4 Android tablets vie for your attention

Tablets from Archos, Samsung and ViewSonic are among the first to challenge the iPad

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ViewSonic ViewPad 7

A maker of TVs, monitors and specialty computers, ViewSonic is branching out with its ViewPad 7. While it has the hardware and software to be used as a phone, the ViewPad 7 hasn't been certified on any 3G networks.

While the others have curved backs, the ViewPad 7's black-and-silver plastic case is squared off all around. At 7.1 by 4.4 by 0.5 inches, it's the smallest of the three 7-in. units and is half the size of an iPad.

ViewSonic ViewPad 7
ViewSonic ViewPad 7

At 13.3 oz., it's 2 oz. heavier than the Archos 7 and 0.2 oz. lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It lacks the Archos kickstand but comes with a padded case.

The ViewPad 7 has an ARM 11 processor that runs at the sedate speed of 600 MHz, much slower than the 800-MHz and 1-GHz CPUs that power the others. It comes with 512MB of RAM and a scant 512MB of storage that can be augmented with up to a 32GB microSD card (but no microSD card is included with the system). A 10-in. model, the ViewPad 10, is in the works.

While the Galaxy Tab is offered by four national 3G service providers, the ViewPad 7 doesn't currently work with any network, although it does come with the hardware for AT&T's network and has an app for making and taking phone calls. It includes 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connectivity and comes equipped with Bluetooth and GPS.

With a bright, clear display that quickly responds to finger motions, the ViewPad 7's 7-in. screen works well, but, like the Archos 70, it is limited to 800 x 480 resolution.

In addition to an on/off switch, the system has the usual Android buttons for Back, Search, Home and Settings. There is a mini-USB connector for charging and connecting with a Windows PC or a Mac. There are also slots for a phone network SIM card and a microSD card. Along the edge of the device there are volume up and down buttons and a headphone jack.

Besides a 0.3-megapixel camera facing the user, the device has a higher-resolution 3-megapixel camera in the back. ViewSonic is adding Swype software for a mid-December launch.

The soft keypad has good vibration feedback. Conveniently, it includes an "@" symbol on the primary keypad, although you need to shift to the symbol set to get to a dedicated ".com" key. There's also a neat online time-saver for typing Web addresses. The space key inserts "www" and ".com," leaving the space between them for adding the particular site you want to go to; it's simple and very effective.

As is the case with the Galaxy Tab, the ViewPad 7 has a Google Search bar on the Home page as well as a link to the Android Market and a Web browser. It comes with 40 preloaded apps, including Documents to Go for reading Office files, Latitude (for finding where your friends and colleagues are) and Maps and Navigation.


The ViewPad 7 was back of the pack on performance, with a 630 on Aurora Softworks's Quadrant benchmark.

Its Wi-Fi system stayed connected 90 feet from my office's router, and its runtime of 5 hours, 10 minutes was 2 hours less than that of the Archos 101. It played HD videos without a problem.

Bottom line

If and when the ViewPad 7 is able to work on a 3G network, expect the carrier to subsidize the tablet's price in exchange for a two-year contract. For now, the ViewPad 7's retail costs begin at $450, too much to pay for a device with limited performance.

Next: How we tested, conclusions and a tablet that prints

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