The last time we saw a Viewsonic tablet, it was in the form of the 7 inch ViewPad, a slate that came with a fair amount of features, but was let down by an average experience, poor touchscreen and the absence of Flash. Now we have the 10 inch version, and this time Viewsonic has promised some Flash support. Is this the Android tablet you’ve all been waiting for?
While other manufacturers release premium tablets, Viewsonic is targeting the middle market with a release that’s a little bit budget.
Priced at $599, the ViewPad 10s goes for a very minimalist look, the 10.1 inch LED screen encased within a black frame. A 1.3 megapixel camera sits in the middle of the frame facing you, the only camera found on the tablet. Without a rear camera, you won’t be using the ViewPad 10s for any photography like you can on other tablets in its class.
Under the hood, Viewsonic has opted for the same Nvidia Tegra 2 processor that’s making the rounds on other tablets, including the Motorola Xoom and Toshiba AT-100. Unlike those tablets, you won’t find any usable storage built in, with Viewsonic leaving a 16GB microSD card in the box for you to use in the memory slot.
There an abundance of ports, however, including a full size HDMI, USB 2.0 and headphone jack. There’s no 3G SIM card slot here though, only WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 supported.
The ViewPad 10s also has a different operating system than other 10 inch Android tablets: Android 2.2 “Froyo”, the same OS that has driven mobile phones for the past year.
With many other 10 inch Android tablets employing Google’s made-for-tablet Android Honeycomb, the Froyo OS in the 10s can be viewed very much as yesterday’s technology. Not bad, just not what you’d want in a new-release tablet.
Normally, Android 2.2 would have buttons – either physical or soft – to help the user get around parts of the operating system, such as the menu button to let you get access to file settings and the back button to let you go… well… back.
On the ViewPad 10s, these buttons are missing, with the designers opting for a clean look that drops all buttons from the face of the tablet. The back button can instead be found as a small button on one of the sides, with the rest of the normally present helper buttons integrated instead into the Android top bar that usually present.
Once you realise that this is how the ViewPad 10s deals with navigation, getting around the device is easy, with the back button on the side of the device helping you to get out of situations when your top bar disappears.
Unlike with the ViewPad 7, Flash is present here, though we suspect it’s not an official version, as we’re greeted with this on the home screen of the ViewPad 10s:
“The installed Flash Player was adjusted exclusively for your tablet. Please don’t download and install any other Flash Player from various website.”
Despite this warning, Flash runs well enough, with videos on YouTube attesting to this. We were also able to surf Flash-enabled websites, achieving something not even the Apple iPad can do.
Navigating around websites, listening to music, and switching between the few apps that exist on the ViewPad 10s show that there is performance to be had on this tablet, with the Tegra 2 performing without any noticeable lag.
Unfortunately, surfing the Flash-enabled web, listening to music, checking your email, and looking through pictures is about the extent of what the ViewPad 10s does satisfactorily.
Viewsonic’s choice of display is poor. The viewing angle is extremely narrow, meaning you need to be viewing from directly in front. Colour and sharpness are not up to the level of the competition, and the high reflectivity of the screen is distracting.
There’s also no Android Market. Even though the version of Android (2.2) on the ViewPad 10s wasn’t designed for tablet-style devices, an Android device without Android Market is an Android device that can’t install apps easily.
Without access to apps, the ViewPad 10s can’t benefit from the wide selection of software made available in Google’s Android Market, including apps, web browsers, Office tools, games, cameras, video players, music players, and pretty much anything and everything an Android phone would be able to use.
Viewsonic has left a program “App Center” on the ViewPad 10s, but we couldn’t get it working, leaving us with a tablet that wouldn’t receive any new programs easily.
And that’s the deal breaker: without access to the Android Market you can’t easily add functionality to this tablet, nor take advantage of its Tegra 2 processor.
If it had access to the Android Market, the ViewPad 10s would be a decent tablet, even without Android’s tablet-friendly Honeycomb OS.
It doesn’t, however, and that hobbles its abilities and limits it appeal.
Sure, it’s fine for browsing the web, some email, taking and viewing photos, and playing music, but without any form of upgradeable apps, it’s not the best solution, even for the $599 price.