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Last Updated: December 31st, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, I spent countless hours debating whether I should wait around a few months and see what tablets come out or get one now. In the latter case, which tablet was right for me?

Let me start out with what I wanted out of a tablet. First and foremost, I needed a device that let me check my email and read the news. Every morning, I wake up, grab my Sprint EVO 4G, and check my email using Gmail and my work email using Exchange. I then drift to the USA Today App to read the day’s news. I wanted something bigger than my EVO, yet just as flawless and fast.

Other features I wanted were:

  • Kindle-like experience for reading
  • music playback
  • Bluetooth Connectivity for my Bluetooth headset so I can listen to music
  • playing games
  • watching videos

Things that were not of concern to me included:

  • major carrier integration
  • GPS
  • a rear facing camera

My first intention was to be a sheep and follow the herd by picking up an iPad. A lot of things about it were very appealing, from the smoothness of the interface to added benefits, like Netflix. I spent some time at an Apple store fooling around with it and was about to walk out with one, but the price tag of $499 for the cheapest model really threw me off. I decided to look further and see if I could get what I needed for less.

At this point, I read Josh’s piece on customizing the Viewsonic G Tablet and was very impressed. It was followed up by Aaron's article that talked about its great performance and processing power. I was really on the fence, being that it was only $100 less than the iPad, but then, after hearing about the $349.99 Sears sale, I could no longer pass this tablet up and picked it up that same night.

This post goes over my voyage with my Viewsonic G Tablet from a simple piece of plastic to a great device.

Taking it out of the box, I felt the device was a little on the heavy side, but it felt sturdy and well-constructed. I agree with Josh that the packaging felt cheap. I tried to use the software included, but within 15 minutes, I decided to pass. My task was to get rid of the horrid stock ROM. Here are the steps I went through.

How To Root the Viewsonic G Tablet

Download Z4 Root here and then simply:

  1. Connect your tab to your computer via USB and make sure USB debugging is ON
  2. Turn on USB mass storage when your tablet prompts you
  3. Move the Z4 Root APK over to your tablet and safely remove before disconnecting
  4. Open your favorite file manager, such as ES File Explorer, go to the root of your SD card, find Z4 Root, and install it
  5. After it installs, click open, run the app, sit back for a minute, and enjoy root access!

What To Do Next?

I then proceeded to install ClockworkMod recovery v08, as recommended by everyone at XDA-Developers. To do this, you will need an external microSD card to store the update.

  1. Download ClockworkMod v08 here (requires an xda account) or from our mirror
  2. Unzip the downloaded file and put it in the root of your microSD card
  3. Turn off your device
  4. Press the power button and the Volume+ button at the same time and release them when the Viewsonic splash screen pops up. You should see “Detected a recovery key pressed” pop up in the upper left corner of the screen
  5. Watch it install. Your tablet will reboot when the installation is complete

If you want to get into ClockworkMod, you need to shut down your device, then press the Power and Volume+ buttons simultaneously (the same way you did to install CWMod). To navigate in CWMod, Vol+ and Vol- are used to scroll up and down, the home button selects an option, and the back button backs up.

Choose Your Favorite ROM and Install

My options, as of this late December 2010 week, were:

I gave CyanogenMod a try first, but I didn’t like the feel or the flow of the mod. I then gave TnT a try and immediately fell in love. To install it, you:

  1. Download TnT Lite 3.1 and 3.1.2 here (feel free to check with XDA for the latest version)
  2. Download ROM Manager. Although this is not a required step and you can just boot into the new ROM, I HIGHLY recommend using it. It will allow you to do a backup with ease and test out different ROMs whenever you feel like it
  3. Copy ROM Manager, TnT Lite 3.1, and the TnT Lite 3.1.2 supplement to the root of your SD card
  4. Install ROM Manager. You will have to flash ClockworkMod, which essentially does nothing, as it is already loaded. If you tried to load CWMod using ROM Manager, it will fail. As of this article, the only way to load CWMod is in the directions described above
  5. Load TnT Lite from the ROM Manager
  6. Wait for TnT to load.  This should bring you to 3.1
  7. Reboot into recovery and run the update contained in 3.1.2

Wait, what is up with the Market?

