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Vizio VIA tablet seeks multitasking couch potato

CNET takes another look at the VIA tablet from Vizio, an 8-inch Android tablet with unique universal remote capabilities baked in.

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We first spied Vizio's VIA Android tablet in the gadget-blur of CES 2011. It held the unfortunate distinction of being one of the last tablets we wrote about before Google and Motorola stole the show.

Still, we've been wondering what became of Vizio's 8-inch VIA tablet, and we jumped at the chance to catch up with it during a CEA showcase yesterday.

The Android 2.3 tablet hasn't changed much since January, but it looks to be shipping soon, priced at $349 with 4GB of onboard memory. A microSD card slot supports up to 32GB of additional memory.

Of course, the VIA's most unique feature is still here. Hidden beneath the top edge of the tablet is a universal IR blaster that Vizio claims is compatible with 95 percent of remote controlled consumer electronics. Combined with Vizio's preinstalled universal remote app, the VIA can be used to remotely control anything from your TV to your home stereo, regardless of brand.

Another unique feature of the VIA are the three speakers that line the sides of the tablet. Only two of the speakers are ever working at any given time, but the VIA is smart enough to route audio across the speakers depending on the tablet's orientation, so that you're never blocking the sound with your hands.

The rest of the tablet's specs are fairly conventional. A VGA-resolution camera is located on the face of the tablet for video chats. Google's official Mobile apps (including Market) are all included.

We're looking forward to getting our hands on the Vizio VIA soon and seeing how it stacks up against the $349 Samsung Galaxy Tab Wi-Fi and running it through its paces as a universal remote.

Vizio Tablet VTAB1008