The ViewSonic ViewPad 7 delivers Android 2.2 on a swift 7-inch capacitive display. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.One of the more intriguing underdogs of the tablet wars is ViewSonic–a company known more for computer monitors than portable computers.
It’s understandable that Google’s open source Android is on the majority of tabs out there, and this means across this OS, there’s a fair bit of choice. At the lower end of the Android tablet market is the ViewSonic ViewPad 7, a 7-inch tab with phone functionality, a front and rear camera and Froyo on board.
This device not only looks attractive, it has full access to the Android Market, lasts more than 7 hours on a charge, and can even be used to make calls–when you plug in a SIM card. However, compared to Samsung’s slate, you’ll have to make some sacrifices. Is the ViewPad 7 worth it or should you just spring for the Tab or iPad?
The ViewPad 7 comes with a protective case; two small plastic tabs allow the tablet to lock into the case. It’s a small but welcome feature.
The ViewSonic ViewPad 7 is a thick tablet with presence. Unlike the Dell Streak for example, which is slim to the point that it could just be classified as a big phone, at 7 inches, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 is most certainly not a phone, despite offering phone functionality. Like the iPhone 4, both the front and back of the ViewPad 7 are glossy black, and the edges are bordered in a silvery plastic. While the overall look is somewhat sleek, it picks up and shows fingerprints fairly easily.
The capacitive LCD screen measures in at 7 inches and has a resolution of 480×800 pixels. As expected, this makes for soft detail and an overall lack of crispness. While brightness levels are OK, viewing angles are terrible, reminiscent of some budget non touchscreen handsets. On a large device like this, it makes the 7 inch screen redundant for movies unless holding it directly in front of you, which is a real shame. ViewPad 7 is about the same size and weight (13.2 ounces) as the Samsung Galaxy Tabs, but where the Tabs have a slightly rounded underside, the ViewPad 7′s is flat
To the right of the display (in landscape mode) are the Android icons: Back, Search, Home, and Settings. Home is not the standard icon, On the two short sides are small speaker grilles; next to one of them is the power button. The top of the ViewPad 7 has volume controls, as well as a plastic cover that protects the miniSD card and the SIM card slots. While to the left the front facing camera and light sensor. In addition to the stereo speakers, one on either side, you can also find the power button on the left. The 3.5mm headphone jack is unfortunately on the bottom along with the miniUSB port as well as the mic. On the rear of the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 is a glossy backing and a centered 3MP camera.
UI, Functionality and Keyboard
The ViewSonic ViewPad 7 ships with a relatively untouched version of Android 2.2 onboard. This means that despite the 600MHz processor, it stands the best chance of offering a stable and smooth UI experience While it runs Android 2.2, the ViewPad 7 only has four home screens, a minor quibble. Still, we like the 3D scrolling when viewing the list of installed apps, and it’s a simple matter to place a shortcut or widget on the screen.
Swiping across stock Android isn’t as intuitive on the 7 inch screen as on a 3.7 inch screen, and thanks to no custom UI everything feels clumsy from the over-sized keyboard through to the haptic feedback being a bit too aggressive making the large device rumble unpleasantly.
The homesreen is for the most part a stock Froyo experience and is locked in landscape orientation. There are three icons always present: dialer, menu and web. There is place for all your favourite apps and widgets, with them being displayed at a good size. Personalization is all predictably Android, with static and live wallpapers, widgets and shortcuts. Everything ticks along smoothly for the most part, however, going through menus and multi-tasking many apps reveals the limitations of the on-board 600MHz processor.
Talking about Keyboard, The ViewPad 7 gives you three keyboards to choose from: a standard QWERTY, a modified QWERTY (two letters per key), and a dial pad-style keyboard; you can swipe to change between them. It was easiest to type using the standard keyboard, although your thumbs have to reach for the middle keys in landscape mode. The keys on this layout are actually bigger than the Galaxy Tab’s, while the latter tablet has more space between the keys.
You can turn on a dictionary that guesses at words while you’re typing them, which had fairly good prediction. A nice feature in the web browser’s keyboard is a “www.*.com” button in place of the space bar, which inserts the standard beginning and end of a web page address. You just have to remember to hit this button before you type the URL.
