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Vizio goes after the Nexus 7 with a Kindle-sized stock Android tablet (hands-on)

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Gallery Photo: Vizio 7-inch Tablet hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: Vizio 7-inch Tablet hands-on pictures

Vizio's 10-inch Android tablet might be one of the first Tegra 4 devices to be announced, but the California company also has a 7-inch tablet here at CES that's equally interesting: it's essentially a Nexus 7 in a package the size of a Kindle e-reader. That's a Tegra 3 processor, a 1280 x 800 IPS display, 16GB of storage, a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, and stock Android Jelly Bean. The prototype was fairly quick to flip around the OS, and the display looked slightly better than the typically washed-out Nexus 7 display, although it's not laminated like the 10-inch tablet.

Vizio head of design Scott McManigal told me that most people use 7-inch devices for reading, so the company designed the device primarily to be held in portrait orientation with one hand. It sounds silly, but the reduction in size was quite dramatic compared to the Nexus 7 when I held the prototype — we don't have final specs because the design isn't final yet. McManigal told that jumbophones like the 6.1-inch Huawei that'll debut at CES don't worry him; he thinks small tablets need to be designed differently than phones regardless of the overall size similarity.

Perhaps most importantly, it's running stock Android Jelly Bean. (The device I saw was running 4.1.1, but the final version will ship with 4.2.) Stock Android is a new tactic for Vizio: although the company skinned its first Android tablet, Vizio CTO Matt McRae says he thinks Android has improved to the point where it doesn't need to be skinned anymore, and customers are saying they want stock Android anyway. That ties into Vizio's general philosophy of shipping stock devices — Vizio's PCs ship with a clean Microsoft Signature build of Windows as well. McRae says that Vizio's desire to integrate tablets with its TVs and other devices will now happen at the app level and through system-level technologies like Miracast; Vizio will preload some apps, but otherwise McRae insists that his new Android tablets will be "bone stock." Even still, it's easy to see how a small tablet like this could one day serve as a remote control for Vizio's TVs — McRae and McManigal both said it might be a possibility sometime in the future.

"Bone stock."

Unfortunately, Vizio isn't announcing pricing just yet, but we're told the 7-inch Tablet will arrive in the "first half" of the year. Given Vizio's traditionally aggressive pricing, however, we're expecting to see some very competitive numbers when this thing actually comes to market.