In Use - more
Using Android 1.6, everything from the onboard graphics to web browsing is horrendous. This OS was designed for cell phones and is considered ancient when compared to newer Android versions, so even having it on a tablet is questionable.
The good news is that the Android OS can be upgraded to version 2.2. The bad news is that you can’t update directly on the tablet; you first have to insert a memory card and save the installation files. Even though this upgrade makes a considerable difference, it is far from being the ViewPad’s saving grace. There are no plans for further upgrades, making Android 2.2 the highest version you can use with the ViewPad 10.
Once updated, there are noticeable improvements like the screen layout and the web browser. But even with Android 2.2, I was first unable to view Flash enabled sites like Hulu. I was instead prompted to upgrade Flash, which also had to be installed to SD card memory.
Howevr, once Flash was installed, I was still unable to view any Flash related content. I did some research and found out this tablet has a laundry list of incompatibility issues that include problems with Flash, Android Market applications and viewing video. When testing, I was not able to find any problems with Android Market, but did notice other issues when trying to view different types of media.
Maybe Windows 7 Home would provide a better result. As it turned out, using the ViewPad with Windows was better. But this isn't saying much because Windows is generlally very frustrating to use on tablets. So all I really did was improve from horrible and unusable to bad and barely usable.
First, I noticed the control issues. It is hard to navigate and get accurate “taps” when working with Windows in a tablet environment. It took two or three tries to get it right almost every time I tried to tap on a desired link or menu option.
Curiously, when you tap on a URL bar the keyboard does not pop up. Instead an icon of a keyboard pops up and you have to tap the icon to get the full keyboard display. I can’t think of any good reason why this involves an extra step, and I found it annoying and unnecessary. It also slowed down the process of web browsing as each search input followed these steps.
The tablet, in general, is slow. Both Android and Windows OS had an inherent delay between tapping on icons and the time it took to open programs. Typing on the virtual keyboards also required time to respond correctly. Browsing is also delayed, especially on graphic-intensive websites. This was the equivalent of working on older computer technology; it took time to get to where I wanted to go.
Battery life is atrocious. I was able to work on the ViewPad for only about 3.5 hours before I had to charge it. Considering the price tag of or roughly $650, the least ViewSonic could have done was include a decent battery. When compared to the iPad2, the ViewPad falls short by about 8 hours of run time. When taken out of the box, the tablet was about 90% charged.
Unfortunately in Android OS, Flash is out of the equation. So I switched my focus to HTML5 and HD video. Surprise, more problems. HTML5 content from NY Times and HTML5video.org would not play. Pages froze and I was not able to get any video to work.
I got the same result when trying to view my own imported movies. Imported pictures did display nicely and I had no problems viewing pictures from the internet with resolutions up to 1280x720 even though the overall display quality was not that impressive.
When trying to view HD video, I was prompted by the web browser to upgrade the software. Again I put in the memory card and tried to install the latest version of Skyfire. Going through this process crashed the tablet. Again, I headed to the internet to see if this was a known issue. Just like with Flash, Skyfire upgrades seem to be problematic. I tried multiple times with the same result. Maybe using Windows OS would be better?
Windows does allow Flash content and I was able to view videos on Hulu after upgrading the Flash software. I had to use a USB keyboard to accept the upgrade pop-up because the touch input would not work correctly. The upgrade also had to be stored on an external memory card. HD video ran when viewed at 480p but became choppy and suffered long buffering times. Any HD video with a higher resolution enhanced these issues to the point that some videos became unwatchable. Videos were tested from YouTube, CNN and CBS.
The same HTML5 videos that failed to work on the Android OS did play correctly in Windows. Videos tested from NY Times and HTML5video.org worked surprisingly well. I noticed lower buffering times and a smoother display when compared to HD video content that was not HTML5. Importing my own mpeg videos and pictures also produced decent results. HD pictures with 1920x1080 resolutions were viewable with some pixilation and color issues.
There has to be something that works well on this tablet, right? It turns out audio may be the best aspect of this device. Actually this may be the only feature that I did not find to be a problem. Sound is clear and volume levels are high enough to provide music throughout multiple rooms. At higher volume levels, distortion was not a problem.
On paper, having two operating systems and multiple inputs seems like it should be enough to push this tablet to the front of the line. Unfortunately, this device fails in almost every aspect of what seemed to be a promising idea.
The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 encompasses everything you want to avoid in tablet computing: Inflated price; poor software functionality; incompatibility issues; problematic hardware and sub-par performance.
If you are looking to spend around $650 dollars for a tablet, take a look at the Motorola Xoom or the iPad2. Actually, if you are in the market for any tablet, regardless of the price point, staying away from the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 would be a good idea.