as a market position, but we're not so sure the ViewPad 10e really has what it takes to satisfy it in the long term. It certainly looks OK, with a solid build, nice rounded corners and neat touch buttons on the front of the chassis for Android's Menu, Home and Back functions. It's also thin at 9.1mm (the iPad 2 is 8.8mm thick). We're not concerned about its lack of 3G or by the absence of a rear-mounted camera. The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera is perfectly adequate — we're not big fans of tablet-based photography.

ViewSonic ViewPad 10e

What concerns us is the implementation of Android and some of the other specifications. For example, 4GB of internal storage seems low even on a budget tablet, even when you can boost it with microSD cards. The inability of the ViewPad 10e to charge from USB is a dreadful failing. We really don't want to carry a special, round-pin charger for any device these days, and with a battery life rated at 5.5 hours, if you're planning to be away overnight you're likely to need to do this.

The single-core 1GHz Cortex A8 processor delivered smooth video, including video embedded in web pages thanks to Flash support. But ViewSonic's ViewScene 3D seven-screened skin for Android delivered juddery rather than smooth transitions. We preferred the five-screen Launcher skin, which is very close to vanilla Android.

The 1024-by-768 pixel screen seemed a little lacking in clarity. It's by no means poor, and not too noticeable if the ViewPad 10e is used on its own rather than set against other better-specified tablets, but it is noticeable.

These are not the biggest issues with the ViewPad 10e, and they are all, quite probably, classifiable as compromises people could live with.

But the implementation of Android could be the downfall of the ViewPad 10e. ViewSonic has chosen Android 2.3, which Google has stated very clearly is not appropriate for tablets. ViewSonic has promised an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but like version 2.3 this will not be a certified version.

So that means that, out of the box, while ViewSonic has bundled the Amazon Kindle app, Dropbox, internet radio and a Twitter application, there's no Google Maps, no Gmail and no Android Market on board. ViewSonic does provide the 1Mobile Market, which offers thousands of apps (including Google Maps and Gmail), but not everything you'll find in the Android Market is here. There are ways for the technically minded to get the Android Market, but we suspect the technically minded are not the market for this particular tablet.

All this sounds pretty damning — but in fact, the ViewSonic ViewPad 10e isn't a terrible tablet. We can see people choosing it and being happy enough with what they get if all they want is some web surfing, e-book reading and access to apps for download.

The problem is really that Android can be so much better, and anyone prepared to settle for the ViewPad 10e would do themselves a favour if they saved a little more money and bought a fully Google-certified and generally better-specified tablet.

Sandra Vogel

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