Honor 7

The latest from Huawei's Honor brand boasts phenomenal value — but with a few familiar caveats ...

The quick take

Through a mix of solid hardware — in terms of performance as well as build quality — the Honor 7 finds its way into the fast-growing category of really-good-and-extremely-affordable Android phones. At a functional level, it does just about everything really well, and it packages that functionality in the kind of impressive metal chassis we've come to expect from Huawei. But just as Huawei is a strength for Honor, it's also a weakness. For some buyers, particularly Android purists, the company's highly customized EMUI software will be the biggest reason not to buy.

The good

  • Solid build quality and easy one-handed use
  • Fingerprint scanner works well
  • Speedy, lag-free performance
  • Bright, punchy display and impressive speaker
  • Excellent value for money

The bad

  • Huawei's EMUI software is overbearing as ever
  • Many software issues from the P8 left unaddressed
  • Camera hit and miss in low light
Width Height Thickness
5.64 in
143.2mm
2.83 in
71.9mm
0.33 in
8.5mm
  • Display:
    • 5.2-inch Full HD
    • LCD Display
    • 1920x1080 resolution (435ppi)
  • Camera:
    • 20.7MP, ƒ/2.0 lens
    • 5MP front-facing camera
  • Battery:
    • 3100mAh capacity
    • Quick Charging
  • Chips:
    • Octa-core Huawei Kirin 935 processor
    • 4x2.2GHz A53e cores + 4x1.5GHz A53 cores
    • 3GB RAM
    • 16GB internal storage
    • microSD slot (also second SIM slot)

Honor 7

About this review

We're publishing this review after a week using a European-spec Honor 7 (PLK-L01) in the UK. Most of the time we used our review device on Vodafone UK, in areas with decent LTE and HSPA coverage and a 64GB Samsung microSD card fitted. To test the phone's dual-SIM capabilities, we used it with an EE SIM alongside the Vodafone SIM.

Honor 7 Video Walkthrough

Honor 7

Familiar, Sturdy, Dependable

Honor 7 Hardware

If you know your Huawei phones, the look and feel of the Honor 7 is pretty easy to sum up. It's basically a cross between the Mate 7 — last year's Huawei "phablet" device — and the company's current high-end offering, the P8. Although Honor is its own distinct brand in the UK, the Huawei design traits are clear to see. There's a largely untouched front face, save for the usual earpiece, camera and sensors, while the back panel serves as a reminder of Huawei's high-end phones, with a curved aluminum surface and eye-catching chamfers.

Veterans of the Honor series will find a device closer to the Honor 6 than the larger (and beefier) 6 Plus. The LCD gets a modest bump up to 5.2 inches with the same 1080p resolution, while modest hardware upgrades from the Honor 6 can be found in other areas.

This is basically the offspring of a Mate 7 and a P8.

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's homegrown 64-bit Kirin 935 CPU, an octa-core chip packing four higher-clocked "A53e" cores at up to 2.2GHz and four lower-power A53 cores at 1.5GHz. If you're keeping score here, that's basically the same as the Kirin 930 powering the Huawei P8, only at higher clock speeds. And it's paired with an ARM Mali-T624 GPU and a roomy 3GB of RAM. Elsewhere, the battery capacity stays at an ample 3,100mAh, while the front and rear cameras earn upgrades to 8 and 20 megapixels respectively. (The front camera's also grown an LED flash for low-light duckfacing.)

There's an even more significant addition around the back. The Honor 7 features a touch-activated fingerprint sensor with a few neat tricks to offer. As well as biometric security — no need to unlock first, by the way, as touching the sensor will activate it even when the phone is off — you can swipe down to open the notification shade, or up to view recent apps. The notification shortcut in particular is ridiculously useful — even on a relatively small phone like the Honor 7, reaching up to the notification shade can be troublesome, and the swipe shortcut replaces this awkward finger-gymnastics with one easy gesture. We really hope everyone working on a fingerprint-scanning phone steals this feature.

Honor 7 swipe

The new fingerprint sensor enables a couple of ridiculously useful software shortcuts.

And like just about everything else in Huawei's EMUI, these extra functions are configurable in the menus. There's also a "smart" button on the left edge, which can be programmed to load up different apps or perform various tasks on a single, double or long press. All genuinely useful stuff, though it's easy to accidentally press the "smart" button along with the power button when picking the phone up.

