Interesting Tablets of Early 2011

We round up the hot (and not so hot) tablet computers that are being launched or shown off at the big CTIA mobile computing show.

The Tablets of CTIA

2011 is shaping up to be the year of the tablet. At the CTIA show in Orlando a number of new laptops have been launched, and numerous others are being teased on the show floor by some of the biggest companies in tech. These are the ones that caught our eye, and the ones with at least a fighting chance of dethroning Apple's iPad as the tablet of choice.

ZTE Light Tablet

This tablet, also known as the ZTE V9, is already shipping, just not in the U.S.—yet. It runs Android 2.1, is 3G, does voice as well as SMS, although whether it will still do voice if released in the US remains to be seen. This model has a 7-inch, 1024 by 600 pixel display, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage on board (no word on the CPU, which means it’s likely unremarkable); and storage of up to 32GB via microSD card. The rear-facing camera captures at 3.0 megapixels; plus, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

ZTE does say that it plans to have at least one LTE device and at least one smartphone on a U.S. carrier this year. Other versions include the ZTE Lite (with 4G) and the ZTE Lite 2 (with a larger screen). No word on pricing or availability stateside.

ZTE Light LTE Tablet

The V11-LTE unit on display here at CTIA was a poorly painted block of wood mockup, shown behind a case. But the current working specs for ZTE’s 4G tablet—which was announced in vague terms at CES 2011—include Android 3.0, a 10-inch 1280 by 800 capacitive touch display, a 1.2GHz CPU (no mention of it being single- or dual-core), 512MB of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, micro-USB and dock connectors, an accelerometer, up to 32GB of internal memory, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. It will support both HSPA 3G, and LTE 4G. The battery is rated at 6800mAh, which the company says translates into five and a half hours of movie playback time (nearly half the iPad 2). No information on pricing or availability, according to ZTE.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9 Tablets

Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab 7-inch was, when it was released last fall, considered widely as the first competition to the Apple iPad. But by comparison to what the company’s newest offerings, introduced at CTIA, will offer, the original Tab was but a warning salvo over the bow of Apple’s ship. Jammed with strong specs, Android 3.0, and an appealing custom-Android interface, the Tabs look set to mount a strong challenge to the iPad 2. The starting price for the Wi-Fi-only 16GB Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablet is $469, with the 32GB version running $569. The Wi-Fi-only 16GB Galaxy Tab 10.1 will sell for $499 with the 32GB model running $599. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 will ship June 8 and the 8.9 model ships early this summer, according to Samsung. The company says 4G models are coming, but wouldn't say when.

HTC EVO View 4G and HTC Flyer

The HTC EVO View 4G joins the 7-inch tablet parade; but this model features several appealing traits—including its customized HTC Sense interface running on top of Android 2.1. The EVO View 4G will be sold by Sprint, and comes in black. Starting this spring, Best Buy will sell a white-backed Wi-Fi-only version of the tablet, which will be called the HTC Flyer. No pricing or launch specifics available at this time.

Huawei S7 Slim Tablet

This tablet was first shown at Mobile World Congress; now Huawei has brought it to U.S. shores—at least for a viewing. Still no word on when it will ship in the States, but the company does say to expect news soon. Huawei says it’s aiming for the value space—but unlike many of the value Android 2.2 tablets I’ve tried, the Huawei S7 feels like it’s gone a step above and beyond. The display, in particular, looked surprisingly good given the unimpressive 800 by 480 resolution; and it has a custom skin that adds useful widgets and tabbed home screen navigation.

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

Even though RIM wasn’t exhibiting at the show, the company showed off its BlackBerry PlayBook at one of the media events at the show. And it finally announced availability and pricing: April 19, starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model (32GB costs $599, and 64GB Wi-Fi costs $699). These are the 3G versions; the LTE and HSPA+ versions are still to come. What continues to impress me about the 7-inch PlayBook is its lightweight and balanced feel: It measures 0.4 inches thick, and weighs just 0.9 pounds. The unit's design is very clean; navigation is entirely gesture-based so there are no buttons. There are four primary navigation swipes and each can be used in combination. Swipe up once to get to the main navigator pane, swipe up again to close an app.

T-Mobile G-Slate (LG Optimus Pad)

The T-Mobile G-Slate is another tablet that’s due soon, but isn’t shipping yet. This version of the LG Optimus Pad has solid specs and a 3D display, too. The Android 3.0 tablet has a tweener display, at 8.9-inches: This makes it easy to hold in hand, but didn’t help much with shaving weight off (it weighs 1.3-pounds, same as Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad 2). The G-Slate has 1280 by 760 pixel display, 32GB of internal storage, dual cameras, three speakers, a Tegra 2 processor, and a 3D screen for use with anaglyph 3D. T-Mobile says it will ship in spring, at $530 with a two-year contract and a $100 mail-in rebate.

Acer Iconia Tab 10-Inch

At a private media event at CTIA, AT&T showed the Acer Iconia tablet, which will join the carrier's tablet lineup when it ships this spring. The large-screen Iconia Tab unit's build-quality felt solid, even though this model was a pre-production unit running Android 2.2 Froyo, not running Android 3.0 as it will once it's for sale. Acer expects it to weigh about 1.7 pounds, but specs remain scarce: a 1280 pixel by 800 pixel screen, NVidia's dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It has two USB 2.0 ports, one micro-USB, one HDMI-mini port with 1080p output, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, dual-cameras, and a microSD card slot for expanding on the internal storage.

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