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.
Vizio Tablet Features and Specs
The Vizio tablet weighs just 1.2 pounds (0.54 kilograms), but it's designed to become one of the most powerful components in users' living rooms thanks to its ability to control home-theater systems.
The Vizio has just 4GB of built-in memory -- many of its entry-level competitors start at 16GB. The tablet's memory can be expanded via an open slot for a 32GB memory card [source: Poeter], but the Via's limited on-board memory, paired with its 1GHz single-core processor, may make it difficult for the tablet to accommodate memory-hogging operating system upgrades or multiple apps. By comparison, the Apple iPad has a 1GHz dual-core A5 processor. Each core independently processes information, and it also reads and executes instructions. What does that mean in practical terms? For the user, the dual cores result in a device with the ability to handle more information, faster [source: McGrath].
Vizio proponents say that the tablet doesn't necessarily need more power because it's intended to act as a remote to operate home-theater systems, including cable boxes, surround sound and televisions [source: Lugmayr]. The tablet works as a remote with Vizio equipment, as well as some equipment from other manufacturers. It has a built-in HDMI port designed to transmit high-definition content to televisions, and users can expect about 10 hours of battery life between charges.
The Vizio tablet runs Android apps, which are available for purchase or free from Android Market. The tablet can also be used as a remote to search and download apps for new Vizio televisions equipped with the Vizio Internet Apps platform. This platform also gives users access to Blockbuster On Demand and Hulu Plus [source: Melanson].
While the Vizio tablet may have trouble competing with tablets that have more powerful operating systems, faster processors and greater memory capacities, there is one gadget that might be quaking in its box: e-book readers. The tablet's screen is larger than most readers', and it supports e-books, magazines and other multimedia. Plus, for just $50 to $100 (or so) more than an e-book reader, users can play Angry Birds and sync their home theater systems, too.
- Android Review. "The Vizio Tablet for only $299." Aug. 10, 2011. (Aug. 28, 2011) http://droidreview.net/2011/08/the-vizio-tablet-for-only-299/
- Davies, Chris. "Viza Via Phone and Via Tablet get Official Ahead of Summer Release." Android Community. Jan. 3, 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://androidcommunity.com/vizio-via-phone-and-via-tablet-get-official-ahead-of-summer-release-20110103/
- Gade, Lisa. "Vizio 8" Tablet." Mobile Tech Review. Aug. 22, 2011. (Aug. 28, 2011) http://www.mobiletechreview.com/tablets/Vizio-Tablet.htm
- Hanes, Marina. "Clash of the Green Titans: Apple iPad vs. Vizio VIA Tablet." 1 800 Recycling. Jan 26, 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://1800recycling.com/2011/01/green-titans-apple-ipad-vizio-via-recycling/
- Lugmayr, Luigi. "$298 Vizio Android Tablet Ships." I4U.com. Aug. 10, 2011. (Aug. 28, 2011) http://www.i4u.com/47465/298-vizio-android-tablet-ships
- McGrath, Jack. "Apple's A5 Chip: the iPad 2's Insanely Fast Processor." Techno Buffalo. March 4, 2011. (Aug. 25, 2011) http://www.technobuffalo.com/companies/apple/apple's-a5-chip-the-ipad-2s-insanely-fast-processor/
- Melanson, Donald. "Vizio Internet Apps adds Hulu Plus and Blockbuster On Demand." Engadget. Jan. 5, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/05/vizio-internet-apps-adds-hulu-plus-and-blockbuster-on-demand/
- Mori, Kanama. "Those Tablets Below $300 Price Tag." Pctabz.com. Aug. 7, 2011. (Aug. 28, 2011) http://www.pctabz.com/2011/08/those-tablets-below-300-tag-price/
- Poeter, Damon. "Vizio Tablet Hits Shelves at Steep Discount." PC Mag. Aug. 9, 2011. (Aug. 28, 2011) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390756,00.asp
- Vizio. "Using Greener Methods." (Aug. 25, 2011) http://www.vizio.com/environment