It takes an extraordinary effort to stand out from the glut of tablets following in the wake of the Apple iPad, but ViewSonic's ViewPad 100 manages it. On paper, this 10-inch tablet offers the best of both the mobile and PC worlds.
The £550 ViewPad 100, set to arrive in October 2010, has both Android and Windows built in. You can use Google's mobile operating system, Android, while on the move, or go for a more PC-like experience with Windows 7 Home Premium.
Room with a ViewPad
The face of the tablet is a 10-inch capacitive touchscreen. It's responsive and easy to use, with the simple layout of Android and the familiarity of Windows. There are three physical buttons on the front: 'power', 'home' and 'back'.
The bezel surrounding the screen doesn't waste too much space, and the whole thing is lightweight enough to hold comfortably in one hand. It is a chunkier proposition than the iPad, though.
Inside, the ViewPad is powered by a netbook-style 1.66GHz single-core Intel Atom processor, with 16GB of solid state memory. It bristles with connections: mini-VGA video out, 3.5mm headphone socket and microSD card slot, plus two USB slots -- which is two more than the iPad. There's a 1.3-megapixel webcam for VoIP video-calling.
To switch between the two operating systems, you need to reboot the tablet. Hit the power button and wait for a few seconds. A DOS screen appears, then you select either Windows or Android. The process takes about 30 seconds.
Booting to Windows presents you with Windows 7 Home Premium, exactly as it appears on your PC. Windows 7 has multi-touch built in, so you can tap, swipe and pinch merrily.
Taking a dim ViewPad
Windows is designed for a full-sized monitor, not a 10-inch tablet. Text on the home screen, such as in the start menu or the time display in the taskbar, is just a touch too small. But that's not the point -- you'd probably only jump over to Windows to use specific programs.
Outlook is one such program, although a mobile email app in Android would be easier to use. The real strength is that switching to Windows lets you download and use software not available in app form. If your work involves bespoke software, for example, a Windows tablet could be the only option.
We'd like to embrace the novel dual-boot system, but there are caveats. Google is up to version 2.2 of the Android OS, but the ViewPad 100 is only running Android 1.6. ViewSonic reckons version 1.6 is enough to provide a mobile Web experience. It claims there's no need for a fully featured version of Android on the ViewPad because you can switch to Windows if you need to do something that requires more grunt.
Even if you are okay with the older version of Android, there's no 3G, so your mobile browsing and email is limited to places with Wi-Fi.
It sounds like a great idea: mobile-optimised portability and PC power. The ViewSonic ViewPad 100 seems to have it all, and in a shell packed with connection options. We can't help feeling short-changed by the lack of 3G and an up-to-date version of Android, though.
Edited by Emma Bayly