ViewSonic ViewPad 10e review
It’s not all about Ice Cream Sandwich and quad-core processors. Consumers are crying out for affordable tablets to go alongside the iPad and its rivals, and we’re gradually seeing the quality of these cheaper offerings rise as the technology matures.
ViewSonic is the latest to go budget, with its ViewPad 10e coming in at a penny under £200. That’s a good £80 less than last year’s ViewPad 10S, yet the design is hugely improved. Gone is the uncomfortably wide aspect ratio, in favour of a 9.7in 1,024 x 768 IPS screen, and it’s also been thinned down – it’s now 9mm thick and weighs a healthy 620g. It has the usual Back, Home and Settings touch buttons beneath the screen, along with micro-USB and mini-HDMI ports, and a microSD slot to add storage.
It’s comfortable to hold – although there’s an odd strip of plastic along one edge of the rear that bends when pressed – and the IPS screen does a much better job than we expected on a cheap tablet. We measured the brightness at 342cd/m2 and contrast at 743:1, leaving the resolution as the only major issue. It never feels quite as sharp and clear as it should, particularly when dealing with small text in the browser.
The large icons of Android 2.3 don’t help that; the absence of Honeycomb is a disappointment at a time when Android 4 devices are arriving. It isn’t the only compromise, either: the built-in storage tops out at a mere 4GB, there’s no rear camera, the 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor is only single-core and it has only 512MB of RAM. That means performance is hardly stellar: the ViewPad 10e scored 2,101 in the Quadrant test, and took 7,013ms to complete the SunSpider benchmark and 16.2ms for our own web page rendering test.
It can feel iffy in everyday use too. Stick with the vanilla home screen or use ViewSonic’s own perfectly functional ViewScene 3D, and you’ll find menu transitions are sometimes jittery, and web pages often require a second or two after loading before they can be dragged around even semi-smoothly. It plays 720p YouTube video smoothly and in games such as Angry Birds it’s fine, but it struggles with some of today’s more intensive titles, and it only lasted 5hrs 31mins in our video-playback battery test.
But if all this sounds overly negative, just remind yourself that the ViewPad 10e is a 9.7in tablet that costs half as much as an iPad 2. No, it won’t have the power or features of a tablet at twice the price, but it’s thin and light, with a decent screen and good connectivity, and it handles basic tasks perfectly well. That’s more than we can say for an awful lot of budget tablets.