The 10 Inch Tablet - What are the options?
03 May 2011

The 10 Inch Tablet - What are the options?

The 10-inch tablet space is the new battlefield in consumer electronics and the lines have been clearly drawn. On one hand we have the new and improved iPad 2, the thinnest and lightest of the bunch.

The Honeycomb clique is composed of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Motorola Xoom, the Toshiba Tablet which are all powerful next-generation10-inch tablets aiming for the iPad's market share. We also have HP's webOS powered TouchPad which is a dark horse but is the most similar to the iPad 2 since HP makes the hardware and the software for this tablet.

What's the verdict? and the Pros and Cons of each popular device?

Apple iPad 2

The recently revealed iPad 2 is the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet in the market. It now features a 1Ghz dual core Apple A5 processor which coupled with what Apple claims is 9x the graphics performance, makes it one of the fastest as well. 33% thinner than the first iPad and now sporting dual-video cameras for FaceTime calls, the iPad 2 also comes with a gyroscope for better gaming and the same 10-hour battery life.

iPad 2 inherits a few of the original iPad's features namely the same 10-inch screen and 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi), the same 16, 32 and 64GB SSD capacity and most importantly the same price points as the previous iPad (starting at $499).

First-mover advantage remains with the iPad 2, while it isn't that different from the first iPad, it is familiar enough to most people (they did sell 15 million units in nine months) that it can ride the momentum. Expect Apple to come out with ubiquitous print and TV ads to generate wave after wave of iPad 2 buzz. Other things we like are the iPad 2's classy aluminium enclosure and we like the white version as well. The best news is that buyers who want a Gen 1 iPad can get one new for $415 while supplies last.

Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom was the first Honeycomb tablet announced in January during the Consumer Electronics Show. It sports a dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor, a full 1GB of RAM, 1280x800 HD video playback capability, it will have 32 GB of memory plus expansion capability via microSDHC.

The Motorola Xoom, which has been released by Verizon in the US may hit Canada by late March and is primed for higher 4G data speeds. The Motorola Xoom is the only Honeycomb tablet that we've seen up close and we can attest to its sleek and sturdy industrial design. Claimed to be a powerhouse device, games and video playback have been some of the key features where the Xoom is expected to excel.

Expected to sell for around US$700 , we're hoping that the Motorola Xoom will have variants with smaller memory (16GB) that may bringing the price down and make it more affordable to more people but no variants have been discussed. The Xoom is an attractive and beefy tablet, Motorola Mobile's build quality of late has been impressive and being the first to market with Honeycomb is an advantage but the Xoom's limited availability and not so friendly price might prove to be its biggest handicap.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Tab 2)

Revealed at the Mobile World Congress, Samsung's second Galaxy Tab, is a 10.1" inch device that's more in synch with the current Honeycomb tablets and the iPad as well as HP's new WebOS TouchPad. The larger Galaxy Tab also has a 1280 x800 HD screen resolution, an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash plus a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting and will offer capacities of 16GB and 32GB as well as tun on a 1GHz Dual core processor.

The Tab Looks like a direct competitor to Motorola's Xoom in terms of specs and while price and availability have not yet been announced, we expect it to come to Canada by Spring through Bell and Rogers who currently carry the Galaxy Tab 7-inch tablet.

Feedback from the field is that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thin and light and now sports a grippy rubber texture as opposed to the textured plastic of the older, smaller Galaxy Tab. It also has a giant round Samsung badge in the rear case as well as HD stereo speakers. The current 7" inch Galaxy Tab sells for around $600 without a contract, so this larger version is expected to be considerably higher, given the bump in specs and size.

We like that Samsung has already had a good head start in tablets with the Galaxy Tab 7 (which needs a Honeycomb update now, Samsung!) and we feel if they can price this 10.1 properly then they will get traction and sell a bunch.

Toshiba Tablet

Toshiba been making tablets for Windows since the late 90's, they have also innovated the notebook and subnotebook space with very unique designs and treatments. It enters the Android Honeycomb tablet space with the recently revealed yet simply named Toshiba Tablet.