The Honor 7's display matches that of the P8 on paper, and we found it to be equally bright and vibrant as well. (And, anecdotally, perhaps a bit easier to see in direct sunlight.) There doesn't seem to be anything too crazy going on with contrast enhancement, though Huawei has implemented a brightness-limiting feature that adjusts the backlight brightness depending on the brightness of the image being shown.

Despite the presence of two grills, there's just a single loudspeaker to be found, located to the left of the microUSB port. Smartphone speakers are still really hit-and-miss, but the Honor 7's impressed us, and like the P8 it offers surprising volume, bass and clarity from a relatively small cutout.

In the hand, the Honor 7 feels sturdy yet classy. The top and bottom sections are plastic to allow those all-important radio waves in and out, but the main contact points are along the metal sides and back, so this isn't especially noticeable. The same goes for the slim plastic border between screen and body — which should protect the phone from knocks and scrapes as well.

Honor 7

Like most Huawei phones these days, the Honor 7 nails the fundamentals.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a 5.2-inch screen is about the limit for comfortable one-handed use, and this holds true for the Honor 7. There's no in-hand slippage due to the metal body, and the combination of this screen size and the angular metal design makes the Honor 7 easy to one-hand. While it's not spectacularly thin or light, it feels solid and dependable — arguably more so than a lot of more expensive phones.

Honor 7

Dual-SIM connectivity is the other big trick up the Honor 7's sleeve. The SIM tray has two slots — a primary nanoSIM slot, and a secondary slot that can hold either a second nanoSIM or a microSD card. In a country like the UK, where users aren't generally hopping between two coverage areas, dual-SIM support isn't especially useful. But it is an added bonus for frequent travelers, and doubling it up with the microSD slot means it's not wasted if you're just using one network.

As for internal storage, you're limited to 16 gigabytes, which is the bare minimum of what we'd consider acceptable from any smartphone in 2015. You'll have 10GB and change left over for your own stuff, though the SD slot may alleviate some of your storage woes.

Other hardware notables? There's a top-mounted IR blaster that works with the built-in "Smart Controller" app, allowing you to control just about anything with an IR receiver. And quick charging support is included, though we're told the bundled charger won't be quick-charge compatible. While we couldn't confirm that the phone was definitely charging at higher voltages on our Motorola Turbo Charger, it seemed to reach peak capacity pretty quickly.

Honor 7 apps

Familiar caveats

Honor 7 Software

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's EMUI 3.1 software atop Android 5.0. And if you've read our P8 review you'll know what to expect here — a heavily-skinned version of Android with a highly-customized look, a few pet hates, and system that feels at odds with Google's vision of the OS.

Though most of the things that were straight-up broken about the P8's initial firmware have been fixed, many visual and functional annoyances remain.

EMUI continues to be afflicted by visual and functional annoyances.

Aesthetically, there's a lot to like. The UI is built around circles, lines and rounded icons, with accent colors from your chosen wallpaper being included in Huawei's built-in apps. Everything, including app icons, is heavily themeable, and the library of themes has been expanded upon since the days of the P8, including some that now actually look pretty good.

The entire theming system still feels overbearing, though, and because not all the themes are up to date with the latest app icons, the experience is somewhat disjointed too. It's one of many areas of the software where we wish Huawei would have just left things alone.

Honor 7 apps

Others include the notification system, which duplicates notifications from some apps, including Gmail, and only shows notifications on the lock screen if you're using a certain lock screen style. If you're used to the relatively light touch of Samsung, HTC or LG, these changes may well be maddening. If not, then they are what they are: Different, and not necessarily for the better. In particular, Huawei's approach to "protected apps" — apps with permission to run when the screen is off — and constant notification area nags about apps using power in the background, add unnecessary mental overhead.

When it comes to overall performance and the visual cohesiveness of Huawei's own apps, there's not much to complain about. While it might not gel with Google's vision of the OS, it's clean, sharp and undeniably iOS-influenced.

You also can't fault EMUI's expansive feature set, which is surprisingly light on cruft and surprisingly heavy on genuinely useful stuff, like programmable shortcut buttons, voice-activated wake-up functionality and a wide array of camera features. But we'd still like to see a comprehensive overhaul of Huawei's software for EMUI 4.0, and hopefully see this highly customized layout replaced with something closer to vanilla Android.

