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ViewSonic ViewPad 10s review: ViewSonic ViewPad 10s

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The Good Good Web browser with Flash support; less expensive than most tablets.

The Bad No access to the Android Market; Google's best apps are missing; confusing button layout; low-res screen with poor viewing angle; bad battery life.

The Bottom Line The ViewSonic ViewPad 10s tablet is relatively affordable and decent enough when it comes to browsing the Web. But it's not cheap enough to justify its lack of standard Android features and poor screen.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

2.5 Overall

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The ViewSonic ViewPad 10s tried to jump on the Android tablet bandwagon, but fell off the back. It's decent for surfing the Web, but its confusing array of buttons, poor screen and lack of Google features mean you shouldn't put it on your shopping list.

Don't confuse the 10s with the ViewPad 10, which runs both Windows 7 and Android, and has an Intel processor. The 10s only runs Android, and has an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor.

We tested the Wi-Fi-only version of the 10s, which costs £275 from Misco, among other vendors.

Missing in action 

Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the 10s uses a version of Google's Android software that was designed for mobile phones, not tablets -- version 2.2 Froyo. Android 2.2 works well on the Tab, since its 7-inch display is only 3 inches or so larger than that of a big touchscreen phone. On the 10s' 10-inch screen, however, the menus look comically huge. The effect is even more absurd when the tablet's held in landscape mode so that the menus are stretched out even further.

Samsung also tweaked Android on the Tab so that many of the features took advantage of the big screen. In contrast, ViewSonic's tweaks largely consist of stripping Android of most of its advantages to keep the tablet's price down.

For example, you don't get any of the wonderful Google-designed apps usually included with Android, from Google Maps to Gmail. Yes, you heard us right. There's no Gmail and no Google Maps apps, not to mention a distinct lack of YouTube, Listen, Goggles and many more.

You don't even get access to the Android Market for downloading apps. Instead, you get a different app store, AndroidPit. The name is apt -- this app store is the pits. It's missing key options, like the official Facebook and Twitter apps, for example.

Plenty of manufacturers, including HTC and Samsung, add their own choice of apps to their gadgets. But they don't cut the Android Market out completely -- they just offer a few choice apps to get you started. Without access to the thousands of apps in the Market, Android is crippled, and adding a cut-rate app store just adds lemon juice to the open wound.

In theory, you could load Android apps onto the 10s over a USB cable, or download them directly from the Web. ViewSonic even has a page of links that will let you install various Android apps. But it's far less convenient than using an app store on the device.

We should add that the 10s isn't totally without email support -- it has an email client, just not the dedicated Gmail app. Most popular email accounts, including Gmail and Hotmail, are easy to set up just by typing in your email address and password.

Tunnel vision

If we were looking to buy a tablet, the lack of Google features would put us off the 10s immediately. But, in case you're not convinced, we'll mention a few of its other drawbacks.

The 10s' small buttons are confusing and difficult to find. 

The 10-inch screen has wide-screen dimensions, just like a netbook's screen. We can see the attraction of this when it comes to watching video, but there are some disadvantages. For one, the screen's 1,024x600-pixel resolution means it doesn't look very sharp. This isn't helped by the fact that some small icons are recycled into blurry-looking big ones -- those on the notification bar being a prime example. 

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