In 1968, "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- co-written by director Stanley Kubrik and author Arthur C. Clarke -- depicted two astronauts using an electronic slate to stream a video broadcast wirelessly [source: Gullo]. It was a far-fetched idea at the time. After all, people were still using landline telephones. With cords.
Fast-forward 40-some years and the slate-style tablet is a part of many people's personal computing arsenals. With each new entry into the tablet race, the competition increases as manufacturers vie to differentiate their offerings with unique features. Companies like ViewSonic, which has been producing a tablet line since 2001, strive to reinvent the wheel -- or at least to put a spinning rim on it -- each time they launch a new version.
ViewSonic was founded in 1987 as Keypoint Technologies. Based in Walnut, Calif., the company initially manufactured and sold computer peripherals like keyboards. In 1990, ViewSonic's focus shifted to color computer monitors and other mid-priced visual display products [source: ViewSonic]. In 2002, ViewSonic released its first tablet, the ViewSonic Tablet PC VC1100, with a $1,995 price tag [source: ViewSonic, Newman]. At the time, it was believed to be a bargain.
As of August 2011, ViewSonic offered five tablet models: the ViewPad 7, ViewBook 730, ViewPad 10pro, ViewPad 10 and gTablet.
The ViewPad 7 and ViewBook 730 have 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) screens. Priced around $300 and $250, respectively, these tablets undercut direct competitors like the $500 HTC Flyer and Blackberry PlayBook, and offer enticing options in comparison to similarly priced e-readers as of late 2011 [source: Orqula].
ViewSonic's larger tablets -- the ViewPad 10pro, ViewPad 10 and gTablet -- all sport 10.1-inch (25.7-centimeter) screens. The gTablet is designed primarily for light consumer use -- Web browsing, checking e-mail and playing games like Angry Birds -- and was priced at about $225 as of late 2011. ViewSonic released the ViewPad 10pro in August 2011, priced from $599 to $699 depending on the options you choose. Unlike the ViewPad 10, which has features for gaming and basic office use (and runs at least $100 cheaper as of late 2011), the ViewPad 10pro is designed for business professionals who need to access and use office software on the go.
So how do the ViewSonic tablets stack up to the competition when it comes to what's under the hood? For some, the tablets' internal workings are a mixed bag. Find out why on the next page.