Print 20 comment(s) - last by cmdrdredd.. on Aug 10 at 10:48 PM

Tablet is at a great price, but is it worth it?

The Android tablet market these days is increasingly packed.

There's the ill-fated Xoom from Motorola Solutions, Inc. (MSI), the Iconia A500 from Acer Inc. (TPE:2353), the budget-friendly Eee Pad Transformer by ASUSTEK Computer Inc. (TPE:2357), the bleeding-edge hardware of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 by Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930), and the brand new Dell Streak 10.1 by Dell, Inc. (DELL).

But all of these tablets have one thing in common -- they're relatively pricey.  The cheapest is the $400 Eee Pad.

I. Priced to Sell

Enter the Vizio 8" Tablet.  While not bearing the most imaginative of names, the new tablet [press release] from the Irvine, California electronics maker is certainly priced to sell.  Hardware-wise, it gets the job done, but isn't very flashy.

You can get the new tablet at a sweet $300 USD price from Sam's Club and Walmart (owned by Walmart Stores, Inc. (WMT)), Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST), Inc. (AMZN) [link], and a handful of other retailers.  It costs $330 USD to get the tablet direct from Vizio.  You can also get a bundle for $370 USD from Vizio, which includes a stylus and case.  The price cut came at the last minute -- Vizio was accepting pre-orders for $400 USD; presumably those people will simply pay less on their final payment.

II. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly -- the Hardware

Packing an 8-inch 1024x768 display, the tablet matches the resolution of the slightly larger 9.7-inch iPad 2 from Apple, Inc. (
AAPL), which is $200 USD more expensive for the base model.  However, the discount comes at a price -- the computer features only a single-core 1GHz Armada 600 processor from the Marvell Technology Group, Ltd. (MRVL) (that's right, the company who purchased Intel Corp.'s (INTC) ARM CPU unit back in 2006).  That's pretty weak considering that most Android tablets these days, like the iPad 2, feature dual cores.

Of course, most of the time you don't need a dual-core processor for every-day tablet activities.  What might be more troubling, though, is the lowly 512 MB of RAM -- on par with the iPad 2, but well below most Android designs.  And the unit only comes with 2 GB of dedicated NAND flash memory, though its microSD port allows for up to 32 GB of expansion.

Otherwise the feature set is pretty standard -- 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth, micro HDMI, a 3.5mm headphones jack, and accelerometer.  And it even has a couple of perks you don't see on Android tablets every day -- three-speaker surround sound and sensor-based backlighting.  

And to boot, Vizio packs it with its Internet Apps Plus suite, which transforms it into a universal remote.  According to early reviews, it works not only with Vizio devices, but with most TVs, media players, and set-top boxes, in general.  The remote functionality sort of makes sense -- after all, Vizio has persistently been one of the top shippers of LCD TVs in the U.S.

The weight isn't bad -- 1.2 lb -- and the dimensions 6.6-inch W x 8.1-inch H x 0.48-inch D make it just slightly "fatter" than the iPad 2 (0.346-inch).

III. Gingerbread is Clunky on a Tablet

Another oddity is that Vizio chose to use a modified version of Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x) -- something Google Inc. (GOOGfrowns upon.  The reason for this may be because Google refuses to release the source for Honeycomb, which might make it difficult to implement the device's specialized universal remote functionality.  Still, with most tablets running a tablet-tuned Honeycomb (Android 3.x), this is a bit troubling.

Liliputing wasn't a fan of the interface, writing:

Unfortunately it has just 2GB of storage space, which is a bit on the anemic side, and a custom software interface which might not appeal to those hoping for a more standard Google Android experience... the software feels slow and the screen can be unresponsive at times and the tablet notched some pretty awful scores in benchmarks — proving that not all 1 GHz processors are created equal.

Likewise, Slashgear wasn't a fan of the interface and criticized the benchmark performance, though it noted that real-world performance might not be quite as bad.  It writes:

[T]he interface isn’t very snappy and its touch controls aren’t consistently responsive. This is perhaps the biggest drawback to the tablet. Vizio has already confirmed that an update would be rolling out within the next 45 days to enhance overall performance, but in its current state it can get frustrating at times.

When it comes to synthetic benchmarks, the Vizio Tablet gets killed. If the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is like a Ferrari, then the Vizo Tablet is like a 2005 Ford Focus. You can’t really compare the two although they’ll both take you places. And again, for general consumers the overall user experience won’t be impacted much by these scores.

It's important to note that the device does at least have access to the Android App Marketplace.

IV. Buy It Now?

One key problem of the Vizio tablet -- the lack of Android Honeycomb -- promises to disappear sometime in the near future.  Vizio promises a Honeycomb update is in the works, though this may be dependent on how soon Google publishes the Honeycomb source code.

