Gadget Watch: iPad Competitors (That You Can Buy Right Now)

February 25, 2011
MDNG Neurology, February 2011, Volume 13, Issue 1

If you want to get a tablet now, and you for some reason don%u2019t want an iPad, check out one these five gadgets.

There was a lot of talk at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011) about the HP PalmPad webOS tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 hybrid, the LG Android tablet, and other supposed “iPad-killers,” but who wants to wait around until these things are on the market? (That’s if they ever make it to the market; remember the hype surrounding the HP Slate 500 tablet at last year’s CES?) If you want to get a tablet now, and you for some reason don’t want an iPad, check out one these five gadgets.

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

Well, you can’t get this one right now, but you can order one for a Q1 (RIM promises!) delivery. The consensus seems to be that the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook was the big winner coming out of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show — the tech bloggers and professional tech press were positively gushing over it. In its long, detailed, hands-on review of the device, the CrackBerry community/fan website (http://hcp.lv/hHad9g) described it as “pure awesomeness.” The Playbook offers 3G network access (using your BlackBerry smartphone as a modem) and/or WiFi (with a Sprint 4G version due this summer) and its own proprietary OS; has a 1GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM; has built-in support for Flash and HTML 5; has a high-def display with a 3 MP high-def front-facing camera and a 5 MP high-def rear-facing camera; USB and HDMI ports; and a 7” 1024x600 screen. Oh yeah, and it weighs less than a pound. Check the full product details at the BlackBerry site (http://hcp.lv/eHGQKC), and watch product demo videos on the BlackBerry YouTube channel (http://hcp.lv/fNhrDu).

What Does Facebook Look Like on the PlayBook? This BlackBerry PlayBook “web fidelity video demonstrates rich multimedia, Adobe Flash games and social networking websites like Facebook running in the BlackBerry Browser.” http://hcp.lv/ijC1x7

CrackBerry’s Official PlayBook Walk Through Ryan Bidan, Sr. VP of BlackBerry PlayBook Product Team for RIM, gives a hands-on video demo of the new PlayBook. http://hcp.lv/eImhJL

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Despite what Steve Jobs says about 7” tabs, they seem to be pretty popular with all of the non- Apple zealots. Case in point: the Galaxy Tab, which features 3G/WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity, a 7” LCD screen, a 1GHz CPU, and a 1.3 MP front-facing camera and 3 MP rear-facing camera (no HD video, though). And the Galaxy Tab runs on the Android OS (meaning that it offers full Flash support). This mostly positive Engadget review (http://hcp.lv/hbipo5) did note that one drawback is that quite a few Google apps aren’t optimized for this form factor (meaning you get lots of blank screen space around the border of some of your favorite apps). Still, the well-built, light, compact Galaxy Tab does have a major plus going for it: it’s already supported by all of the major US cell carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile). Get full product details at the Samsung website (http://hcp.lv/g5Y8yH).

Hands-on Demo of the Galaxy Tab Three-minute video from CES 2011 showing some of the features of the Galaxy Tab. http://hcp.lv/hbF6JP

Announcing the 4G Samsung Galaxy Tab JK Shin, president of Samsung Mobile, provides details about the device at the CES 2011 Verizon Press Event. http://hcp.lv/grSW5t

Viewsonic ViewPad 10

The “dual-boot” ViewPad 10’s most unique feature is that it supports both Windows 7 and the Android 1.6 OS. It also has a 10” LCD screen, 1GB of RAM another 16GB SSD, USB and HDMI ports, a 1.3 MP front-facing camera, 3G/WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity, and a 1.6 GHz CPU. It’s a bit bulky (more than 3 lbs), and this Engadget review had some snarky, less-than-kind things to say about the device (http://hcp.lv/eH15hn). Still, the dual OS thing is kinda cool, right? Check out the Viewsonic website for full product and pricing specs (http://hcp.lv/hEC7EJ).

The ViewPad 10 at CES 2011 Video demo of the ViewPad 10 being put through its paces. http://hcp.lv/fGDgiY

More ViewPad 10 Demo Goodness Watch “the world’s first dual-boot tablet” in action. http://hcp.lv/hlV2Op

ASUS Eee Slate EP121

Again, you can’t technically buy this one right now; but you can pre-order it. Given the reputation for quality enjoyed by other ASUS products, plus the fact that the Slate EP 121 won a CES Innovations Award under the Personal Electronics category at CES 2011, anticipation is running high. The Eee Slate EP121 runs on Windows 7, has 4GB of RAM (plus up to 64GB of SSD), a 12” touch screen (also supports stylus input), a 1.3 GHz CPU, Flash support, USB and HDMI ports, 2 MP camera, and “an innovative Bluetooth keyboard dock to provide the best of both touchscreen tablets and traditional notebooks.” This Engadget review (http://hcp.lv/etEvrd) says that the device “actually start at $1,000, with an upgraded model available for an extra Benjamin, and it’s due out later this month.” Pricing and full product specs are available at the ASUS website (http://hcp.lv/gb3eL3).

ASUS at CES 2011 Watch the first demo of the Slate EP121 at CES 2011. http://hcp.lv/fLPttr

Introducing the Eee Pad Lineup at CES 2011 Check out this cool “digital blackboard” video presenting the ASUS Eee Pad series, including the Slate EP121. http://hcp.lv/f0FAWu

Archos 101

The striking Archos 101 runs on the Android 2.2 Froyo OS, boasts a 10” 1024x600 screen, a 1 GHz CPU, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a front-facing VGA camera. It’s even got a kickstand. This review (http://hcp.lv/hXXCJP) makes a point of mentioning the “very cheap” look and feel of the Archos 101; for instance, “the bezels aren’t flush with the edges and the material covering the edges is different than the one being used on the rear cover… We just don’t have much confidence in the longevity of the device either. In hand, the materials feel far from solid, and even after wrapping it in a scarf, we worried about keeping it safe from bumps and bruises in our bag.” Other reviews we’ve read haven’t been quite so down on this tablet, with the majority having mostly positive things to say about its functionality and capabilities. Full pricing and product specs are available at the Archos website (http://hcp.lv/dUnws2).

Archos at CES 2011Quick video demo of some of the Archos 101 capabilities and features. http://hcp.lv/icnjST

Hands-on Overview and Test of the Archos 101 TabletMore info on the Archos 101. http://hcp.lv/h73N2M

Yes, these and other tablets/slates on the market do many of the same things the iPad can do (and do it better in a few cases), but why is it that so many of them seem somehow lacking, and leave users wanting more? Back in September, the Wired GadgetLab’s Charlie Sorrel (http://hcp.lv/gTAAbW) nailed this when he wondered “if, in the rush to get iPad rivals to market, the manufacturers are missing the point. Touch-screen tablets have been around for years, but it took a brand-new interface design and a big-ass battery before anyone actually started to buy them. And remember, it took Apple years to design it. Until the proper, purpose-built tablets (like HP’s expected WebOS tablets) finally appear, it looks like we’re getting the tablet PCs from the 1990s all over again, only with smaller cases and without Windows.”