For an Android tablet to truly go head-to-head with the Apple iPad, it needs to offer a comparably large 10-inch screen. That seems like a fairly logical premise, but, surprisingly, most of the Android tablets we've tested in 2010 have a screen size of 7 inches or less.
The ViewSonic G Tablet ($499 list, $399 street) is the first name-brand tablet we've seen step up to the challenge of adapting Android for a 10-inch screen. The result isn't an iPad-killer, and doesn't live up to the best of what Android can offer--but it stands out as a unique alternative.
The G Tablet's form and weight are similar to the iPad's. Measuring 7.75 inches tall, 10.5 inches wide, and 0.5 inch thick, the G Tablet is large enough to deliver Web pages and documents at their intended size, but not so big as to cause your hands to cramp.
As with most Android devices, you'll find four capacitive touch buttons along the right side of the screen, controlling navigation features such as search, home, menu, and back. The bottom edge includes a pinhole microphone and a docking port for accessories. A volume rocker sits up top, conveniently positioned within fingers' reach. The geeky stuff is sequestered off on the left side, including a USB host port (for peripherals and thumb drives), microSD card slot, power button, Mini-USB sync port, headphone jack, and power adapter socket, and there are integrated speakers on the left and right sides. The only unfortunate result from this arrangement is that gripping the tablet in its preferred landscape orientation tends to cover up the speakers. If you decide to plug in a pair of headphones, your left hand has to awkwardly accommodate the headphone cable sticking out.
The most important design decision ViewSonic made on the G Tablet revolves around the onscreen user interface. The expected Android customizable desktop has been replaced with a large dashboard of utilities, including weather, news, notes, clock, contacts, and calendar. You can customize this view to some extent, swapping around the different preinstalled modules--but it's nowhere close to the customized nature of the Android desktop we've come to know. Granted, some of that custom application-organization functionality is still available in the toolbar and app drawer running across the bottom, but fundamentally in its interface metaphor the G Tablet is closer to the Sony Dash than, say, the HTC Evo 4G.