Just as mobile phones are turning into slabs of glass that we tap and swipe, so are computers. And the mantra among manufacturers lately seems to be tablets, tablets and more tablets.
ViewSonic, best known as a company that makes computer screens, has jumped on the bandwagon with three new touch-screen tablet devices.
The ViewPad 7, ViewPad 10 and ViewPad 10s, which hit the market a few months ago, each run on different versions of the Android operating system, with the ViewPad 10 also running Windows 7. The Taipei Times recently took these products for a spin.
But first, to address the elephant in the room: If you’re looking for a tablet computer that will outdo the iPad, don’t get your hopes up — at least for now. Apple has set the bar high with the iPad’s solid, beautiful hardware, robust operating system and user-friendly design.
So it’s not surprising that ViewSonic (like most other companies) has tried to hone in on features that the iPad doesn’t have — a smaller size, for one.
The ViewPad 7, which retails for around NT$9,900, sports a 7-inch screen. It’s easy to hold with one hand and fits in a large coat pocket, and has dimensions similar to a slim paperback book.
ViewPad 7 runs on Android 2.2, and using it is like using an oversized Android phone. This is both good and bad. For things like surfing the Internet, watching videos or listening to music, it’s much more satisfying than the average four-inch screen on a smartphone. Everything is bigger and easier to see. And the ViewPad 7 isn’t as unwieldy as the iPad if you’re on public transport.
One shortcoming of the device, though, is typing. Android 2.2’s touch-screen keyboard is designed for mobile phones, and on the ViewPad 7’s 7-inch screen, it’s blown up to scale. Typing is laborious; the keys are oversized and I couldn’t pick up a rhythm. It felt like typing with just one finger, all the time. And the keyboard layout was maddening. There are five separate pages, each for letters, numbers and punctuation marks.
The ViewPad 7 doesn’t just feel like an oversized Android phone, it is an oversized Android phone. You can plug a 3G SIM card into ViewPad 7 to make phone calls or connect to the Internet, if you don’t mind using the earphone and microphone set included in the package. As a phone, it gets the job done, and it’s a cinch to set up your contacts if you have everything stored in a Google account.
But the ViewPad 7’s biggest strengths are the basics. Web browsing is fast, if occasionally jittery. If you use Gmail, it’s likely that you will appreciate the included Gmail app. Skype works like a charm. The Facebook and Twitter apps also work well and look good, despite the ViewPad 7’s less-than-glorious 800 pixel by 400 pixel-resolution screen. And yes, you can play Angry Birds on the ViewPad 7.
I found the battery life to be a respectable four-and-a-half hours, and that time included watching the 98-minute documentary It Might Get Loud, featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Sitting in a quiet room, the ViewPad 7’s speakers were loud enough to enjoy listening and watching their guitar jams. You’ll need a Micro SD card, though, to store any photos (there are front and rear facing cameras), music or movies, as the ViewPad 7 only has 512MB of memory built in.
VIEWPAD 10 AND 10S