Otherwise, the tablet represents a curious value proposition.  On the one hand, it's reportedly a very good universal remote.  With universal remotes costing around $150 USD these days, that means that you're essentially buying a "tablet" for $150 USD, if you're in the market for one.  At that price point, it's virtually a no-brainer, if you're curious about Android or like Android tablets.

As a stand-alone device, it's a tougher proposition.  It is undeniably cheap, has backlighting, and stereo sound.  On the flip side of the equation, the sweet price obviously came at the cost of a mediocre processor, lack of GPS/3G connectivity, limited RAM, and very a sub-par flash memory allowance.  Do the parts equal an appealing whole?  That's a tough call, when it comes to the Vizio 8-inch's value as a stand-alone tablet.

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By theapparition on 8/10/2011 11:01:15 AM , Rating: 3
Dependent on Google releasing source code? What?

While independant developers won't get the source code, all the tablet manufactures have it. All Visio has to do is market a tablet that meets all the requirements for Honeycomb, and they'll have access to it as well. But since that didn't happen, my guess is some hardware features are lacking.

As for budget Android tablets, look no further than the Barnes and Nobel Nook Color. For $250 and a little install of CM7, you get a fantastic little tablet for the money. Yes, it's not as good as my Xoom, but it's a lot cheaper and fun to play with. Bought the rest of the family Nook Colors to use as well and they love them.

RE: Huh?
By JasonMick on 8/10/2011 11:17:19 AM , Rating: 2
Dependent on Google releasing source code? What?

While independant developers won't get the source code, all the tablet manufactures have it. All Visio has to do is market a tablet that meets all the requirements for Honeycomb, and they'll have access to it as well. But since that didn't happen, my guess is some hardware features are lacking.

Not exactly, if what has been previously published is true....

Google's past statements have indicated that it doesn't want to broadly release the source.

e.g. Andy Rubin's BusinessWeek interview:
"The search giant says the software, which is tailored specifically for tablet computers that compete against Apple's iPad, is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other devices, such as phones."

What is likely the case is that Google has released the Honeycomb source to high-profile partners (e.g. Samsung) whose devices MEET the Honeycomb spec (dual core CPU, etc.). This is evidenced by the appearance of TouchWiz on the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

However, Vizio's device likely does not meet the spec (lacking screen res, front&rear cameras-- and possibly CPU/RAM as well). Thus even if it was eligible for the source as a partner, it likely would not have permission to use it on this tablet.


RE: Huh?
By theapparition on 8/10/2011 12:24:10 PM , Rating: 4
Errrr, isn't that exactly what I said.

RE: Huh?
By Alexvrb on 8/10/2011 9:57:03 PM , Rating: 2
Pretty much. But if Android was really open source like many believe, this wouldn't be an issue. Even on a lowly 1Ghz single core, I think Honeycomb would be a big improvement.

RE: Huh?
By SunAngel on 8/10/11, Rating: -1
RE: Huh?
By JasonMick on 8/10/2011 11:27:16 AM , Rating: 2
I feel if your going to spend any amount of money spend it wisely meaning make each dollar count and maximize your productivity and pleasure. To make a long story short, nothing on the market comes close or surpasses the iPad2.


The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a higher screen resolution, a faster cell modem (HSPA+ capable), twice as much RAM, a thinner profile, and a superior GPU.

Of course you may be right if Apple's patent terrorism has removed its need to compete in your local market (sorry, Australia, EU)!

RE: Huh?
By SunAngel on 8/10/11, Rating: 0
RE: Huh?
By invidious on 8/10/2011 12:59:20 PM , Rating: 4
What you say is absolutely true, if your sole interest is being a fanboy.

See I can jump to illogical conclusions too. Mine even has better grammar! Seriously though, stop drinking the coolaid, try things for yourself.

RE: Huh?
By JasonMick on 8/10/2011 1:14:19 PM , Rating: 3
what you say is absolutely true, if your solely interest in the playing with the hardware. when you able to build logical interfaces on top of said hardware are you only complete. Android is good but no match for you know what.

Have you spent much time with Honeycomb?

I don't own an iPad 2 or a Galaxy, but having developed for both Android and iOS, I've spent a fair time playing with both tablets and their built in apps.

Personally I feel Honeycomb has some rough edges here and there (as does iOS), but overall the approach is much more innovative, the look more stylish, and the navigation more intuitive than iOS. Of course that was only my personal experience -- some people may prefer iOS's plainer look.

As for the apps -- well Angry Birds on iOS is virtually the same as Angry Birds on Android -- not much do praise or criticize there, when comparing Android and iOS.

RE: Huh?
By adiposity on 8/10/2011 12:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
False. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a higher screen resolution, a faster cell modem (HSPA+ capable), twice as much RAM, a thinner profile, and a superior GPU. Of course you may be right if Apple's patent terrorism has removed its need to compete in your local market (sorry, Australia, EU)!

