Tablet Wars – The Battle Rages On!

by admin on May 6th in Hardware Recommendations

Ever since the iPad arrived on the scene, everyone felt they needed a tablet.  This amazed me, since Fujitsu has been selling tablets for over 15 years.  They just didn’t have the ‘cool’ factor that Apple adds to all their products (through the ingestion of Steve Job’s Kool-Aid by the unsuspecting).  Now that we are on the iPad2, other manufacturers are trying to get into the game.  There are Windows XP, Windows 7, Android 2.2, 2.3, 3.0, WebOS, and iOS tablets.  All of them have their selling points, and the difficult job you have as a consumer is to avoid the Kool-Aid frenzied crowds, and determine the following:

  • Need/Want – Basically, what’s the point?  Games? Email? Books? Browsing?  This can become a really expensive piece of exercise equipment really fast! (ed. note: I spend a lot of money on exercise equipment thinking I will use it ‘this time’–only to become a large, obsolete shrine to my lack of discipline and poor stewardship)
  • Functions – Do you plan on using it for anything other than very simple tasks?  Content viewing/Content editing/Content creation is a very critical aspect that will determine the direction you should go
  • Connections – Do you need wi-fi? 3G? 4G?  If you add 3g or 4g, you will most probably be hit with a monthly contract that will set you back about $50! 
  • Compatibility – Do you need to use it to work on work stuff?  If so, can the tablet work with and create Office files?  This is often the deal breaker for the tablets, since few give you the ability to do work that is compatible with any other computer you may own.

Other features you should consider:

  • Battery Life– often the killer of most Windows tablets.  If the battery life is 3 -4 hours, that isn’t enough to move to the tablet format over a note/netbook
  • Replaceable Battery– few have this option, but what happens when your battery doesn’t charge any more, or the battery life degrades substantially?  With the iPad, most are so addicted that they just buy the new version that is coming out so the battery never has a chance to actually go bad…of course you just paid another $600 for a tablet you will replace in 2 years…
  • Ports – what can you plug into the system?  USB, HDMI, SD are all options that you should look for.  The more ports, the greater the functionality and expandability of the unit.

I recently talked with a friend who had an iPad sitting on his desk.  He was lamenting the fact he couldn’t connect to the Internet at work (due to the iPad’s lack of enterprise level security).  I then asked him to describe his ‘need’ for the iPad.  As he rattled of the the list of ‘needs’, it got funnier and funnier, since everything mentioned was a game, movie access, Netflix, etc.  It comes back to the need/want aspect.  Is it just so you can be accepted by your fellow StarBuckers?  If so, that’s a pretty pricey status symbol.  All this rambling to say that you really need to find a real use for your tablet before laying out the big bucks!

Here are the current tablets that are available and my quick analysis.  Those with an (*) are ones that I own/have used.  As the field continues to expand, I will add to this list. 

  • Kindle*– by far the most functional per dollar.  Excellent eBook reader, low cost, great battery life.  This could probably replace most iPads since the ‘expressed’ use is to read books…
  • iPad*– Obviously, the leader in the current tablet craze.  Apple always wins when it comes to design and marketing.  The system runs nearly flawlessly, but like all Apple products, is tied to Apple’s draconian control, forcing you to use iTunes, inability to create your own apps, etc.  However, with hundreds of thousands of apps, who cares?  Very limited in the content creation side.  Security an issue for enterprise users.  Non-replaceable battery.
  • Acer Iconia Tab* – The first Windows 7 tablet that actually works.  Rather than rewrite my entire review, here’s a link to it.
  • Fujitsu Q550 Slate* – The true innovators in the area of tablets.  This Windows 7 tablet features a multi-touch screen as well as digital pen input, a quick-swap battery (you can change it WHILE the system is on!), and a price point that for a business class system is quite reasonable ($750).  Due to its use of Windows 7 Professional, it can be used for all three levels of content as well as enterprise level security.

You’ll notice I left out a lot of Android tablets.  Here’s my view of them:  If they are more expensive than an iPad,  buy an iPad.  I had great hopes for the Xoom, but its price is higher than the iPad…  Being the ‘frugal’ person that I am, I want to get the most functionality and bang for my buck…and unless the system has some redeeming qualities, it better be cheaper than the iPad.

The tablet world is abuzz with ‘vapor tablets’.  These are tablets that keep us hopeful of the next great gadget, but it is always ‘next quarter’ or 2 months away.  Here are some of the ones I really want to see SOON:

  • Asus Eee Pad– I always love Asus products.  They are actually the manufacturer that most name brands use (Dell, Gateway, Apple).  Getting stuff directly from them removes the middle man and they are usually quite innovative in their products.  This system actually showed up for a short time, and sold out from Amazon, Best Buy, and Target within minutes.  The next shipment should be in sometime middle to end of May.  This system is an Android 3.0 system.
  • Lenovo Idea Pad U1 Hybrid– this is a big tease…they have been showing this since CES 2010, and the concept is amazing.  Basically, it is a notebook that runs Windows 7.  However, you can remove the screen and it has its own processor, memory and storage that functions as an Android tablet.  The cool thing is that any changes you make or content you create in ‘tablet’ mode will automatically sync to the main system once the screen is reconnected.  Way too impressive to actually exist….we’ll see.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet– this is an Android 3.0 system that is configured to work in an enterprise environment.  It looks good, and has a nice portfolio/keyboard case that makes it into a ‘notebook’. 
  • HP Tablet – This is the much anticipated WebOS tablet.  As a Palm Pre owner, I love WebOS with its true multi-tasking and very clean and effective user interface.  However, will HP be a dollar short and a day late?  Unless it has amazing features and functionality at a competitive (lower than iPad) price, I’m afraid it will go the way of the Pre…

Thanks to Apple for starting the Tablet Wars.  The more the entries in the battle, the more exciting and innovative it becomes.  I will update this on a regular basis as new systems appear.  But remember, before you lay down the big bucks for your iPad or Xoom, ask Why?  Do you really need another way to play games? read email? surf the net?  Don’t get me wrong–I am a gadget addict ( so I’m always looking for a way to rationalize the purchase of technology…but having purchased many tablets over the last 9 years, they are often a cool toy that winds up in my ‘POUT’ (Pile Of Useless Technology) within months.

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