ViewSonic ViewPad 7: Tablet and Phone, With No Contract
At a Glance
Viewsonic VPAD7 Tablet Computer
This Android 2.2 tablet packs more features than most, but it also has its drawbacks, including a mediocre display.
The ViewPad 7 marks the ViewSonic's first foray into the tablet arena. The device packs a fair number of features into its squared-off 7-inch frame--most notably the ability to handle 3G data and the ability to double as a phone (if you pay for a voice plan and insert a SIM card into the slot). Unfortunately, the ViewPad 7 disappoints in other respects, including display quality, button navigation, and battery life. And you'll pay dearly for the contract-free flexibility of the ViewPad, which is priced at $430 as of January 31, 2011.
The unit runs Android 2.2 (Froyo), just as the Dell Streak 7 does, but Its configuration isn't as beefy; the ViewPad 7 carries 512MB of internal memory, a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 ARM11CPU, and 512MB of user-accessible flash memory (upgradable to 32GB via the microSD Card slot). Among its other features are a 3G radio, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The ViewPad 7 has a 7-inch capacitive multitouch LCD screen, with 800-by-480-pixel resolution--lower than the resolution of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I found the LCD display too bright for reading books and documents for more than about 10 minutes. Text looked pixelated, with the dots in the letters distractingly easy to see.
The tablet's picture quality and video quality were better. Colors looked bright and vivid, and I noticed pixelation only while watching the tablet's live wallpaper. Nevertheless, the colors lacked the vibrancy of those on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
The ViewPad 7 also has a mini-USB connector, for attaching a data/charging cable to your PC. Unlike some tablets--including the Galaxy Tab and the Barnes & Noble Nook Color--ViewSonic's tablet can charge off a USB port.
ViewSonic claims that the lithium-polymer rechargeable battery will last for 4 to 6 hours of continuous use and for 60 hours of standby time, but in my testing the battery lasted for only about 2 hours of continuous use.
The ViewPad 7's overall design--which features a flat back and rounded edges--is pleasing, though it's not especially streamlined or sexy. The tablet is a hair thinner than the Galaxy Tab and the Apple iPad, in at 0.45 inch thic, and it weighs 14 ounces--1 ounce more than the Galaxy Tab. Four navigational buttons occupy the bottom of the device (when you hold it vertically): one each for menu, settings, Web search, and back.
The ViewPad comes loaded with a largely stock version of Android 2.2, albeit one that includes such Google mobile services as Android Market and Maps navigation. Integration with your Gmail and other Google apps is quick and simple, thanks to the Google support. The one obvious variation is the vaguely three-dimensional scrolling effect of the apps menu.
Accessing my e-mail on the tablet was quick, and typing on the ViewPad7's on-screen Android keyboard was a pleasure thanks to the screen's responsiveness and the pop-up letters that appeared as I typed. I had no trouble downloading apps and games, either; Angry Birds took less than a minute to download and run on the device.
Preloaded apps include Documents to Go and Aldiko's impressive eReader app (which supports TXT, HTML, E-PUB and PDF, and has an on-board library and bookstore to keep your collection growing).
ViewSonic threw in a leatherette protective case for the ViewPad 7. Though aesthetically pleasing, the case proved to be something of a hindrance because it blocked access to some of the ports and volume buttons.
The ViewPad 7 follows the dual-camera trend by providing both a front-facing camera and a rear-facing camera, though neither was particularly impressive. The front-facing camera is a skimpy 0.3-megapixel unit, and the back-facing camera is a 3-megapixel version with auto-focus but no flash. Though image quality was marginal, I appreciated the video chat capabilities; you'll need to download an app to take advantage of video chat.
Making phone calls on the ViewPad 7 was a bit awkward due to the tablet's size: It's too large to use as a traditional phone. But for conducting calls via speakerphone or for video chatting, it's comfortable and works well.
The biggest dings against this device are its menu navigation, slow speed, poor battery life, and bulky design. At $430, it's one of the better contract-free Android 2.2 tablets, but that's small consolation given the caveats.
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