A key thing to note about the ViewSonic ViewPad 10e is that it runs Android 2.3, not the Honeycomb 3.2 version designed for tablets or the new Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 system. There are some fundamental sacrifices involved with this move.
The 10e is not fully certified for Android 2.3 - generally associated with budget 2.x devices that don't offer mobile data connectivity. This means there are no Google-branded apps (Mail, Maps, Navigation and Calendar) pre-installed, and you have no Android Market access.
We hacked-in the Android Market, but it still didn't work
To fill this gaping void, the ViewPad 10e comes pre-installed with the 1Mobile Market, a third-party app store. Mercifully, it's the best non-official Android solution we've used. It's not quite as slick or well-stocked as the real thing, but does its best to look similar and offers a claimed 200,000 apps. A bonus over Google's Android store, you can install multiple apps from a search result page, making installs much quicker. It offers some Google apps too, including Maps.
The 1Mobile Market
However, the ViewPad 10e seems to be very poor at managing its Wi-Fi connection, frequently reporting connection problems within the 1Mobile Market when the browser had no problem accessing the internet. The ViewPad 10e is riddled with these bugs, and though most are minor they can often be infuriating.
Those that we found most invasive were its broken autorotate function, faulty power management and intermittent refusal to turn on: it often flips to landscape view with just a five-degree tilt, its battery appears to run down very quickly on standby on occasion (Where ViewSonic claims 200-hour standby life) and several times in testing the 10e flat-out refused to turn on.
The charger was in, the battery was charged but no-one was home. Even prolonged presses on the recessed reset button had no effect. An hour or so later, the tablet switched on as if nothing had ever gone wrong. There are further issues too - it loses its USB computer connection as soon as it goes into standby - making file transfers a nightmare - and transfer speeds were very slow, maxing out at around 3MB/s.
Considering these deep-rooted issues, we're not surprised that general performance isn't as good as we'd expect given the specs. There's lag in simple tasks - even inputting webpage names in the browser - and performance in games is closer to what we'd expect from a 600MHz processor than a 1GHz one. Here's a quick run-down of some of our favourites and how they perform.
This mediocre, glitchy performance is what turns a bargain into a burden. Running the AnTuTu benchmark tool, we found our real-life complaints backed-up. It scored just 1895 points, where other recent single-core 1GHz, 512MB Android tablets we've tested managed almost 1000 points more. Archos's G9 101, which retails for around £50 more, scored 4753 - still an "affordable" tablet, but in another league entirely performance-wise.
It was perhaps a little ambitious, then, for ViewSonic to plaster a 3D custom UI on this tablet. Upon first boot-up you're given the option to pick between a standard Android look and Viewscene 3D. This turns your homescreens into 3D panels, which you flick through as usual with swipes across the touchscreen. Its real worth, though, is in providing some widgets better-suited to the XGA-resolution screen than those built into Android.
These help to make Android 2.3 feel slightly more at-home on the 9.7in screen than it otherwise would - i.e. not very. They cover essentials like calendar appointments, the weather, clocks and so on, but are practical rather than beautiful.
We found Viewscene 3D somewhat buggy, like the rest of the 10e (it even crashed during our first-ever boot-up), but it didn't seem to slow the system down particularly. However, as performance in the standard 2D mode is not great, that's nothing to shout about.