We've got a more in-depth look at EMUI 3.1 in our P8 review, so check that out for more of the good, the bad and the confusing from Huawei's take on Android.

Honor 7 camera

Competent, if not spectacular

Honor 7 Camera

As smartphone hardware becomes more commoditized, imaging is one of the few areas left where traditional flagship phones have an edge. Even so, we're starting to see some impressive photographic capabilities from less expensive handsets, including Huawei's own Honor 6 Plus with its wacky dual-camera setup.

The Honor 7 opts for a traditional front and rear camera arrangement, however. There's a 20-megapixel shooter around the back, behind an f/2.0 lens with dual-tone LED flash, while the front-facer gets bumped up to 8 megapixels and is joined by a single LED of its own.

This is no Galaxy S6-beater, but it is capable across the board, and occasionally very impressive.

When you're selling a phone around the £250 price point, however, there are some trade-offs to be made. The biggest of these is the lack of optical image stabilization, which is the main reason the Honor 7 can't match the clarity of phones twice its price in low-light conditions. (And that's not unexpected, honestly.)

There is a "super night" shooting mode that combines a series of longer exposures, though this is largely useless without a tripod. We've also noticed an unfortunate tendency for the Honor 7 to miss focus in darker conditions, resulting in shots that are both blurry and grainy.

As for pics in good to moderately-lit conditions, the Honor 7 is a reliable performer across the board. Auto HDR mode dutifully kicks in to prevent washed-out skies and underexposed landscapes, keeping everything evenly lit. Overall, we have no real complaints when it comes to image quality — plenty of detail is captured thanks to the high-resolution sensor, and colors are generally accurate, if somewhat desaturated compared to the likes of the GS6 and G4.

Honor 7 camera options

Huawei's camera app also presents a bunch of useful features, including a dedicated light painting mode like the P8's, where longer exposures are used to create artistic light trail effects. You'll want to use a tripod with this feature though, as the lack of OIS makes it almost impossible to get steady, longer exposures with the phone in-hand.

As for the front camera, it's comparable with what you'd get from the current Android flagships, complete with beautification modes to either enhance your features, or make you look like a terrifying live waxwork version of yourself. There's also a front-facing LED for when the lights are low and fun things are happening, which, given the proximity to your face, takes a little getting used to.

So that's the Honor 7 camera experience — competent, capable, but not quite a match for the current flagships, or, we'd argue, the Honor 6 Plus's insane low-light capabilities. Everything about this phone needs to be considered in the context of its price, though, and with that in mind you're getting a pretty solid imaging setup for your money.

All that juice

Honor 7 Battery Life

By the numbers alone, a 3,100mAh battery should be able to provide more than enough juice for a phone like the Honor 7. The manufacturer claims heavy users will comfortable get more than a day (1.2 days, in fact) out of the phone's fixed battery, with lighter use getting you up to two days per charge.

One day with ease, or two at a squeeze.

And our experiences with the phone track pretty closely to that. Throughout more than a week of testing the Honor 7 never died on us before the day's end, even with extensive use on LTE, and with two SIMs inserted. On lighter days, which were mostly limited to Wifi usage indoors, we easily reached the evening with 50 percent or more remaining. In terms of screen-on time, we're looking at anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on usage.

Honor 7

A word of warning on some of the battery charts displayed here: The firmware version we're using doesn't seem to display awake time and mobile network reception properly, so take both with a pinch of salt.

For all practical purposes, though, you'll simply won't need to worry about battery life if you're used to a regular nightly charging pattern. That's still not true of all high-end phones, so Huawei deserves credit where it's due.

As for charging, the Honor 7 supports quick charging — a welcome addition given the battery size — although Qualcomm's standard isn't specifically mentioned by the manufacturer. That said, Quick Charge 2.0 doesn't necessarily require a Qualcomm CPU, and as previously mentioned we've found the phone charges fast enough using a Motorola Turbo Charger.

Honor 7

A worthy contender?