Multimedia and Performance
The Viewpad 7 has a 3-megapixel camera on its rear, and a VGA camera on its front; With okay colour reproduction, not so great levels of detail and similarly mediocre exposure, it obviously pales in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s shooter. With no flash, night time and indoor performance isn’t great, and while it can handle basic macro photography, it won’t produce stellar results. Video capture caps out at 640×480 and as with photo-capture, is decidedly mediocre. It looks passable on the ViewSonic ViewPad 7′s low resolution screen; however isn’t so great once exported off the device.
The two speakers on either side of the ViewPad 7′s display served up fairly good sound for a tablet. They were plenty loud when watching movies and the like. We could easily hear The Bravery’s “An Honest Mistake” from across a medium-size office, and the audio wasn’t too tinny at maximum volume.
The gallery and video player are both standard Android offerings so there won’t be any surprises, however, what will surprise and disappoint are the design flaws that render them sub-par. and nowhere do you feel this more than in video playback. On top of this, the 3.5mm headphone jack’s position below the tablet (when in landscape) makes no sense. Huge, huge design flaws that mean users can’t comfortably watch a movie with the device rested . it will play MP4 files up to 800×480.
Looking at Battery life, The ViewPad lasts 7 hours and 26 minutes over Wi-Fi; that’s about an hour shy of the Verizon Galaxy Tab (8:18) and the iPad (9:28), but that’s still decent endurance.
Talking overall Performance, Compared to a 1-GHz Hummingbird CPU for the Galaxy Tabs. Nevertheless, this slate performed pretty well,When watching videos using the YouTube app, we found that action was smooth for the most part, but we noticed some hitching with the HD. the ViewPad pauses for about a half a second when the display switches from portrait to landscape modes in the browser, as well as when using the keyboard in Notepad.
The tablet is responsive, with web browsing being the most intuitive and enjoyable aspect of the ViewSonic ViewPad 7. You can use either double-tab or multi-touch in order to zoom in or out. This works well for the most part, and so does the scrolling.
Internet, 3G Facility and Apps
With quad-band 3G and tri-band GSM, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 offers in the US what the Samsung Galaxy Tab won’t – phone functionality, however, this isn’t the situation in Europe with the European Tab’s phone enabled. Other connectivity options on the device include Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and a miniUSB connector.
Despite what appeared to be a full HSDPA signal, browsing speeds were quite slow. It took an average of more than 20 seconds to load the full New York Times site, and almost 45 seconds to load laptopmag.com. ESPN’s mobile site, however, loaded in a quick 7 seconds.
Looking at apps On-board software includes Documents to Go, a simple note pad, an ebook reader as well as your usual Android tool kit. With 500MB of memory on-board, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 really needs a card from the get go. Neither the camera app, or Docs to Go will work without one. The ViewPad 7 is one of the few Android tablets available that can access the Android Market. Apps such as Angry Birds and Slacker filled the screen nicely, as did the Raging Thunder 2 racing game.
At $479 (expected to be lower through some outlets), the Viewsonic ViewPad 7 is worth a look for those who crave an inexpensive Android tablet that’s easy to tote, especially if you don’t want to be locked into a two-year contract. but other than that it fails to present the user with a pleasant experience as far as resolution and viewing angles go. Sadly, this makes the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 pretty uncomfortable for watching movies or simply using the tablet in certain positions. Note the ViewPad 7 is still a nice touchscreen device to surf the web on the go with. And you should be able to plug in a SIM Card for making phone calls and surfing the web when you’re beyond hotspot range.
If you look beyond these things, the obvious contender would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab, with the same form factor, but better specs across the board, higher-resolution screen, faster processor, and Samsung’s customized software. However, you can’t purchase a Wi-Fi-only model of the Tab yet, which may sway some in the ViewPad 7′s direction. Future options due out include the BlackBerry PlayBook, and if you’re prepared to sacrifice on phone functionality, consider the seminal mainstream tablet, the Apple iPad.
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