Jason, while I agree that Samsung has superior hardware here, do you think honeycomb is as good as iOS for tablets? In my experience, Android tablets are not as good as the iPad, due to the operating system. I feel the opposite way about phones. I vastly prefer my Droid 3 to an iPhone. But when I try to use Android tablets, it's just not a very good experience.

RE: Huh?
By quiksilvr on 8/10/2011 12:37:44 PM , Rating: 2
In all honesty, iOS is quite unimaginative. You have a grid of icons, folders that hold icons...and that's really it.

With Honeycomb, you can make it look like that as well, but the insane customization makes it vastly superior. I can't survive without widgets on my Android phone and on tablets its pretty much a requirement.

RE: Huh?
By adiposity on 8/10/2011 12:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
I don't personally use any widgets, but that's just me. I used to use a few on my Droid but they just annoyed me and took up space (engadget I used for a while). Now I just launch the app I want and get what I need from it.

I do agree that iOS is overly simple, which is why I don't like it. But when I use Android tablets, they just feel clunky and aren't very cohesive. Then there's the issue that there are few good tablet apps. Personally I wouldn't buy an iPad, but Android tablets actually seem worse right now. The hardware on the Samsung is nice, but the software just isn't there, IMO. It still feels like a phone OS is being used on the tablet.

RE: Huh?
By cmdrdredd on 8/10/2011 10:48:41 PM , Rating: 1
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a higher screen resolution, a faster cell modem (HSPA+ capable), twice as much RAM, a thinner profile, and a superior GPU.

Of course you may be right if Apple's patent terrorism has removed its need to compete in your local market (sorry, Australia, EU)!

That doesn't matter when you have thousands more apps that actually work properly on the iPad. I'm afraid the market for the Android tablets is shit.

Specs won't sell me a device that is worthless.

RE: Huh?
By theapparition on 8/10/2011 12:22:42 PM , Rating: 2
I am spending my money wisely. I'm not buying overpriced Apple stuff, with overpriced and unnecesary accessories, and overpriced (compared to Android) apps.

It does everything I need it to do, so why waste the money being tied into the Apple walled-garden ecosystem forever?

RE: Huh?
By shane.carroll on 8/10/2011 2:02:29 PM , Rating: 3
nothing on the market comes close or surpasses the iPad2

You are THAT guy, sir! Don't be that guy.

why the xoom hate?
By invidious on 8/10/2011 12:54:20 PM , Rating: 3
The main reason for Xoom's poor initial reception was that it was the first Honeycomb tablet, so everything lacking in Honeycomb vs iPad was associated with the Xoom. So the Honeycomb OS was buggy and the launch price was a little high. But the price has come down and the OS has matured. The OS on the Galaxy is not better than what it is in the Xoom, it is the same. The hardware on the Galaxy isnt a generation ahead of the Xoom, they are almost the same. The fact that Galaxy was released after the Xoom doesn't make its hardware magically more bleeding-edge. Yet for some reason you choosed to denounce the Xoom and praised the Galaxy Tab as being bleeding-edge.

I am not saying the Xoom is better or the best. But as a Xoom owner I dont understand why this imaginary line seems to have been drawn on this site between the Xoom and every other Honeycomb tablet. I understand that the Galaxy is a popular new deviced and everyone wants to write glowing coverage of it to be associated with its glorious release, but theres no reason to jab at other perfectly capable devices. This whole thing reminds me of the playstation 3 release and how every blogger on the internet faught over who could praise it the most.

Well thats my rant, and ultimately I am glad to see android tablets picking up speed. But stop with the hate!

RE: why the xoom hate?
By rburnham on 8/10/2011 1:39:02 PM , Rating: 2

As a Xoom owner, I agree. It's a great piece of hardware, the software does what I need it to do, it makes me life easier, and the bulk of legitimate reviews I have read praise not just the Xoom but Android 3.0 as solid products.

Sadly, this is where things are in the world. Subtly and middle ground are not entertaining enough, so some people go to extremes. In reality, all tablets do pretty much the same thing.

no honeycomb? meh
By invidious on 8/10/2011 1:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
It was all looking pretty good for a budget tablet... Until I saw the no honeycomb part. If you don't want honeycomb then buy a previous generation tablet for even cheaper. Whats the point of releasing a tablet with hardware that exceeds the OS? Without the ability to upgrade the OS this tablet is a bad idea.

RE: no honeycomb? meh
By rudy on 8/10/2011 8:59:13 PM , Rating: 2
Ya agree 100%, I doubt this had to do with google though, my guess is like most manufacturers it takes time to get thing running and with the universal remote they were probably working on this long before gingerbread. That said as a consumer I do not care. However $300 for a tablet that is a univeral remote will be big trouble for logitech harmoney. Logitech better take note and get a tablet out based on android fast.

By Uncle on 8/10/2011 1:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
"the sweet price obviously came at the cost" Yup , no source code, can't have someone come into the market place and under cut the big boys profit margin.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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