Trust me, I know what it is like to be in love with gadgets. I have bought the newest Apple iPhone, iPod, Asus netbook or Android Phone more times than I can count. More often than not, I buy the gadget with a discount or coupon, test drive the device, discover its ups and downs, and then flip it on Ebay to break even, or a small loss. My wife calls it my addiction, and she puts up with it because it is not drugs or women.
Recently, I found a device that had a price I could not beat, and jumped on it. The problem is that I love the thing, and I might just end up keeping it for a while. I found a 10.1 inch Android Tablet, the ViewSonic gTablet, for less than $300, and I am smitten with it. Trust me, it is not without its flaws, but it is more than useful, it is fun and it has really showed me what I dislike about Apple, Motorola and many other gadget manufacturers.
The ViewSonic gTablet – The Good
The ViewSonic gTablet is a 10.1 inch Android Tablet that comes with a stock Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system, a 1024×600 resolution with a capacitive touch LCD, Tegra 2 (Harmony) processor, a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, and a decent 3650mAh battery. Those specs are in the neighborhood of some of the newer, sexier tablets such as the Asus Transformer, Motorola Xoom, and Acer Iconia. The major difference is the price – I paid less than $300 for the tablet, and I was hard pressed to find anyone selling it for more than that. I have run Angry Birds side by side with Apple’s iPad 2, a Motorola Xoom, and the ViewSonic gTablet, and the gTablet was never slower. In many cases, it was smoother and faster than the Motorla Xoom, which costs twice as much.
In addition to internal specs that shine, the gTablet also has a USB port, and has no trouble mounting an external flash drive or USB hard drive. Combined with the MicroSD port, the gTablet has nearly unlimited storage capacity for music, videos, or any other media that tickles your fancy. I have also been able to connect a USB keyboard and mouse (with a USB hub), and I have had full control of the device like I would with a Netbook. With the addition of Google’s new Google Documents App or QuickOffice, the gTablet is a very complete and competent productivity device.
The last feather in ViewSonic’s cap is that the gTablet has spectacular independent developer support. On sites like XDA Developers or Slatedroid, there is a treasure trove of support, tweaks, and customizations that make the gTablet better than anything I have used in a long time. Also, ViewSonic has worked with the developer community and supported them with releases of source code so that the independent products are really quality. This has made the Android Tablet fun and useful, but more on that later.
The ViewSonic gTablet – The Bad
It has to be said: the stock software on the device is rubbish. It is slow, clunky, there is no native Google Market application, and it crashes on a whim. I am positive that the reason ViewSonic is working with the developer community is because it was necessary to keep the device on the market. If it wasn’t for independent developers, the gTablet would be a $300 paperweight.
Also, the screen is not the greatest. There are many complaints about this, and many of them are warranted. Granted, we are spoiled by the IPS screens of the Nook Color, Asus Transformer, and Apple iPad. Compared to those screens, the gTablet is like looking through mud at times. If you compare the screen to other non-IPS screens, it isn’t as bad. The viewing angles are rough, but if it is in your lap or on a stand it is fine. Some people comment that the viewing angles act as a security screen; that is a euphemism for “if you are a off at an angle, you can’t see anything.”
Lastly, the ViewSonic gTablet takes work. You cannot hop on it straight out of the box and expect to enjoy it. Apple has spoiled us in this respect; an iPad is pleasing immediately. You will not be happy with the gTablet out of the box, and if you have zero tech skill, or if you cannot read, you will never make it work for you. Without tweaking, you will think it is a complete waste of money.
The ViewSonic gTablet – Why I Love It
Owning an Apple iPad 2 is like leasing a Toyota Prius: it will be sexy, practical, and very nice, but you will never truly feel like you own it; it will never be quite what you want it to be. Owning the ViewSonic gTablet is like owning a 1974 Ford Mustang: it is clunky, it will take time and energy, and you will have to tinker with it before it works right: once it is running right, however, it will beat the socks off of everything else. I love the ViewSonic g Tablet because it is mine, wholly, and I can do whatever I want to it. I have ran four different Roms and three different kernels on it. I have overclocked and undervolted it. I have ran software on it from independent developers and official Google developers. Steve Jobs would never let me do that; even Motorola has locked me out of my Motorola Atrix. ViewSonic has let me play, and I have learned much about tablets and Android in the process. I honestly will never go back to iOS, especially when an iPad 2 costs over $200 more.
With the support found at the XDA developer’s site, the Slatedroid site, and the Cyanogenmod site, anyone with a USB cable, a desktop, and the ability to read can move forward and unlock the gTablet’s potential. Personally, I am running the Calkulin+Clemsyn 1.5ghz Froyo Combo, and it is spectacular. I have run Gingerbread Roms, as well as a version of Ubuntu Linux, and the instructions for every modification were simple and easy to follow. Tweaking is not without risks, but it would seem that the Viewsonic gTablet is nearly “brickproof,” and the community is supportive and patient. I have never had so much fun with a computing device.
The ViewSonic gTablet – Conclusion
The gTablet is not for everyone, and it is not perfect. It is a great device for the Android hobbyist, a budding developer, or an early adopter like me who is on the lookout for something new and different. I can change this device daily if I wanted to, and the experience would always be new. ViewSonic honestly has a “fun” tablet on their hands here.
I wish other device manufacturers would follow suit – the Apple iPad 2 would be much more interesting if it were fully customizable, or if you weren’t made to feel so dirty and guilty for attempting to jailbreak it. If Motorola would let me customize my Atrix like I have the ViewSonic gTablet, I would be recommending it as well. Give the gTablet a shot if you are looking for a fantastically competent, powerful, and fun Android Tablet.