Vizio Android Tablet Sports $350 Price Tag

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The cheapening of Android tablets continues, as Vizio’s 8-inch slate is expected to launch for $350 next month, according to Engadget.

Aside from its price, which is less than most high-end Android tablets on the market, the simply-named “Vizio Tablet” includes one notable trick: It uses a built-in infrared controller to communicate with televisions, DVD players and other home entertainment devices from many manufacturers, not just Vizio. Some companies sell infrared dongles for this purpose, but this is the first time I’ve seen the capability built into a tablet.

(MORE: Infrared: Just Kill It, Already!)

Vizio’s riffing on the basic Android experience with a custom user interface, meant to resemble the look and feel of the company’s “VIA” connected TV platform. Underneath the UI is an unspecified version of Android, able to run the full range of Android Market apps. For now, Vizio isn’t saying which Android version the tablet will run at launch, but hopes to upgrade the software to Honeycomb once it’s deemed sufficiently stable.

The tablet hardware is somewhat unique, with an 8-inch screen at 1024-by-768 resolution — same as an iPad — whereas most other Android tablets to date have used a widescreen format. There’s also a 1 GHz processor, 2 GB of built-in storage, a MicroSD slot, a front-facing camera for video chat and HDMI out for mirroring on big screens. Three speakers provide stereo audio in either portrait or landscape orientations.

NBA star Blake Griffin is endorsing the Vizio Tablet before launch, appearing in a YouTube video that shows off his all-Vizio home entertainment center. It’s not the best demo — the tablet software seems laggy at times — which makes me wonder whether Vizio should’ve just saved the endorsement money and made the tablet even cheaper. Or at least they could’ve paid him to involve the tablet in some sort of elaborate dunk.

PHOTOS: Future Sports