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Viewsonic at MWC - The cost of Android Market and Windows 8's tablet potential

28 Feb 2012
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Hands-on with Viewsonic's latest cut-price tablet

Anbody looking a budget Android tablet should be aware that not all models come with the Android Market installed. The OS itself is freely available, excepting some hefty patent payments you have to make to other companies - such as Microsoft - for the pleasure of using it. However, to use Google's own applications and access the Android Market the device must be certified by Google as considerable cost - which is then passed onto the consumer

ARE YOU IN THE MARKET?

Because of this Viewsonic has a twin-pronged approach to its tablet range, with some devices being certified by Google, while others are not. The latter group are not app-free however, as you can use other non-official app stores, or in some cases hack the device to work with the Android Market - as on the Viewsonic ViewPad10s.

The new line-up that we got to take a look at included the ViewPad E70 and G70. These 7in tablets are largely identical in apperance, being rather practical-looking devices, measuring 10.9mm thick. The internal specifications vary quite a bit though.

Viewsonic

The G70, though the E70 looks identical from the front

The E70 is the entry-level model and should sell for as little as 130GBP inc VAT. For that you get a 1GHz single-core Cortex A9 processor with 512MB of RAM and 7in LCD display with a basic 800x480 resolution. There's 4GB of internal storage, a 1.3MP front-facing camera, plus a micro SD card slot, and it's a Wi-Fi only device. As you may have guessed, this budget model does not come with the Android Market, though it will ship with Android 4.0 (ICS). Still, at this price it's well suited for casual browsing on the go.

Viewsonic

The ports on the G70, including the silver SIM card cover for 3G

The G70 ups the resolution to 1,024x600 and has double the RAM with 1GB. You also get a rear-facing camera, microphone and 3G capability for Skype and browsing on the move, plus GPS for use with mapping apps. This model does come with Google certification for the Android Market and also uses Android 4.0. The cost of all these upgrades is hefty though, with the device selling for around 265GBP inc VAT, around twice the price of the E70.

There will also be the ViewPad E100, an update to last year's budget IPS panel-equipped 10e. This is largely identical, but comes with a faster 1.2GHz processor and Android 4.0 too. It will also be available in some more interesting colours, though these will probably be specific to certain retailers.

Viewsonic

The ViewPad E100 in a rather striking red finish

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY?

Viewsonic also discussed its enthusiasm for the launch of Windows 8 later this year, and showed the the developer version of the OS running on a current tablet model. The demo model uses Intel's Cedartrail chipset, but this will have to update to Clovertrail for the launch, as Windows 8 demands DX10 compatibility, which Cedartrail lacks. Though an Atom device will be the first released, Viewsonic hopes to follow that shortly with a Core i3-based model too.

Viewsonic

A current Viewsonic Atom-based model running an early build of Windows 8

Going back to the issue of certification, Viewsonic said that Microsoft has been making its WHQL approval scheme far easier of late, with Windows 7 and they expected this to be quicker-still to navigate for Windows 8 - so hopefully we shouldn't see big delays in getting tablets on sale.

Viewsonic also believes that Windows 8 should be a far stiffer competitor for iOS devices than Android has been in the tablet space (which is still dominated by iPad at present). However, with Windows tablets currently very expensive, largely due to the cost of the operating system, we feel Microsoft will need to change its pricing strategy for Windows 8 considerably if it's to succeed on tablet devices.

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