ViewSonic ViewPad 7 £400
24th Dec 2010 | 12:00
Does this 7" tablet go down well?
ViewSonic ViewPad 7: Overview
When is a seven-inch tablet not a tablet? When it's strangely labelled a smartphone, like ViewSonic's ViewPad 7.
At this small size it's not really competing with the iPad scale of tablets, more the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Like those two devices, the ViewPad 7 is running Android, this time in 2.2 trim.
But the strange thing is that ViewSonic is marketing this as a smartphone rather than as a tablet. Admittedly, you can slap a SIM card into the top of the ViewPad and it will operate like a phone, but you'll get a bit of the Dom Joly's should you use it in the street.
We've actually already seen this device under a different name. Like the ViewPad 10, this seven-inch edition has simply been picked up lock, stock and barrel by ViewSonic from an OEM manufacturer and renamed. In its previous guise it was the Linx Commtiva N700, a £330 tablet that got a decent four stars.
So what has ViewSonic done with it?
ViewSonic ViewPad 7: Verdict
Seeing as the ViewPad 7 costs more than the same device under Linx Commtiva N700 nomenclature you'd expect to be getting a bit more for your cash. Unfortunately the only real difference between the two bits of tablet tech is what's been removed from the ViewPad 7 bundle.
The N700 comes with a 4GB microSD card to bolster the paucity of internal storage in the machine itself, but there are no such goodies with the ViewSonic version. Other omissions are less tangible, such as the lack of a Swype keyboard.
The keyboard that replaces it is an awkward beast. The main difficulty we had was when trying to search from within the Froyo browser where the space bar was replaced by a shortcut that added www.*.com around anything we typed. This is less than helpful unless you only ever search for single words.
You can however get £100 off until March 2011 with a rebate should you send a functional laptop/netbook back to ViewSonic once you've got your ViewPad 7.
So price-wise it's not too bad if you've got a machine less than four years old that you don't mind parting ways with.
The problem we still have with it, though, is the smartphone branding. We did genuinely try to use it as such for 24 hours in place of another Android phone. The experience wasn't great…
Our main issue was that we had some connection issues. On HSDPA, SMS messages weren't getting sent for some reason. Switching down to a slower mobile connection was the only solution, which then robbed it of the smartphone-on-the-move internet capabilities.
We also felt like a bit of a tool standing in a busy street shouting at the side of the ViewPad 7 where the microphone was, then pressing one of the stereo speakers to our ear.
We could've used the bundled headphone/mic set from the box, but that's not necessarily easy to fumble about with when you're trying to answer a call.
But still, it's not a bad device. The battery life is fine and the build quality is fairly good, too. The only real problems with the hardware itself are the slower CPU and the ropey screen. That 600MHz ARM CPU is unable to cope with the minimum requirements necessary for Flash playback, or for the upcoming Gingerbread version of Android.
Or for the smooth playing of Angry Birds…
Our other issues are more based around its usage. Realistically if you're in the market for such a mobile internet device then you'll spend the cash on a decent actual smartphone before dropping £300-£400 on this. And if you've already got a decent smartphone you're unlikely to take the time to pick up the ViewPad instead for whatever you want to do.
In short, the ViewPad 7 is mostly unnecessary.
At £300 it's not a bad price, and with Android 2.2 and Google Market on board it's not a bad little tablet either.
If you've already got a smartphone, you'll more likely use that first for anything you'd do on the ViewPad 7. At seven inches it's a bit of a half-way house between a proper tablet and a good phone, in the end competing with neither.