ViewSonic gTablet Review, Begging To Be Rooted - HotHardware

ViewSonic gTablet Review, Begging To Be Rooted

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For reference, the gTablet is slightly wider than an iPad, not quite as tall and just a hair thicker at .54 inches, versus the iPad .5" thick frame.  It also weighs just .05lbs more than the iPad.  In reality, it's about the same size as an iPad only it comes in that 16:9 aspect ratio we all were expecting in Apple's design but didn't turn out that way.  The gTablet's build quality in general is about as good as the iPad but it's not adorned with a brushed aluminum backing.  ViewSonic opted instead for a high quality dense black plastic casing all around.


One of the greatest advantages that an Android tablet has over Apple's tablet is the openness of the design.  No matter how Mr. Job's likes to portray his devices as being open, you simply can't get around the fact that there is currently very little user access to the iPad, unless you want to go through that synch cable and iTunes.  The gTablet, on the other hand, has not only an SD Flash card slot but also a mini USB and a full sized USB port.  Getting files onto and off the gTablet is as simple as plugging in a USB cable, USB memory stick or SD card. ViewSonic also included a docking port on the device, and an optional docking station with HDMI output is available as well.  In short, connectivity is abundant with the gTablet.



The capacitive touch screen on the gTablet is relatively responsive and, as with most tablets and larger smartphone devices on the market today, it will change orientation depending on how your hold it.  Seen here is the gTablet with a stock Android 2.2 (FroYo) homescreen.  The gTablet's Android-based navigation buttons on the top right edge of the slate are also capacitive touch enabled.  There are buttons for search, home, menu and back navigation functions.


gTablet vs iPad - The right aspect but viewing angle; what viewing angle?

The screen itself on the gTablet has a native resolution of 1024X600, which is a modest number of pixels for a display of this size and aspect, though we'd always take a higher resolution.  Some 10-inch netbooks support 1366X768 resolution, for example, in a 10.1-inch LCD.  The gTablet also has nice contrast and brightness, with one rather significant caveat; you have to view it fairly straight-on because the viewing angles of the device are pretty bad.  Seen here next to the iPad (arguably tough competition since Apple's slate is significantly more expensive but hey, we're comparing 10-inch slates here), the gTablet loses almost all its brightness at about 45º or so.  Also, a rather odd issue we discovered is that the screen actually has a significantly better viewing angle if you flip it upside-down (navigation buttons on the left).  As we researched this, we discovered on a few forum threads that users were claiming their gTablet was built with the screen installed incorrectly, upside-down.  We contacted ViewSonic about this and they responded that the issue hasn't been reported here in the ViewSonic US QA department but that the factory would look at it.  Regardless, we observed this anomaly and also asked a few folks around the office to take a look for themselves.  Everyone agreed, hold this thing flipped over 180 degrees and you can see it much better, plain and simple.  It remains to be seen if this is a confirmed manufacturing defect and if ViewSonic is going to formally address it.




Tap 'n Tap's split keyboard is actually quite nice but the UI itself really gets in the way sometimes...

Then there's Tap 'n Tap.  To be perfectly honest upfront, we're generally critical of UI overlays of this sort.  After all, these are thin an light, ultra-low power devices we're talking about here, so running two user interface stacks is just going to consume additional resources.  Dell has done a pretty good job with their Stage UI for their Streak tablet, all-in-one desktops and netbooks but it's a tall order to design something that has a light resource footprint and actually enables a better user experience.  Unfortunately, Tap 'n Tap does not deliver here.

The primary home screen that you see above looks a bit out dated and bland, but that's not the real issue -- what really takes the wind out of our sails is how much it slows the system down.  ViewSonic has been very diligent about releasing over-the-air updates that have improved the Tap n' Tap experience but still, the software just feels bloated and clunky.  About the only thing we liked with the UI, was its split keyboard, which does do a nice job with a key layout that delivers a solid typing interface for capacitive touch screens. 

Tap n' Tap is sort of a necessary evil however, with the gTablet, at least currently.  Since Google isn't allowing the Android Market on platforms larger than 7-inches, at least this UI gives you some free utilities to work with, like email, contacts, weather, etc.  This is all expected to change upon the release of Google's Honeycomb OS (Android 3.0) and then it's up to ViewSonic to deliver a Honeycomb ROM update.  In the mean time, and in order to get our benchmark apps installed on gTablet, we ended up rooting the device and installing a custom ROM from XDA-Developers forum.  We followed this guide and installed TNT Lite

With a little elbow grease, this ROM allows you to keep the Tap 'n Tap keyboard as well as the settings control panel, but strips back the image to more of a stock FroYo installation with the ability to enable the Android Marketplace.  With TNT Lite, the gTablet is definitely more responsive and with Android Market at your fingertips, you pretty much have what you need in terms of utilities and apps.  Again, this is not an "out-of-the-box" user experience however, so don't expect this level of functionality out of the gTablet, unless you're prepared to gets your hands dirty and work with a custom ROM like this.

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I would have expected a better display from a company who primarily makes Displays....

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I'm not into tablets...yet..But anytime Dave does a video review , I'm all eyes and ears. This could make a great gift for a special someone if the IPad is out of you budget range or if you prefer Android. After looking at this video , I can say I'm starting to like tablets.

