Android tablets like the Google Nexus 7 might be racking up sales like there's no tomorrow, but what if you want to enjoy Android goodness on a massive screen?
ViewSonic thinks it has the answer with the VSD220. It's a 22-inch monitor that packs in its own dual-core processor to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Want to check Twitter but don't want to wait for your PC to boot? Just load up the monitor, leaving your computer unplugged.
But with processing power that would make even a low-end Android phone snort with derision, can the VSD220 really offer the perfect big-screen Android experience?
It's available now for the spicy price of £331.
Should I buy the ViewSonic VSD220?
With its dedicated processor and touchscreen, the D220 can act as a massive Android tablet, as well as function as a regular PC monitor. It lets you quickly access your email and social networks in 'tablet mode' without having to load up your PC every time you want to send a tweet.
With a USB mouse and keyboard connected, you can work in Android as you would in Windows, switching to your PC only when you need your desktop's performance.
Sadly though, it runs Android using a very weak processor that makes many tasks noticeably sluggish. Gmail and Angry Birds run fine but if you're keen to edit photos or play more demanding games then you'll be disappointed with the performance.
Unfortunately it doesn't perform much better as a monitor either. The Full HD resolution is let down by rather cold, lacklustre colours and there's only one input for your PC -- micro-HDMI.
Although the combination of tablet and a monitor is an interesting and attractive concept, the D220 doesn't impress as either. For the same money you could buy a 22-inch regular ViewSonic monitor and a Google Nexus 7 tablet for Android apps and still have change from £300.
Design and build quality
In terms of design, the D220 looks basically like any other monitor on the market. To accommodate its 22-inch screen it has to measure 513mm wide, so it won't sit too comfortably on tiny desks.
It sits directly on the desk propped up by a kickstand, rather than having a proper stand with a base as you'd expect to see on most monitors. This does makes it look quite sleek, and I'd be much happier having this in my living room than a standard PC display. It does mean that you can't alter its height though, so if you're working on a desk and want to raise it up, you'd better have a couple of Yellow Pages to hand.
The display is bordered by a slim, black plastic bezel, with thicker, grey plastic along the bottom. It's an inoffensive design although it feels a bit plasticky in places. You're not likely to be carrying it far away from your table though, so it shouldn't fall apart on you.
The kickstand is sturdy and allows the whole thing to lie almost flat, letting you swipe around the Android interface as if it were a regular tablet.
Around the edges you'll find a micro-USB port, two full size USB 2.0 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the back is a microSD card slot, a micro-HDMI port and an Ethernet port. There's a webcam on the front too, letting you video call your favourite people over Skype.
The D220's 22-inch screen boasts a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution making it well-equipped for handling Full HD video from either your computer or streaming over YouTube in Android mode.
It's perfectly sharp for most tasks, but if you get up close you'll notice a little fuzziness around some of the Android icons. Text also isn't quite as pin-sharp as you'd find on Android slates like the delicious Nexus 10 so it's probably not the best device to read ebooks on.
Colours are sadly disappointing. It has a rather cold colour cast to it that gives images and icons a slightly blue hue. For social networking and emailing that's not much of a problem, but it won't do your favourite movies justice.
Using the VSD220 as an Android tablet
With a touchscreen, internal processor and Android software, the D220 can effectively be used a massive tablet. It's far too big to carry around of course, and there's no battery inside so it behaves more like an Android-based all-in-one desktop. If you have the right set of apps then there's no reason why you can't use it in much the same way you would a regular PC.
The standard Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich interface is present, bringing you multiple homescreens to fill up with apps and live widgets. Any apps you don't want cluttering up the front page hide away in a grid. It's exactly the same Android you know and possibly love on your existing phone or tablet. Only bigger.
Having Android on board gives you full access to the thousands of apps on the Google Play Store, although some of them are arguably a little pointless with such a big screen. Games like Riptide GP are more fun when you can tilt the device to turn your little racer on screen. With no accelerometer, you can't do the same with the D220 -- even if you could pick it up for long enough.
It comes with a 60-day trial of OfficeSuite Pro -- the full version will cost you just less than a tenner -- which lets you get on with some proper work. Pop in a USB mouse and keyboard and you can work on Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents exactly as you would with a normal desktop PC.
Alternatively, download the Google Drive app and get to work in Google's Docs suite. When you first sign in, it will automatically sync your Gmail accounts anyway, so there's very little setup required.
You can download the Chrome web browser from the Google Play store but to be honest you're better off with the built-in browser. Not only did it seem to load pages faster, it was able to handle streaming video on YouTube -- and of course our own excellent video section -- much easier. As it's running on Android though, you'll be automatically taken to the mobile versions of websites you visit.
Sadly though, not all is perfect. It's powered by dual-core 1GHz processor, which is weedy even by low-end smart phone standards. On a phone it would be fine as the small resolution is less demanding and you won't care about watching high definition video and playing big-screen games. On the D220 however that's probably not going to be the case.
Navigating around the interface is very sluggish, with a noticeable delay when swiping between homescreens and opening menus. Loading a high-resolution photo required a several second wait for it to properly render and high definition videos sometimes seemed a little jumpy.
For the essentials of email, Web browsing, social networking and playing a few touch-based games such as the ever-popular Angry Birds, it's fine. It's much quicker to boot into Android than booting up your whole PC to do the same tasks.
Using the VSD220 as a monitor
When Android just doesn't cut the mustard you can switch the D220's input over to your regular PC. Thankfully it's a very easy task. When in Android mode, you'll spy a little button marked 'OSD' next to the usual navigational buttons on the bottom bar. Pressing it opens a window letting you switch to PC use or control volume and brightness levels.
Pressing and holding the power button in Windows mode brings up the same dialogue box for you to switch back to Android at any time.
It might be an easy process to switch between the two, but the D220 isn't the best monitor in the business. There's only one input -- micro-HDMI -- eschewing the usual full size HDMI, VGA and DVI ports you'd find on most monitors. A micro-HDMI to HDMI cable comes in the box, but if you want to plug it into a VGA out on your PC, you're going to struggle.
It also can't be used with touch input when hooked up to your PC. As it's only connected via HDMI, there's no way for the screen to communicate the touches back to your computer. That's not a problem for Windows 7 but if you're after a touchscreen monitor to swipe around the colourful Windows 8 interface then this isn't the chap for you.
With its built-in processor, touchscreen and Android software, the ViewSonic VSD220 offers a fun way to take advantage of apps and games alongside your Windows PC. The fast load times mean you can quickly check emails or Twitter in Android mode without having to boot your whole desktop up.
Sadly though, the low-powered processor makes it awkward to use as an Android device and the lack of inputs and unimpressive colours means it isn't the best monitor either.