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!