While tablets such as Apple's iPad are continuing to attract popular attention, there are many workplaces that are still based around Microsoft Windows. Unfortunately, Windows 7 isn't really optimized for use in tablets, and it looks like the next version won't be out for another year. So what can people who want to use Windows on a tablet do?
ViewSonic is hoping to offer businesses a stepping stone with its ViewPad 10 dual-OS tablet. Equipped with both Windows 7 and Android 1.6, the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 gives companies the flexibility to continue using their existing Windows corporate programs while offering access to Android apps.
A good-looking tablet
Weighing 875g and measuring 275 x 170 x 17mm, the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 is 35mm longer and 274g heavier than the iPad 2. And is twice the thickness. Its 225g AC adapter is positively gargantuan compared to the iPad 2's tiny power cube.
We liked the ViewSonic ViewPad 10's demure black-and-dull-silver case and its three-button layout. One of the buttons is the power on/off. The second button has a Home icon but actually takes you back one screen at a time in Android mode and works as the Alt-Tab key combination (which shuffles through open windows) in Windows.
The third button, which has an icon that resembles Android's "Go Back" symbol, actually works as a Menu button in Android and turns the Wi-Fi on/off in Windows.
The 10in display with 1024 x 600 resolution is bright with rich colours; like most tablets, it automatically reorients itself when rotated, if slowly in Windows. It responds to subtle finger movements and interprets two-finger gestures, like spreading your thumb and forefinger to zoom in.
Above the screen is a forward-facing 1.3-megapixel camera that delivers smooth video. In Android you need to adjust the sound volume in the Settings page, but in Windows you adjust the volume using the normal volume icon in the taskbar.
The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N455 single-core processor and 2GB of RAM. (As a comparison, the Motorola Xoom comes with a 1GHz nVidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM).
The model that Computerworld looked at includes Windows 7 Professional and 32GB of flash storage for programs and data; in the UK we’ve only seen a 16GB version with Windows 7 Home Premium on sale, for around £425.
On the left side of the ViewPad is a reasonable assortment of ports: a microSD card slot and a pair of USB ports. The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 lacks the Xoom's HDMI connector, but there's a microUSB port for connecting to a monitor; unfortunately, the adapter cable was not yet available at the time this was written so we’ve no idea if this even works.
Connectivity is available over 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; we tried it with an Adesso Bluetooth keyboard and Jawbone ERA headset. ViewSonic does not offer a 3G mobile connection option.
Two operating systems in one
The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 can be booted up in Windows 7 or Android 1.6.
Update: ViewSonic has just released in May 2011 an .iso patch to install Android 2.2. The upgrade process requires a Windows PC, a spare 1GB thumbdrive, an extra UNETBOOTIN utility, and the careful following of instructions.
Unfortunately, moving between Android and Windows on the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 is not an immediate transition, and the interface for choosing the OS is clunky.
After you reboot the ViewPad 10 (which takes about a minute), you wait until the two operating systems are listed in small type at the top of the screen. You then use the Home button to move to the Windows selection and hit the Menu key to select it. If you don't do anything in 7 seconds, the system will default to Android.
Once it's going, the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 is fine for most business uses in either OS environment.
For Windows use, it comes with Microsoft's basic programs, like Paint and Media Player. However, you'll have to purchase and install your own copy of Microsoft Office. Just to make sure that we could install common Windows applications, we added OpenOffice and Microsoft's downloadable PowerPoint viewer, which worked fine.
As an Android tablet, though, the ViewSonic ViewPad 10 is a definite step backward – it's pitifully behind the Xoom and other tablets based on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and with its pre-installed Android 1.6 software, even older devices that run Android 2.1 or 2.2.
Because it's sold with the ancient Version 1.6 of Android, it can't play YouTube videos. The ViewSonic ViewPad 10 doesn't have access to the Android Market but does include 26 apps, such as the standard Android email app, the iReader and Aldiko e-reader apps, a PDF viewer and DataViz's Documents To Go for reading and working with Word and Excel files.
It all adds up to a tablet that can handle standard business tasks but is a mediocre system. The ViewPad 10 scored an uninspiring 241.3 on PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark suite of Windows-based tests, putting it solidly in the netbook camp as far as performance is concerned.
The system's 3200mAh battery was able to play videos from a microSD card for 4 hours 7 minutes in Windows mode and for 3 hours 57 minutes in Android. As the tablet works, the left side heats up, but it never exceeded 38 degrees celsius.