ViewSonic ViewPad tablets review: first look
With many of IFA's halls still resembling something more akin to a building site than a cutting-edge technology show, we were surprised to find that ViewSonic's stand was already up and running. And, to a chorus of heart-stopping crashes and bangs from the grumpy Germanic workmen nearby, ViewSonic gave us a hands-on look at its latest 7in and 10in ViewPad Tablets.
The smallest of the touch-powered pair, the ViewPad 7, is a truly gorgeous little device. There's more than a passing resemblance to a gigantified iPhone 4, with the aluminium-effect strip around its edge and glossy black back paying a more than welcome homage to Apple's finest. We were entirely surprised to hear that it's an all-plastic construction, though it feels pleasingly solid. You'd better have a cloth to hand, though, it's a veritable smudge-fest.
Those good looks are backed up with a solid set of hardware within. ViewSonic has thankfully resisted the temptation to fiddle with custom skins for Android 2.1, and the combination of a responsive capacitive 800 x 480 display - yes, it 's multitouch - and a 600MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor makes for a fairly responsive experience. Transitions between pages were a touch juddery and scrolling through websites wasn't perfectly smooth, but it's certainly usable. The screen is bright and crisp, too.
And in an attempt to usurp the Dell Streak as the largest mobile phone in existence, the 7in ViewPad also doubles as a phone, with cellular and 3G modems nestling alongside 802.11g and Bluetooth. Physical connections, meanwhile, extend to a headphone output and both SIM and microSD card slots.
A bigger tablet to swallow
The 10.1in ViewPad is a rather different and novel beast, however. ViewSonic has brought netbook and tablet together in an unholy matrimony, with Intel's Atom N455 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD lurking within. Stranger still, this tablet is a dual-booting curio, with both Windows 7 Home Premium and Google's Android OS present.
First impressions are rather promising. The 10.1in screen opts for an unsurprising 1,024 x 600 pixel resolution, and is bright and clear. Our first moments with Windows 7 were surprisingly painless, too: we expected the Atom processor and 1GB of memory to be horrendously sluggish, but it wasn't the case. We were soon prodding our way through Windows with surprising fluidity. Fast, it is not. Usable, it certainly is.
Switch to Android, however, and the ViewPad flies. The Atom processor makes mincemeat of the lightweight OS's modest demands, and responded to finger presses and swipes with astounding fluidity. The only problem? Intel's Atom only allows for the 1.6 build of Android and, as yet, 2.2 is just a glimmer in Google's eye.
Also, in a decision which is likely to disappoint those with unnaturally enormous hands, Viewsonic has done away with the phone functionality in favour of an optional 3G modem. 802.11g wireless is ever-present, though.
Build quality isn't quite the match of its 7in cousin, but the 835g ViewPad 10 still feels nice and solid in the hand. A brushed aluminium rear contrasts nicely with the matte and gloss black spreading around its sides and bezel, and a couple of USB ports lie alongside a headphone output and a microSD card slot.
Both models will be hitting the shelves sometime in October, with the ViewPad 7 retailing for around 395 Euros, and the ViewPad 10 for 499 Euros. We'll have to reserve judgement until they make their way across the channel to PC Pro's labs, but until then, we're quietly optimistic that they'll be well worth waiting for.