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.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki