Viewsonic VSD220 smart display review

Android-powered display leaves the PC behind

11 Sep 2012
Viewsonic VSD220

Viewsonic is certainly no stranger to Android, having previously dabbled in several tablets running Google’s mobile OS, but today we finally got our first glimpse of where the company thinks Android should head next. The VSD220 is a 22in, Full HD display running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, letting you get straight to work or enjoy multimedia without having to connect a PC first. We took a closer look at a first-look briefing in London this morning.

Viewsonic VSD220

Until you turn it on, the VSD220 is like any other monitor – it’s a fairly plain-looking 22in panel with a glossy black bezel and an incredibly glossy screen finish. Around the back it has a hinged stand that lets you lay the display flat, or adjust it to any angle you like – it kept the display firmly in place even at a very shallow angle, which should be useful for designers that like to lean over an easel rather than stare at a screen.

However, power the VSD220 up and you’ll boot into Android. It’s an identical experience to an Android tablet, only on a much larger scale – Viewsonic hasn’t done anything particularly fancy with the interface, only adding an extra button to the stock ICS menu bar for controlling the on-screen display. You get all the widgets and apps you’re used to, including access to Google’s Play store, so you won’t be short of additional ones to download.

Viewsonic VSD220

The display is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4 1GHz dual-core CPU, which helped Android feel reasonably snappy and responsive. It wasn’t as slick as we’ve seen on more powerful smartphones, especially ones running the ultra-smooth 4.1 Jelly Bean update, but it had no problems loading apps or playing Full HD video.

Because it uses optical touch technology rather than the capacitive kind you’d find in a smartphone, it can only register two-point touch gestures, but that means you’ll still be able to pinch to zoom. It’s also got all the connectivity you would expect from an all-in-one PC –two USB ports, a MicroSD card slot, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing webcam for video calls. Android now has great mouse and keyboard support, so you could turn it into a full desktop very easily.

Viewsonic VSD220

You’ll still be able to use the VSD220 as a normal monitor, thanks to its single HDMI input, but we weren’t able to see how well it handled external sources. Based on what we saw the glossy finish will be a real problem in brightly lit rooms, as light reflections made it difficult to see the screen at times, but we’ll need to wait and see whether it holds up under testing in the lab once we get hold of one.

Android-powered displays are an interesting concept, and Viewsonic seems to be the first to launch one. Whether they will take off in the light of the many touch-enabled Windows 8 all-in-one PCs due in the next few months will depend on price and whether customers feel they need desktop applications such as Word or Excel. When it launches next month, you’ll be able to pick one up for £359, making it expensive for a monitor but incredibly cheap for an AIO PC.

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