There’s a really famous road — maybe you know it. It’s paved with good intentions. And by now you should know all too well where it leads.
It must have been aggravating for ViewSonic — which has made Windows-based tablet PCs since 2001 — to see its market destroyed by the Apple iPad in 2010. So the company did what it (and everyone else has) had to do: embrace Android.
The result is the ViewSonic ViewPad 10, a 10-inch, dual-booting Windows-Android tablet with a lot of heart and lofty goals, and an utter disaster on nearly every front.
To be fair, Android is a whole new world to ViewSonic, and when you boot the device to Windows, the machine isn’t half-bad. That isn’t to say it didn’t have its share of bugs: It took an hour of futzing just to get the two USB ports to work, and I experienced crashes nearly every day I used it. But if you really need Windows in a 1.9-pound slate-tablet design, the ViewPad 10 is at least passable.
It couldn’t complete any of our actual benchmarks — likely due to its 1.6-GHz Atom CPU and just 2 GB of RAM. But it was responsive enough in normal use compared to my low expectations, likely in no small part due to the inclusion of an SSD hard drive — though it’s only 32 GB.
To switch to Android mode, you have to reboot Windows, then push the right button at the right time when the OS choice prompt appears. Once into Android, well, the fun never starts.
The ViewPad 10 originally shipped with Android 1.6, and only during the first week of May did I finally receive the upgrade to 2.2. I used the tablet extensively in both environments. Neither is likely to be in any way satisfactory to even the most casual tablet user. There’s no delicate way to put it, except to say that with Android there is no facet of the device with which I didn’t experience a problem.
To wit: When booting, it often froze or fell back to a Linux command prompt instead of booting into the Android GUI. The Android Market is not installed on the device. ViewSonic says Google won’t allow it on 10-inch tablets.
Instead you get the cut-rate AndAppStore with a paltry number of apps available. That doesn’t really matter much, though. Downloaded apps only installed successfully about half the time. No manner of fussing could get Angry Birds running on this machine.
There is no Flash, of course (ViewSonic blames Adobe), and battery life was even lower on Android (3 hours, 10 minutes) than on Windows (3 hours, 30 minutes). Perhaps that’s because the ViewPad’s screen doesn’t auto-dim or suspend in Android, and there are no options available to make that possible.
Nor are there any volume buttons. Nor do the home and back buttons work properly: The home button takes you back. The back button brings up contextual menus. If you’re an Android phone user, you will never get used to this, nor should you want to.
With all of the product’s Android problems, it feels almost petty to complain about the weird decision to place the 10.1-inch (1024 x 600 pixels) screen off-center, the very dim LCD, and the difficulty of interacting with tiny Windows prompts using a fingertip. Instead I’ll just leave it at that, urging you to look elsewhere for your mobile-computing needs.
Photo courtesy ViewSonic
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