It may be a bit chubbier and more plastic fantastic than the high-profile Samsung Galaxy Tab or Apple iPad, but what ViewSonic's 7in Android-powered tablet, the Viewpad 7, lacks in refinement it makes up for in utility. It's small, tough and comes with a vinyl Filofax-type cover, and manages to pack in as many means of connection as the top-spec iPad for considerably less cost.
It's a tablet that has it all: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, GPS and even a convenient mini-USB port for both charging and data transfer. That's the full suite of communications technology on a tablet you can fit in a jacket pocket, for just £400, contract free.
Things get better, too. The screen doesn't quite have the wide viewing angles of the Galaxy Tab, but it is bright and even with the backlight up, the battery will keep going for days under normal usage.
Unlike many rival low-cost tablets, it also runs the latest version of Android, 2.2 Froyo, and has full access to the Market for apps. All the big guns – Spotify, Evernote, LastPass and more – are available for download without having to resort to sideloading hacks.
The speakers and microphone are good, too, and while there's no forward-facing camera (there is a low-res affair round the back) it's capable of using as a speakerphone with Skype, Fring or a mobile network, and even better with a cabled or Bluetooth headset attached. The speakers aren't brilliant for music and video, but they're certainly up to enjoying the seasonal Muppets YouTube clips.
Same as the N700
There are, however, three major problems for the Viewpad 7. The first is that it comes with just 512MB of on-board storage and an empty microSD slot. By comparison, the Archos 70 has 8GB of solid state space and costs £150 less.
Worse that than, though, is the fact that the Qualcomm processor runs at just 600MHz. So long as you don't have too many background apps running that's not a performance issue. Apart from the occasional freeze while downloading mail it feels quite snappy, and while the default movie player fails to play DVD rips at full speed, there are alternatives in the Market that do.
The problem is that Google has restricted access to the native Flash player for processors running at 800MHz or above. You can access some online video sites via the Skyfire browser workaround, but not many and certainly not iPlayer.
All these things would be just about acceptable if it weren't for the final and biggest problem facing the Viewpad 7. The Linx Commtiva N700 is exactly the same device but with a different logo on the back ... for £100 less with a 4GB micro-SD card included. Like this? Buy that.
ViewSonic Viewpad 7
A chunky but appealing tablet that lacks power while being undercut by the identical Commtiva N700