Honor 7: The Bottom Line

The Honor 7's impressive array of hardware and highly competitive price point makes it worthy of your attention, and perhaps your money too. As usual, Huawei gets the hardware side of the equation right — the Honor 7 is a well-built, premium handset and a quick performer, camera capabilities that stand out in the mid-range space. EMUI, despite its flaws, adds genuinely useful capabilities, and has a coherent look throughout, even when themed.

The brand is different, but the hardware and software remains the same.

But we think it's time for an overhaul of Huawei's software experience. From the confusing notification and background app management system to the overbearing way in which EMUI takes over icons and status bar colors, there's plenty here to irritate Android purists. If that's you, that could be a reason not to buy.

Ultimately, as much as Honor is a distinct brand in its own right, its handsets' triumphs and foibles run in parallel with the parent company's. You're still getting a Huawei phone through-and-through, with all the benefits and annoyances that brings.

Should you buy the Honor 7? Maybe

We keep saying this over and over, and we'll have to do so again here: Huawei makes great hardware — really great hardware. But software continues to be a glaring weak point. For that reason we can't recommend the Honor 7 unreservedly, but it is worthy of your consideration if you're shopping around for a capable new mid-range handset. But the Honor 7 has tons of competition from countless rivals, and you'd be wise to take a look at the hardware-software balance from the likes of Alcatel, Motorola and ASUS before parting with your cash.

Headlines

4 years ago

WiFi only Xoom coming in April?

43

Ever since the rumor mill first began surrounding Motorola's much anticipated Honeycomb tablet, we've been patiently impatiently waiting for it's release. Alas, this will be making a lot of you Xoom fans who don't want to be tied to a Verizon data plan happy. Motorola's Latin America GM told Argentinian-based Infobae that a WiFi only version of Motorola's Xoom Honeycomb-based tablet exists, and that we should expect it sometime in April. Now, keep in mind that this was confirmed by the Latin American division of Motorola, so we're hoping that this doesn't mean it'll only be available in Argentina in April, but it's good to hear that a WiFi only version is out there and Motorola intends on releasing it. [Infobae via Engaget]

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4 years ago

A sit-down with Toshiba and its 10.1-inch Android tablet prototype

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Toshiba Protoype Android tablet

Toshiba is looking to get into the Android tablet space in a big way. And by big, we mean 10.1 inches, with Honeycomb (once it's actually available). We sat down with Toshiba at CES in Las Vegas for a walkthrough with the unnamed prototype.

The software was defintely not finished, running Froyo (and with hiccups). But it was the hardware we were really interested in. Join us after the break for a good look.

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4 years ago

Viewsonic Tablets Hands-on. Hands-ons. Just a bunch of tablets, really

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Feeling burned by that Viewsonic gTablet you bought at Staples despite our review's best efforts to warn you? Perhaps if it was called the Viewpad 10s you'd feel better about the fact that the 10.1" inch screen is fronting a mere 1024x600 set of pixels. Or perhaps our look at the 7-inch version at IFA wasn't enough and you'd like another peek at that running Android 2.2. Or maybe you'd like to see how the dual-booting Windows 7 / Android 1.6 Viewpad 10 (nee Viewpad 100) has progressed in the past few months.

We can tell that you want all of these things. Heck, you probably want to know that there's also a 4" version floating around at CES that we may try to track down later. We're comfortable with Viewsonic pushing out lower-end tablets and we want you to be too, so go on and watch some videos and photos of Viewpads after the break

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4 years ago

Hands on with the Motorola Xoom

47

Motorola Xoom

Update: Video's been added after the break.

Spend even just a little time with the Motorola Xoom and Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and you quickly come away thinking that this may be the best chance for an Android tablet to hit the mainstream yet.

The 10.1-inch display (at 1280x800 and a 16:10 aspect ratio) is lovely. It's thin enough, light enough and, gosh darn it, you're gonna love Honeycomb running atop not one but two 1GHz processors.

It'll launch on Verizon sometime in the first quarter (nobody's saying yet), for an undisclosed price. And you won't get LTE at first, that will require a hardware update, with details to follow. Eventually. And the microSD card won't work at first, either. A software update will take care of that. Really, you know as much as we do about that now. So, yeah, there's still a lot left on the table.

What's not left on the table? A slew of hands-on pics. Find 'em after the break.

