Can't decide whether to buy an iPad, a Xoom, a Galaxy Tab or another tablet computer? We asked tech whiz Dan Tynan to try 'em all so you don't have to. Read his hands-on takes before you shop.
By Dan Tynan
The iPad 2 is what all other tablets want to be when they grow up—fast, trim, and good-looking. It comes with two cameras, so you can snap pictures with one and use the other to engage in video chat with your iPad buddies. The iTunes store offers millions of songs, movies, TV shows, and apps including music and movie mixing software like GarageBand and iMovie, as well as a host of educational apps and games.
The downside? The iPad 2 remains one of the biggest and priciest tablets, with no purse-sized versions on the immediate horizon. And if you want to live in Steve Jobs' house you have to play by his rules; that means you can't view Web sites that use Flash video or install apps not compatible with Apple.
Bottom line: What every other tablet aspires to be.
Operating System: Apple iOS 4.3
Dimensions: 7.31 x 9.5 x .34 inches
Weight: 1.33 pounds
Price: $499 (16GB, WiFi) to $829 (64GB, 3G)
Data plans: $15 to $25 (AT&T), $20 to $80 (Verizon)
This sleek stay-at-home tablet seems best suited for sitting on the couch, watching movies, and playing games. For one thing, it's relatively large, at just over 10 inches wide and 1.7 pounds. For another, it's WiFi-only, so you won't be able to take it with you and log on the Net from just anywhere. Acer's Clear.fi technology lets you connect to a home network, access music, movies, and photos stored on your desktop PC, and enjoy them in any room in your house. The Iconia also comes with a fast video processor, a high-definition display, and pre-installed games like Let's Golf and EA's Need For Speed Shift HD racing game. Want to do more? You can download thousands of apps from Google's Android Market, including apps that use Adobe Flash video.
Bottom line: Games and entertainment in every room of your home.
Operating System: Android 3.1
Dimensions: 10.24 x 7 x .52 inches
Weight: 1.7 pounds
If you're already all about the BlackBerry, then the PlayBook may be all the tablet you'll want. This WiFi-only device is small enough to slip into a purse or briefcase; use it to surf the Web, update Facebook, capture photos or HD video, engage in video chat with other PlayBook owners, and play games. To view your schedule, update contacts or scan your corporate e-mail, however, you'll need a BlackBerry phone nearby or you can access via the web browser. (An update that allows the tablet to access your messages and calendar without an external phone is slated to arrive by fall.) You can also use the phone to connect to the Internet when a WiFi hotspot isn't available. BlackBerry maintains its own App World, where you can choose from thousands of compatible apps for prices ranging from free to $10.
Bottom line: CrackBerry addicts will crave this tablet; everyone else, probably not so much.
Operating system: BlackBerry Tablet OS 1.0
Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 0.9 pounds
Price: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB)
With the LG G-Slate, 4G meets 3D. Available exclusively from T-Mobile, the G-Slate is one of the few tablets that take advantage of fast 4G cellular networks, provided one is available; you can even use the tablet to share a 4G connection with up to five other devices via WiFi. It's also the only tablet to come with a stereoscopic rear-facing camera for capturing three-dimensional or HD video in addition to a front-facing camera for photos or video chat as well as 3D glasses to watch them with. Gaming and entertainment are this Android tablet's strengths. It comes with the Need for Speed racing game and T-Mobile TV, an on-demand video service. With its wide-screen 8.9-inch display, using the G-Slate feels more like holding a mini HDTV in your hands than a tablet.
Bottom line: Highly mobile and entertaining—good luck keeping it away from your kids.
Operating system: Android 3.0
Dimensions: 9.6 x 5.9 x .5 inches
Weight: 1.37 pounds
Price: $400 (with rebate and data plan)
Data plans: $30 to $85 a month
The Motorola XOOM is probably the closest thing to an iPad you can buy without an Apple logo. It's as gorgeous as the iPad 2, and just as functional. The WiFi version makes an excellent stay-at-home entertainment machine; you can even rent movies directly from the Android Market and watch them on the Motorola XOOM. The 3G version, available only from Verizon at press time, lets you bring the Net with you wherever you go. Add a $70 wireless keyboard and you could bring the Motorola XOOM with you on trips instead of a laptop—one that's easier to lug through the airport and use on cramped airplane tray tables.
Bottom line: The next best thing to an iPad.
Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.6 x .5 inches
Weight: 1.6 lbs
Price: $500 (WiFi only) $600 (WiFi + Verizon 3G w/data plan), $800 (WiFi + Verizon 3G, no plan)
Data plans: $30 to $80 a month
With the Galaxy size doesn't matter, because Samsung is the only manufacturer to offer a tablet in three sizes: the older Galaxy Tab 7-inch and more recent 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch models. Available with either WiFi or 3G connections from the major wireless carriers, the 7-inch Galaxy makes an amiable travel companion, though it runs an older Android 2.3 operating system designed for smart phones. The WiFi-Only 10.1-inch Galaxy, pictured here, is as wafer thin as an iPad 2 and just a hair lighter, offering a brilliant wide-screen HD display for watching movies, playing games, and running thousands of Android apps. Can't decide? The WiFi-Only 8.9-inch Galaxy tab combines the best of both worlds, and will be available this summer. Fast 4G versions of the 10.1-inch tablet should be available soon.
Bottom Line: Something for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7
Operating system: Android 2.2 or 2.3 (depending on carrier)
Dimensions: 4.8 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches
Weight: .825 lbs
Price: $350 (WiFi-Only), $550 (3G no plan), $200 to $400 w/plan from AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, T-Mobile, or Verizon
AT&T: $15 to $25 a month
Sprint: $30 to $60 a month
T-Mobile: $25 to $85 a month
US Cellular: $35 to $75 a month
Verizon: $30 to $80 a month
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Operating system: Android 3.1
Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 1.04 lbs
Price: $469 (16GB), $569 (32GB)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Operating system: Android 3.1
Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 1.25 lbs
Price: $500 (16GB), $600 (32GB), $530 (4G 16GB) to $630 (4G 32GB) w/plan from Verizon
Data plans: WiFi
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.