ViewSonic envisioned the ViewPad 10 as a tablet for those who want to work in Windows 7 and play in Android. This 10-inch Wi-Fi tablet has the heart of a netbook, with an Intel Atom N455 Pine Trail processor powering Windows 7 Professional and the now-ancient Android 1.6. Unfortunately, this $679 tablet (as reviewed) costs $80 more than the Android 3.0-equipped Motorola Xoom (on contract) and $179 more than the Apple iPad 2. Can this dual-personality slate satisfy anyone? In a word, no.
One of the ViewPad 10's bright points is its classy yet understated design. The rectangular tablet measures 10.8 x 6.7 inches and is only 0.57 inches thick. The tablet feels stable, but our hands quickly tired from supporting the device's 1.8 pounds.
The front of the tablet features a thick black bezel with a webcam and three status lights underneath glass. The glass is almost edge-to-edge, save for a black plastic panel on the right that houses the power and two function buttons, which behave differently based on whether you're using Android or Windows 7 (more on them later).
The back of the ViewPad 10 sports a brushed aluminum finish with two speakers on the top and bottom of the left side, a vent on the lower-right side, and "ViewSonic" etched in white in the center. We really like the premium feel of the brushed metal, but it's marred by too many product stickers. There are five in all: one with the ViewSonic model name, serial number, and voltage information; two for Windows 7; one for Intel; and our personal favorite, "Warranty Void If Seal Damage."
The left side of the device houses the power jack, microSD card slot, a mini VGA port, two full-size USB ports, a headphone jack, and a microphone. On the top you'll find a paperclip-required reset button (not a good sign) and a vent which roughly lines up with the vent on the bottom.
After streaming a Hulu video for 15 minutes in Windows 7, the front of the ViewPad 10 warmed up to 92 degrees on the left and 85 degrees on the right. The back of the device showed a similar heat distribution, as it was 99 degrees on the back left side and 89 degrees on right. We consider any temperature above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable, and the left side of the ViewPad 10 was noticeably toasty in our left hand, though our right hand stayed cool.
Display and Camera
The ViewPad 10's 10-inch LCD LED backlit display features a netbook-esque 1024 x 600 resolution. The picture looked clear but kicked back a lot of reflections. When we watched a parody video of an Angry Birds movie trailer, the ViewPad 10 was so reflective that we found it hard to make out the darker images. Likewise, while typing and working with the tablet while it was lying flat on a desk, we had to put our face almost directly over the display in order to see what we were doing. This made typing on the virtual keyboard in both Android and Windows 7 next to impossible with the device laying flat. Turning the brightness all the way up improved visibility.
The ViewPad 10 features a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. A call via Skype looked clear, though it was bit washed out.
The ViewPad 10's two speakers produced clear, but not terribly loud or remarkable, audio. We found the lack of physical volume control buttons to be very frustrating. In Windows 7, we had to access the volume from the task bar, which is no easy feat using your finger. In Android, our only option for adjusting the volume was to go into Settings > Sound & Display > Media Volume.
Android 1.6 Experience
The ViewPad 10 is currently only available with Android 1.6, though ViewSonic promises that an upgrade to Android 2.2 is coming "soon." There aren't any Google apps and no Android Market. ViewSonic doesn't believe these will be included in future updates, either. However, the ViewPad 10 does include Aldiko (and eReader app), AndAppStore, Documents To Go, Email, Frozen Bubble, GoldMiner, iReader (another eReader), MSN Droid, and SPB TV. While Android wasn't originally meant for x86 chipsets such as Atom, the software runs fine.
Overall, it just seems like very little thought was put into the Android implementation on this device. The biggest issue? There isn't a way to turn the screen off or put the device to sleep under Android. The screen timeout option is missing from the settings menu, and pressing the power button for any duration only gives you the options of powering off or rebooting. Think about that: Every time you want to use Android, you have to wait 27 seconds for the device to boot. When you're done--and presumably don't want to walk around with a glowing tablet in your bag--you have to wait 11 seconds for it to shut down completely. Thankfully, on the Windows side, pressing the power button puts the device to sleep.
We also found the nonstandard Android physical buttons to be less than intuitive. Confusingly, the button with the home icon is used to go back within Android, and the button with the Back icon brings up menus. Only a long press on the home button will actually take you to the home screen.
The Android keyboard on the ViewPad 10 was another exercise in frustration. In landscape mode, the keys were stretched much too wide to type with any sort of ease. Plus, bringing up the keyboard, such as when entering text into the Amazon search box, dimmed the non-keyboard part of the screen so significantly that we couldn't see what we were typing. Portrait mode was just as bad: The top line of text of every e-mail, text message, or Google search entry was obscured by the notification bar. You can see the very bottom of the letters you've typed, but that's it. This made writing the first line of e-mails and Google searches very difficult.
