The world isn’t short of cheap Android tablets, but it’s surely short of good ones. We’re again going down that road, the one with a cheap tablet (under 300 bucks), that we hope it’s going to rock our world and offer decent performance even in comparison with +$500 slates. Until now, Vizio didn’t let us down with their line of HDTVs and their debut 8 inch Android tablet looks pretty good, at least on paper.

Besides being able to do what most tablets are capable of doing- browsing the web, watching some clips, the Vizio tablet can be used as a all in one remote control for all your gadgets at home, including home theaters, TVs and more. Stay tuned for this review of this promising budget tablet.

Specs

The Vizio slate is not that impressive when it comes to specs, at least in comparison with high flying Android slates. This 8 inch slate has only 2 GB of initial storage, a single core processor and has only one camera, in front. Full spec list below.

  • Processor: Marvel 600 series SOC, single core 1 GHZ
  • Display: 8 inch, 1024 x 768 px, multi touch display
  • Storage: 2 GB
  • Camera: front facing, 30 fps
  • Input and ports: micro USB, microSD, micro HDMI, audio jack
  • OS: Android 2.3
  • Battery: estimated 9 hours of autonomy
  • dimensions: 6.6″W x 8.1″H x .48″D
  • weight: 1.2 lbs

Design and build

The Vizio tablet has a plastic finish, both in front and the back, with the back side having a faux leather feel, which makes it easier to hold and move around than glossy slates. Considering that Vizio had to work on a really tight budget, the finish of the tablet is quite decent. It has a black, matte finish, which will help keep it clean most of the time, and although the plastic is not top notch, it won’t feel fragile in your hands.

As for markings, in front you’ve got the Vizio name on the right corner and a Vizio logo ( a V inside another V) covering the middle of the back panel. The edges of the device are slightly tapered, thus making the device feel a little thinner than it actually is.

The back of the slate has a soft finish and a nice logo

The back of the slate has a soft finish and a nice logo

Display

The Vizio tablet has a 1024 x 768 multi touch screen which offers overall good quality. Colors are crisp and overall brightness is decent, although corners offer less visibility and viewing angles are not very good.

Touch input is fine and accurate, though you won’t get the same responsiveness like on the Eee Pad transformer or the iPad 2. But considering this is an entry level tablet, the display is one of its very good features.

Hardware and performance

The Vizio tablet comes with a rather modest 1 GHZ single core processor and synthetic tests kind of trashed the slate. For example, Linpack, which measures CPU performance, gives to our Vizio slate a score of little over 16, while Xoom scored 35 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 a little over 30. Surprisingly, the slate behaves better when it comes to HD and Flash playback than more expensive tablets, thanks to the fact that the screen has less pixels the CPU has to process.

This means that the slate is very recommended for multimedia and entertainment apps, but will deal with multitasking much slower. The tablet comes with only 2 GB of internal storage, most of it being used by the OS. Luckily, there’s a SD slot which lets you add cards up to 16 GB. Still, keep in mind that you might experience some slower performance when running apps and content directly from the SD card.

One of the particularities of this tablet is that it has 3 speakers, positioned in such a way that stereo sound is available whether you’re holding the slate in portrait or landscape mode. It’s a fairly outlandish setup, but assures decent flexibility when it comes to tablet orientation.

The slate can deal with HD video, but don't choke it up with multitasking

The slate can deal with HD video, but don't choke it up with multitasking

Software and apps

The Vizio tablet comes with Android Gingerbread 2.3 and a very customized (and Honeycomb looking)  interface, called VIA Plus. This skin UI splits the screen in two, with one of the half displaying a certain category of apps, while a top right drop down menu lets you switch between categories. Meanwhile, on the bottom of the interface there’s a launching strip with five customizable app launchers.

This is all good positive stuff, but the fact is that the interface is a little slow at times. Maybe it’s because the modest hardware has to deal with both Android and the UI, and Vizio said that a forthcoming upgrade will also deal with performance issues. Also, a update to Honeycomb is also in the works.

As for apps and features, one of the most interesting is the Universal Remote app, which lets you use the slate as a remote control for TVs. The slate connects to a database that contains presets for hundreds of models of TVs, home theater systems and can replace a dedicated universal remote, which costs around 200 bucks. The slate also has a modified version of Swiftkey virtual keyboard.

Camera

The 8 inch Vizio slate has a single VGA camera, in front, with a 640 x 480 resolution. We won’t spend too much time with this and all we can say it’s that the camera is just above the line when it comes to taking a decent video call. But a great camera is not a feature for a budget tablet anyway ( and even expensive ones usually disappoint at this chapter).

Battery life

There are also advantages about a tablet with modest hardware and tweaked UI and that is battery life. Vizio claims that the slate can go for about 11 hours on a single charge, and although that’s a little optimistic, the slate can indeed achieve around 9 hours of autonomy, consisting of a mix of browsing, watching videos, playing some games and other “tablet-esque” tasks.

The slate can work as a remote for hundreds of devices

The slate can work as a remote for hundreds of devices

Prices and availability

The tablet goes for [easyazon-link asin=”B005B9G79I”]$258 right now on Amazon[/easyazon-link], although a while back it was offered even for $260.

Even so, the Vizio is more expensive than the 10 inch Viewsonic Gtablet, for example, which sells for $259, coming with a Tegra 2 chip, 16 GB of storage and a 10 inch, 1024 x 600 display.

Nowm, both these are solid tablets, but if you feel they’re still a bit too pricey for your budget, you shoudl also check out the best low cost tablets available in this other post.

Final thoughts

The 8 inch Vizio slate is a budget tablet that does its job with minimal fuss. It has a decent design, a modest hardware which is strained in just the right way and a bunch of interesting features- IR capabilities and 3 speaker system.

Although not as snappy as the Xoom or the HTC Flyer, the Vizio can deal with HD video very well (it even has a HDMI port) , while browsing and other basic tasks run well. This is a recommended slate for anyone on a budget or a first time tablet buyer and aware that an iPad or Transformer indeed cost twice as much.