How the Vizio Tablet Works

The Vizio tablet, outfitted with the V.I.A. Plus interface on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).
Image courtesy of Vizio.

Vizio, a California-based company known for mid-priced, high-definition televisions with high-end features, has taken its concept to tablets.

Vizio announced that it would debut the Android-powered Vizio tablet (named the Via during development) in July 2011. Although the actual release date was about two weeks later than expected, the $298 cost was less than anticipated. The price point puts the Vizio well below many of its competitors, including the HTC Flyer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the iPad.

This 802.11b/g/n WiFi-enabled tablet with an 8-inch (20.3-centimeter) color touch screen can be purchased from third-party retailers or directly from Vizio's Web site (where as of August 2011, it was selling for the slightly higher price of $329). The Vizio is stylus-compatible -- good news for users who prefer writing notes by hand, enjoy sketching or simply feel fatigued after poking at a touchscreen with their fingers all day -- but the tool is sold separately.

The tablet has a front-facing camera for videoconferencing (there's no information available about how many megapixels the camera has, but it records at 30 frames per second) and three speakers to produce a "surround sound" effect. It can stream video and music, and it also has built-in access to content provider Netflix because of a partnership between the companies created during Vizio's long history of television development and manufacturing [source: Davies].

Vizio's approach to manufacturing makes it an environmental standout among some of its competitors. As of January 2011, Vizio outpaced Energy Star Guidelines by 50 percent and used only mercury-free manufacturing components [source: Vizio]. Vizio has opted to distribute its user manuals online instead of in paper form, and the company uses recycled packaging for some product distribution. Vizio also encourages consumers to send in old and unwanted electronics for recycling or safe disposal instead of tossing the items in the trash [source: Hanes].

The Vizio tablet runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), which is designed for use on smartphones, whereas many of its Android-based competitors use Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) -- a more powerful version of the operating system designed to make apps faster to download and easier to view on tablets' larger screens. There are future plans to allow users to update the tablet's operating system to Honeycomb, but the tablet's single-core processor may struggle to keep up with the more advanced OS [source: Android Review].

While critics contend that the Vizio's is already outdated, proponents argue that it's a nice addition to your home theater system. Find out why on the next page.