If you’re interested in trying out the latest Android tablet software but have too much invested in Windows programs to walk away, ViewSonic’s ViewPad 10Pro could be a solution. It acts as a convenient bridge between these two worlds.
Over the course of a week, I worked and played with the ViewPad 10pro, which runs Windows 7 natively and also includes the BlueStacks Android emulation software that lets it run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The 1.8-lb. tablet is larger and about half a pound heavier than the iPad 2 and is available starting at $500 for Wi-Fi only — currently, there is no built-in 3G available.
(I’d previously looked at its predecessor, the ViewPad 10. The ViewPad 10 is based on Intel’s Atom N455 processor (rather than the newer Z670) and can be booted separately as either Windows 7 or Android 2.2, rather than running Android apps in emulation software as the ViewPad 10pro does.)
Two OSes in one
The ViewPad 10pro’s main selling point is its dual operating systems, and if you want access to both Windows 7 and Android, it’s a major plus. I was able to switch between Windows and Android at the flip of a finger without rebooting the system — just by tapping an icon. For example, if I were working in Windows, I could tap on the BlueStacks icon and in 2.2 seconds the Android home page came up.
I found it intensely liberating to pick and choose which application and environment was most appropriate for the job at hand. For example, I was able to work with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files using Microsoft Works (the system comes with neither Works nor Office included, but I loaded the former myself). This was interspersed with moving to Android to arrange my calendar, finger paint with Paint Joy, read with the Kindle ebook app and look over dozens of newspapers with Langtoland’s US Newspapers app. I also updated a Web site (in both Windows and Android) using the TypePad online blogging software.
The system comes with basic Android apps for Web browsing, email, scheduling and audio; there is access to the Android Market. It also includes DataViz’s Documents To Go Android app for viewing a variety of files as well as Thinix’s streamlined TabletBrowserand ViewSonic’s ViewDraw for doodling or annotating.
Hefty and equipped
The ViewPad can be a lot of tablet to carry around. At 0.6 x 10.4 x 6.7 in. and 1.8 lb., it is larger and heavier (by 0.5 lb.) than Apple’s iPad 2 tablet.
While the roughened surface on the back of the slate makes it easy to grip, the ViewPad 10pro’s rounded back means that it wobbles when it’s used flat on a table. Unlike the Archos 101 tablet, there’s no pull-out kick stand.
Its 10.1-in. display is slightly bigger than the iPad 2’s 9.7-in. screen. It has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing webcam, but lacks a rear-facing camera.
The display reacted quickly to both my finger motions (swipes as well as multi-finger) and a Wacom Bamboo stylus that I tried. The ViewSonic comes with Microsoft’s standard on-screen keyboard as well as Swype’s text-input system, which lets you slide your finger between characters to speed up typing.
At a glance
ViewSonic ViewPad 10pro
Price: $600 (Windows 7 Home Premium and 16GB storage), $700 (Windows 7 Professional and 32GB storage), $750 (Windows 7 Professional and 64GB storage)
Pros: Runs both Windows 7 and Android software, excellent software, good battery life
Cons: Larger than other tablets, pricey, slow performance
Inside is a 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. Unlike the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, the ViewPad 10pro lacks the ability to tap into a cell phone data network. The system comes with 802.11n Wi-Fi networking and includes Bluetooth 2.1.
Around its edge there are plenty of ports. On top of connectors for USB, HDMI and an audio headset, the system has a microSD card reader.
As opposed to Apple’s minimalist approach to controls, the ViewPad 10pro has several buttons. Besides the power and volume controls, there’s a Hold key that blanks the screen and will bring up the Windows Task Manager if held for five seconds.
To the side of the screen are the usual Android buttons for search, going back, accessing the Home page and accessing Android’s menu. This last button also brings up ViewSonic’s excellent Control Centre when you’re in Windows. The Control Centre has six icons for accessing system info, battery info, thermal condition, display, environment and device controller.
Over the course of a week of intensive use, I used the ViewPad 10pro with a drawer full of peripherals. I found it to be a reliable tablet — however, it won’t set any speed records. While I normally had no problems with performance, there were times when it lagged for a few seconds.
It scored a sluggish 143.0 on PassMark’s PerformanceTest 7.0 suite of benchmark tests, well off the pace set by another Windows 7 tablet, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, which scored 196.9.
With its 5,000 mAh battery, the ViewPad 10pro was able to run for 4 hours and 26 minutes hours playing back high-definition videos non-stop from YouTube via a Wi-Fi connection. That’s about half an hour longer than I got from the iPad 2 but short of the 4 hours and 59 minutes that the Fujitsu tablet achieved.
At $700, including Windows 7 Professional and 32GB of flash storage, the ViewPad 10pro that I looked at is expensive compared to a similarly equipped Samsung Galaxy Tab or iPad 2. ViewSonic also sells a $600 model with Windows 7 Home Premium and 16GB of flash storage as well as a custom configuration with Windows 7 Professional and 64GB of storage that costs $750.
It may not be the fastest, lightest or cheapest tablet around, but the ViewPad 10pro is an excellent tablet for professionals who need access to Windows applications while enjoying the app selection that comes with Android.
Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.