IPad 2 Alternatives: The State of the Tablet Competition
By Jared Newman
Apple’s practical and evolutionary iPad 2 will be the cheapest and most refined tablet on the market when it launches March 11, but it’s not for everyone. Whether you categorically oppose Apple products, loathe the iOS operating system, or just want a device that isn’t tethered to iTunes, you should be able to find an iPad 2 alternative that’s right for you — eventually.
Here’s a look at the iPad 2’s competitive landscape:
The Big Boys
Features: 10.1-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display; Nvidia Tegra 2 processor; 32 GB of built-in storage; 1 GB of RAM; front and rear cameras, Micro USB; microSD and HDMI coming soon; 1.6 pounds; 0.5 inches thick; Verizon 3G with free 4G upgrade; runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).
Status: Out now for $800 through Verizon Wireless. Wi-Fi only version anticipated at a later date for $600.
Chance of Success: The Xoom is the first true competitor to the iPad 2, in that it runs Honeycomb, a scaled-up version of the Android operating system, but its high entry price will drive away all but the earliest adopters.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Features: 10.1-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display; dual-core 1 GHz processor, 16 GB or 32 GB of built storage, front and rear cameras, 1.32 pounds; 0.43 inches thick; 3G; runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).
Status: No price, no release date.
Chance of Success: The Tab 10.1 is the only 10-inch tablet that weighs less than the iPad 2, but otherwise it’s pretty similar to the Xoom, minus the jacks for Micro USB, MicroSD and HDMI. The Tab’s best bet is to beat the Xoom on price.
RIM Blackberry PlayBook
Features: 7-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display; 1 GHz dual-core processor; 32 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM; front and rear cameras; HDMI and full-size USB; 0.88 pounds; 0.4 inches thick; runs PlayBook operating system.
Status: No official word on price or release date, but rumors hint at April 10 for $500.
Chance of Success:RIM’s PlayBook has a nice niche as a 7-inch tablet, but its success will depend on how rumors shake out — not just price and release date, but whether it’ll run Android apps.
Features: 9.7-inch, 1024-by-768 display; 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor; 16 GB or 32 GB of storage; 1 GB of RAM; front-facing camera; Micro-USB; 1.6 pounds; 0.54 inches thick; runs WebOS.
Chance of Success: HP’s TouchPad has nearly the same dimensions as the iPad — the first-generation iPad, that is. It’ll also be late to the tablet party, and the rumored price isn’t ideal. Still, the TouchPad has a clutch of features that the iPad doesn’t, so it’s at least worth keeping an eye on.
Next: Tablets from Acer, HTC, T-Mobile and Toshiba
Acer Iconia A100 and A500
Features: 10.1-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display or 7-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display; Nvidia Tegra 2 processor; 32 GB of storage 1 GB or 512 MB of RAM; front and rear cameras; Micro USB, MicroSD and HDMI; runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).
Status: No price, no release date
Chance of Success: Acer’s 10-inch and 7-inch tablets fall into the “generic Honeycomb tablet with no price or release date” category. Eventually, you’ll get tired of hearing about them, unless one happens to rival the iPad on price and stops being vaporware.
Features: 7-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display; 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor; 32 GB of storage; 1 GB of RAM; front and rear cameras, micro-USB, microSD and HDMI; 0.9 pounds; 0.52 inches thick; runs Android 2.4.
Status: Launching in Q2 for price unknown.
Chance of Success: The Flyer has some neat perks, including a bundled stylus and the OnLive game service, but it uses a version of Android that wasn’t designed for tablets, covered up by HTC’s Sense user interface. An update to Honeycomb is in the works, so the Flyer might just be a late bloomer.
T-Mobile G-Slate (LG Optimus Pad)
Features: 8.9-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display; Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 32 GB of storage, front camera and dual, 3D rear cameras; plays 3D movies; 4G; runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).
Status: No price, no release date for the G-Slate, but the identical Optimus Pad is hitting the United Kingdom in April.
Chance of Success: The G-Slate’s ability to watch 3D movies with red and blue tinted glasses is a cheap gimmick. So is 3D movie capture. Like every other Android tablet in the pipeline, pricing is crucial.
Features: 10.1-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display; Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, front and rear cameras, full-sized USB and HDMI, runs Android 3.0
Status: Late June launch for unknown price.
Chance of Success: The unnamed Toshiba tablet will be thicker and heavier than the first-generation iPad, and it has menu buttons, which are unnecessary for Honeycomb. Some specs, such as on-board storage and RAM, are unknown. For all these reasons, I’m skeptical that Toshiba’s tablet can keep up with the competition.
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