A 'Confusion' of Tablets

Ashish Bhatia        Print Edition: December 2011

APPLE IPAD 2
Price: Rs 36,900
Specs: 9.7-inch LED 1024x768 display with IPS; 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 CPU; iOS 5.0; 16 GB storage; Fingerprint-resistant, oleophobic coating on capacitive screen; 720p reamera; VGA front camera; 3G, WiFi,Bluetooth, A-GPS, 613 gm.

WHAT WE LIKED: The device that started it all remains the world's favourite fondleslab. And ours as well. Metal solid, beautifully constructed, undeniably powerful, with-most importantly- a very slick OS and a veritable plethora of software to harness that combo. The iPad 2 remains unsurpassed (and the benchmark) in both user experience as well as sheer magnitude of magical content and native, tablet-optimised applications. The recent iOS 5 update has made the best only better with somethings borrowed (notifications) and somethings new. Few among its combatants can touch the iPad's battery life at 10-plus hours, let alone surpass it.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: Certainly not without blight, the iPad's screen resolution is the first and most visible target. Its camera output too is bettered by many a rival. It doesn't do Adobe Flash-now whether that's a good thing or a bad will always remain with the jury. But the lack of inherent USB, HDMI and memory card support definitely makes many of us gnash our teeth. Most surprisingly, compared to the first iPad, the audio output of the iPad 2 mono speaker has deteriorated in both volume and quality. Limited video formats are also a major pain-point for the video fans.

VERDICT: Love it or loathe it (yes, some do), the iPad remains the king of the range-in performance, popularity and purposefulness. Others may have outclassed it on the hardware front, but the refinement and usability of the complete iPad complete package-device, operating system and vast applications catalogue-make it stand out above the others. Of course, all this comes at price!

SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 750
Price: Rs 36,200
SPECS: 10.1-inch WXGA 1280x800 TFT; 1GHz nVidia Tegra 2 dual core processor; 16GB memory, 1GB RAM; Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS; 3MP autofocus rear camera with LED Flash, 2MP front; Stereo speakers; Flash support, 3.5mm audio jack, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS; 565 gm weight.

WHAT WE LIKED: Wonderfully light and the least bulky of the 10-inchers, the Tab 750 has a clean, spartan design. It is fast and furious where raw speed goes. Though purists will disagree, once you get used to it, Samsung's proprietary TouchWIZ ser interface skin over Android can be quite agreeable and useful. The preinstalled apps-especially the office suite and the photo editor-propelled by TouchWIZ get you off the ground right away without shopping around. The 1,280x800 display is capable of sharp, vibrant imagery and provides superb viewing angles.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: Light, yes but why does it have to border on the outright plasticy? Other tablets outshine and outclass the Galaxy Tab's 3MP rear camera if you rate the shooter important. The grouse about the the ports-or the lack of them-is the same as with the iPad: no USB, no HDMI, no microSD. Besides it comes with a proprietary dock connector. Audio quality is average. Battery, though substantial at over 8 hours, doesn't last as long as the others.

VERDICT: The closest to size zero you can get at this point in time. It is both speedy and slick. For us the real fight is deciding between whether you want a lighter slate or a more solid and heftier one. Bear in mind that Samsung is a nimble and surefooted company with an ear to the ground and sensitive to the market demands. As with the other Android tablet, Honeycomb is a bitter-sweet pill so far.
And take it or leave it, it is part of this bundle. Be that as it may, if are planning to go Android, keep this one on your radar-you have to.

ACER ICONIA TAB A501
Price: Rs 33,900
SPECS: 10.1-inch 800x1280 LCD capacitive touchscreen; Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor; 1GB DDR2 RAM; Android 3.1; OSULP GeForce GPU; 16/32GB memory, microSD slot; 5MP main camera, 2MP front camera, WiFi, Bluetooth; GPS; 730gm weight.

WHAT WE LIKED: It is powerful, well-built, edgy and attractive. The proprietary Acer UI squatting atop the Android is eminently usable and a nice breath of fresh air in the crowded Android space. Talk about ports and the Iconia is only one in this round-up that offers a whole bouquet: Forget the micro-USB and the micro HDMI for streaming video to TV, the slick little stalwart even has a full-sized USB 2.0 port for you to plug-in your regular USB devices without a second thought. The speakers are reasonably well placed at the bottom and capable of delivering adequate sound for the home ambience. We also like the fact that the tablet proffers a dedicated screen-rotation lock.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: This one has heft alright. While it looks good, the broader bezel on two sides just add to the bulk. The primary camera on the Iconia is a letdown in comparison to what it's prime rivals are capable of. Other than the fact it offers slightly poorer contrast ratios (more noticeable in brighter lighting conditions), the Iconia also has somewhat narrower viewing angles, especially when compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. So display performance could have been better. Battery life too is lower that the competition.

