By Melissa J. Perenson
September 24, 2011
TV maker Vizio has always followed its own course, and its first foray into the growing tablet market is no exception. The company's awkwardly named Vizio 8" Tablet with Wi-Fi (VTAB1008, $330 as of September 23, 2011) has an 8-inch display, and it eschews Google's Android 3.x Honeycomb operating system for the older Android 2.3. This bulky tablet could be a good choice for consumers who want to get a taste of life with a tablet, but who have no grandiose expectations for high performance or fancy design.
In some ways, the VTAB1008 is a refreshing surprise. The company provides its own overlay on top of Android 2.3 which makes the interface feel fresh, friendly, and more tablet-appropriate. The company didn't introduce wholesale revisions of core apps, though; and as a result, the Google Mail app feels clunky compared to the multipane approach in Honeycomb. Ditto for the Music app and for the Web browser, while I'm grousing. But the Apps Menu is better presented than on stock Android 2.3. Overall, I liked what Vizio did better than what I've seen with the HTC Sense UI overlay on the HTC Flyer.
Vizio's special sauce includes its simplification of Android's notification system; the widget board for aggregating all widgets in one place (instead of placing them on separate home screens, as other Android tablets do); and a cleaner App Menu design, with persistent tabs at the bottom for browser, market, email, gallery, and music.
The company says that its interface customizations--seen here as the application launcher (with all apps and subsets of apps based on categories), notifications, and the tab dock at the bottom--will be consistent with the way its interface will look on the company's new Vizio Internet Apps Plus platform HDTVs and Blu-ray players, due to arrive later in 2011 and beyond. The VIA Plus platform will bring Android apps to your TV; the company says that future services and products will tie in to the tablet and other VIA Plus platform devices.
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