We’ve arrived at a time when a PC monitor is more than just a conduit to see what you’re doing on the screen. Viewsonic makes that readily apparent with their VSD220 smart monitor and the features included. By combining a stand-alone tablet with a touchscreen monitor, Viewsonic delivers options that allow for use as a 21.5” (viewable) HD monitor or an enormous Android tablet. The practicality of a tablet that size is called into question, as is what effects the dual-functionality has on the power of the device. Surprisingly, the computing side sees negligible degradation and, despite the limited portability, the VSD220 itself is an impressive piece of hardware.
As a monitor, the resolution clocks in at 1920x1080, providing HD graphics or picture for games or movies. The screen allows for dual-point optical touch, which means when you touch the screen it is highly accurate and allows you to use multiple touches at the same time, though the multiple touches rarely get used when in monitor mode. The built-in speakers are of average quality, but the disappointment is that the only output is a headphone jack. Unless you specifically set up a sound system from your PC, the monitor has no options for you. Another odd choice is the use of micro-HDMI, thankfully included in the box itself. Straight HDMI-to-HDMI would have been more practical, but perhaps the engineering inside allowed limited space. Whatever the reason, micro-HDMi is typically used for smaller hardware, cameras and camcorders and is less widespread than your plain old, vanilla HDMI cable.
The Android side of the system, running on Ice Cream Sandwich, is far more impressive and justifies the $424.99 price tag. The dual-core 1GHz processor is a TI OMAP 4430, of the family that you see in other popular tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1”. Combined with 1GB of LPDDR2 memory (mobile memory), and 8GB of onboard storage memory, the tablet isn’t overly impressive, but still operates smoothly for most of the projects you’d have a tablet perform. Don’t forget, of course, that despite it’s average internal hardware, the tablet is still nearly 22” viewable and you’ll be playing Angry Birds or whatever your favorite app is in size and clarity that is rare.
The downside is the mobility, or rather the lack thereof. To simply forget the fact that hauling a 23” piece of hardware is impractical, the fact that it lacks internal battery makes the common benefit of a tablet simply nonexistent. The smart monitor becomes a stationary device and even faces certain incompatibility with some popular apps. The MOGA Pro controller and app, for instance, will not work with the device, despite the size and resolution being a seemingly perfect match. The kickstand in the back does little to help the design, leaving the bottom of the monitor lying flush with your desk. Those with elevated keyboards will find a need to pull it away from the monitor in order to see the bottom of the screen.
That’s not to say that the drawbacks of the device outweigh the benefits, quite the opposite in fact. In a world where a 10” tablet is “large”, one the size of the VSD220 is enormous. Average hardware isn’t enough to seriously cripple the device and doubling as an HD PC monitor makes it exponentially more useful. Quick, easy setup gives way to multiple options and viewing mobile apps at an non-traditional size would expect to see certain texture issues, but if it is HD-compatible it comes through crystal clear. It connects to your network via Wi-Fi and has a touch-response time of around 5ms, meaning it’s surprisingly fast when you want to use the screen rather than the mouse. Finally, with a three year warranty, you’ll be protected should the monitor encounter any problems. All-in-all, the smart monitor is a beautiful piece of hardware and, as components become cheaper and smaller, expect Viewsonic to continue that trend going forward.