12 Tablet Computers Compared

Provided by Digital Trends

To say there were a few tablets at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show would be a vast understatement. With more than 80 total tablet launches, there were about as many Android tablets and devices on the show floor as almost anything else combined, including 3D devices. There was even a 3D tablet.

This article boils down the overflowing list of tablets to a manageable 12. This is not a technical guide to the tablet world; it’s merely a recap of some of the notable tablets at the show.

The Big Guys

Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom was a favorite tablet of the show. With a 10.1-inch screen, hot new 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, and Google’s upcoming Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), the Xoom was the most complete package of any tablet on display. Motorola’s Droid provided the first good alternative to the iPhone last year, and the manufacturer may repeat history. The Xoom appears to have everything it takes to challenge the iPad’s dominance of tablet space. It will be Verizon-exclusive at launch, and swappable modems will make it upgradeable to 4G later in the year. Time will tell if the final device can match its CES presence.

BlackBerry PlayBook

The BlackBerry PlayBook entered CES as an underdog, but it left as one of the show’s hottest players. Like the Xoom, this tablet packs a dual-core processor and a full gigabyte of RAM, but it’s no Android or BlackBerry device. Instead, RIM has chosen to size the PlayBook at a leaner 7 inches in an effort to capitalize on a smaller tablet market not filled by the iPad. Though it is a bit small (10 inches seems more practical), the new BlackBerry Tablet OS (powered by QNX) is pretty impressive. It feels reminiscent of Palm’s WebOS, but the PlayBook takes multitasking to a new level, allowing quick swipes between apps and simultaneous play of a number of apps at once. Its Web-browsing capabilities are also above par for a tablet. The PlayBook had no problem running numerous flash and video-filled web pages, a tough task for most.

Toshiba Android Tablet

This yet-to-be-named Toshiba tablet is running Android 2.2 but should be upgradeable to 3.0 (Honeycomb) before the tablet hits retail. There isn’t much else notable about the device, though like the Xoom, it has an odd 16:10 aspect ratio. Unlike the Xoom, however, it still features the four Android 2.2 standard buttons on the bottom. It will ship with Toshiba’s BookPlace e-reader app and the Toshiba Places app store built in. Interestingly, unlike many tablets, it will have a removable battery.

Dell Streak 7 and 10

Dell’s 5-inch Streak failed to capture much interest when it hit AT&T last year, but the PC manufacturer isn’t done yet. At CES, it unveiled 7- and 10-inch models of the Streak. Both devices have three physical buttons on the bottom and are 4G capable on T-Mobile. The Streaks currently run Android 2.2 on a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and have 16GB of internal storage. The rear camera is 5MP, but the front-facing camera is a bit weaker than some of the higher-end tablets at only 1.3MP. It will come preloaded with some unique apps, including T-Mobile TV, BrainPOP, Zinio, Qik Video Chat, Blockbuster, Kindle, Slacker Radio and Zoodles.

Dell Inspiron Duo

The Streak is Dell’s stab at a tablet, but you may be asking what the PC maker has up its sleeve to capitalize on those who can’t decide whether they want to buy a tablet or netbook. The answer is the Dell Inspiron Duo. This fine little lappy has a rotating 10.1-inch screen, effectively morphing it from a small netbook into a very fat touch tablet. But since it runs Windows 7, it won’t be a very good tablet. Worse, its webcam appears to be embedded inside the PC frame, making it impossible to stare at your own face while touching your tablet.

Samsung 7 Series Sliding Windows PC

Sliding phones are so 2008, but sliding computers — now that’s a hot idea. Samsung’s 7 series is actually a 10.1-inch netbook-tablet hybrid running Windows 7. Unlike the Dell Inspiron Duo, this tablet-drawer computer has dual-facing cameras no matter which way it’s oriented. The screen slides up and then arcs up to get that classic laptop feel without the unsightly screen protection a clamshell design provides. All worth it: Samsung claims the 7 Series boots up in 20 seconds or less.