Well, by default, the G Tablet does not come with the Android Market, which should be no surprise to most tablet owners, as that is slated for the Honeycomb release. TnT Lite automatically loads the new Market for you in the ROM. The only issue is that it needs a small push to detect most of the apps. Here is what has to be done:

  1. Download Titanium Backup (our mirror) and copy it to your device's SD card. Find the APK using ES File Explorer and run the installation
  2. Go into Settings – Applications – Manage Applications - and Force Stop both the Market and Google Services Framework apps
  3. Open up Titanium Backup, go to Backup/Restore and look for Google Services Framework, select it, then select “Wipe Data”
  4. Go back to your home screen and open up the Market. You should get an error. If not, redo steps 2 and 3 until you do
  5. Reboot your device. After it starts back up let it sit for a minute or two to let things in the operating system normalize. Open the Market. Reboot your device
  6. Open the Market again and enjoy

Now this gives you access to most of the Market. The process to give you access to the whole Market is a little bit more complicated and can be found here, but I was fine with 99% of the Market working.

Overall, the Market worked well, but as you see from these screenshots, there are a few glitches:

Market1 Market2

OK, I got it set up, what's next?

I will focus on the apps that I wanted to use and have tested out, and you will see my results.

Email & News

I use the stock Gmail application to retrieve my emails, and it works very well. All of the feature updates I saw on my EVO were applied here as well. Here is a snapshot of what Gmail looks like on the G Tablet:

Gmail

For news, I love USA Today. It is not my primary news source, but for a quick review on what is going on, it works very well. Here is a snapshot of how the app looks on the tablet:

USAToday

Music

For music playback, I typically use Pandora and Sirius/XM Android Radio. Pandora worked very well, but Sirius/XM got stuck on the “Checking for Updates” screen. Winamp also performed well.

Here are some screenshots of Sirius/Pandora/Winamp:

Sirius Pandora1 Pandora2

Winamp Winamp2 

Games

For games, my priorities were Angry Birds and Free Solitaire. Both worked flawlessly. Here are some screenshots:

AngryBirds AngryBirds2

Solitaire Solitaire1

I also gave Alchemy a run, which is perfect in tablet form. However, Robo Defense and Air Traffic Control just weren’t made for tablets.

Alchemy Robodefense

AirTrafficControl

Videos

For video viewing, I knew from the start I could not get Netflix, so my next goal was to get Hulu and Fancast to run. That was a big task in itself. Basically, within the code of Flash, it references “AND” for Android, rather than “WIN” for Windows. However, this simple fix will give you Hulu access on the tablet:

  1. Download the Flash APK (our mirror) and copy it to your device's SD card. Find the APK using ES File Explorer and run the installation
  2. Using Root Explorer, copy your libflashplayer.so file from your device to your computer. The file is found in /data/data/com.adobe.flashplayer/lib
  3. Use a hex editor to locate the “AND” entry to change it to “WIN” for Windows. I used Freeware Hex Editor XVI32. Beforehand, the picture should look like this:
    SNAGHTMLcf66ecd 
    Afterwards, the picture looks like this:
    SNAGHTMLcf6d4fe
  4. Copy libflashplayer.so to your device
  5. Use Root Explorer to replace the original libflashplayer.so with the edited file and make sure the permissions for libflashplayer.so are rwxr-xr-x
  6. Use either Dolphin or Skyfire as your browser and configure for “Desktop” setup in the settings view
  7. In the Advanced Settings set Plugins to "Always On" (Default is "on demand")
  8. Enjoy!

If you still have issues, try following this post.

I tested Hulu, Fancast, TheDailyShow.com, and CBS, and was able to view each with little or no problems:

Hulu:

Hulu HuluFS

Fancast:

Survivor Survivor2

Daily Show:

Dailyshow DailyShowFS

CBS:

CBS

Conclusion

Out of the box, I do not recommend the Viewsonic G. If the manufacturer thinks it can compete with an iPad for $150 less, it is way off. But when you root the device and load a custom ROM, it becomes an amazing product. I would consider this a poor man’s tablet. Because Sears was able to run the cost of $349.99, I would recommend buying it for no more than that, as the deals will appear again. I tried to see if J&R Music will match the $349.99 (they sell for $439 with free shipping) price tag, but they said they could not go that low. My guess is that Sears is getting a better price on this tablet compared to other retailers and can therefore offer a better discount on it when it needs to.