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I find it interesting that tablets have really "Come out" since the Ipads release. I think its funny that people think the Ipad was the first. But there have been windows based tablets out for years. And Android FTW!!!

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@Der Meister

Yep! I still have a Compaq Microsoft Tablet PC sitting on my desk at home!! I still use it from time to time. Microsoft should re launch Tablet PC for Windows 7 without the need for a special pen/stylus. Maybe a Windows Phone 7 tablet with a Tegra 2, coupled with XBox Live, a Windows Phone 7 Tablet of that nature would grab tons market share for Microsoft in my opinion.

At the very least a Windows 7 Tablet with Tegra 2 and XBox Live with Office Mobile 2010.

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ACurry:

@Der Meister

Yep! I still have a Compaq Microsoft Tablet PC sitting on my desk at home!! I still use it from time to time. Microsoft should re launch Tablet PC for Windows 7 without the need for a special pen/stylus. Maybe a Windows Phone 7 tablet with a Tegra 2, coupled with XBox Live, a Windows Phone 7 Tablet of that nature would grab tons market share for Microsoft in my opinion.

At the very least a Windows 7 Tablet with Tegra 2 and XBox Live with Office Mobile 2010.

Hi ACurry.  I like that there's someone else with a bunch of old-tech on his desk, but I really must disagree with anyone recommending Win tablets just on geek principal.  :)  I simply haven't seen one that was worth half the price yet.

You intermixed references to Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 in your post.  I'm not sure which you meant, since they are of course completely different OSes with no app cross-compatiblity.

Assuming you're just talking about Windows Phone 7:  I don't think a tablet with it would grab a lot of market share since it's not really catching on even on phones.  It hasn't been mentioned much, but even Windows Mobile (their old phone OS) outsold Windows Phone 7 (despite the MS buy one get one free deal) this past quarter... and MS ended up losing 3.1% market share.  In the end, all WinPho7 gets you is fewer available apps, when compared to an iPad or Android tablet.

http://blogs.computerworld.com/17727/new_sales_figures_show_windows_phone_7_sales_go_from_bad_to_worse  

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/1/prweb8101410.htm

Also, Steve Ballmer has said that Windows Phone 7 is dead the second Windows 8 comes out.  So, I wouldn't want to invest much in apps for it.

If you were talking about the actual and confusingly similarly named "Windows 7" - that one won't run on Tegra since it's an ARM CPU.  The Intel CPUs get between 1/2 to 1/3rd the battery life, so that pretty much kneecaps it there - even if the Win7 interface wasn't geared to mouse/keyboard over touch.  Sure, an Intel based tablet would be able to run some desktop apps, but anything that's not a 3D game is going to have a similar if not better app for free on the other platforms, and desktop games won't run anywhere near full speed on the Intel tablets due to the miserly video chipsets.

Just out of curiosity, what would you (to everyone, not just ACurry) do with a Windows tablet that you can't do with a Meego, Android, iPad, etc.?  I'm genuinely curious if there's some aspect I'm overlooking.

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Being an owner of this tablet for a few months, I can say it is an awesome piece of hardware! With that said, it is an awesome piece of hardware after visiting the xda developers website and loading a custom rom.  Of the 3 current (Jan 2011) roms, Vegan seems to be the best in my opinion. Sadly the custom rom eradicated the beauty of the GUI Tap n Tap interface, however the absence of the sluggish operation of Tap n Tap is an easy thing to live with.

The out of the box experience of this tablet will likely make you desire a refund. DO NOT RETURN IT! You'd be missing out on a stellar mobile experience. All of the issues, (horrible performance, force close problems, memory errors and etc.) are a thing of the past. If you are capable of following simple easy technical instructions after downloading the official Viewsonic updated rom (Dec 2010) or as I said above, downloading one of the custom roms, you'll now find this tablet hard to put down. You'll start thinking of reasons to use it. In short you'll love it.

On the xda developers website as well as other noteworthy Android forums you'll also find a "fix" to give you the official Android Market instead of the "G-Market". Viewsonic is beginning to embrace the xda developers website forums. Their VP of marketing has posted in the forums for this device, on the Viewsonic support page for the G-Tablet it mentions xda developers forums.

If you buy this tablet you will be very pleased; people are beginning to call the Viewsonic G-Tablet, the poor man's ($249.99 - $379.99) iPad. Personally as an owner of 3 tablet devices (iPad, Viewsonic G-Tablet) and a Archos IT 5), the G-Tablet is my favorite tablet. Apps that are optimized for dual core are just beginning to appear (Dungeon Defenders, and it seems Sears and Office Depot are the only sellers of this tablet currently.

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I dont know Dave... might be an excellent device.... but tablets... i still dont see em... perhaps my wallets speaking.... but once the fad dies down... then we'll look upon these days and say.... Aha! we were idiots... photo-projection is totally the way to go! hahah

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You guys don't update your scores very often it seems. Your scores for Linpack for the EVO and the Streak are clearly using the older version of the program, whereas everything else is using the newer version (2.1 roms don't need the new version.)

It kinda makes your review look silly.... and EVO 4G is, at best, as fast as the Galaxy Tab in cpu speed and is nowhere close to the G-Tablet.

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