|ViewSonic ViewPad 7 Tablet PC - Spec and Video Review|
|It seems like we've all been waiting for "the iPad killer." It's not that anybody thinks Apple's slate device needs to be knocked off its perch directly, but let's be honest, consumers benefit from competitive options to choose from, whether it be strictly on price or performance and innovation. 7 and 10-inch Android and Windows based tablets have been trickling out from various manufacturers over the past few months, though the pace of both development and release of these devices doesn't appear to be happening fast enough to keep pace with Apple this holiday season. Sure, Samsung stepped up with some significant buzz for the Galaxy Tab, but in a lot of ways the total solution just didn't have the same punch as Apple's new thin and light ultra-portable. And so we wait, while Android continues to become more robust as an OS and manufacturers from all over continue to polish and refine new slate PCs.
ViewSonic is a household name that many consumers can identify with in terms of their lineage in the LCD market. So, at least on the surface, it would make sense that a panel manufacturer (akin to Samsung actually) would have solid leverage in components and materials, to compete in the white-hot tablet arena. We gave you a preview of their 10-inch Tegra 2-based g-tablet, not long ago and we actually have that in house right now for testing, though there are OS updates coming that we're hearing should offer a better experience. In the meantime, we also have their 7-inch ViewPad 7 tablet here and it has been recently buffed out with Android 2.2 for what is arguably the best tablet experience on the market currently, at least on this side of the Apple fence. The ViewPad 7's 7-inch form factor is decidedly more portable than a 10-inch slate, and this device has every IO option you could ever want, including micro-USB, micro-SD card, and SIM card slots, as well as front and rear facing cameras.
Let's demo it for you quickly first and then we'll dive into performance and user experience.
USB, Bluetooth, micro-SD card slot, SIM card slot -- that's a laundry list of specifications above, many of which iPad owners wish they could lay claim to as well, save perhaps for the 600MHz ARM11 CPU and only 512MB of internal storage. However, drawing parallels to the iPad really isn't the right approach. The two are very different devices really, though competing in the same product segment. In addition, micro-SD cards are cheap, so dropping in another 16 - 32GB of storage could be a small $25 - $50 upgrade. And as you'll find out, that 600MHz ARM11 isn't quite as underpowered as you might think. Let's drop down another level for a closer look.
|A Closer Look At The ViewPad 7|
|From a high-level design perspective, the ViewPad 7 has a rather sturdy, almost bulky feel to it. It's a fairly thick device for a tablet, measuring .45-inches thick, but overall, portability with this slate is significantly better than with a 10-inch tablet. The ViewPad 7 weighs just under a pound and has a thick, squared-off aluminum bezel around its perimeter that accommodates the devices multitude of IO connectivity and expansion options.
Click images for high res.
Click images for high res.
In terms of its available options for connectivity, access and expansion, you really couldn't ask for more from a tablet. Perhaps some might miss the availability of a mini-HDMI or Displayport but that's a bit subjective, especially for a device of this size. The screen on the ViewPad 7 is a standard TFT display with capacitive touch and contrast ratio of 500:1. Its viewing angle capability isn't nearly as good as some of the Super AMOLED displays on the market (the screen's native resolution of 800X480 is no great shakes either) but that's where ViewSonic was able to shave some pennies to keep costs in line.
VIewSonic has the device configured with multiple customizable home screens that you can swipe through for quick access to your favorite utilities and apps. Speaking of swipe, swype text input capabilities are available on the ViewPad 7 as well. Finally, a recent update to the Android Marketplace has made finding an app or game that you're looking for, much easier and the interface itself is coming along nicely. Apple may just have some serious competition from Android yet.
Next up, let's step you through some performance numbers...
|We took the ViewPad 7 through a few of the more widely used tablet/smartphone benchmarks that you can currently find in the Android Marketplace. The nice thing about using some of these tests is that you can pull them down yourself if you have an Android device, run them and compareour results to your own equipment if you like.
** Please note: All scores on the devices listed below, were taken on Android 2.1 installations, with the exception of the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 and the second set of Dell Streak numbers, which were based on Android 2.2. At the time of testing Android 2.2 updates weren't available for the other devices.
With Linkpack and BenchmarkPi were looking at general CPU compute performance. As you'll note, the ViewPad 7 hangs tough with the other devices running Android 2.1 but can't keep pace with the Dell Streak when it's running the same version of Android 2.2.
In terms of 3D graphics performance the ViewPad 7 and Dell Streak, both of which sport Adreno 200 graphics cores, though the ViewPad's is likely clocked slightly slower to coincide with its slower 600MHz CPU clock, put up numbers very similar to each other. In fact the ViewPad actually edged out the Streak in Neocore and came up only about 10% short in An3DBench. However, neither device, even though running Android 2.2 versus the Epic 4G Android 2.1 scores here, can keep pace with the graphics muscle behind Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird processor with its PoweVR graphics core. Incidentally, the Epic 4G sports the same processor as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and as you can see, it scores even higher here, running Android 2.2 FroYo.
|Performance Summary and Conclusions|
|ViewPad 7 Performance Take-Aways: The ViewSonic ViewPad 7 pleasantly surprised us in spots and disappointed a bit in others. The device proved to be very responsive and actually offered better overall performance than we expected in anything from simple web browsing to a bit of 3D gaming. Small letdowns however were the viewing angle of its screen, combined with occasional glare problems. Finally, from strictly an analytical standpoint, the ViewPad 7's benchmark numbers with its FroYo installation, were actually quite respectable, again especially considering its base processor specifications. It appears Qualcomm's MSM7277 processor has been fairly well optimized for reasonably balanced performance.
In a market that is currently preparing for quite literally a deluge of new tablet offerings, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 and its larger 10-inch brother, the G-Tablet, have their work cut out for them. If we were to offer an ideal spec wish-list currently, we'd say it's either a Samsung Hummingbird or NVIDIA Tegra 2 under the hood, with 512MB - 1GB of RAM, 2G internal storage with expansion slots, Android 2.2 or 2.3 (Gingerbread) and at least a 5PM camera. Drop that all into a 10-inch slate for $399 or a 7-inch slate for $299, and you should be able to sell more than a few. The ViewPad 7 offers part of that feature set but with lower specifications overall and for an MSRP of $459. Are these shortcomings a showstopper for us? Not completely, no.
The ViewPad 7 is a high quality tablet that actually performs rather well overall and it does offer the ability to cheaply expand on-board storage. With FroYo at the helm, we found ourselves growing more and more fond of the device and think it would make for a decent supplemental PC companion for most folks. If ViewSonic were able to get the price down a bit more, it could even be a slam-dunk. We're taking a look at the 10-inch ViewSonic G-Tablet next. It's based on NVIDIA's Tegra 2 chip, and it's actually slightly lower cost, so stay tuned for details there. For now, we'll have to see how the market shakes out but for anyone interested in an Android tablet alternative to drown out all that iPad hype, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 is a reasonable option to consider.