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4 years ago

Motorola Xoom official press release and promo video

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Xoom promo

It seems a little strange to announce the Motorola Xoom (see our hands-on) twice, but Motorola Mobility's official press release comes with the promotional video attached, and we figure more than a few would want to see it.  Again. 

If you're eyes are quick you can read the fine print that says "additional fees apply" when talking 4G service upgrade.  Shouldn't really surprise anyone, but be prepared to pay a small premium to ride the new network.  Video, and full press release after the break. [Motorola Mobility]

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4 years ago

Motorola Xoom will require hardware upgrade for 4G, software patch for microSD use

11

Moto Xoom

During our hands-on time with the Motorola Xoom, we learned a little more about the 3G to 4G conversion process, as well as a bit of news about the microSD card slot.  Starting sometime in the second quarter of 2011, users will be able to bring their Motorola Xoom into Verizon and have the hardware upgrade from 3G to LTE performed.  This makes a lot of sense, as LTE will require different hardware and nobody wants to wait a few more months for the Xoom to release while it all gets hashed out.

We also found out that as shipped, the Xoom will not have access to external storage via microSD cards.  This will require a software upgrade from Motorola to get it all up and running.  It sounds a little odd, but again -- the alternative is to hold back release until things are sorted.  I'm sure Motorola and Verizon will tell us more once things at CES wind down.

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4 years ago

Introducing the Motorola Xoom

15

Motorola Xoom

As expected, Motorola has unveiled the Motorola Xoom, their Honeycomb toting, 10.1 inch 1280x800 sized screen beauty.  The Xoom runs atop a dual core Tegra 2 chip, uses current 3G technology -- upgradable to 4G as things progress, has an HD camera and offers full 1080p video playback.  This is the one everyone's been waiting for folks, and we're headed over for some hands-on with it.  Stay tuned.

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4 years ago

Motorola unveils the Xoom Tablet, also outs new Droid Bionic

15

Last month when we saw Andy Rubin at Dive into Mobile, he was cradling what's likely the pinnacle of Android tablet technology -- a ten-inch Motorola tablet called the Xoom.  It runs Honeycomb, and has GPS and the new Android Google Maps 5 client, and we didn't know much else. Now that CES is here, we're sitting in on the Motorola press event learning more. That said, Motorola has just announced the name of the device even before the press conference has completed via their website along with some accessories to go with it. Which, we'll surely be stocking some of in the Android Central store. In doing so they also outed an yet to be announced new handset, the Droid Bionic. Stay tuned; we'll be updating this post shortly and bringing you more Droid Bionic info. [Engadget]

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4 years ago

Acer announces ICONIA Tab A500 headed to Verizon

7

ACER

The Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing now, so get prepared for loads of delicious announcements. Acer took the time to announce a tablet headed to the Verizon LTE network, labeled the ICONIA Tab A500.

The ICONIA Tab will be showcased at CES, so we'll do our best to get you all of the information possible about the device.

Here are the specs we know as of right now:

  • 10.1-inch touchscreen
  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core 1 GHz processor
  • Flash 10.1
  • 1080p playback
  • HDMI-output
  • 13.3 mm thick
  • Ability to play HD arcade games and complex online 3D games (due to a 10-point multi-touch and gyro meter control)

Sounds like a very intriguing device; stay tuned for more juicy details. Full press release after the break.

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4 years ago

Viewsonic: GTablet doesn't have hardware flaw, its UI just sucks

6

Staples Viewsonic GTab recall

You may have heard some rumbling across the Internet over the weekend about Staples recalling the Viewsonic 10-inch GTablet because of a hardware defect.  Turns out that according to Viewsonic (full press release after the break) the hardware's still top notch, and "is one of the fastest Android tablets on the market today, consistently leading industry benchmarks."  They're right, but to be fair, that's only after it's been hacked nine ways to Sunday. The stock user interface -- known as Tap and Tap -- is plain awful (see our review for the proof), and Viewsonic admits that this, and the fact that Adobe hasn't certified Flash 10.1 for the Tegra 2 chipset just yet, is the reason people were rushing to return the things. 

