Vizio isn't the first name that springs to mind when you think of tablets, but it's not a company to be dismissed. In just a few short years, Vizio has popped onto the radar as one of the most powerful players in high-definition televisions using a simple formula of quality products at low prices.
It's a formula that's a great match for the current tablet market. Big-name tablets that sold in 2010 for as much as $700 can now be found for half the price and consumers are watching to see how low things will go.
The answer, for Vizio, is $299, which buys you an 8-inch tablet stocked with 4GB of storage and Android 2.3. Is it an irresistible combo of price and quality? Let's take a look.
The Vizio Tablet VTAB1008 isn't winning any beauty pageants. Sure, its 8-inch screen size stands out in the sea of 7-inch and 10-inch options on the market, but at nearly 0.5 inch thick and weighing 1.3 pounds, this tablet feels less like the future of personal computing and more like a cutting board.
There are some redeeming qualities. Vizio's husky design feels sturdier than the unintentionally flexible build of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or the Archos 101. The back of the tablet is covered in a matte, fingerprint-resistant plastic.
One of Vizio's niftiest design tricks is the disappearing act that's been done with the Android navigation controls. When you turn the tablet for landscape or portrait orientation, the three backlit buttons for home, menu, and back will magically jump from one bezel to the next so that the controls are always located beneath the screen. Similarly, there are three speakers along the edges of the tablet, two of which will activate depending on how the tablet is positioned. This helps to avoid the problem of inadvertently blocking a speaker's sound when holding the tablet in one orientation or another.
Though the home screen may not look like it, this tablet is running Android 2.3 with all the trimmings. Vizio put in some design work to skin the system graphics to emulate the look of the VIA (Vizio Internet Apps) applications built into its latest crop of Internet-connected TVs. When you look at the total product ecosystem, it makes a lot of sense, but even on its own the tablet's distinct look is both attractive and intuitive.
Essentially, Vizio has done away with Android's desktop and plunges you right into your app collection--a philosophy similar to iOS. A customizable selection of favorites can be arranged at the top of the screen while an ever-present dock of core apps (Browser, Market, Email, Gallery, Music) runs across the bottom of the screen. Like the dock found in Apple's iOS, these apps can be added to, rearranged, and deleted.