At first glance, the ViewPad 7 looks like an iPad 4 that’s been taking injections of gadget growth hormone. Like the latest iPhone, ViewSonic’s tablet has rounded-off edges, a handsome metal band skirting its circumference, and a glossy black backing plate. From an industrial design perspective, it’s the slickest Android tablet we’ve tested. And, while the ViewPad 7 easily bests the Dell Streak and lesser Android tablets from a real-world use perspective, it falls short of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, and lags far behind the iPad.
ViewSonic’s industrial design is sophisticated, but its screen quality doesn’t warrant much hub-bub or accolades.
The ViewPad comes up short in two crucial, high-profile areas: screen quality and UI performance. The 7-inch, 800x480 screen simply lacks brightness and color saturation compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Apple iPad. What’s more, text rendering—be it in the Android UI, a browser page, or a note-taking app—looks a wee bit fuzzy on the ViewPad 7. It’s not awful, per se, but compared to other tablets, the difference is noticeable. As for the fluidity of the UI, it too is noticeably laggy compared to what you’ll find in the more elite tablets. Quick scrolls through home screen windows and object-rich browser pages just don’t have that effortless, “Whee! Away we go!” responsiveness that you’ll experience with the iPad.
Compared to either the iPad or Galaxy Tab, the ViewPad 7 is hobbled in the processing department, which might help explain its graphical lethargy. Samsung opted for a 600MHz Qualcomm SoC, and in both benchmark results and real-world use, we found the processor lacking. Now, granted, this ViewPad 7 is still well ahead of other Android tablets in its ability to deliver a satisfying user experience in browsing, tweeting, emailing and other tablet-appropriate activities. It just isn’t top dog in the greater tablet universe.
What the ViewPad 7 does offer, however, is a friendly price and a completely telecom-free purchasing experience. The tablet does include 3G support, but ViewSonic isn’t launching it with any subsidized pricing schemes, or obligations for data contracts. The MSRP is $479, and street pricing should drop as low as $429. That represents a significant savings over the iPad and contract-free Galaxy Tab, and might be just appealing enough for wannabe tabletistas to pull the trigger—especially those odd ducks who find the iPad “too heavy."