The iPad is the gold standard when it comes to tablet computers, but there are alternatives. We tested eight products to determine if they had what it takes to give the iPad a run for its money as a business device.
RIM's Playbook is 7-inch tablet that runs the QNX operating system. At $599, it sports a 64GB hard drive and was one of the faster devices that we tested. Unfortunately, it's short on business-oriented features and, if you're not already using a BlackBerry, there isn't much reason to buy a Playbook.
The Xoom is a well-made Android-based device that comes in at a competitive price point ($499),delivered nine hours of battery life in our testing, and comes with a 32GB hard drive. Unfortunately, the Xoom comes up short when it comes to specific business applications. But on the plus side, Xoom has cellular capability, supports dual-band 802.11n as well as Bluetooth and the screen display is excellent.
The Acer device was fast, ran Windows 7 and came with a keyboard. It also has a sync tool that allows data to be synched between a standard Win 7 machine and the tablet. There's also a high-res display and a screen keyboard that worked well. Clearly, Acer has made adaptations designed to make it easy for Windows users to add the Iconia to their fleet of devices. At $619, with a 10-inch screen and 32GB hard drive, the Iconia Tab is very competitive.
The ViewPad is a 10-inch tablet that runs Windows 7 Professional Edition and can access Android apps in a hypervisor-like arrangement via a program called BlueStacks Alpha. Battery life was impressive and the display was crisp and legible, but there were some rough patches. Performance was sometimes slow and Windows 7 wasn't always optimized for the small screen size. Also, the touch-screen keyboard sometimes got lost behind an application. At $749 for 10-inch device with a 32GB hard drive, the ViewPad is a little pricey, but it comes with plenty of bells and whistles, including full-sized USB connector, HDMI connector, headphones connector, etc.
At the high end, we have the Durabook, a $1,699 hybrid device that's part tablet, part notebook. The Durabook has a 14-inch display, a 60GB hard drive, touchscreen, stylus and runs Windows 7. It's bigger, bulkier and has less battery life than the others, but it's also more rugged and features a fingerprint reader.
At $279, the Archos 70 is the least expensive option in our test. The device is a 7-inch tablet that runs Android and sports an amazing 250GB of storage space. The Archos 70 lacks specific business apps, but it does have a dog-leg stand, which is a nice touch.
A 10-inch tablet running Android Honeycomb, the Toshiba THRiVe features an external power supply, rather than USB charging. It offers excellent battery life and has a nice look and feel. Unfortunately, it lacks the business features that many of the other products have.
The Fujitsu Stylistic was the most impressive device in our test. It runs Windows 7, has a user replaceable battery, sports a stylus, has a front-facing camera, and comes with a stripped-down version of Microsoft Office. This makes the Fujitsu device the most business focused of the product we tested. At $849, it's more expensive than an iPad 2, but is designed with the business user in mind.
Apple’s iPad2 is the clear market leader when it comes to tablets, so we reviewed the iPad2 in order to have a solid baseline against which to test the iPad2 competitors. We tested a $499 model, which came with 16GB of storage and a 9.7-inch display. The iPad2 lives inside the Apple ecosystem, which means the device is initialized and backed up through iTunes and apps are available at the App Store. Apple does provide pretty effective security with the iPad2, including a certificate-based system for downloads, and policy enforcement via third-party Mobile Device Management software packages. On the downside, there’s no removable battery, the only network connection is via WiFi (no Ethernet or Bluetooth tethering is possible), and memory and storage are not field upgradeable.