Lenovo LePad

Computer executives are seeing dollar signs in merging netbooks and tablets. The Lenovo LePad is another great example of this. Like a frog on a lily pad, the LePad is a tablet that can hop right off its pesky netbook shell and do all the things a good tablet is made for — watching movies, playing games and consuming news and entertainment. Unlike the Samsung and Dell hybrids, the LePad runs both Windows 7 and Android. When docked, the device runs a on a 1.2GHz Intel Core i5 processor (upgradeable to i7). When undocked, the tablet runs a skinned version of Android 2.2 (which Lenovo is calling LeOS) on a 1.3GHz Snapdragon processor. Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, it’s going to be expensive and unavailable. Together, the docking computer and LePad will cost a hefty $1,300, and it won’t be available for a while. Lenovo plans to sell the LePad in China until Android 3.0 is ready to go. Even then, it’s rumored that 3.0 requires a dual-core processor, so … it may be a while.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slate

The IdeaPad Slate looks a lot like the LePad except it runs Windows 7, meaning you’ll have more fun if you use a stylus. It runs on Intel’s Oak Trail processor and has a 10.1-inch widescreen, the preferred size for new tablets, it seems. Its stylus control is pretty solid, though it is battery-powered.

ASUS® Eee Pads and Eee Slate EP121

Never to be left behind on any possible trend, ASUS showed off four different touch tablets and computers at CES — all with the same high-end, IPS-style screen used in the iPad. The Eee Pad MeMo is a 7-inch tablet running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). It also includes a stylus.

The Eee Pad Transformer is a tablet that docks into a netbook keyboard, much like the LePad. It runs Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor and is a bit thinner than the iPad. The other big feature: Asus claims the docking station will pump its battery life up to 16 hours.

The Eee Pad Slider is pretty similar to Samsung’s 7 Series Slider. To prop up the screen, you pull out a kickstand on the back of the unit. Still, it’s only two-thirds of an inch thick; not bad.

At 12.1 inches, the Eee Slate EP121 was one of the largest tablets at the show. Oddly, it runs Windows 7 and has more in common with a PC than a tablet. The back is pretty thick, complete with slits for venting, something you don’t see on many tablets. Its stats are impressive though; it runs an Intel core i5, has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Here’s another 10.1-inch tablet running Android. On the show floor, the A500 ran Android 2.2, but reps assured that the final unit will run Honeycomb. Most notably, it has an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and will run on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. This one has a full-size USB port as well as a microUSB. Though it’s still on Android 2.2, there are no face buttons on the device, as Honeycomb no longer needs them. Overall, the Iconia A500 felt pretty nice, but didn’t wow in any significant way.

Panasonic Viera Tablets

Panasonic, on the other hand, did wow, but it was more shock than excitement. The buzz started with pictures of Panasonic’s 4-, 7-, and 10-inch touch tablets, but the excitement ended there. Though they’re running Android, Panasonic’s tablets are little more than oversized, touchable remote controls for its pretty new Viera Connect TVs. These tablets could theoretically function as standalone tablets, but Panasonic is choosing to limit them to living-room use. The tablets run Android 2.2 with Panasonic’s Viera UI skinned on top. When tested, the tablets proved more frustrating than useful. They were unresponsive and laggy.

Sharp Galapagos Tablet

Sharp’s new tablets were not impressive. Though they’re called the Galapagos, the devices are hardly fit to survive in a crowded tablet market. They’re thick, chubby looking, and come in two very strange sizes — 5.5 and 10.8 inches. The smaller unit seems to be designed to display paperback books, but it was hard to do much else with it, like read a magazine. Worse, both units run an odd version of Linux that lacks basic features —such as a web browser — and feels downright sluggish in comparison to most tablets at the show. Pages in an e-book took entire seconds to flip over after a swipe of the finger. Sharp has included its own e-book store, but the device does not currently include access to Barnes & Noble, Google or Amazon e-book stores. Thankfully, Sharp may significantly rework the Galapagos tablets prior to bringing them stateside.

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