Viewsonic Viewpad 7 First Impressions


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And old colleague of mine is running a company called Viewsonic in Australia. It’s a brand more known for its LCD monitors than anything else, but they’ve been looking to expand into new and emerging technology categories. So when he visited me at the Bing Lee head office for a catch up, he brought along a new toy to play with – their offering in the tablet space. I was lucky enough to have it for a couple of days, and here are my thoughts on the product they call the Viewpad 7.

 

If you are a reader of my blog, you will know that I am a fan of the iPad, not only as a product but as a vehicle for consuming rich content. So for better or worse, this Viewsonic product was going to be compared to it.

What I realised is that they are two very different creatures, and you’re not really comparing apples with apples (irresistible bad pun). So what are the differences? Well, the easier thing to do is state the similarities first, which are they are both capacitive touch screen, 3G capable and both have access to their own version of an App store. From there, the differences are significant.

The screen size is the most obvious. The ViewPad 7, as its name implies, has a 7″ screen, which when compared to the iPad, is nearly half the viewable area. So viewing video is an easy comparison. The ViewPad will play a widescreen clip full screen, while the iPad will have lots of real estate left in either portrait or landscape, but even in portrait the iPad’s image size is almost as large. And of course the resolutions are completely different, 1024 x 768 for iPad vs 800 x 480 for the ViewPad.

 

So what separates the ViewPad from the iPad that some may take as a positive? Well, the ViewPad has two cameras – one at the rear for photo and video snaps, and a lower-res front cam for webchatting and self portraits. It also has a Micro SD card slot for easy file transfers and a USB port which can be used for charging.

The Micro SD card slot is a very practical addition. I can imagine myself taking pics on my digital still camera, then slipping the card into the ViewPad for instant sharing, rather than using the small LCD screen on the camera. It takes a few more steps to achieve that on an iPad if you don’t have the right accessories.

The Android software is very easy to navigate, and in my view, just as intuitive as the Apple iOS. Many apps are being ported to multiple platforms, so it’s getting easier to find apps appearing on both the Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store.

 

As this was an engineering sample, I’m not going to go into too much detail until I have the final product in my hands. But after spending a bit of time with it, I can say that the 7 inch form factor is actually quite comfortable in my hands, or should I say hand. It’s easy to hold for reading or viewing, and having the whole screen filled with a movie or TV episode works well for me. The browser was fast and easy to use, and the screen size does lend itself to casual reading, whether online or a downloaded book.

 

Contrary to some opinions, I think the 7 inch tablet, if it’s executed well, will definitely have a place in the tablet category. I think the iPad is to a large extent a portable device that is used predominantly at home on Wi-Fi. The 7 inch ViewPad is effectively half the physical size of the iPad, and fits easier and more inconspicuously into anything from a handbag to a jacket pocket, so has more chance of being mobile as opposed to portable.

Spending time with this device makes me more excited than ever about the market next year. Many vendors will have their tablet offers in January or February 2011, so I’ll be back with more thoughts on this dynamic part of the PC industry as the weeks progress.

Cheers for now!

In the Eye of the Beholder: Reflections on DSLR, plus a Canon EOS 60D Highlights Video

I am a huge fan of DSLR cameras. The quality of the images that can be created on these cameras are truly breathtaking. Of course, it takes a fair bit of effort, as well as trial and error, to extract the best from your DSLR.

Before I move into my gushing proper, I just want to talk about “the moment”. Every sport and hobby has one. In tennis, it’s when you hit the ball so well, it floats past your opponent and lands just inside the line. In golf, it’s the swing that you’ve been practising for hours on end that lands your ball exactly where you wanted it. It’s the moment when the guitar solo you’re playing feels so natural and inspired it takes your own breath away.

You’ll have plenty of those moments with your DSLR. Whether it’s spontaneous or a planned shoot, those moments will be there in spades, and I think that is why so many people are hooked. Every single moment is unique, and your perception of that moment is too. That is the beauty of photography.

So what does DSLR add to the photographic process that has made it such a popular pastime? In my mind, there are three main factors:

Quality: From the vast array of lens options, through to the sensor that records the image, to the engine that processes it and the body that carries all this premium equipment, there’s nothing quite like handling a hefty DSLR.

The build quality and technology that goes into these products come from a long history of SLRs, and professional photographers are very demanding when it comes to their chosen brand and specific models. This attention to detail trickles down to the mainstream models, meaning whatever you choose in DSLR, it will always be a step above a standard “point and shoot” camera.

Control: Once you learn about the different settings that you can adjust on a DSLR, you’ll forget there ever was an “automatic” option. You can play with aperture control to give your images a sense of depth, shutter speed for fast action or slow night shots, ISO for control in low light conditions, and white balance to give your images a warmth or coolness. I’m just scraping the surface here; there are a multitude of settings that you can explore. It will be a journey that will take years, so buckle in and enjoy the ride, at your own pace of course!

Creativity: This is the one that gets my palms all sweaty! Once you’ve gotten used to the manual controls, the picture is literally in your hands. You can experiment with different shooting angles, and different combinations of the controls I mentioned above. Your imagination will start to run wild and you’ll see a framed composition in the most innocuous of situations. It truly is all in the eye of the beholder. And let’s face it, in the age of social networking your Facebook pics will be a cut above the rest – you may even get a reputation for your uploaded albums.

So is it worth the investment? In my opinion, if you’ve ever strayed away from that automatic setting on your camera, then it’s time to upgrade. And entry level DSLRs are becoming much more affordable.

Here’s an example of a mid-range DSLR, the new EOS 60D from Canon. It has some great features for the beginner and enthusiast alike. We produced this video for Bing Lee and had a great chance to play around with the camera. 1080p High Definition video filming, vari-angle LCD with Live View, 6400 ISO, 5.3 frames-per-second continuous shooting and inbuilt special effects are just some of the very cool features. Just press the play button below to have a closer look!

Breville Tea Maker – What’s All the Fuss About? (video below)

Like most people, I enjoy the odd cup of tea. In fact, herbal tea with a drizzle of honey had been a staple morning beverage for a long while, until I discovered the magic of the macchiato (more on that another time). I know, it doesn’t sound very metal, but everyone has a soft side, right?

So when we came around to filming the Breville BTM800 Tea Maker, I was intrigued. I was used to my basic but tried-and-true method of boil/dunk/infuse/add -honey/drink for my cuppa each morning. Would this convert me?

Yes.

Like a smoker that is chained to the act of unwrapping a new pack of ciggies and flicking on the lighter, I very quickly became addicted to the process. There is something strangely comforting about watching the magnetised tea canister lower itself into the bowels of the very solid jug, where it stays until the Tea Maker determines it has reached optimum taste based on your preference.

To paraphrase, never has the term “a perfect cup every time” been so true. To be completely honest, we compared the final result with our own primitive technique and I couldn’t really tell the difference in taste or aroma. But you know what? That’s not the point of this product for me. I now have a longer, more deliberate and visually stimulating ritual that ultimately leads to a cup of tea that I know is the right temperature and the right strength, and that makes it all the more satisfying.

The loose tea leaves are calling my name. While I go and indulge myself, here is the Bing Lee video I made for the celebrated Breville BTM800 Tea Maker: