Many of these devices offer similar features – namely, a seven- to 10-inch touch screen, one or two cameras, and the ability to download inexpensive apps wirelessly from an online store. But they don’t all offer the same performance, intuitive interface, software selection and battery life.
More than 100 tablets are expected to debut in 2011 alone, so you might be wondering which one is for you. The following is a quick look at five of the most popular picks, and our choice for best all-around tablet.
BlackBerry PlayBook (from $499)
Get work done, and then have some fun. The all-black seven-inch BlackBerry PlayBook from Canada’s own Research in Motion is a fast and powerful tablet with beefy security to protect your company data, a stunning screen to create a spreadsheet or play a game, and dual HD cameras: one for taking pictures and shooting video, and the other for video conference calls. While not everyone likes this feature, an optional “BlackBerry Bridge” connection wirelessly tethers to a nearby BlackBerry (via Bluetooth) so you can read your email and BlackBerry Messenger discussions on the tablet; RIM says this doesn’t expose potentially confidential messages if the PlayBook is lost or stolen. This tablet is available with 16 gigabytes, 32 GB or 64 GB of memory.
Motorola Xoom ($599.99)
With a boatload of horsepower thanks to a dual-core processor and a gigabyte of system memory (RAM), the 10.1-inch Motorola Xoom (pronounced “zoom”) runs all your apps speedily and smoothly. Powered by the Android 3.0 (“Honeycomb”) platform, you can use your fingertip to swipe through integrated Google tools such as 3-D maps, download e-books or play a handful of games when you’ve got some downtime. Like the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Xoom has dual cameras and a web browser that supports Flash sites. Memory isn’t expandable, but you’ve got 32 GB of integrated storage for all your media and other files. Optional accessories include a multimedia dock to connect to a HDTV or monitor, Bluetooth keyboard or wireless mouse.
iPad 2 (from $519)
The company that started the consumer tablet craze has done it again with the iPad 2, a refined version of last year’s iPad. Apple didn’t mess with what made the original an undeniable hit – a stunning 9.7-inch screen, incredible intuitive user-interface and most importantly, a direct link to the amazing App Store and its more than 400,000 downloads. But it added dual cameras (one for FaceTime video chats), twice the performance, a slimmer and lighter design, gyroscope sensor, and more. Also, only the iPad and iPad 2 – available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB capacities (Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + 3G) – smoothly syncs with your PC or Mac’s iTunes library. Available in 10 colours, SmartCovers magnetically attach to the iPad 2’s edge to protect the screen, wake up the tablet and serve as two different stands. This is without a doubt the best available tablet.
Samsung Galaxy Tab ($399.95)
While the Galaxy Tab 2 might be out by the time you read this, Samsung is still enjoying success from last year’s seven-inch touch screen tablet. This Android 2.2 (“Froyo”)-powered device has a number of compelling features such as a portable size and mere 13-ounce weight (to fit in a purse or suit pocket), expandable memory (via microSD cards), two cameras and full access to the Android Market and its more than 250,000 software downloads. Camera quality and battery life aren’t quite up to par, but this might serve as a less expensive alternative to newer Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom and LG Optimus Pad.
LG Optimus Pad (from $449.99 on three-year Rogers plan)
For the entertainment enthusiast, LG’s 8.9-inch Optimus Pad is the world’s first touch screen tablet that can snap pictures or shoot video in 3-D, which can then be played back on a compatible 3-D TV via HDMI cable. Running on Android 3.0 (“Honeycomb”), this Rogers exclusive delivers Wi-Fi and 3G, with download speeds up to 14.4 Mbps, and the ability to create a personal hot spot for other nearby devices. Other features include a dual-core 1GHz processor, multiple cameras (including support for video calling) and a web browser with both Flash 10.2 and HTML 5 support. Like the Motorola Xoom, capacity is capped at 32 GB.
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