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Monday, June 18, 2012

Best Tablet For The Money: Shortlisting The Best In The Industry

The new wave of tablets is taking the mobile computing industry by storm which took form with the introduction of the Apple iPad about two years ago. Many competitors challenged the reign of the original iPad and were somehow able to pose a serious threat to the leading brand.

By capitalizing on the shortcomings of the earlier tablets, manufacturers such as Samsung, Asus, HP, and Research In Motion(RIM) continue to push the envelope by introducing their own line of tablets.

With dozens of mobile devices to choose from, successfully picking the best tablet for the money requires some detailed information on the most noteworthy products.

The New iPad

The entire world was once again amazed with the release of the new iPad, the third version in the pioneering line of tablets by Apple. As promised, the latest iPad features the retina display giving users the best viewing experience on its 9.7-inch screen with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. This resolution is at least twice more densely packed than any tablet currently available in the market. Higher resolution entails higher processor power, and the new iPad handles this requirement very well by running the latest iOS 5 optimized for graphics processing. In terms of form factor, the new iPad is among the thinnest tablets at only 0.37 inch. Starting at $499 for the 16GB version, the new iPad is a very tough product to beat in the tablet industry.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

As a close competitor to the iPad, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 by Samsung ups the ante by sporting standard tablet specifications along with improvements such as larger display and native support for Adobe Flash through its Android operating system. It shares a number of features with the new iPad including the 10-hour battery life, built-in GPS, 1GHz processor, and many more. Furthermore, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is also available in 16, 32, or 64GB storage capacity variants just like the new iPad. The Galaxy Tab somehow lacks the capability for HD video recording due to its limited 3-megapixel rear camera. At $599, it is relatively more expensive and its cutting-edge features may not be enough to proclaim it as the best tablet for the money.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Asus, the computer brand known for popularizing affordable yet functional netbooks, has once again extended their creativity into the tablet industry with the Eee Pad Transformer. Its 10.1-inch screen is as large as the Galaxy Tab, but it has a higher rearcamera resolution at 5 megapixels. Since it runs the Android operating system, the Eee Pad Transformer also supports Adobe Flash. What sets this device apart from other tablets is the keyboard dock that snaps right into its side for faster and more accurate typing. This feature is the main reason why Asus dubbed the tablet as the Transformer. The Eee Pad Transformer is available in 16 and 32GB variants with a starting price of $599. Although it exceeds the Galaxy Tab in most aspects while selling at the same price, the Transformer fails to include 3G or 4G connectivity limiting online connection via Wi-Fi only.

Motorola Xoom
With a 10.1 inch screen, this tablet has a lot to offer. The tablets originally came standard with the Android Honeycomb operating system but has now been upgraded to the latest Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Nevertheless, it still makes for a powerful multimedia device. The battery has a long life of 8 – 9 hours even under heavy use. With a USB port, transferring files and syncing with your PC is a snap. With Google buying Motorola, it will be interesting to see what Google has in store for the Xoom.

BlackBerry Playbook

Another Wi-Fi-only tablet is the BlackBerry Playbook by RIM. Unlike the Transformer, however, the BlackBerry Playbook is significantly cheaper with a starting price of $399 for the 16GB version (now discontinued). Fortunately, other variants include 32 and 64GB capacities as well thus giving customers plenty of options. In terms of hardware specifications, the Playbook is highly competitive with its 5-megapixel rear camera and 1GHz dual-core processor. Just like the Transformer, it also supports USB devices, a feature which is missing from the new iPad and the Galaxy Tab. It is also one of the lightest tablets weighing at just 9 pounds.

HP Slate 500

The HP Slate 500 is designed for those who want to experience the real power of the Windows operating system on a portable 8.9-inch tablet. The Slate 500 can easily be the tablet of choice for those who are familiar with Windows 7 Professional. The familiar Windows desktop is displayed right on the gorgeous touchscreen display. One particular advantage is the seamless possibility to export Windows files and programs into the device without having to worry about compatibility issues. The Slate 500, however, suffers from poor battery life in addition to Wi-Fi-only connectivity.

The Verdict

In summary, I thought about including the Kindle Fire in this write up but felt that at $199 it falls in the budget class of Android tablets and is the best value in that category bar none. Some may argue that it should have been included here and it is definitely worthy of mention, but I see it as a cross section of users that are interested in tablets but not sure whether to spend several hundred dollars and who simply want a pure multimedia device. However, if you are looking for a little more then you may be best served to look elsewhere.

Overall, the best tablet for the money is still the Apple iPad. Although this device has been criticized for not supporting Flash and USB, the new iPad has all the most relevant features fitting for a tablet. Its price at $499 may not be the cheapest in the bunch, but extensive support for applications through the Apple App Store certainly offsets the initial investment.
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