It should come as no surprise that not all tablets are created equal, and as the marketplace becomes further saturated with mediocre devices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the diamonds in the rough. What should largely inform your tablet-buying experience, however, is what you’re looking to get out of it. Users looking for a notebook replacement have drastically different expectations of their device than those searching for portability or media support. So, we here at New Tablet Reviews are offering up a breakdown of the best tablets for a few of the most popular areas of comparison.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer | $399 | REVIEW
If you’re tired of schlepping around a full-sized laptop and want something a little more versatile than a standard netbook, the Asus Transformer should be first on your list of tablets to checkout. Asus has developed a powerful tablet that sports a customized Honeycomb OS that runs multiple applications smoothly and effectively. It handles video playback very well, but its ability to capture video and photos is a bit lacking.
What makes the Transformer really great, however, is its keyboard dock that not only serves as a tactile QWERTY input peripheral but also offers additional battery life (up to five hours by some reports). There’s also a responsive touch pad that rounds out the most PC-like tablet experience currently on the market.
You might miss a lack of 3G or 4G support, but for the price, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is worth a hard look for some buyers.
iPad 2 | $499 | REVIEW
The iPad may reign supreme in several categories, but the gap is most apparent for gamers. For starters, while the Android Marketplace may be catching up to the Apple App Store in some areas, Android devices are extremely lacking in console-like gaming experiences. (This is less of a concern if you’re satisfied with phone ports like Angry Birds.)
Furthermore, many game developers believe mobile devices are the future. The graphic acceleration in Apple’s latest tablet is extremely encouraging for game developers who are looking to bring more hardcore gamers into the tablet fold, and enhanced multiplayer support will only help their cause.
There will likely be a few landmark releases that will really make the tablet gaming world to the forefront, and it’s just as likely those will shine brightest on and/or be exclusive to the iPad.
HTC Flyer | $499 | REVIEW
There are several good super-portable, seven-inch tabs out there, but the HTC Flyer is the best of the bunch given its overall higher build quality. The device is not without its shortcomings — it does not run Honeycomb OS for one — but HTC has provided a very powerful tablet in a very small package.
The Flyer multitasks and processes media well, especially in its class, but what sets it apart is HTC’s proprietary Magic Pen peripheral, a stylus that really opens up the functionality of the tablet. Users can take notes or even sketch on the tablet with the Magic Pen and, should developers embrace it, the sky’s the limit for future functionality.
Relying on the whims of developers, however, might not be your thing, but if you’re willing to take a bit of a risk, the HTC Flyer is a good choice, especially if portability is paramount.
Archos 70 PMP | $299 | REVIEW
The Archos 70 PMP doesn’t do many things well, but it handles nearly any kind of media file you throw at it like a champ. It’s low-resolution, seven-inch screen, however, does make it’s valuable wide compatibility a bit of a waste. Luckily, the Archos tablet also has an HDMI out that effortlessly tosses high-quality video and audio to an external HD display.
Should buyers opt for the 250GB hard drive model, they could have a new way to have their entire media library at their fingertips. Just make sure you’ve got a better way to showcase said library than through the low-resolution screen or tinny speakers.
STICKING IT TO APPLE
Motorola Xoom | $599 | REVIEW
Everyone’s trying to find the famed “iPad Killer.” While such a device may not actually exist, the Motorola Xoom certainly comes as close as any tablet has of yet. With impressive processing power and sleek design, this was a huge leap forward for Android supporters.
Google worked directly with Motorola to cater the Xoom to the powers of its tablet-centric, Honeycomb operating system for an overall fantastic browsing experience. Adding to that value are a few tablet staples you won’t get with Apple’s device, including USB 2.0 connectivity, SD Card storage and an HDMI out.
The price tag may be a bit steep when compared to other tablets in its class, and, being first to adopt Honeycomb is an advantage as much as a disadvantage. You won’t be unhappy if you shell out for the Xoom at this point, but who knows what the next few months will bring?
VIDEO ON THE GO
T-Mobile G-Slate | $599 | REVIEW
The second device to adopt the Honeycomb OS, the G-Slate packs a big bunch in a small package. There are plenty of reasons to like T-Mobile’s crown-jewel tablet. The tablet is solid but still portable, if a bit on the heavier side, and sports a high-resolution, 8.9-inch display with above-average viewing angles. Coupled with 4G connectivity makes this device ideal for streaming video — just make sure you keep a charger handy.
In addition to the video-friendly specs, the G-Slate also comes preloaded with T-Mobile TV, a streaming service that puts a wide array of television shows at your fingertips. What’s more, the standard service is free with a T-Mobile contract and you’ll also get a complimentary, 30-day trial of the premium service as well. In short, if you’ve got high hopes for cutting the cable cord, you could do a lot worse than the T-Mobile G-Slate to get the ball rolling.
BANG FOR THE BUCK
Acer Iconia Tab A500 | $449 | REVIEW
As Honeycomb-based tablets become the rage and inevitably drive down prices, the Iconia Tab might not have much staying power. But presently, it offers the best mix of build quality, function and price tag of nearly any tablet on the market. The overall design, which has a rather unappealingly thick silver bezel, won’t win any awards, but it’s a well-made device with only a few shortcomings.
The best feature of the A500 is its expansive battery life, which tests among the best in the business, and its 10.1-inch, 1280×800-resolution screen is impressive in its class. Coupled with a set of a well-balanced Dolby speakers and a wide viewing angle, the A500 is a beast for showcasing all types of media. It also held its own in nearly every benchmark test alongside its more expensive counterparts, like the Xoom or G-Slate, and makes great use of its Tegra 2 processor for multitasking.
If Verizon jumps on board with the device and gets it access to its LTE network — as has been the rumor — Acer’s tab has a very bright future ahead of it.