The tablet PC is where it’s at, and the computing world is reacting accordingly. This means that in addition to the biggest names like the iPad and Kindle variants, a number of also-rans are jumping into the fray. Our review explores some of the tablet alternatives that have received the most positive attention.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
The first version of the Galaxy Tab was one of the opening salvos in the tablet wars. It was decently received, though it had a number of significant problems, most notably in its performance. The 10.1 model was released in the summer of 2011, and while reviews of it still noted some problems, overall scores were far higher. One review called it “the best Honeycomb [Android] tablet to date”.
When the Galaxy Tab was first released it was criticized, famously by Steve Jobs, for its small size. While most reviewers mentioned this first thing, not all of them said it was really a negative. Besides its greater portability, the Galaxy Tab still manages to squeeze onto it a 1024×768 resolution. Smaller-sized tablets have since taken off as a major sub-market; sorry, Steve.
Its harlequin black-on-front-white-on-back design has been called a thing of beauty. Of course you’re buying a computer, not a painting. To that end, the reviews of its under-the-hood performance have been markedly better than that of its initial release. It seems to have been given a little bit of improvement in just about all areas as opposed to a great leap forward in any one or two, but in this case that’s a good thing. Overall reviews of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 found a solid piece of equipment all around with little in the way of major sticking points.
Find Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 on Google Shopping.
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
We feel it appropriate to close our reviews with a BlackBerry model, as the BlackBerry was one of the main combatants in the smart phone wars from a thousand years ago. The BlackBerry Playbook is another smaller model, with comically miniscule buttons: the power button is all of a few millimeters in diameter. Like other smaller models, though, it sports an impressive resolution. Its screen is also 1024×768, and its 5 megapixel backside camera can notably take video at 1080p.
Adobe Flash is fully supported out of the box, something which has become a major differentiating point among tablets. This is largely due to the fact that the tablet runs its own in-house operating system designed to work well with Adobe, the creatively-named BlackBerry Tablet OS. The downside of this operating system is that application support is not high. The PlayBook includes no native email or calendar applications, and its online app library isn’t big. It also has no support for Android applications, though developer company Research In Motion states that this is on its way.
In the end reviews were strongly mixed, with the BlackBerry Playbook getting both strongly negative and strongly positive scores. It’s hard from looking at the evidence for us to make a clear case for either, but it does seem to be a good bet that this tablet will be around for a while.
Find RIM BlackBerry PlayBook on Google Shopping.
The Motorola Xoom came out in February of 2001 and was considered one of the first major competitors to the iPad. A primary reason for this was the introduction of Android 3.0, the Google-based operating system developed specifically for mobile and tablet devices. Indeed, most of the early reviews of it highlighted the system’s efficient processing and ease of use. Though benchmarking Androids suffers from inherent measurement problems, the Xoom typically scored high.
What a difference a year makes, though. The Android has become the new hot OS, available in more than three dozen different tablets. This has caused the Xoom’s shine to wear off a bit. Recent reviews of it aren’t nearly as glowing as ones from earlier in the year. Given that the price hasn’t really come down and is still hovering at around $600 with a 2-year contract, it may have lost whatever edge it might have had.
Looked at in a vacuum, though, it still seems a good piece of technology. It has some odd design points, such as speakers and a power button in the back, and a docking station for video output. It also includes an inclinometer, accelerometer, magnetometer and barometer! In terms of computing power and usability, it still seems like a solid selection, and one that the market continues to embrace.
Find Motorola Xoom on Google Shopping.
The G-Slate was next on the Android parade. That seems to have opened up the floodgates, as a slew of other tables subsequently jumped on this new OS. This was good for the G-Slate, since at the time the lack of a large application library was one of its down sides. The price of $530 with a 2-year contract didn’t help matters, though T-Mobile apparently took this criticism to heart, as it’s now available for $299 with the same deal.
As for the tablet’s specifications, the new feature used to attempt differentiation from other tablets is a pair of 3D cameras on the tablet’s back. This produces an old-style dual-color image, and purchase of the tablet comes with a pair of red/cyan glasses. Reviews of this feature were lukewarm.
Overall, counting in physical and technical aspects, the G-Slate was at the time considered a major contender, with reasonably fast surfing, few bugs and comfortable handling. User reviews on the whole since its release have been moderately positive, and support for it appears to still be going strong.
Find T-Mobile G-Slate on Google Shopping.
ExoPC. It’s difficult at this point to give any strong recommendations to any tablet running Windows 7. Windows 8 is on the horizon, and with the amount of development and attention being given to this tablet-centered OS, it seems a sure bet that Windows 7 tablet support will fall to non-existent at record-breaking speed.
Even forgetting that issue, reviews of the tablet were mixed. One web site gave it high scores, particularly for its sensitive touch screen and intuitive user interface. Others found a number of bugs and performance issues. Its large, high-resolution screen and high sound quality are among its highest points. Its weight and short battery life are among its lowest. Overall it seemed like a decent enough mixed bag, but given the rapid market changes, it’s hard to guarantee that this tablet now approaching its first birthday has a much longer shelf life.
Find ExoPC on Google Shopping.
These are very quick summaries of some of the well-reviewed tablets out there. These aren’t the only tablets, and even for the above there are many fine points that the consumer will want to take a closer look at before purchasing. We’re in the tablet era now, but these toys are no cheap thrill. With your list of options increasingly rapidly, there is no reason to go haphazardly throwing your money away.