Product Review: ViewSonic VSD241 Smart Display, a 24-inch Touch Screen Monitor and Android Tablet
With computing power increasingly inexpensive, and the Android operating system coming of age through tablet computing, it’s only logical that the next step in computing evolution would be a thin client Smart Display based on Android. ViewSonic’s’ VSD241 display brings a full-sized touch-screen monitor to life with Android.
The VSD421 sports a 24-inch screen TFT LCD display, with full HD 1920x1080 resolution. It’s also a touch screen, with dual-point optical touch technology. So, just like your android tablet or phone, you can use two-finger actions to zoom your display, and do all the traditional actions you would on a typical Android tablet. The system is running Android version 4.2.1 (Jelly Bean).
The processor is an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core with plenty of oomph for your favorite Android apps. And I’m not ashamed to admit that Angry Birds is pretty cool on a 24-inch display.
The system has an integrated two-megapixel webcam intended for videoconferencing; an HDMI port for video input to use the system as a monitor; two standard USB ports, a mini USB port, and a micro USB port; an SD card slot; an RJ45 jack for wired networking as well as WiFi and Bluetooth; and a headphone jack.
The system is supported by a pull-out stand attached to the back that provides a “leg” for the monitor to lean back against, and can be adjusted to a variety of angles.
When being used as a monitor for an external computer system, the touch-screen capabilities can be utilized by that external computer when you also connect the VSD241 to the computer through its mini-USB port. This presents the touch-screen as an interface device, and turns the host computer into a touch-screen system.
The system is designed to be a thin-client for running general Android apps, but can also work very well in a browser-hosted software environment for running business applications, or in using remote access apps to other computer systems.
The system automatically boots up into Android when the power button is pressed, and took 34 seconds to cold-start to welcome screen.
The system was quite responsive, and apps worked well. Netflix had no problem streaming videos, and all other apps I tried worked well.
The touchscreen was very responsive, and easy to use.
The voice-response system worked very well, and had no problem interpreting what I said correctly. I’ve never used this feature on my android tablet before, and was impressed with its ability to respond to the things I asked.
I did find the webcam to be rather grainy, but certainly sufficient for video conferencing needs.
In using the system as an external monitor for my laptop, it also worked well and looked good. I connected the system also via the mini-USB port to test out the touch-screen interface with my Lenovo Windows 7 laptop as well. The laptop does expect that the touch-screen interface is working on the main display, so the touch-screen doesn’t make sense if you want to extend the desktop to the VSD241 as a second screen – any touches on the VSD241 translate to the main screen, not the extended screen.
I ran into three problems with the system while exploring it. The system display hung every time I tried to install an app, and I needed to hard-reboot it. However, it did appear to install the app even though the screen froze.
When I connected the USB cable for the first time to my laptop, it installed the device driver software, which required a system reboot of the laptop. My laptop crashed with the blue screen of death on reboot (it’s never done that before), but was fine after that.
And, when I turned the system back on after last using it as an external display, the system turned on, reported there was no input signal, and turned off. Trying to change the display to Android mode during this time period never worked. I needed to disconnect the power in order to reset it and get it to boot up to Android.
With a street price of about $500, this is an interesting system and would be very convenient for running apps and for use as a second monitor. There’s a little bit of flakiness as described, but with the low-cost of most Android apps, it can be a cost-effective way to get some computing power in the office or home. And the touch-screen and voice-activation features can make the system very accessible to people not comfortable with traditional computer systems.