VERDICT: Hmmmm... we have a bit of a mixed bag here. On the one hand, the wide-screen 16:10 (that's right, not 16:9) aspect ratio of the screen, the crisp image quality and the graphics prowess of the Iconica will gratify the video buff. On the other, the Iconia's very average visual output may cause finicky fuss-pots to frown. Of course, mere mortals may not even notice the difference. More so if you are not going to hold it against it price-wise-the Iconia has shaved a couple of grands off the price tag making it a mite more attractive. If you're in the running for a big screen tab but need to penny-pinch, you may want to pick this one up.

HTC FLYER
Price: Rs 35,990
SPECS: 7-inch display, 1.5 GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, microSD slot; Android 2.3.3 OS; 5 MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera; 720p HD video recording; 3.5 mm stereo audio jack; Ambient light sensor; G-sensor, compass; 420 gm weight.

WHAT WE LIKED: The aluminium unibody Flyer is extremely well built and feels compact and good to hold. The prime USP of the Flyer is its pressure sensitive Magic Pen stylus. This digital pen lets you annotate, highlight, draw (and erase) in digital ink-but only in apps that support it. And right now, it seems that its just the default (and excellent) Notes app and a drawing app called Scribbles. Notes is built to sync with Evernote. The pen is works very well with no evidence of lag. Unfortunately, there's no handwriting recognition in there yet. HTC is encouraging developers to build pen apps with the Tablet Pen API in its OpenSense SDK but there doesn't seem to be too many takers. Skinned with HTC Sense 2.1 atop (a non-tablet version of) Android, the Flyer supports Adobe Flash and HTML5. The screen is bright and vibrant with good viewing angles. Web browsing is smooth. Speakers enhance the video.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: While the tablet itself looks elegant, its soft pouch makes it look a tad feminine. But the biggest shocker with the Flyer is its price. And that when it still uses the ageing Android 2.3.3 OS and, in a largely dual-core processing world, continues to be powered by a single-core 1.5GHz chip. This means you won't be able to run some emerging Android apps like Google Body on it. Sadly there's no slot for the Magic Pen within the tablet. You must park it outside its case. Audio quality is sub-par. Battery life at approximately 7 hours can't compare with the 10 hours the competition offers.

Verdict: While it scores the top slot among the smaller tabs that we looked at, value for money is certainly not something that the Flyer can boast about. So if you have a penchant for smaller, 7-inch form factor, can find good use for the stylus whether drawing or note-taking- and of course a big wad of spare cash-go for this.

MOTOROLA XOOM 3G
Price: Rs 35,590
SPECS: 10.1-inch WXGA 1280x 800 capacitive touchscreen; 1GHz cual core processor, 16/32/64GB memory, microSD card slot; 5MP rear, 2MP front cameras; HD 720p video; GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth; 3.5mm audio jack; Ambient light sensor, barometer, gyroscope; 730 gm weight.

WHAT WE LIKED: The Xoom is a beautiful piece of hardware. The anodised aluminum body looks handsome and feels good to hold. Gripping it is easier with both hands in the landscape mode. The 5 MP autofocus camera is excellent as tab cams go-even when using the dual-LED flash in dim lighting conditions. Battery life tops 10 hours without Flash playback. The Xoom's 10.1-inch display is slightly larger than the iPad's 9.7-in screen and has a higher resolution (1280x800 versus Apple's 1024x768). The display is bright and sharp and watching video on it is a delight. The dual core Tegra processor inside keeps humming briskly with nary a wait state. It handles web browsing, media playback, gaming and apps with equal deftness.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: The recessed power/wake-up button is inconveniently located in the top quarter of the tablet's rear and can flumox you in the beginning. The volume buttons too are at awkward, need-to-grope spot. While it has microUSB port, you cannot use it for charging. You need the wall charger to juice up the battery- and its charger is quite massive compared to the ones that accompany other tablets. While it weighs 730 gm, the Xoom feels heftier, probably due to its solid build. Since it is a tad bigger as well, people with smaller hands may find it slightly more awkward to hold and type unless it is resting on a surface.

VERDICT: In all this din surrounding Android tablets, the Xoom hasn't really met the success it deserves. The tablet is fast, it's powerful and it's impressive. A mite too hunky? Maybe. But some people like it that way. Even though it may score top marks on the hardware front, we won't rate it over the iPad when it comes to the overall tablet experience. That though that's more to do with the OS and the whole Android ecosystem-the slate itself is not to blame. So if you are looking for a large screen Android tablet, the Xoom is worth serious consideration.

BLACKBERRY PLAYBOOK
Price: Rs 27,000
SPECS: 7-inch 1024x600 WSVGA capacitive LCD with 4-finger multi-touch; 1GHz Cortex A9 dual core processor, 1GB RAM, 16-34 GB storage; BlackBerry Tablet OS; 5MP rear, 3MP front cameras; 1080p HD video; WiFi, micro-HDMI port, microUSB; 400 gm.