The most recent updates from Viewsonic have helped a bunch in making this a workable tablet. Those updates were included in TnT Lite's 3.1 release.  According to the Viewsonic website, Flash is scheduled for release sometime in January. I truly believe that Viewsonic intends to make the Viewsonic G tablet a success, and it's showing. Even the VP of Marketing, Adam Hanin, got involved with chatting it up on the XDA forums. In fact, he even added both XDA and Android Police to Viewsonic's GTablet Favorite Apps and Resources.

With more updates, this tablet may turn into a hot seller, but until then, I reserve it for techies and geeks at heart willing to fool around with rooting and custom ROMs.

Special thanks goes to SCSIOne889 for compiling a great guide that helped me write this article and, of course, Roebeet for developing the TnT Lite ROM for us.

Sources: xda-developers [1] [2]

Jakub Glodek
Jakub is a Customer Advocate at Zendesk. When he is not assisting customers, he is busy toying with Android devices and accesories. Follow him on Twitter: @jglodek
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  • Bryan

    Neat writeup! Have you looked into the HDMI dock at all? Also, what are your thoughts on the screen quality?

    I am sort of tempted to just wait a month and get a better Tegra2Tab, but this has been tempting me for a while.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com Jakub Glodek

      I have not looked at the HDMI dock, but that will be my next task. As for the screen quality it does not match up to the iPad. That being said, I knew what I was getting into when I bought it, so I was not disappointed. When looking at it from different angles other than directly, it does not look great, but when you look at it directly, it works great. Buying this device you have to remember that these are 1st generation devices. I do not expect to be using this device after a couple of years because by then tablets are going to be drastically better. That is why price was such a factor. At $349 it is a no brainer, at $400+ you have to think about how long you will use it. If you will want all of the features, wait. I didn't need the additional features so I bought it now.

  • Coldman

    Thanks for all the details, Jakub. Great tutorial.

  • chuck

    what about battery life?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com Jakub Glodek

      Surprisingly good. This is a Wifi only device and I easily can use it for 8 hours without a charge. If not using it constantly, I get about 1 week (1-2 hours a day).

  • sharpfork

    Try vegan beta 4 and the touch configuration .ini file on your SD card described on xda.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com Jakub Glodek

      I will be fooling around with Vegan next as I saw good reviews as well. I will look into the configuration file. Thanks!

  • Pauly

    i've got the Gtab mysef and i'm running Vegan, I can not suggest it enough, after trying both tnt lite and Cyanogenmod I went to Vegan and it's been amazing ever since!

    i'm devastated about the state of Cyanogenmod on the Gtab though... one of the main reasons I purchased it was the knowledge that it was being worked on and endorsed by cyanogen which to me meant that it would surely be upgraded as new Android versions came out, but the current prolonged beta stage of cyanogen on the Gtab at the moment makes me think that maybe it wont be updated to gingerbread and honeycomb... :-(

    I can only hope that the people behind Vegan are just as hard-working as Cyanogen and his team are on their phone Android OS ports.

  • amusedkid

    There is now a lag fix for vegan b4 and tnt 3.1.2. on xda. I flashed it earlier and there has been no lag ever since! (Btw the "lag" occurs on vegan and tnt after the g tab returns from sleep mode)

    There seems to be an official case for malata zpad (g tab's sister device). Looks awesome...anyone know where to get it?

  • the Goat

    I don't understand why you would patronize a company that is selling such a flawed product.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com Jakub Glodek

      Because as stated in the article, with the ROM changed, the product is leaps and bounds better. It works great if you do that.

  • Ruben

    Could not be happier with my gtab. The envy of all my friends, including those with ipads. They paid much more for less features. Vegan beta 4 is my rom of choice. The settings and interface are standard android and they are what I am used to. Love my dropdown notification bar and Vegan gives me that. The community for the gtab on xda are the most helpful good bunch around. Take the plunge, buy the gtab. ADW ex or lx whatever looks great with screen transitions. Good luck to all that join us. :)

  • roebeet

    Yeah, the lag is a known issue - especially with the newest TnT kernel. Since the source release last week, there have been several custom kernels that have addressed this.

    As for the display, it's the one thing I wish i could change on the device - it's a netbook screen and thus not designed to be seen at extreme angles. The worst being when you tilt it back - you get a solarization effect.

