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Feb
22

ViewSonic ViewPad 7 review – the perfect compromise on price & performance?

by Russell Barnes

Can ViewSonic upset the establishment with an affordable tablet inspired by Apple’s iPhone 4? Russell Barnes puts the 7″ Android-powered ViewPad 7 through its paces in an effort to find out…

This article originally appeared in issue 97 of Linux User & Developer magazine.ViewSonic ViewPad 7 review - the perfect compromise on price & performance? Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.
Specs:ViewSonic ViewPad 7 review - the perfect compromise on price & performance?
OS:
Android 2.2
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7227 600MHz
Memory: 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM
Weight: 375g
Dimensions: 179 x 110 x 12 mm
Display size: 7” (800×480 resolution)
Expansion: 1x SIM card, 1x SD card
Features: 802.11 b/gWi-Fi , Bluetooth 2.1, G-sensor, A-GPS, 3G, Quad-band GSM
Homepage: ViewSonic ViewPad 7
Price: From £303 online

Pros: The aesthetic is excellent, Android 2.2 is left untouched and  battery life is also very good
Cons: There’s no Flash support and the upgrade route to Android 3 is barred by its single-core CPU

There are immediate parallels to be drawn between the ViewPad 7 and the iPhone 4. It boasts the same black gloss finish, the same silver faux-metal banding around the belly and very similar tightly curved edges. For our money it’s actually one of the better-looking tablets on the market at the moment, not to mention one of the more affordable.

Considering the price, the build quality is bordering on fantastic too. It doesn’t look as expensive as an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab and on very close inspection it is built from slightly inferior materials, but considering you’re making a £100 saving, as far as build quality goes you’re certainly not going to be disappointed. Though quite weighty at 375g, the smaller 7” frame makes it feel considerably more portable and even pocket-friendly. It fit in our jacket breast pockets no problem and just about crammed into the back pocket of our jeans (though we certainly wouldn’t actually dare sit down).

As with almost all Android tablets, the front face of the ViewPad 7 is all but completely clean, dominated by its wide 800×480 resolution screen and complemented by the four default Android buttons. There’s only a small black thumbnail-width surround around the screen, which is great in respect to the device’s small footprint, although it can hamper handling. The biggest problem we faced was when holding the ViewPad 7 in landscape orientation. We were consistently causing accidental presses on the function buttons with our right hand. This is one of the drawbacks of touch-sensitive buttons – the small amount of travel from physical buttons can really make a difference here.

With a straight vanilla install of Android 2.2 taking care of business, there’s really not a great deal to say about the user experience itself. We’re hoping for minor improvements from Android 2.3 in this regard since 2.2 doesn’t really lend itself wonderfully to tablet use, but with the full force of the Android Market at your beck and call, there’s little you can’t do with the ViewPad 7. That is, unless, you want to upgrade to Android 3.0 upon its release. Since ViewSonic’s tablet only has a single-core 600MHz processor, it simply isn’t powerful enough, so those wanting to future-proof their tablet experience might be better waiting for future tablet releases.

Another problem that the ViewPad 7’s slower processor throws up is that it inhibits the install of Flash 10.1, so there’s no Flash support either. The damage to your user experience that this causes is likely down to the usage scenarios you have in mind, but it didn’t greatly affect us personally. The final bugbear we encountered was the lack of decent storage. With only 512MB of internal storage on offer, the purchase of a micro SD card is all-but essential.

ViewSonic ViewPad 7 review - the perfect compromise on price & performance?

Perhaps in compensation for these shortcomings, however, ViewSonic has thrown a faux-leather case into the bargain. There might be no danger of ever confusing it for the real thing, but it provides excellent protection and also ingeniously doubles up as an adjustable rest for tabletop video viewing, or on-screen typing.

While some critics have berated the ViewPad 7 for its inferior storage capability and slower processor, very few have really spotted the true value it provides. It comes complete with a case, saving around £30 on an essential accessory that can be hard (if not impossible) to otherwise obtain. Also, besides ruling out Flash support, the slower processor on offer doesn’t actually impede the performance of Android or the myriad apps available in the Android Market. This loss is also paid back twofold by virtue of greatly extended battery life – the ViewPad 7 is one of the few devices that manages to live up to the manufacturer’s claim of six hours.

Anyone under the impression that the highest build quality, sharpest screens and best HD video playback can be both affordable and offer market-leading battery life clearly doesn’t understand the basic mechanics of the technology industry. In the absence of this tech nirvana, we’re more than happy to settle for a processor clocked 200MHz slower, and a screen with some 200 less horizontal pixels, in return for an affordable tablet with a battery actually able to last a day in the field.

Verdict: 4/5

Provided you knowingly enter into the deal with the ViewPad 7, it represents remarkable value while realistically sacrificing very little. Being brutally honest, the Flash situation on Android is far from perfect anyway, and for us HD video support is best served through a media player (or better yet, a 40″ screen). On this basis, you’ve got a great deal on your hands with impressive build quality, front and rear-facing cameras and superior battery life.

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    • ken

      Maybe half a year ago, but the best price/performance tablet IMHO is the Barnes&Noble Nook Color…better screen, higher res, and easily rooted…

    • LinuxD1

      For 512 mb drive (default) and no flash support you should not have given a 4. 3 would be appropriate.
      It resembles iPad. :-(

    • Jeannette

      I love the ViewPad7, mostly because I believe it is the only Pad with telephone? Sucks that it does not support Flash, not sure abut Java

      I have bought a sim card and having trouble getting my music onto it. If that is not possible I will definitely not be happy.

      Still on a learning curve with it but so far the positives outnumber the negatives.

    • dan

      As someone who travels a lot, this tablet is godsend. Perfect size to use on the go for both internet n phone calls, and lasting battery to last days.

    • Pingback: Win: A viewSonic ViewPad 7 for two lucky readers! | Linux User

    • Pingback: Win: A viewSonic ViewPad 7 for two lucky readers! | Top Ten Games

    • Dougie Fresh

      No 3.0 ? No OTA updates? Its nice for what it is… But the price better drop dramatically very soon…

    • Owen

      As shipped, the Viewpad 7 is almost useless if you want to do anything more than basic web browsing, email and a couple of apps. Of the 512mb, only 172mb is available for apps and data. Thankfully, there is a solution. You will have to root the device which its dead easy with gingerbreak. Then use Link2SD to put ALL apps on an ext partition on the SD card and use Titanium backup to keep things tidy.

      I still occasionally run out of memory. The main culprits are some apps that keep their databases on internal memory and occasionally an app goes haywire amd generates a huge logcat file that eats up the available memory. Use the DiskUsage app to find them and ES File Explorer to delete them. Tombstones are left behind by crashed apps and can also be safely deleted.

      If the Viewpad 7 becomes unresponisive because a logcat file has grown to eat up all the memory, all you can do is access the App Manager to uninstall apps. This won’t help much if you have nothing installed on internal. One app that keeps a 10mb database on internal is iTriage. My solution when this happens is to uninstall iTriage, delete the logcat file and and any tombstones etc. and then restore iTriage from Titanium Backup.

      Owen