Unboxing & Photo Review: ViaPad 97 Multitouch Android Tablet
Today we look at the ViaPad 97, an Android tablet sporting a 9.7-inch 2-point multitouch screen with a ratio of 4:3 with a resolution of 800 x 600. It is powered by VIA’s WM8650 processing chip (the same processor as the ViaPad 7) and it runs Android 2.2. The tablet also comes with a custom Android UI (looking suspiciously like Apple’s) but more on that later. Well, enough chit chat, let’s get down to business.
BOX & TREATS
I think it’s safe to say that the ViaPad 97′s box isn’t exactly the snazziest around – it’s pretty generic. Snazzy boxes are nice, but then again it’s what’s in them that counts. In this box apart from the tablet is a flat 2-pin AC charger, a USB-to-5-pin cable and a manual booklet. I guess that’s all you really need.
The Viapad 97 is a thin and rather lightweight tablet (553g). It has a black front frame around the screen and a coated silver back, aping the iPad designs and par for the course for a China tab. Button wise, it comes with your standard power button, touchscreen-lock and volume buttons as well as the home button that’s situated on the front face. Jack and port wise – you’ve got an AC port, 3.5mm headphone port, a MicroSD card slot and a 5-pin dock. A 9.7-inch screen is big and the tablet itself measures up to W:245mm x H:190mm x D:5mm, but it’s no burden to carry around or hold to use. It sits quite comfortably in one palm, freeing up the other, and as it’s pretty light, you won’t end up with one arm bulkier than the other over time.
My experience with using the tablet was a mixed one. The tablet’s display was bright and vibrant, with nice colour reproduction, but the touchscreen response was only OK – dragging, taping and pinching to zoom went fine at times, but not so at others. I’ve commented on the fact that I have pretty miserable fingers, but this is the first tablet I’ve come by where they’ve actually hindered being able to tap on something specific. On a few occasions, the wrong button was tapped, or none were tapped. Getting around on the desktop and opening up apps and other widgets was also temperamental. The screen feels a little less sticky than the MIDnite-C, and I’ve been using that so much that perhaps I’m just too used to it.
The ViaPad 97 has the same customised UI that we’ve seen on other WM8605-powered tablets. It’s nice, and a little reminiscent of the RockTab / Acho C901 tablets that ran Android 1.5. While the UI modification is not extensive – it’s not a whole makeover – the small touches here and there (such as the side bar) are really nice and look quite sharp. I am not a fan of the Apple iOS-like menu styling, though (those yucky rounded-corner square buttons). While the Apple iPad may be the craze across the border in the mainland, it certainly isn’t here in this office.
The media players on the device worked without a hitch. Playing a video or audio file, skimming through the track and pausing and playing them proved to be no problem. I then decided to try surfing the web. With the fact that the ViaPad supports flash, I had my hand at free Flash games on the internet but found that I was unable to play even the simplest of games. Flash worked up to the point where I was in the game – but actually playing it proved impossible as it was too laggy to the point of being frozen. This wasn’t due to the connection as it’s worked fine on other devices. Youtube, also a Flash powered site, was slightly better but not by much. I was able to load a video and eventually watch it, but not without the tablet taking its time, bugging out a bit and having the video positioned awkwardly to the top left – despite the menu being centered and in the correct position. This raised eyebrows as to whether it was a browser based error or tablet based. Not all was bad though – basic website perusing was fine, and the same goes with the tablet’s on-screen keyboard.
In all honesty, I didn’t come in with the expectation that this would be some kick-arse tablet – we know what the WM8650 chip is capable of. It’s not meant to be a powerhouse, so if you approach it from that angle, the performance that I got out of the tablet was actually pretty darn good. This tablet would be ideal for casual users who just want to browse the web and watch some videos. It’s not really for those who want to do hardcore gaming, or extremely Flash intensive things.
The tablet also comes with a front facing camera (that’s either 0.3- or 1.3-megapixels). The camera itself worked fine, however it proved to be quite a challenge to take a picture without it being blurry from shaking. I also couldn’t find the delete option for the life of me. The tablet also has an e-book reader and a MyRecorder that’s capable of recording via the tablet’s mic. The mic and webcam makes this tablet able to perform video calls, and the unit we had came with skype. All other extras are what you would expect – calculator, camera, clock, contacts and an array of other small-time widgets. Par for the course for a generic Android tablet.
Overall, the ViaPad 97 isn’t going to blow you away – but its price point will reflect that. The large, multitouch panel is a major plus, and others may have more luck than me in operating it (I really am abysmal with touchscreens), as is Android 2.2. The tablet’s not hugely powerful, but will suit those users who are not in the market for a tablet with Tegra-2-like ability. Web browsing wasn’t as snappy as we’ve seen, but it wasn’t unbearably slow either. The WM8650 that powers this tablet is simply not meant to blaze through – it instead plods along at its own pace. If you can live with that, you won’t go wrong with this tablet. Android seemed to be implemented well – it didn’t crash or freeze or hang which is very important. Though Flash 10.1 is supported, it’s not really recommended. We’ll be testing to see if that YouTube bug is due to the default browser tomorrow.
And that wraps it up. I hope you’ve got a clearer view on what to expect from the ViaPad 97. With the correct expectations, you won’t really be disappointed.