Clearing up some misconceptions about the Viewsonic G Tablet

Lots of stuff circulating on the web about Android tablets of late. And, as usual, there’s a lot of truth and a lot of crap going around. I have some personal experience with one of the tablets so I thought I’d break my long silence (more about that in another post) and post some truth.

I make no secret of being … well, I guess I’d be called an Android fan-boy. I pre-ordered and received the G1 on launch day back in 2008 and have never looked back. Bought a Nexus One on launch day, too and am still using it. Friends say I have techy ADD — I can’t stay interested in anything that’s not new. Yet Android has held my attention fast since day 1. I unlock, root and install custom ROMs pretty much as soon as I can. I’ve been waiting for an Android tablet since this time last year. So, when I saw the Viewsonic G Tablet at Sears shortly before November 2, I was interested. Tegra 2 chip, 512M RAM, 16G internal storage, microUSB and full-size USB port for $379, I figured it’d keep me happy until Gingerbread’s Honeycomb’s released next year and the framework and UI can be updated for larger screens.

Before I go into the details, let me cut to the chase. This Android tablet isn’t an iPad killer. It’s not for moms and pops who want to charge it and go about their business. It’s for hacks like me who like to fiddle with things. It can do a LOT but it requires some work. So, don’t buy one if you’re not up for it. Wait until 2Q2011 and buy a fully-baked tablet, OK? Don’t buy one and whine because it’s not an iPad.

But, if you’re comfortable flashing ROMs and want a tablet with cutting-edge CPU hardware, plenty of RAM and loads of internal storage, don’t hesitate!

OK, now, the details. On Novermber 2, I walked into my local Sears store, grabbed (and paid for) a G Tablet and ran home. How bad could it be? Tegra 2, it’s gotta be a killer, right? So I powered it up and was incredibly disappointed! The UI was slow and laggy, it couldn’t remember the date and time and there was no Android Market! I turned to my friends at XDA and, sure enough, there was an active community there (albeit crowded into one thread in a general forum at the time). I found out that NVidia had lots of tools (notably, nvflash) I could use to work on Tegra tablets. I helped the crew at XDA by providing them with stock images from my tablet and was soon rewarded with new ROMs that removed or altered the UI and some of the other elements that were problematic. We tweeted to @Viewsonic and called their support line telling them of the problems and suggesting solutions. Some of the other members of the crew joined Chinese forums because, it turns out, the tablet is from Malata — the SMB-A1002 and there were lots of ROMs and hacks for it there. Another member began a port of Cyanogenmod but, since we didn’t have source for the kernel, it was less than stellar. Then, some enterprising soul saw the Advent Vega and everything changed. The Vega is based on the same tablet as the Viewsonic. A couple of folks got very busy and ported the binaries over to our tablet and, I must say, it’s makes the tablet great! Along with some mods to make the Android Market usable and I now have the e-readers Aldiko, Nook and Kindle on it along with Pulse, TapaTalk Pro, Google Voice, Google Reader, Fring, K9 Mail, Xfinity and, well, pretty much the whole suite of apps that I have on my phone. On a 10″ screen. I carry it with me to work every day. I watch movies and listen to music and read books and read news and email and surf the web with a screen I can easily read and type on a keyboard that I can easily type on.

Am I happy with it? Yeah, you can probably tell the answer is “yes”. And you can probably also tell that it’s not for everyone … hence, it’s not a iPad killer. But that’s OK. I don’t want an iPad killer. I want an Android tablet.

 

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