Apps (or Lack Thereof)
Like almost every other non-Honeycomb Android tablet, the Android Market isn't available. Likewise, the Google suite of apps including Gmail, Google Talk, Maps, Voice Search, and YouTube isn't pre-loaded, nor is there an easy way to download them. The ViewPad 10 does include the AndAppStore, which seemed intent on downloading an update every time we launched it. Unfortunately, the AndAppStore's offerings pale in comparison to the Android Market. Despite numerous searches, we didn't find any familiar apps. We had much better luck finding apps by downloading the Amazon App Store. From here, we downloaded Angry Birds (which gave us an error saying it couldn't be installed), the Kindle app (worked), Photoshop Express (worked), and Diner Dash 2 (installed, but couldn't play). The reason some apps won't work is because this is such an early version of Android.
Windows 7 Professional Experience
Compared to the Android folly on the ViewPad 10, the Windows 7 Professional implementation on the ViewPad 10 was relatively pleasant. While there's almost no added software-- ViewSonic told us that they kept the install clean to leave space on the 32GB SSD--there aren't any touch-friendly overlays either, which are often needed to make Windows 7 tablets more usable. After attempting to hit the red "X" box in the exact right place three or four times to close a window, we gave up and attached a mouse via one of the USB ports.
In Windows, the physical home button functions as the Esc key and the back button toggles the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios on and off. Pressing the power button puts Windows 7 to sleep.
The ViewPad 10's capacitive screen supports multitouch gestures, and we found them to work relatively smoothly as we zoomed in and out of web pages. However, there was still an extra second of lag when rotating the tablet, which caused the screen to briefly turn black and awkwardly resize the desktop wallpaper by displaying both the portrait and landscape versions of the wallpaper on top of each other.
The keyboard in Windows 7 can either be docked at the top or bottom of the screen or float just off-screen and slide out when needed. You can also scribble letters with your finger or a stylus. We liked that the keyboard could be easily resized in landscape mode to make typing easier, but the same wasn't true in portrait mode. Instead, we could only make the keys taller, not wider.
In Windows mode, the ViewPad 10's Intel Atom N455 1.66-GHz Pine Trail processor produced a score of 1,485 on PCMark Vantage, about 150 points higher than the netbook average, and about 50 points higher than the bModo 12G Windows 7 tablet. The ViewPad 10 notched 890 in Geekbench, about 200 points above the average of 683.
On Android benchmark tests, the ViewPad 10 was all over the place. The tablet scored 4 points below average with a 15.7 on Linpack and just 1,178 on the Benchmark CPU; several hundred points below the 1,986 average. Graphics performance was much better. The ViewPad 10 scored a whooping 194 on FPS2D, more than three times the average score of 57.2, and 535.4 in Benchmark Graphics, 300 points above average.
The ViewPad 10 booted Windows in 45 seconds in Windows, a full 6 seconds faster than the Windows-powered bModo 12G tablet. In Android, it booted in 27 seconds, the same amount of time it took the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Tab.
ViewSonic rates the ViewPad 10's Lithium-Ion 3200 mAh battery at 4 hours. On our LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi), the ViewPad 10 lasted 3 hours and 58 minutes in Windows 7 mode, and 5 minutes less than that in Android. While close to ViewSonic's estimations, it's nearly 3 hours less than the tablet average and about 2:30 less than the netbook average. The ViewPad 10 lasted 14 minutes longer than the ExoPC Slate, another Windows 7 tablet with an Intel Atom processor, but it didn't even come close to matching its sibling, the Android-powered G Tablet, which lasted 11:17 on the same test.
Configurations and Warranty
In addition to our $679 configuration with Windows 7 Professional and a 32GB SSD, the ViewPad 10 is available with Windows 7 Home Premium and a 16GB SSD for $599. Both configurations are dual-boot and currently run Android 1.6 (Donut). ViewSonic offers a one-year limited warranty on parts and labor for the ViewPad 10.
The $679 ViewPad 10 feels like ViewSonic took a Windows 7 tablet and decided to throw Android on at the last minute to give it greater consumer appeal. While the Windows 7 experience is passable, the Android implementation is pretty awful. You can't turn the screen off without turning off the device itself in Android mode, the app selection is poor, and you don't get enough battery life. If you're looking for a Windows 7 tablet, you could do a lot worse than the ViewPad 10. But if you looking for an Android tablet with a little Windows on the side, this is definitely not the answer.