WHAT WE LIKED: Very solid and well constructed, the PlayBook wows with its multitasking and multiprocessing abilities. You can run a graphics intensive game running alongside a video chat session, and have a Flash heavy website loading, or movie playing-all concurrently. Few would need to run all these at the same time but it gives you a clue of the horsepower of the 1GHz Cortex A9 dual core processor as well as the capability of the OS. Version 2.0 of the OS -though still in beta-is a marked improvement over the previous version. The Playbook now has BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and the BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools. This opens up a whole new universe of apps for that hitherto blighted department. OS 2.0 also supports Adobe Air 3.0 and Adobe Flash 11. You can nest apps within folders now. The interface by and large remains reminiscent of erstwhile Palm/webOS devices while the menus lean toward the BlackBerry genre. The approach to UI is refreshing, minimalistic and cohesive. The screen bezel has been thoughtfully deployed for gesture-based basic functionality. In-browser Flash video playback is beyond reproach. The 5MP camera does a good job with both video and stills and the audio output is second to none. Battery life is close to 8 hours.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: As of now, there is no 3G/SIM slot. You need to hook up a PlayBook to your BlackBerry phone over a program called Bridge via Bluetooth. Without Bridge there's no mail, calendar or messaging client. RIM has done this so as not to compromise enterprise mail security, but this limits the appeal of the tablet. Yes, you can use it on WiFI too. However, when it comes to online connectivity on the trot, you're virtually on an island. The paucity of native apps can be galling. While the Android emulator is set to change that, the final version of the 2.0 OS is not due until February 2012.

Verdict: The hardware works nimbly with nary a blip. The interface is tight and tidy. Breadth of apps aside, the overall app
quality and experience is yet to mature enough to lure you away from the competition. Unless you're to BlackBerry enterprise
manor born-or a hardcore BlackBerry user-you will have to give this one a rethink for the time being.

CREATIVE ZIIO
Price: Rs.16,899
SPECS: 7-inch, 480x800 resistive touchscreen; Creative ZiiLABS ZMS-08 processor, 512MB RAM, 8/16GB memory, microSD card slot; Front camera; Stereo speakers; HDMI, microUSB.

WHAT WE LIKED: At first glace, the Ziio looks nice and sturdy. The proprietary user interface is neat. In true Creative tradition, the sound output is superb. The Froyo upgrade ensures device supports Flash and browsing, despite the resistive touchscreen, is not too bad. Ziio offers wirelessly music streaming to other wireless devices over Bluetooth and apt-X . Video output via the HDMI out is standard.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: Ziio has a resistive touchscreen and misses out on multitouch. Hence, the requirement for an accompanying stylus. Display quality is just about passable. The screen image appears slightly recessed below the surface and doesn't offer great viewing angles. While it runs Android 2.2, there's no Android Marketplace integration. To download apps, you need to go to the Creative site. Else get them from the wild by altering a few settings to allow installation of non-Android Market apps. Ziio also lacks 3G connectivity. While it has a mail application which you can use over WiFi, there is not too much you can do with this tablet other than use it for listening to music and watching video. It features only a front facing camera. The battery lasts between 5 and 6 hours.

VERDICT: Launched over a year ago, the Ziio is a device that is quite past its prime. Apart from a good, sturdy body and superior build, there is little that it offers that exalts it enough to be recommended. It is also tough to ignore the fact that the price of the device
though ranging from $200-230 in the US-is set a little too high in India. Too much for too little.

RELIANCE 3G TABLET
Rs.13,000
SPECS: 7-inch 800x480 LCD capacitive touchscreen; 512MB RAM, 4GB memory, microSD card slot; Android 2.3 OS; 2MP front, VGA rear cameras; WiFi, Bluetooth; Mobile TV; micro-USB; 389 gm weight.

WHAT WE LIKED: The affordability factor of this one makes you sit up. Less than one-third the price of the 3G Big Boys-and less than half the price of the WiFi variety- the Reliance tab is an enticing offering for the first time tablet buyer who isn't sure what he/she is going to do with a computing device of this genre. This is perhaps one of the few tabs that won't be hit once the $200 Kindle Fire makes its debut. Apart from the usual clutch of Android apps that are installed by default, the ZTE Corp-manufactured tablet also offers an FM radio (which works with the headset) and a Live TV feature. Audio is clear and quite loud. The 3400 mAh battery lasts about 7 hours which in this case seems acceptable, give the price of the device-unlike the HTC Flyer.

WHAT WE DIDN'T: Like it or leave it, this tab is locked to the Reliance network. It runs Android 2.3.4 on an 800 MHz Qualcomm processor. The overall display quality is below others'. As is the responsiveness of the touchscreen. The 2MP camera output is not anything to write home about. Video playback at 720p is prone to occasional stutter. Our test unit developed some problems with its accelerometer and insisted on functioning in portrait mode when held in landscape, and vice-versa. We take it this was peculiar to our much-used test unit.

VERDICT: The Reliance 3G tablet costs 13K but doesn't really look it. So, as value for money goes, this one is hard to beat. For most people, what it offers in terms of functionality is more than adequate. In Delhi and NCR, the Reliance 3G network delivers faster performance than the much-touted MTNL Dolphin 3G does. The bundled rental data plan discounts are attractive.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos


Youtube
  • Print

  • COMMENT
BT-Story-Page-B.gif
A    A   A
close