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'Tis the year of the tablet, it seems. And that affords me the opportunity to look at a few of the more interesting ones that have launched, are launching, or in their pre-order phase in the first quarter of this year.
Unfortunately that means I'll be leaving out the cool Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Dell Streak, and a few others. Perhaps we'll take a look at those closer to their summer launch.
The Three Tablets
Apple, Blackberry and Motorola all have great looking tablets in the mix, yet all have distinct differences that can make one tablet better match your needs than the others. So I've put together a handy comparison chart -- below -- contrasting some of the key features.
As you'll see, these three tablets have somewhat similar specs and features (web browsing, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G available, etc), yet each has some feature that raise it above the others.
So, let's explore some of the features of each tablet, starting with X!
Out of the gate, the Xoom's browser is one of it's best features, and appears to be one of the fastest on tablets today.
Also, the Xoom runs Flash, a key component of many websites and online gaming services.
One of Xoom's coolest features is the Android Honeycomb Operating System (by Google). Honeycomb is a very spiffy and technically advanced OS, but that could be one of the challenges of this tablet.
The Xoom is what I'd call a more advanced tablet -- it's pretty powerful and has a lot of potential, but casual or first-time tablet users may not be willing to take the time to learn.
The smallest and lightest of the three, the Playbook still competes on features and functionality quite nicely with competition.
Portability is the takeaway on the Playbook. In fact, marketed as uber portable, and uber capable, the Playbook could well be THE tablet for those who find the Apple iPad a bit to big and unwieldy.
Measuring just over 7" long and 5" wide, and weighing just under a pound, the Playbook will find a home much easier in almost any bag, or case.
My blogging compatriot, Krypto, has an excellent write up on her experience with the Playbook at Mobile World Congress.
Apple iPad 2
The big Kahuna and current industry-leading tablet, the iPad 2 is the standard the others are being measured by.
The original iPad set the standard, with an easy-to-use interface, a large multi-touch display, 3G and WiFi connectivity, and an excellent web experience with mobile Safari.
Yet, there are some things lacking when comparing the iPad 2 to the others in the chart -- the biggest being the lack of Flash support on the device, as well as USB support and Video output both require additional connector accessories.
But, and it's a big but, the biggest feature the iPad 2 has in its favour is its huge base of applications. Any of these tablets is just a hunk of shiny hardware without applications -- they're the things that make the device useful to you and me.
The diversity and sheer amount of high-quality apps, from Gaming to Photography to Education to Emergency Response to Social Media to...well you get the picture, is really the best feature of the iPad 2.
Sure, it runs twice as fast as the original iPad and has cameras, but today, so do the competitors. But what they don't have, are the applications.
All right. You've read what I think are the important features about each device (you may disagree or feel I missed one, please share in the comments!)
This chart really compares the things about each tablet that *can* be easily compared in a chart. Looking at the features, side by side, you realize that there are a few differences, and quite a few similarities.
Yet it's the things that can't be easily compared in a chart that I find help me make a selection -- like exploring the interface or menu system to see how well it works. Is the interface intuitive to me? Or does it seem alien to the way I expect it to function.
For me, getting hands-on with the hardware and comparing the specs, side by side, is really the best way to decide.
|iPad 2||Xoom||Playbook||Acer Iconia A500||Acer Iconia W500|
|Operating System||iOS 4.3||Android 3.0 Honeycomb||Blackberry Tablet OS||Android 3.0 Honeycomb||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Screen Size (Diagonal)||9.7"||10.1"||7"||10.1"||10.1"|
|Unit Size (in.)||9.5 x 7.31 x 0.34||9.8 x 6.6 x 0.5||5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4||10.2 x 7 x 0.5||10.2 x 7 x 0.5|
|CPU||1GHz A5 (dual core)||1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core||1GHz TI OMAP 4 dual core||1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core||1GHz AMD C-50 dual core|
|User Storage (GB)||16/32/64||32 (SD expandable)||16/32/64||16||32|
|Display Res.||1024 x 768||1280 x 800||600 x 1024||1280 x 800||1280 x 800|
|Rear Camera||HD (720p)||5MP (720p)||5MP||5MP (720p)||5MP (720p)|
|Battery Life (Hours)||10||10||10 (reported)||8||4 - 6|
|Ports (USB/SD/etc)||30 pin docking port||MicroUSB||MicroUSB||MicroUSB||MicroUSB|
|Connectivity||WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth||WiFi, 3G (CDMA), Bluetooth||WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth||WiFi, Bluetooth||WiFi, Bluetooth|
|GPS||Yes (3G only)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Video Out||HDMI (Connector Accessory Required)||HDMI 1.4||MicroHDMI||HDMI 1.4||HDMI 1.4|
|Sound Out||Mono (speaker), Stereo (headphones)||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers|
|Applications Avail||65,000 (300,000 if you include iPhone)||26 (Can run some other Android apps)||4000 (expected)||26 (Can run some other Android apps)||26 (Can run some other Android apps)|