Decked out in easy grip textured rubber, the Tablet integrates much of Toshiba's experience in building awesome HDTV's with a 16:10 widescreen capable of HD video at 720p resolution. It will be powered by the Tegra 2 processor and is also the only Honeycomb tablet that will feature a removable (replaceable) battery.

Toshiba is clearly focusing on the Tablet's entertainment value as well as connectivity with Wi-Fi, MicroUSB and HDMI-out and SD Card slots for expansion. No pricing has been released but our sources confirmed that the Tablet will come to Canada in Q2 2011.

We like that Toshiba has its own ideas on how a tablet should look and feel and their experience with TabletPC should shine through this first effort.

HP TouchPad

The HP TouchPad with a 9.7 inch display, 1024 x 768, 1.6 pounds, Beats audio, video calling, 1.3 megapixel webcam, 16GB or 32GB storage, dual core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor. Accessories include keyboards, cases and docks. Like the BlackBerry PlayBook, the HP TouchPad can interface with the webOS smartphones (possibly for wireless 3G data) but will also work as a standalone Wi-Fi tablet. The TouchPad takes Palm's webOS cloud-based operating system and blows it up on a big screen and it looks amazing.

New touch-to-share feature allows you to tap TouchPad and Pre/Veer and send websites, files and other documents wirelessly between the two devices. With HP's vast network of distributors and big box stores, we hope to see the TouchPad available in abundance.

We like webOS on the Pre smartphones and we think we will love it on a tablet but there aren't enough apps on webOS phone right now which makes it hard to believe there will be enough for the webOS tablet. it might take a year or more for HP's TouchPad to be even remotely compelling in terms of app choices.

Overview

Clearly aiming at the Apple iPad's market dominance, these new tablets offer more power, more expansion and possibly more functionality than Apple's one-year-old iPad but it looks like the iPad 2 has them matched in most areas and has them beaten in size, slimness and weight.

In a month's time, the iPad 2 will available everywhere starting at $549 and runs the gamut of models from entry-level Wi-Fi only tablets to higher capacity models with 3G data plus Wi-Fi.

Early indicators show that these Honeycomb flavoured Android tablets may be substantially more expensive (in the $700-$1300 range, from what we're hearing) than the iPad, which will not make them competitive specially since they are not as widely available.

If these had Wi-Fi only variants, it would be a different story but for some reason, we get the sense that the majority of the Honeycomb Android tablets have to be tied into a carrier which means expensive data contracts for buyers.

iPad 2 has the apps, the availability, the specs and the price as key differentiation strategies. It also has 6 model variants to fit a range of budgets and a 15 million unit head start.

We're happy that we are finally seeing some variety in the tablet market and we are excited for what Honeycomb can bring in terms of features.

Battery life and tablet-specific Android applications are two other components that must be considered. The iPad 2 may have a dual core 1GHz Apple A5 processor and only 256MB of RAM but it can manage 10 hours of video playback and Wi-Fi surfing easily. Competition needs to be able to match this.

There's still no telling how good these Honeycomb tablets battery life will be specially since they have higher specs, although multi-core processors do a traditionally good job with managing power and battery life. Same thing with HP's TouchPad, one of the low points of the webOS-powered Pre and Pre 2 was that their battery life didn't measure up to a full day's use.

With the tablet-specific apps, we need to see a bunch of these from the outset. As early iPad user's will tell you, its no fun to run blown-up smartphone apps on a tablet screen and while the iPad has a number of apps that are designed for the tablet experience (Steve Jobs counted 65,000) we feel there still could be a lot more.

Hopefully Google, HP and the tablet manufacturers are preparing a substantial number of apps for the release of these tablets. Hopefully the pricing model and distribution strategy for these tablets will be more realistic and competetive to the iPad 2, otherwise it is game over.

Anyone doubting Apple's ability to dominate product segments that it has innovated in needs only to look at the once cluttered MP3 player market to realize that very few can compete once Apple plays the pricing game. It might be the same for tablets unless something dramatic happens soon. For consumers looking for non-Apple options, there are some interesting choices but since none of these are in the market yet, it is hard to say how good they really are.

So, which of these new tablets will you be lining up for? Does an Android tablet sound viable to you, does HP's elegant TouchPad stoke your fire or is the new iPad 2 still the king of the tablet jungle?