ViewSonic announced official pricing and availability for their ViewPad 7 Android slate this morning, and we grabbed some hands-on time with the one production model running final software the company had on hand. It's thankfully a slicker, more stable experience than the prototype we saw at IFA 2010, with Android 2.2 Froyo moving quickly on the ViewPad 7's 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor. More details, together with benchmarks and pricing, after the cut.
Video demo after the cut
In terms of hardware, there's a 7-inch WVGA capacitive touchscreen, WiFi b/g, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, A-GPS and 3G (quadband GSM and 900/1900/2100 UMTS/HSDPA). RAM and ROM both amount to 512MB, and there's a microSD slot happy with up to 32GB cards. Bizarrely, though - and despite the fact that some apps, such as the camera and full copy of Documents To Go, won't work without one in place - ViewSonic don't plan to actually bundle even a 2GB microSD with the tablet; instead buyers will have to find their own.
Speaking of cameras, there's a VGA resolution front-facing lens for video calls and a rear-facing 3-megapixel autofocus camera for video and stills. Ports include a 3.5mm headset socket and a miniUSB for charge/sync, there are stereo speakers and a microphone, while the non-removeable battery is a 3,240mAh pack the company reckons is good for up to 4-6hrs "heavy, continuous use" (or 40hrs audio/7hrs video). Unfortunately the ARM11 processor isn't up to running Flash Player 10.1, despite the Froyo OS.
ViewSonic ViewPad 7 hands-on:
Nonetheless, we didn't have any issues with responsiveness; the ViewPad 7 flicked neatly between the five Android homescreens, apps loaded quickly, and even Google Street View - tied into the integrated digital compass - proved slick. We ran Quadrant on the slate (a benchmarking test for Android devices) and the figures weren't especially impressive at 420, but the user experience belies that relatively low number.
ViewSonic have made little in the way of changes to the Android 2.2 OS, which technically bodes well for timely updates to future versions of the platform, but the company is more wary. We asked about the possibility of a Gingerbread update when the new 3.0 version of Android is released, but all ViewSonic would say is that any new firmware builds would be announced on their site. If the ViewPad 7 ran, say, Android 1.6 then this would be a significant hurdle we might not be able to overcome, but at least if you're stuck using 2.2 the experience is decent.
As for pricing, ViewSonic has set an RRP of £399 (636) though they expect the street price to be lower. They're also running a trade-in scheme, where buyers can send in a working notebook or netbook (up to four years in age) and get up to £100 back from the company. You'll need to buy from one of the approved vendors, though - right now Scan, Expansys, Misco and WStore - which general expect stock from November 1.
Is it worth the money? At that lower price, it's certainly cheaper than Samsung's Galaxy Tab, though it's also a less complex product. As Android slates go, though, it offers a solid browsing experience and decent multimedia potential. We'll have more details in the full review.