  • Kevin24lg

    You don't need to root it. You can install clockworkmod or a custom rom immediately without rooting.

  • Aqeel

    Sorry for the noobish question. Though the ROMs say they are built for the g tablet, is it possible to run them on other tablets? If possible, is it wise? This is a general question about ROMs, because if I'm understanding them correctly you can run basically any ROM on any rooted device.

  • David Baroody

    Thank you for the article. I will be trying those steps as soon as possible. I dropped my g tablet and broke the screen cover. The unit seems to be working as advertised, however the screen cover has bits missing in the corner and is cracked across the face. Viewsonic will not repair it even when I offered to pay. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  • FalconPilot

    Help. I've downloaded TnTv4.0.RAR & cannot get it unzipped to get the 2 files necessary for the Gtab mod. I downloaded WinRAR and unzipped it and installed, but when I extract the TnT I just get the same RAR file as the original. I've rooted the Gtab and am held up trying extract the needed files from TnT.

  • FalconPilot

    Never mind. Used 7zip. Got files OK and modified Ok. Very nice now. Couple of questions. Cannot use tap until I tap on a open lock symbol @ bottom and a dot above it at almost the same time. Then ok. Is this normal? Also, Hulu is showing platform not supported? Having problems connecting to web accounts other than Google. Do I need to remove the Google account?
    Thanks for any help.

  • http://androidnews Paul

    I wasted my $$ and brought a cheap Chinese tablet. For $100. I should have known. Better. Its. Nothing. But junk. I'm going. To get a viewsonic & root it

  • StevoSonic

    OK- spent 400bucks on the Tab for my rents so I could get them connected simply, and give them the power of the net. First part was great, but can't play vids from u-tube & the like. I've read about a dozen forums and categorized the horror stories of rooting with the associated sphincter-phactor and I.am.stumped. So potentially, I could "root" the device (hmmm...) and have an issue that I cannot recover from, essentially a "brick" (right?) and then do what with my new brick? Has Viewsonic lost their mind on this or am I 180 out from the rest of the world? Why not put on this thing what folks want??? Rant done...

    What's the simplest way to get this thing to view flash (ie- weatherbug animated weather) and youtube-ish vids without having the sphincter-tightening exercises detailed throughout this forum? (please and thanks in advance for your replies...)

    • Chris

      StevoSonic,
      If you are even a little tech-savy, go to cyanogenmod's wiki and follow the instructions for rooting your g. The g is the easiest Android device to root, hands down. Once you strip the viewsonic tap n crap away, it is a great tablet. I use the latest stable which is 7.0.3 and works great. Have fun!
      G1 with cyanogenmod 6.1
      G2 with 2.3.4
      G Tablet with 7.0.3
      (cyanogen rocks!)

  • JAL

    Couldn't find a link to the Z4Root in your article. Do you have a mirror site with apk available? With the detail you provided, I'm looking forward to getting this thing flying.

  • Kerri B

    gps working on viewsonic g tab. installed "gps mouse" app which allowed g tab to connect to my external bluetooth gps receiver (i had a garmin brand bluetooth gps)...but i am sure almost any would work. Then used Sygic navigation app (looks real nice) Sygic connected to my bluetooth gps receiver via "gps mouse" app without any issue. I had to "side door" install the gps mouse app and the sygic nav app as android market told me that these apps were not compatible with my rooted g tab with tnt lite installed (and android market). Just do a google search for the bluetooth gps mouse APK file and Sygic navigation APK file, then download and install. I believe this method would work for a stock g tab as well. PS gps mouse app (free) will only connect to gps satellites for 5 to 10 minutes...then it disconnects. You will have to purchase an actiavation liscense $2.79 us to use limit free. this is done directly through the free version set up menu. Anyway...i will say it again..Sygic navigation is working on my Viewsonic G Tablet with external Blutooth GPS !!

  • daniel

    it is now $260 on amazon with free shipping

  • brian

    I've bought a g-tab and did the root like suggested in the comments above. I installed the tnt program and it is way better than the factory crap! I keep getting an error though when it boots up that says the Google services framework (process com.Google.process.gapps) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again...... anything I can do about THIS? Also, I see something about vegan??? Is this a better Rom now??? Any help on this would begreatly appreciated!!!!!!