They also go on to say they will be releasing an update starting Dec 22. The new Tap and Tap, which according to Viewsonic, has been significantly enhanced since the product launch  will now be a choice presented to the end user, along with the standard Android 2.2 user experience.  They also suggest the users can download Flash from websites that distribute Android applications until Jan 2011, when Adobe has certified the software for their product.  If this turns out to be the case, you're forgiven Viewsonic.  Hit the break for Viewsonic's press release.  [via Engadget]

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4 years ago

Nook Color rooted -- Turns $250 e-reader into an affordable Android tablet

21

If it runs Android, it must be rooted or at the very least, root must at be attempted. In this case, the Nook Color is the latest to fall victim to such guilty pleasures as you can tell from the above image. Congratulations! Your Nook Color just became a whole lot more useful to you, as long as you don't mind going through the rooting process that is. [XDA via Gizmodo]

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4 years ago

Review: The Viewsonic 10-inch gTablet

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Is Tegra 2 on a sub-$500 tablet too good to be true?

Viewsonic gTablet

The gTablet is Viewsonic's entry into the sub-$500 Android tablet market.  While there won't be any shortage of cheap Android tablets, readers, and toasters (we have to beat the PreCentral guys in the race for the first smart toaster!) come this Friday, a few stick out hardware-wise, and the gTablet is one of them.  Just so happens that I got a few days of one-on-one time with a gTablet, so what better way to play with it than to give it a quick review.

Normally, none of us here would dare review a device we haven't put through the paces, but this one's a bit different, because this is much more useful before Black Friday than it would be after.  Hit the break to see the whirlwind review of the gTabet. Special thanks to Chip!

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4 years ago

Galaxy Tab root (and others) just a few clicks away with z4root root

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Galaxy Tab rooted

So you have your new shiny Galaxy Tab, and you want to root it.  I like the way you think.  The good news is that the days of SDK's, cryptic shell commands, and crazy Windows USB drivers are over.  An app from the Market (z4root -- links after the break) will root your Tab, as well as other Galaxy S phones and other NAND unlocked devices with just a button press.

  • Download and install Z4Root from the Market
  • Enable USB debugging (menu>settings>applications>development)
  • Run the app, and press the "root" button

Your Tab will restart, and you're rooted.  Unrooting is just as easy, just run z4root and "unroot."  Of course a lot of the goodies available for other devices just haven't been made for the Tab just yet, but they're coming.  Hit the jump for download links and a list of other phones this will work on.  [XDA Developers via Pocketables]

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4 years ago

Samsung promised to bring 10-inch Galaxy Tablet in first half of 2011

8

10inch-galaxy-tablet

As we have seen recently, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet has been quite a popular piece of technology as it prepares for its launch across all four major U.S. carriers. While many were left wondering why there was only a 7-inch version available and not a choice of sizes, it seems as though our question was quickly answered. A General Manager from Ireland has confirmed that they are in the works of a 10-inch version to match their current tablet and are hoping for a release in the first half of 2011. Part of this delay could be that Samsung is waiting for the release of either Gingerbread or Honeycomb, which should be displayed better on a tablet form factor, since we know Android 2.2 was not made for that. [Silicon Republic via Engadget]

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4 years ago

Hands On with Viewsonic Viewtab 7 & Viewtab 100

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Viewsonic is jumping into the Android tablet game with the Viewpad 7 and the Viewpad 100. Both are fairly straightforward Android tablets with little to speak of in terms of customization.

The Viewpad 7 offers a much better overall Android experience -- it's running Froyo with a properly sized keyboard with what would seem like a pokey 600MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 512 megs of RAM. As always with Android, though, the real test is the implementation and in this case we found the Viewpad 7 to hold its own in terms of speed and responsiveness. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to cry about either. Unfortunately, the display here is a paltry 800x480 pixels, so perhaps it's no wonder that it's responding to taps as we'd like.

The Viewpad 100 is both more exciting and less. More exciting because it's a 10-inch tablet with 1024x600 resolution that's able to boot into a full version of Windows 7 if you'd like. Less so because it's running on Android 1.6 because later versions of Android aren't yet playing nice with the Viewpad 100's Atom processor. In general, this version didn't feel fully baked - Viewsonic has yet to build the interface for dual-booting the device, but on the bright side the sucker did boot faster than most Android smartphones we've laid eyes on.

Both Viewpads should hit Europe in October, no word yet when they're coming stateside. Images and video after the break!

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