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First Impressions: 8" Vizio tablet coming in late July, $350 [updated]

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Vizio, the budget-friendly television maker known for great prices and quality technology, just proved it is possible to create an Android tablet with few compromises for $350 with the launch of its 8? slate today. I got a first look at the device at the CEA Line Show in New York City yesterday afternoon so here are some early photos and specs.

The Vizio VTAB1008 tablet has a 8? 1024×768 capacitive touch screen display with a 4:3 aspect ratio that is more typical of standard TV content than widescreen movies. When I first saw the screen, it immediately made me think of Barnes & Noble’s Nook Touch, which is also slightly wider than other e-readers. It is powered by a 1 GHz processor with 512 MB of RAM and 2 GB of internal storage that can be expanded via the external SD card reader that can accept up to a 32 GB card.

Other hardware features include: Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity Built-in GPS Connectors: A mini USB port; 3.5 mm headphone jack, a micro HDMI-out so it can connect to your HDTV for HD playback one VGA front-facing camera for video chat [Update: No rear camera according to Vizio's Jim Noyd] Built-in IR radio Three stereo speakers — two on the top corners and one on the side –to ensure stereo sound no matter if the slate is in portrait or landscape mode Internal battery should last up to 10 hours per charge, depending on use.

Vizio clearly did not skimp on the hardware to deliver a tablet at this price point.
On the software front, the Vizio I got to play with was running Android Gingerbread 2.3 with Vizio’s own UI, though I was told that it was not the finished product and that Vizio is still making tweaks to improve performance. The OS will eventually be updated to Honeycomb but no date has been set yet because the company is still testing the newer OS’ stability, and waiting for more apps to be available for Honeycomb before going down that rabbit hole.

While the UI is not as barebones as the Toshiba Thrill’s, Vizio’s interface mainly consists of a list of icons for the apps, with more menu options along the bottom of the screen. Its most interesting app (and most revealing of why Vizio is entering the tablet market) is probably the ?Living Room Remote Control? that uses the slate’s built-in IR signal to communicate with the TV and sound system, for now. It plans to integrate the tablet more fully with the TV in the future, such as streaming content from one screen to the other wirelessly. A smartphone is also in the works, as in an upcoming announcement about its involvement with GoogleTV so Vizio is
really trying to expand its ecosystem, likely to keep up with its more mainstream competitors Samsung, LG and Sony

While not as thin or light as an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Vizio tablet is by no means ridiculously thick nor heavy at just over a pound in weight. It has a rubbery back so the tablet feels good to hold; the device over all has a solid feel that belies its price.

This slate should be hitting stores by the end of July. According to SlashGear, Walmart will be one of the retailers to carry this tablet; other big box stores will likely be announced closer to the actual ship date.

For those who have been waiting for the price of tablets to drop before dropping your hard earned cash for one, is the relatively good value for the technology enough to compel you to bring a Vizio tablet home?